Minimalism’s main tenet may be literally having less, but minimizing, organizing and decluttering is really about gaining more. Gaining more time, gaining more mental clarity, gaining more financial freedom, and most significantly, gaining a more meaningful life, are several of the true intentions behind minimizing.
While you may already realize some of the impressive impacts that organization and downsizing can have on your daily life, you may be wondering where to start, or what the best minimalist methods for decluttering may be.
That’s why I created this list of 5 tested and touted minimalist methods for decluttering. Thousands of people, including myself, have used these techniques to improve the quality of their lives and to increase their overall fulfillment.
My hope is that this list contains a process that inspires you with the confidence you need to create the peaceful inner space of your dreams.
1. KonMari Method
The first on my list is the KonMari Method. Marie Kondo, a Japanese organization specialist, shares her approach in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and demonstrates it with real-life families on her Netflix Special, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. (KonMari is simply a word Marie Kondo created from a combination of her first and last name.)
The main focus of her strategy is sorting through your spaces by category. You begin by finding and gathering everything within the same category (such as your clothes or papers), from every room in your home, holding each individual item in your hands, and asking yourself, “Does this spark joy?” If the item doesn’t bring you joy, you are urged to thank it for serving you, and then to let it go.
The ultimate goal of the KonMari method is for you to discover what brings true joy to your life, and to help you surround yourself with what makes you the happiest.
It is much easier for you to let things go once you’ve figured out what brings you the most joy.
The fundamental principles Marie Kondo suggests for you to follow are to:
- Tidy all at once
- Visualize the outcome you hope to achieve
- Decide if each item sparks joy
- Tidy by category, not location
- Tidy in order
The order she urges you to follow is to start with your clothes, then books, then onto your papers, then Komono (miscellaneous stuff), and lastly, sentimental.
The positives of this method are that it divides your spaces up by category, as opposed to rooms, it allows you to focus on what you love, and it can be applied to all aspects of your life, not only your personal items. Marie Kondo also clearly explains that just because something isn’t serving you now, it doesn’t mean you need to dispose of it all-together. Your life circumstances may change and the item in question may serve you later. She encourages you to clear up your living space, and to perhaps take advantage of storage facilities so you can access those items at a later date.
However, while KonMari will allow you to be in better touch with the items you most enjoy, it can be time-consuming. Gathering, sorting, and touching everything you own all at once can be a large undertaking, especially if you own a lot of items, and have a large space to downsize. It can also be an emotional experience, as you are likely to revisit memories you have associated with each of your individual belongings.
But, the bright side is that KonMari is a complete system, with an achievable set of steps, and even includes an outlined order. So you know exactly where to begin, and exactly how to navigate the task of organizing and decluttering your space.
2. Repack a Room
One of the approaches that Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, (otherwise known as The Minimalists) detail on their blog is what they call “throwing a packing party.” You invite a few of your friends over to your home and you pack every single item you own into boxes as if you were moving. You pack everything from your dishes to your dancing shoes. You will likely find yourself swimming in a sea of boxes!
Then, slowly over the next three weeks, you only unpack your items as you use them.
This way, you are able to easily distinguish between the items you use regularly, and the items you use hardly touch. You may even find yourself forgetting what you have packed away in the excess boxes!
Then, after one month, you sell, donate, or otherwise downsize the items that are left still packed in the boxes. You never even needed to unpack them, so it’s likely you won’t even miss them. The Minimalists only use one month as an example, as that’s the amount of time they used. You are encouraged to let your items go after the amount of time that feels the most comfortable to you.
The positives of this are that it’s clear for you to identify which items you use within the allotted amount of time, and that the items you wish to downsize will already be packed up and easy for you to sell or donate. However, if you are currently living in a small space, finding yourself surrounded by boxes won’t necessarily be the most convenient way to live. On the other hand, tripping over and being inconvenienced by bulky boxes may motivate you to sort through your stuff faster. The goal of this method is for you to identify the items that bring your life the most value, and those that you could easily live without.
