Unit 4: Declutter
Unit 4 is all about decluttering… with your family! It’s time to get SASSY with your clutter and take care of it once and for all.
Unit 1 covered your family vision, Unit 2 discussed clutter-loving thoughts, Unit 3 discussed the snowball method of decluttering and helped you get started decluttering.
In this unit, we will really get rolling with decluttering. As we do so, remember to follow the snowball decluttering method by first starting with the smaller wins and progressively moving forward towards the bigger wins. In order to effectively declutter your family home, you will be learning some tips for decluttering with your spouse and kids in a loving and respectful way.
As a mom, decluttering looks much different than it did when you were on your own sans kids. Even the legendary Marie Kondo admitted that her method, while effective for some, gets a little trickier with kids. (In my experience, all of my childrens’ things spark joy for them!)
The fact of the matter is that while it may be important to declutter, it is more important to honor our relationships and the agency of our family members. I do not recommend purging on behalf of another person because it could have the opposite effect that you’re aiming for – someone who’s even more possessive of their things and who is unwilling to part with anything.
Once you’ve started decluttering your own things, you may realize that your family members have a lot of stuff too. Some things you may decide to let slide for now since you’re focusing on your own stuff first, and some things you may want to talk about and maybe pass on now.
There are many ways to express how you are feeling about their things, but the best way is to help them simply understand how you’re feeling about their stuff in a loving, respectful way. By pointing fingers and saying something like, “Why do you have all of this junk? I hate tripping over all of your (blank)!” your family member will probably learn to tune you out, and your relationship will suffer. Remember: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
We know decluttering matters, but your relationship and trust matters the most, so let’s try a different approach. After starting your own decluttering journey (because you’re not a hypocrite!), you may ask your family member, “I’m decluttering and I noticed that you haven’t used this in some time. Are you ready to get rid of it?” This lets them know that you trust them to know whether or not they need something. It also shows them that you respect them, their stuff, and their decisions. The hard part is that they may say they’re not ready to get rid of it. If you are in an emotionally healthy place for a calm negotiation, then go for it. But, if you feel annoyed or upset, come back to the question another day when you are coming from a place of calm.
Every time I went through my decluttering kicks, I would ask my husband if he was ready to get rid of certain things that I honestly never saw him use. I asked about his weight set, textbooks, and his video games. Every time, he said no. Until he said yes. In the meantime, I moved on to the other things and made sure his stuff was in a place where it wouldn’t get tripped over. And, I tried not to give him a hard time about his stuff because I wouldn’t like it if he ever gave me a hard time about my stuff.
There are a few key things to remember when it comes to decluttering with your spouse.
Honor their trust & respect their stuff.
Decluttering at the risk of destroying your spouse’s trust in you is not worth it. Though their things don’t matter to you, they may matter to them.
Trust them to manage their own stuff.
By trusting them to manage their stuff, you give them the space to do so. Not trusting them to manage their stuff may make them cling to their stuff more.
Hold Fair Boundaries
You can discuss fair boundaries for their stuff if it’s truly a problem for you (e.g. this half of the closet for me, this half for you)
Seek for win-win solutions
Try to come to a win-win for both you and your spouse. For example, maybe you’re really wanting some closet space and your husband really wants to keep his vintage record collection. Maybe as you declutter other areas of the home, you can see if you can move his collection elsewhere to make a little more space in the closet.
Keep the Golden Rule.
You’d be upset if your spouse got rid of your stuff without asking you. Don’t do that to them.
While kids are young, it is important to teach them how to take care of and declutter their own things. We know it’s good to have them clean their own rooms, help take out the trash, and do other things around the house. But, do we know how to help our kids learn to declutter?
Some organization experts will tell you that you know best and encourage you to get rid of things when your child isn’t looking. Yes, this is super fast and effective in the short-term. It can be so easy to just go through and get rid of all of the stuff that we just know our kids don’t need. While there may be a place for this for certain items (maybe clothes or forgotten crafts), I feel this can be a dangerous philosophy that can backfire with kids who don’t know how to manage their own things or with kids who don’t feel they can trust their parents to honor their stuff and opinions.
This is something that you’ll need to use your best judgment on, because all kids are different. You might have a child who really doesn’t care much about their stuff and it may be fine for you to help them declutter. Or, you might have a child who runs to protect their toy box when you say the word “declutter.” And, of course, you may decide that your child is so young that they really won’t notice, so, in that case, go for it. Really, what I am getting at is proceed with caution and be aware that your choice to declutter for your children could affect their trust in you. Honor that trust. It is more important than a tidy home.
Decluttering is a Skill
Teaching kids to declutter is like teaching them any other skill. You start with modeling by showing them how it is done. They will see you decluttering other areas of your home and they might even be inspired just from that. Then, you declutter with them. You walk them through all of the steps that you’ll be learning, and help them decide if they’re done with something or not. Just like any other skill, it may take time to develop and that’s ok. Do your best not to force it and to come to peace with any clutter that still may be in their spaces. Then, in time, they will learn to do it for themselves. At which point, you can give yourself a big ol’ pat on the back!
