The Key To Decluttering & Letting Go of Unnecessary Things


No, the key isn’t “Does it spark joy?”!

At the beginning of this year, I started a KonMari-style tidying up of my home! I live in a two-bedroom townhome with another student, so there isn’t as much space to declutter, but I was highly motivated because the space isn’t huge, and I wanted to maximize what space I do have. Sound familiar to anyone? People living in small apartments? Tiny homes? Maybe you have a roommate, or a bunch of kids or family to negotiate space with? I know I am not alone in this sort of situation, so hopefully you’ll stick around to learn a little bit about improving your space.

Ok, how do I improve my space?

Want to simplify your life, de-clutter, save money, save time, and be happier? Sounds like a large bill, but it’s possible, and the answer isn’t complicated. Here it is: Try to minimalize your life.

Don’t get me wrong. Minimizing isn’t complicated, but it also isn’t easy. It’s hard to let go of your belongings, but I promise it will change your life.

I have read almost every book on minimalism and decluttering, so I know what I’m talking about. Ok, not really, but I have read a lot and I’ve spent the last two years of my life simplifying. It has totally transformed the way I look about clutter, owning things, and consumerism.

How do you begin?

I recommend starting with clothes, then moving on to media, knicknacks, pantry & kitchen items, etc. I do highly recommend this KonMari-style way of doing things: getting out every single item in the same category and making a big pile. Like Marie says, it is highly important to see and confront how much stuff you own in the same category. You need to lay eyes on just how many clothes you have, how many shoes, how many identical staplers or iPhone chargers or pairs of scissors you think you keep losing, and so on.

Marie’s KonMari method is as follows:

  1. Clothes

  2. Books

  3. Papers

  4. Komono (miscellaneous)

    1. General

    2. Office

    3. Kitchen

    4. Garage

    5. Decor

    6. Bathroom

  5. Sentimental items

I think this approximate order is wise - you are most sensitive to what kinds of clothes you like and don’t like, and thus want to get rid of or keep than you are things like office supplies, so it’ll be an easier start. On the other hand, ending with sentimental items is best, because those will likely be the most resistant to go.


How do you decide what stays and what goes?

As you might already know, the KonMari method is to only keep the things that spark joy and let go of the things that do not. I personally think this is a beautiful way of thinking about things. One difficultly with this method, especially in the beginning, is dealing with those items that maybe/sort of spark joy, but you are unsure of. One simple way of deciding in these cases is thus: if it doesn’t truly, readily, clearly spark joy, then it doesn’t spark joy. And you should let it go. (Of course, this doesn’t really apply to things like tools and pens, etc, but you should keep the tools you need for the activities that do make you happy!)

Another view, and this was the key for me, when I was debating over the things that were truly difficult to let go of, is this. Let’s pretend that you can only keep a certain percentage of all the things you own. Say you can only keep 30% (no, I’m not going to hold you to a certain number or anything, this is just an imaginary scenario). Ok, you’re preparing to get rid of 70% of your things.

What are the first things you can think of that you want to save?

When I asked myself this question, it was like a light was turned on in my head. What would be the things I would take the energy and time to reach for if I knew I was getting rid of almost everything? What were the first things that came to mind? That beautiful pair of shoes my mother bought me. That beautiful French piece I saved up for. My laptop that I use every day. That wool coat I just cannot live without. My mind didn’t go to the T-shirt I felt ambivalent about, that I was on the fence about letting go. It didn’t even think of it. So, would I really miss it if I was gone?

The answer: no.

Only keep things that actively, truly make you happy, and add value to you and the life that you want to lead going forward. Not the things you can’t make your mind up about. You know yourself. If it’s not a yes, it’s a no—and it shouldn’t be in your life.

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