3. Play the 30 Day Minimalists Game
The 30 day minimalists game is an approach for decluttering that combines a fun and friendly competition with downsizing your material items. Created by The Minimalists, the game consists of grabbing a friend (or two) and systematically increasing the amount of items each of you remove from your home every day for 30 days. On the first day of the 30 day period, you remove one item. On the second day, you remove two items. On the third day, you remove three items. This continues the same way for 30 days, or for as long as you can last. Whoever makes it to 30 days, or for the longest, wins! Any item is allowed to be removed, but it must be donated, sold, given away, or in the trash by midnight of that day.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m playing a game, I play to win. So, the fact that there is a friendly competition involved is a positive and would make me far more likely to stick to the system. However, this is sure to get more challenging as the days continue. It’s one thing to remove an item or two, but when you’re faced with letting go of 20 or 30 items in a day, that can be a bit more difficult. But the reality is, no matter how long you last, everyone wins, because you’re removing items you no longer need from your life.
4. Project 333, A Minimalist Fashion Challenge
Is your closet brimming, yet you find yourself struggling with selecting what to wear? Are you looking to reduce some stress and to simply your morning? Project 333, created by Courtney Carver, is a minimalist fashion challenge that entices you to dress in no more than 33 items, for 3 month periods at a time.
You start by choosing the 33 items you wish to wear for the allotted 3 months, then you box up every other article of clothing from your closet, tape the boxes shut and set them aside, out of sight.
What’s included in the 33 items are clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes. Excluded from being counted in the 33 items are jewelry you never take off (such as your wedding ring), underwear, sleepwear, in-home loungewear, and the clothes you wear to work-out.
Carver reminds you to take into account that you are creating an entire wardrobe for all of the facets of your life, including work and play, for three months. She also emphasizes that this is not a project meant to inflict suffering, but one to allow you to feel more joy. She says that if some of the clothes you selected no longer fit or are in need of replacing, you should do so, and that if rules need to be bent for a particular life event or situation, you are encouraged to do what works best for you. The goal of this challenge is to free up time and space, to eliminate some of the stress you may currently feel when dressing, and for you to uncover your own personal style.
The positives of this challenge are that the rules are easy to understand and it is a seemingly straightforward challenge to try. But, if you live in an area that is subject to extreme temperature fluctuations, selecting clothing may not be so simple. Either way, this challenge will give you insight as to what your favorite and most useful articles of clothing are and what items you may be better off letting go.
5. The 20/20 Rule
If you’re anything like me, you likely have entire drawers stuffed with, and multiple storage bins filled with items you may need “just in case.” I have held onto items for years because I believed I would need them “someday.” But how likely is someday to actually come? I don’t believe I’ve ever opened any of those storage bins, and if I have, I can count the times on a single hand. This is why the 20 / 20 rule that The Minimalists theorize was extremely appealing to me.
The 20/20 rule states that anything you get rid of that you may truly need, you can replace for under 20 dollars within 20 minutes of your current location. They claim that the rule has had 100% accuracy for both of them and that they are sure it will be 99% true for the rest of us.
They affirm that we are being weighed down by our someday items, that they are simply taking up space and that we are better off getting rid of them.
While I view this rule as extremely impactful and important to bear in mind while downsizing, it may be especially difficult to part ways with these items and it may be difficult to discern them from the rest of your items that need organizing.
But, if you already have these items in a special location or set aside, it would be an easy way to part ways with a few items that you no longer feel the need to hang onto.
While decluttering may be a bit overwhelming when you first begin, organization gets easier with every item you decide to donate. The benefits that minimizing has to offer outweigh the temporary discomfort of confronting the clutter. For me personally, I have found great success in using the KonMari method.
The methods, systems and challenges outlined in this list offer differing approaches that all aim for you to better be able to focus on the most important things in your life and to free up more time for you to pursue your passions.
Once you start making decisions and letting go of your unneeded personal possessions, every item you remove brings you one step closer to living in a well organized, downsized space.