Decluttering The Stuff Challenge – 100 Items

declutter pile

I’ve joined John and Barb’s challenge over at Decluttering the Stuff to get rid of 100 things by 1st May.

My method of decluttering and minimising items has always been the same: I approach one particular area and go through every item. This has been a different experience for me as I knew there wasn’t an area in the entire house that could give up 100 things, so I had to approach it differently. For the first time, I looked everywhere and gathered as I went, checking in every cupboard and drawer.

Here’s what went:

4 toys/games
6 soft teddies
1 plastic plate
18 items of clothing (daughter)
27 items of clothing (sons)
3 plastic beads
3 bottles of toiletries
2 books
1 toothbrush
6 placemats
2 aprons
1 Tupperware pot
1 ramekin
1 pack of incense sticks
1 bottle opener
1 electricity monitor
1 teatowel
6 bibs
13 bits of paperwork
1 magazine
1 pack of bookrings
1 pack of bulldog clips
1 old pillow

TOTAL: 102 items

I had also stashed away a huge pile of other stuff that I’ve been adding to for the last four months, so I thought today would be a good time to sort that out also:

declutter pile

After recycling the card and plastic, and throwing away a couple of things that couldn’t be recycled, I was left with 3 bags of books, 2 bags of textile recycling and 3 bags of toys/DVDs and other bits for the charity shop. Forgive my dirty floor – we are having the muddiest weather here at the moment:

declutter pile

Great challenge, and it got me to actually get rid of everything instead of setting it aside to get rid of and leaving it for another day.

Is anyone else decluttering or spring cleaning?

Cupboard Sort Out – Before and After


It’s been a while since I’ve done a decent job in sorting, decluttering and tidying. The whole house is starting to feel a bit neglected, and messy.

This Sunday afternoon, with the school holidays just two weeks away (and more mess and chaos imminent), I decided to do a quick clear out of the left side of the upstairs cupboard. I realise that to some my cupboard will already look pretty tidy. It has been a long journey to get here and we are still downsizing and learning to live without so much excess. However, we have already let go of so much (and feel so much lighter for it), that it may look as though we have no need to sort through again.

What I will say though is:

a) things have a habit of accumulating when you are looking the other way,
b) it is good to regularly question the value of things you don’t touch from year to year, and
c) there is never really an ‘end’ to living a more minimalist lifestyle.

Needs and wants change with the seasons and years, and the ebb and flow of our possessions reflects this. But if it is all arrival and never departure then gradually your life becomes fossilised as layers and layers of stuff that (let’s be honest), are going to be someone else’s job to sort through when you die.

So, out of the cupboard today came:

  • Sony laptop box – to sell with the laptop as I have a desktop and really don’t need both.
  • Large baby floor blanket – donate
  • Spare cushion – replaced the old one downstairs
  • Picture that C painted when he was 4 that I love. I put it in the frame properly, not perfect (perfectionism is something I’m trying to overcome), but just got it done, then hung it on the wall. C loved having his picture put on display (and it was a 2 year-old job off the list).
C’s picture, kept in a frame to protect it for two years but never finished off. Until now!
  • Portraits of my mum, and several old relatives from my Dad’s side. Put up the ones of my mum, Emanuel (my great great grandfather), and Amelia (my great grandmother). Stored two others behind these in the frame.
Portraits in the cupboard. It’s unfinished projects like this that create mental clutter.
  • Baby carrier – to sell
  • 4 moses basket sheets – donate (Now,  some things are harder to say goodbye to than others. They brought back such memories… but, I’d rather they were used for a lovely new baby than being left in a cupboard gathering dust, so off they went after some sentimental brushing against my cheek).
  • Baby blanket, bought for us when I had my first son and used for all three but still in very good condition – donate
  • Two horrible, old, spare, white pillowcases – recycle
  • 4 out of 6 plastic-backed cot sheets. They are spares on top of the four normal ones in the event of serious vomiting episodes. Decided I only needed 2 – donate 4
  • 2 out of 4 spare cot sheets. Decided 2 was fine (I have four others I use regularly) – donate 2
  • 2 out of 4 moses basket blankets. Useful for cool nights and car trips – donate 2
  • 4 out of 10 muslin cloths. I donated around 40 of these last year, but have used only a couple on a couple of occasions since – donate 5, recycle 1 stained.
The pictures were framed and went up, with some slightly dodgy ladder-on-the-stairs DIY. The photo wall is coming along nicely. I’ve got some smaller frames to go in the central vertical gap, but that’s for another day.

Into the cupboard went:

  • The storage box for a fan we are currently using (crazy hot weather). Most of the year the fan goes in the box and the box goes in the loft.

And there we have it. Probably a couple of hours work in between doing everything with the children at home, but SO nice when finished. I then refolded the remaining linen, just because it looks nice ?

Get Rid Of The Crap First


When you’re starting out, standing at the bottom of a mountain of stuff, and you know things have to change, and you can feel the fire in your belly for a cleaner, clearer path forward, what’s the first thing you should do?

How can you start, and make your start a success? So that several hours later you aren’t sitting in an explosion of your own things, conflicted over how many pencil sharpeners you need to keep, while on the floor around you is a flood of things that you can’t seem to find a home for?

False starts are so common. Our enthusiasm exceeds our ability and we end up either unsatisfied with how little progress we manage to make (and then we give up), or worse, in a bigger mess than before we started.

Here is a guide to getting started.

Imagine it’s Day 1 of moving towards a life with less.

