Minimize Without More Spending

Minimize Without More SpendingMinimalism has been splashed across more magazine covers than reality TV starlets as of late. Top 10 items to toss today. Five things no one needs in their kitchens. Three reasons to live with less. Turn to the full text of any of these articles, and you’ll get a lot more than the benefits of decluttering. You will also get a thinly veiled sales pitch. Containers, organizers, cubbies, bins, trays, dividers. The photographs look so beautiful, so streamlined, so simple that anyone who has ever contemplated clutter would be tempted.

While I would not claim to be a minimalist by any stretch, I am in the midst of a massive purge of my excess. I’m not an expert. I still have too much stuff. I can’t fold my shirts into little origami envelopes* to make them happy or radiate joy. In the past few months, a few things have become clear to me when it comes to cutting the cord with clutter. Here are two tips to getting started without doing any unnecessary spending. 

Start With Less

If you have too much stuff, no organizer in the world is going to reduce your possessions. Sure, you can make the piles look tidier for a while, but they are still going to be there. Case in point? My dear friend who painstakingly selected a closet organizer for her apartment from the Container Store. After dropping a pretty penny on the system, she set it up. Only to fill it up with so much stuff that it collapsed. Twice. Pretty piles are still piles.

Instead of trying to organize everything you own, figure out what you can live without. After you start identifying items to be sold, donated, or tossed, go through your items again. The first few times through, if you’re like me, you will find all sorts of reasons to hold onto things. Sentimental value. What-ifs. The more times you pass through your things, the more discerning and critical you can be. Just this past weekend, I finished with my bathroom cabinets and was able to toss three storage baskets, in addition to a bunch of unneeded items. The less items you have, the less there is to organize.

One In, More Out

For every organizer you are tempted to bring into your home, commit to parting with at least two other things. The “one-in, one-out” philosophy is an excellent rule of thumb. However, to keep myself honest, I find myself frequently upping the ante. When I first started living with less, I was enchanted by the glossy magazines filled with $19 acrylic bins, $49 storage racks, and $159 closet dividers. To resist the urge to buy all the things, I started telling myself if I was going to shell out for an organizational system, I had to double the amount of things I would remove from that same room.

Not only has this methodology helped me drown out the siren song of Container Store and Bed, Bath & Beyond, but it has also ensured that every organizer I add to my home has purpose. Before Mr. P went to work creating extra storage space in the false drawer in our bathroom vanity, I made it a point to get rid of many items that were stored under the cabinet. That way, when we had the extra space, I could ensure that it would not be cluttered. Instead, it holds only my hair dryer and curling iron. Now, that space serves as a purposeful tool to streamline my morning routine.

I still have a remarkably long way to go when it comes to decluttering our house. However, by keeping these two simple strategies in mind, the process has become much more effective, and I have been able to downsize without spending extra.

*I struggled with fortune teller, origami birds, and even notes folded out of loose-leaf paper. It’s not you, Marie Kondo, it’s me.

So Tell Me…What works for you when it comes to combating clutter?


Minimize Without More Spending

24 thoughts on “Minimize Without More Spending

  1. I decluttered my closet and got rid of the things that don’t fit, fit poorly, show wear or aren’t age appropriate. (yep, still had stuff I’ve had since college In 1987.) I am finding the key to keeping it uncluttered (in addition to not getting any new clothes) is just taking that extra minute to put stuff in a deliberate place. My instinct is to just put the clothes in the closet. Taking the extra time to put the pants in with the pants, the shirts in with the shirts and the jackets with the other jackets makes getting dressed in the morning much faster.

    1. I’m right there with you. Now, I spend an extra two minutes in every room before I go to bed. Remotes go in the drawer, blanket is folded on the couch back, dish drain is emptied, clothes are hung. It was a hard habit for me to get into, but I absolutely noticed a huge difference.

  2. “Pretty piles are still piles!” Love it. February 2016 is earmarked as our PURGE THIS HOUSE! month and I am very excited. We’re prepping our children to think about what they actually use. I’m always tempted to get more organizational stuff to “fix” it – when really I just need to get rid of more stuff!

    1. I am sure that it becomes infinitely harder with children, but I love the idea of shifting their mindsets to think about what is actually being used. I can’t wait to hear how it goes.

  3. “Pretty piles are still piles.” — absolutely true! Back in August, my fiancé and I had to move rather quickly (long story short: our landlord decided to put our rental house on the market & sold in 3 days! we had 30 days to find a new place). In the midst of a whirlwind, we decided to rent an apartment again and went from 1,200 square feet (plus garage & backyard with shed), to an 890 sq. ft. apartment with minimal storage, no garage, etc. We decided to donate, sell on craigslist, hold a garage sale & toss. I hear ya on the wanting to keep items due to sentimental value (I still have a box of holiday/Birthday cards that date back to my elementary school days)! Now that we are a few months in to living in our new apartment, we are still finding more items that we need to donate & sell. One of my favorite new discoveries in regards to de-cluttering my closet has been – it’s an online consignment shop, and you can send your gently used items for free for re-sale or donation. Pretty great gig if you ask me! Also, getting rid of anything I have more than 2-3 of. I have this tendency of saving things (just in case!), but that definitely adds to the clutter!

    1. Duplicates are the bain of my existence. I’m so good at hoarding extras! Poshmark and Tradesy have been my best friends lately 🙂 I’ll check out ThredUp.