Inspiring Children to Declutter
In order to get kids on board with decluttering, you’ll first want to inspire them. You can try the dragging and nagging, but I think inspiring works much better and is a lot more fun. A couple of years ago, my family toured a show home. We loved seeing the beautiful decor and clean spaces. My daughter was so inspired that she came home and wanted to clean her room. Never underestimate the power of well-placed inspiration! When you get your kids inspired, they’ll be asking you to help them instead of you having to ask them.
Figure out what would inspire your kiddos to have a tidy space. Is it having room for legos? Or, the ability to have friends over more frequently? Do they want a relaxing retreat? Your kids may just like the idea of having a fun family goal for maybe purging all of the toys or everyone’s bedrooms. You could have a pizza party, or go bowling. Whatever it is, finding a way to get them to buy into the process will make it even more likely for you to get through your whole home with help!
If nothing else, you can inspire your family members with your own decluttering efforts. As you go along, you can increase the inspiration by saying things like, “I love how much cleaner this room feels – now there’s more room for dancing!” or, “Now that I’ve gotten rid of the things I don’t need, it’s SO much easier to find my stuff when I need it!” “It feels so good to give the things I don’t use to someone who will use them!” Believe it or not, they’re watching. So, if all else fails, focus on you. In time, they just might come around.
But, what happens when you are decluttering and you come to something that your child doesn’t use, but is having a hard time getting rid of. Remember not to force and to respect and honor their trust, but consider finding something in it for them that would motivate them to pass their things along. One time, I offered my son a dollar in exchange for an old toy that he no longer played with. Instantly, he went from being a reluctant helper to an eager one. The dollar I spent was well worth it for me to be able to have a little extra space in my home (after all, it was cheaper than a bigger house!).
Offering some sort of price to our children in exchange for hard-to-pass on items can show our respect for them and their things, and it can teach them that there is value in passing certain things on. Better yet, if their stuff is large or expensive, help them sell it themselves. That’s a win-win, for everyone!
Kids sometimes may have a hard time understanding how much is enough. You can help them establish how much they can keep by giving them a special bin for their things. (Bonus points if you take them with you to pick it out as a special mom and kid date!) You may tell them, “You can keep whatever papers fit in this box,” or, “You can keep whatever legos fit in this basket.” Then, help them decide which ones are worth fitting in first, and which ones can go.
If they say, “I love them all!” Help them by saying, pick your very favorite art piece, then have them put it away, continuing the same process until you’ve filled the bin. Or, you can ask, “This one or this one?” over and over until they’ve gotten rid of enough items. Be prepared not to get in the way of their decluttering. They may want to let go of something that is important to you, in which case, you may find a place for it.
Now that we’ve talked about how to work with your family members on decluttering, we’re going to get down to decluttering. Your first decluttering task will be to complete your “smallest worst space” as decided in the previous units.
Once you have done that, use the blank Snowball Space Worksheet to help you break down and declutter each space in your home.
As you declutter, focus on one space at a time. Don’t try to do every space all at once, or you’re sure to get caught spinning your wheels.
As you go through one space, you will find items that don’t belong there. I suggest putting those items in a box as you declutter. Then, when you’re done working on your space, you can deliver the stuff to where they belong. If you find that you don’t have a spot for the things yet, just put them in the room where they belong and let that be enough for now. You could establish a spot for stuff to be dealt with in each space while you’re decluttering your home. Maybe that’s a surface, or maybe a box or basket that you attend to when you’re tidying that room. That way, that stuff is at least contained and won’t travel before you have the chance to put it away. The key here is not getting sucked up into another space and not finishing your focus space.
Getting your home in order will take time. With this in mind, allow yourself to embrace the messy middle! It’s ok to have piles or boxes in each room while you’re working on decluttering and creating systems. When you have a space organized, hold yourself and your family accountable to the system. For example, put the blankets in the blanket basket, or the cars in the car basket. By working from one small pain point to another, you can eventually have systems for each space and it will be much easier to put things away.
Since this unit is primarily focused on decluttering, we won’t be talking much about organizing your things. However, keep in mind that if you really declutter, you will have less to organize.
Ok, friend, are you ready to get SASSY with your clutter? SASSY stands for “sort, ask, store, sell, yield” and it is meant to help you remember the steps of decluttering.
Let’s go ahead and break down each of these steps:
Sort – items by type or purpose.
Ask – ask yourself if you need, enjoy, or want it.
Store – decide where to store items you’re keeping, whether it is in that space or in another space.
Sell – write prices on post it notes and set items to sell aside in a noticeable space. only sell larger and more expensive items.
Yield – donate unwanted items to those who will use them.
Do you remember sorting items by color or size in kindergarten? If a kindergartener can sort, you can too! Sorting can help break down decluttering into manageable chunks.
This type of sorting is a little different. To start, you’ll “sort” all of the trash directly into the trash can. Then, you can sort the dirty laundry into the laundry hamper. Then, sort everything that doesn’t belong in the space into a basket or box that you can use to deliver items to their proper places later (not now, because you’re focusing on this space!).