This is what we’re going to do:

1) Keep like with like.
This is a GREAT first step, and something that is so much easier to tackle than making decisions about getting rid of things. In fact, you can turn this into a project all of its own. This is the method that I used which finally made a significant difference. Don’t start by getting rid of things, start by sorting things out. This might mean that you have to box things up and put them away, or pile them up in rooms – as you won’t be creating space initially. However, keeping all things together not only allows you to see more clearly what you own, it makes it easier to decide what you might be able to live without, and it also goes a long, long way to completely banishing “lost item” syndrome, where things end up incomplete, with missing parts, or with vanishing accessories. Use this in combination with sorting out specific areas – and when you find things that don’t belong, put them where they do belong. Keep like with like.

2) Get rid of the crap first.
You know what I mean. Sometimes it seems easier to overlook the easy-wins because it doesn’t feel like real “decluttering”. Those are the things you should do first. Recycle the glass jar collection. Chuck out all the broken flower pots. Recycle some of the plastic bag collection. Throw away/recycle broken umbrellas, empty envelopes, directories, catalogues, magazines, junk mail, newspapers, broken cables, old mobile phones and chargers, old memory sticks, chipped and broken ornaments, socks with holes in, clothes that are threadbare, worn out shoes, broken appliances, mugs with chips or cracks in the handles, scratched CDs and DVDs, books you are never going to read, novelty gifts that you will never use, out of date food, manuals for things you no longer own, broken furniture, cheap furniture you no longer use and bags with broken zips. This list is not exhaustive! If you have to think about something, leave it for now. Really just go for all the low hanging fruit. Don’t concentrate on one area, wander around the whole house picking things out. Don’t pull things out and tip things over the floor. You are looking for all the easy stuff, and you don’t want to make more mess, right?

Some caveats:

  1. If you genuinely intend to get something fixed, get it fixed.
  2. Beware of throwing away things with missing bits (odd socks, boardgames, etc.). There is a good chance that if you can keep working on your environment, and you keep like with like, they will turn up.
  3. If you plan to sell things at any point, it may also be worth keeping empty boxes and padded envelopes to use as packaging. For a long time I had a cupboard full of these while I sold things on eBay.

3) Return things that don’t belong to you.
Depending on how much of a borrower you are, this might be a lot, or a little. If you are storing anything for anyone else – call time and explain they have to take it back. If you have borrowed books, or DVDs, or CDs, ask yourself how long you’ve had them and have you used them yet? If it’s more than a week and you haven’t touched them, the chances are they will still be sat on your shelf in 6 months time. You know this is true. Don’t take on what you don’t have space to handle. If you can’t even read all your own books and watch all your own films, why are you borrowing someone elses? And if your answer is that the ones that you borrow are more compelling than the ones that you own, doesn’t that say something about what you own? Be discerning about what you spend your time on. Don’t watch or read things because they “pass the time”. Do it because they are fantastic. And as I said above (I’ll say it again because it’s worth repeating):  Don’t take on what you don’t have the space (or time) to handle.

4) Going forward
Once you’ve started moving things around (so you’re keeping things together that should be kept together), and you’ve purged the real crap, and you’ve given back all the stuff that doesn’t belong to you, you’re onto Level 2. This is where things take a bit more thought. But know that you’ve laid a great foundation with what you’ve done already. The one thing to be careful of at this point, is buying to fill the void. After a good sort out, it can seem like you really need to go out and buy some decent storage/new work skirts/better toys for the kids/new mugs. STOP! This is firstly a reaction to the space you have generated, and secondly a misconception, fuelled by years of advertising, that buying things will lead to happiness. What you have gotten rid of does not need to be replaced. It can take a long time to settle into accepting this feeling of having to fill a void you have created, but as you travel along your own path you will realise that you can do other things to deal with this discomfort (and deep down, that’s exactly what it is). If you feel that urge to buy really strongly after sorting and clearing out, try this:

  1. Allow yourself to buy something, but keep it small and inexpensive. Don’t attempt to overhaul your wardrobe or redecorate the bedroom.
  2. Fill the void with doing not having. Read a book (one from your shelf you’ve been meaning to read for the last three years) – make a point of setting aside that time, and really getting into it. Go for a coffee with a friend. Go the the cinema with your partner. Pay for a pedicure. Do something. It will satisfy the feeling of needing to have something in a way that won’t undo your good work.

That’s it for this post – it’s been a much longer one that I anticipated. From this point onwards it’s all about tackling specific areas and understanding what you really need in your life.

I hope this helps to gets you off the ground.


Random Release of Stuff

declutter stereo

Oh, I’ve got so much to catch up on with you lovely people!

After a week away I was really feeling behind in my sorting and releasing of possessions.

To make myself feel better I did a quick whip round this afternoon and then carted it all out of the house while I still had the energy. Great to move things out and keep the progress going.

My big item today was a JVC Micro Stereo. It’s been on a shelf upstairs unpluggged and unused for 6 months. That surely says everything about whether or not I need it.

I still had the box and instruction manual in the loft, so I boxed the whole lot up and took it to the household waste centre. They will sell it on cheaply to someone. It’s in fantastic condition (and ipod compatible!) so someone, somewhere will get a bargain. I feel simultaneously great about letting it go, yet slightly nervous that people might think I am mad for not trying to get some money back for it. But I like the idea of releasing stuff for nothing. Someone else will benefit instead of me, which is kind of nice.

So, out today went:

  • 1 JVC stereo and speakers
  • 1 office coat stand
  • 1 roll heat-resistant tape
  • 1 Gap dress
  • 2 fashion necklaces
  • 9 bangles
  • 1 unopened children’s wooden puzzle (duplicate present)
  • 4 baking trays
  • 1 melamine children’s dinner plate
  • 9 china mugs
  • 1 fancy wine opening device
  • 1 garlic press
  • 1 set of metal BBQ skewers
  • 1 pair plastic salad tongs
  • 1 metal ladle
  • 1 metal serving spoon
  • 1 spatula

Total out

37 items

Ongoing total out

198 items!

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