  4. I imagine what I’d give up if I were moving. Ok so we recently moved, about two years ago, and we shed a LOT of stuff because we didn’t want to move it. Stuff we were content leaving on a shelf to collect dust were now heavy, annoying, and not worth packing into a box. So every few months, we go into a room, and just pick a few things we wouldn’t want to move and get rid of it. It’s not wholesale decluttering but it’s a small step towards sanity. 🙂

    1. That’s a powerful step! When I moved in with my husband, I left a bunch of stuff at my parents’ house – just in case. “Just in case” is now currently being donated and sold 😉

  5. Penny, I’ve been enjoying your blog but I wish I read this post before we made a trip to the Container Store yesterday. Mr G wanted a few items for organizing our refrigerator. Far be it from me to stop a man who actually wants to do that! Putting condiments back in before they spoil is good enough for me. We do clothing purges and leave them out for a veteran’s organization that schedules pickups where we live. After the new year begins we’ve committed to spending at least an hour a week going through the garage. We plan to move in a year or two and want to start the detox now.

    P.S. Everyone has been raving about the Tidying Up book but I couldn’t get past the first few pages.

    1. I did the book. I watched the video tutorials. I really appreciate the idea of it. I just can’t love my shirts enough to fold them like that. Now, if she could teach me a fitted sheet trick, I’d be all about that!

      I love how you are planning ahead of your move. I hope you’ll share your ideas for a garage purge.

      1. Folding a fitted sheet would be sorcery and Salem would have to convene trials. I’m pretty sure it’s against the laws of physics.

        I’m a piler and I can’t quite figure out how to get rid of all of it. When it’s papers I usually tuck them into a filing cabinet and if I don’t touch it in 12 months, I recycle them. The trinkets and little mementos from a trip or place are what I really struggle with. I don’t want to display it but I don’t want to throw it either. :/

  6. We have so little built in storage in our new place that I’m constantly moving around piles. Part of the problem is that we’re also renovating, so its not unusual to have a pile of laminate flooring on my desk, or the shopvac on the couch.

    Once we’ve taken care of a lot of the renovations, I’ll be tackling more of our clutter (beyond paper clutter). I’m sure we have things we don’t need, but it’s easier to keep them in storage bins for now.

    1. Renovations are hard! I think you’re right to go the storage route for now. Perhaps making a note of what you don’t miss would make the decluttering process faster. Best of luck with the projects 🙂

  7. Rue says:

    I’m in the midst of slowly minimalizing all of my stuff in my room, and even though I *can* fold my tshirts into little origami envelopes, it’s really hard to keep them that way if you decide to use anything! So dw, you’re not missing out on tooo much.
    My problem is the rest of the house. I always find it frustrating to clean any other room because while I’m very “haven’t used this, haven’t seen anyone use this, so trash or donate” my mom will literally go through everything and take it all back out! I’m working on how to come to a compromise but yknow. moms know best haha

    1. Rue, you made my entire day. I got a pile of workout shirts folded once, and then I about had a meltdown at the thought of moving them. They were too pretty to interrupt. Your mom has the same strategy as my husband! I have to keep my eyes on him when we are decluttering. He can get things out of boxes and bags so fast, it’s unreal. 🙂

  8. So… nothing really works for me in combating clutter, although I’ve definitely been meaning to tackle the alarming pile of crap in my parents house the next time I’m there for a few weeks.

    I’m with you on the siren song of organizers though. They’re so pretty. And organized. And neat. Clearly life is so much better with them. Dang you, good advertising, dang you.

  9. I love this blog post! And I love decluttering – I agree – it’s so easy to do the ‘one in, one out’ policy but for me that never actually made any difference. I now do a three out, one in policy – it makes you consider your actions differently I think!

    Also – buying storage to keep your clutter tidy? Its a sham! Nope! Get rid of everything and you don’t need storage 😉 (although I did buy a nice spice organiser for the door the other day after looking at it for a year!) My only issue is Mr CR is constantly fighting my reduction policy!

    Natalya x

  10. I’ve been a bit more dedicated to decluttering this year than in previous years but I still have a lot to do. The best way I’ve found to declutter is to sort things into piles that I don’t need or haven’t used for ages and commit to sending it all to the charity shop without giving it a second thought. Quick, clean and painless is the way to go for me.

    I definitely like the idea of not spending money in order to declutter!

  11. Once upon a time, I was super into the Container Store. I am pretty sure that I bought organizational items from every one of their sections at one time or another. And what I learned: buying things to put things in didn’t make us happier, or even more organized. So now we try hard to get rid of stuff continually, and if we feel like we need an organizer for something, we instead try to question whether we really need the things in need of organization in the first place. We’re not perfect, but we’re making progress!

  12. I’ve been trying to employ the motto of “If I haven’t used it in the past 3-6 months or more, do I really need it?” So far, I’ve eliminated several boxes and emptied several storage bins. I’ve got a pile of stuff that’s about to go to Goodwill and I’m hoping to make a profit off of some items at Half Price Books! It’s so freeing – even when it’s challenging!

  13. Oh the struggle! I can definitely relate.

    Even today, I just love going into IKEA, or a container store, or even an Office Supply store…if only I just bought the perfect box for all my boxes that I could label with mason jar chalkboard labels…then, my life would be complete. Absolute zen, right? XD

    I had similar feelings about the Marie Kondo method, but I still got a lot out of her book if I ignored the woo (and the folding, much to her chagrin, I’m sure). 🙂

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