Congratulations! You have just knocked a huge chunk out of your decluttering. Next, you’ll choose your first smallest space (which could be a corner, piece of furniture, a drawer, or shelf – you decide).
Start by taking everything out and sorting the items by type. For example, if I were organizing a desk drawer, I would take all of the office supplies, pens, pencils, chapstick, and earbuds out and sort the items by type. The paperclips with the paperclips, the pens with the pens, and so on. This step helps you see just how many pens or paper clips you have so that you can be a better judge of how many you actually need and how many you can get rid of. While it seems simple, every little bit counts, so be sure not to skip this step.
Be careful as you sort to just focus on the things that are already in the space. For example, if you are working on sorting your office supplies and know that you have markers spread all over the home, just focus on the markers that are in that one room or drawer for now. As you work through your home, you will have a chance to deal with the rogue markers. Just focus on one small win at a time. (Remember the snowball!)
Ask (Decluttering Q’s)
The “A” in SASSY stands for Ask which will help you decide what items to let go of. The following questions are included on the “Decluttering Q’s” page in the workbook.
Is this yours? If it’s not, work with its owner to decide what to do with it.
Do you like this? If you don’t, pass it on to someone else who will like it.
Is this item damaged? If it is, will you actually fix it? If it’s damaged and you won’t fix it, let it go!
Will you use this within a year? If not, you can live without it and borrow if needed.
Do you have duplicate items that serve the same purpose? If so, eliminate the extras!
If you didn’t already have this, would you buy it (for a good price)? If the answer is no, it isn’t something that you value and that it’s ok to let it go.
Am I only keeping this out of guilt? If so, work to address the guilt so that you can move forward without restraint.
What’s the cost to keep this? Storing and caring for items may be cost more than your excess is worth.
Am I using this, or would someone else put it to better use? It is wasteful to have things sit unused rather than being used by someone else.
Is this item supporting my core values and family vision? If it’s not supporting you, it’s holding you back. Pass it on.
In this step, you will put away the items that you’ve decided to keep. As you’re going through items, you can just set them aside while you figure out what kind of space you need to store them. Once you’ve decluttered, you can put things back in an organized way by keeping items grouped, assigning them a specific spot (whether a tray or shelf), and labeling your storage. (Refer to the “GAL” worksheet for help with putting things back.) Since your main focus for now is decluttering, your organization does not need to be perfect.
As you go through your space, you may find a few larger or more expensive items that you want to sell. Put those items in the “sell” box or bag. When you’re done working in that space, be sure to put the for sale items in a special place where you won’t forget about them. If you have lots of time and dedication, you can try selling other items, such as toys or books. However, if you are wanting to quickly declutter, giving things away may be the best option. If you do decide to sell some things, give yourself a time limit. If you can’t sell an item within two weeks or a month, consider just passing it on.
One of your decluttering boxes or bags will be for items to donate. You can donate household items and clothing to thrift stores, towels and rags to animal shelters, and unopened hygiene and food products to food banks or shelters. Or, you may pass on your children’s clothing to another child you know. And, remember, it is more wasteful to hold onto something that you don’t use than giving it to someone who will use and appreciate it!
SASSY in Action
Now that we’ve talked about the SASSY steps, let’s see how it works in a space.
One of my biggest pain points was my books. We homeschool and have a lot of books. To break down the task of decluttering my books, I first started with the childrens’ books. To make my task even simpler, I first focused on fiction picture books (my first small win). I sorted all of these books into piles by type. I had storybooks, fairytale treasuries, ABC books, color books, Dr. Suess, and so on. By sorting, I found that I had a couple of duplicates, which I put in my donate pile. I also was able to clearly see that I had more than enough color books for my preschoolers, so I kept only a few of the best ones. Once sorted, I worked through each pile and asked myself the declutter questions. Once I finished one pile, I moved to the next. I then stored the books I was keeping back on the shelf, decided not to sell any of the books, and yielded a huge box of books to the thrift store. Once I completed the fiction childrens’ books, I moved onto the childrens nonfiction books.
Now, imagine if I hadn’t first broken down my books. I would have ended up overwhelmed amidst piles of adult books, nonfiction books, chapter books, and board books. By choosing my first small win of children’s picture books, I was able to maximize my decluttering session by fully completing the first task. That felt good and so I felt more motivated to come back to complete the next biggest task until I eventually worked my way through all of my books. Compare that to starting on all of the books all at once. Can you see how snowballing your decluttering can work so much better?
If you haven’t already, be sure to complete your Unit 3 “smallest worst space” and “clutter considerations,” worksheets to get a solid start decluttering. And, make sure you’ve gathered items from your “purging prep checklist” so you’re ready to hit the ground running.
- SASSY guide
- Decluttering ?’s
- Common Clutter Culprits
- Bonus Clutter challenge: complete one small win in your smallest worst space. Or, use the Space Snowball worksheet to get started on your next space.
See you in Unit 5!
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