If you use questions like “what if” to excuse keeping your excess belongings, here’s your toolbox for letting go with confidence. I’ve spun my wheels with finding what I thought were legitimate reasons to keep the excess. But I spent good money on it. What if I need it in the future? It was a gift. It still works. It brings back good memories.
The list goes on. Oh, how I’m familiar with the rabbit trail of emotional and psychological attachment to things that get in my way of my real dream of living simply! I’ve heard them from others, too, so I know I’m not alone. Over the last several years I stumbled into some questions that really help me let go of even the most difficult belongings. (Goodbye wedding dress and favorite books.)
And, you know what? I don’t regret a single thing I’ve gotten rid of. In fact, I regret holding on too much and too long. I still have some simplifying to do and when I look at what’s left my thought is always, Trina, you could have gotten rid of this years ago and reached your goal by now. Get to it!
Let’s start asking better questions while we sort our belongings, and get to those goals of living simply in better homes and better lives!
Key Questions for Decluttering
Here are those questions that help me let go of more without regret while being sure of what I keep.
1. Do you love it?
Or, in Mari Kondo’s words, Does it spark joy? The point of this question is right from the get-go to evaluate without guilt or too much reasoning if deep down you really want to keep that item. All of the guilt and memories and obligation set aside, Do you love it? This question can work whether the item you’re considering is useful or decorative or a keepsake. It doesn’t matter how much you spent on it or who it came from, if seeing it feels more like a burden and less like a smile-inducer, it might be time to seriously consider letting go.
2. Do you need it?
Other forms of this question are: Has it served its purpose? Is it currently used? If not, when was the last time it was used? Need beyond basic food, shelter, and clothes is relatively subjective. Your definition of need greatly influences your end goal for simplifying. A true minimalist will stick closer to the essentials for food, shelter, and clothing a la Bea Johnson or Francine Jay. Some of us also leave room for the “need” of a little comfort and convenience a la Myquillyn Smith. If the item is not currently needed or in use, was it at least used in the last month? And if it’s a seasonal item, was it used during the relevant season?
3. Why are you keeping it?
Finally, if you answer “no” to the previous two questions, it’s good to end with considering this final question. You might have a legitimate reason beyond love and need for keeping an item. That’s up for you to decide. In considering your answer, especially look for any emotional attachment or underlying obligations that do not currently add value to your home or life. Everything in our homes either helps or hinders the life we want to live, so be sure you’re not making excuses for holding on to excess that is actually hindering your life.
Bonus: Is it worth keeping at the risk of messing up your simple?
Finally, keep in mind what letting go opens room for in your home and in your life. Getting rid of each item gets you one step closer to finally finding simple. While each item you hold onto is one more thing getting in the way of your simple. Whatever our personal motivations or goals for simple, the end result of letting go will be owning better or more useful things, and more importantly living. You know, those people and experiences that make your life meaningful, valuable, and worth living. Don’t let any thing get in the way of that.
Letting go of more things, and avoiding buying things you don’t need, gets you closer to simple and starts with asking the right questions. When you’re stuck, asking these intentional questions can keep you moving forward toward simple. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “Do I love it? And do I need it?” If the answer isn’t a clear yes, then let go or don’t buy knowing these small choices add up to a home and a life that is both simple and valuable.
While I care about simplicity and need peace and quiet, for this season, our top priority is growing kids, so sometimes the other stuff gets shoved into the cracks and crevices with the stray cheerios, or left off the to do list with chores like scrub the shower.
There is hope for messy homes–whether you’re focusing on kids or any number of other non-home priorities. Simplifying is doable, even with limited time and energy. Others are paving a way and finding shortcuts so we don’t have to. And any bit of effort creates a foundation to rely on in the crazy.
That’s exactly what I aim to offer here on Simplifying Home–encouragement to start where you are, practical ideas for the simplifying process, and support to find peace along the way. Following are a few specific ways you can get support for your simplifying, even if you can’t focus on it fulltime.
blog posts on simplifying
Of course, you can find posts here on the Simplifying Home blog. These posts offer little nuggets to encourage your simplifying journey and offer practical ideas for helping you make it happen.
emails to help simplify your home this year
I share resources and simple ideas to encourage your own simplifying process at your own pace. All for free. Sign up for emails >> here.
facebook group for ongoing encouragement + support
When you sign up for emails, your welcome email offers a link to the private Simplifying Home Facebook group. This is a place to share your progress, get ideas from others, and stay motivated in your simplifying journey. It’s also an easy way to contact me and stay up-to-date on what’s new from Simplifying Home.
This is the hashtag I use for any posts on Simplifying Home that I share on Instagram or Twitter. These feeds will include anything from related inspiration, my own progress, insights from the ebook, what’s new, and more. You’re also welcome to use #simplifyinghome for your own home and simplifying related posts so hopefully those feeds grow to be a fun collection of simplifying posts to browse.
ebook to get inspired + equipped in theory and in practice
My ebook Simplifying Home is what started all of this. It’s the place to read our story, get all of the practical information for the simplifying process, as well as inspiration on the deeper motivations behind it all. You can get more information and see a preview inside the ebook >> here.
I hope this helps you get started simplifying wherever you are, and enjoy a little peace along the way.
Homemaking would be a piece of cake if it wasn’t for the messy home and the having to “make” something out of it. Oh, and if there was more cake, because that sounds delicious right now. On this day when laundry gathers everywhere, some clean, some folded, some is neither. On this day when I avoided a sink of dishes and cracker crumbs on the sofa and miscellaneous papers on the kitchen counter. When I’ve spent the morning working on the computer, the afternoon at the doctor’s office, and nearly every moment in between requesting in vain for my 18-month-old to please not cry at mommy for no reason (it’s a fun new phase he’s going through).
Don’t get me wrong, I used to be a decent homemaker. Then I had kids. Here’s the one thing I should have been told more to help me adjust to “homemaking” with kids (it’s true for homemaking without kids, but it wasn’t as obvious to me then): You can only do so much.
I know, that doesn’t really mesh well with the “you can do anything you put your mind to” messages we’d rather hear. The little side note to those messages is that you are one person with one mind that can only focus on one thing at a time. So instead of thinking we can do everything we put our minds to, the truth is that we can do any ONE thing we put our minds to.
This one-mindedness happens every moment of everyday. I’m either looking at the road while driving or looking down at the new text on my phone. I’m either looking at my kid when she says “mom, watch this!” Or I’m staring into the computer screen mumbling “uh, huh, that’s nice honey” while I frantically try to finish one more task on a project. I’m either doing the dishes or I’m emptying out a closet getting lost in the emotional baggage of these things I forgot we even owned.
That makes sense then, that at the end of the day, I wasn’t able to give my kids 100% of my undivided attention while also completing a big work-at-home project while also keeping the house clean while also simplifying and organizing our clutter spots. It’s just not possible.
That single-tasking reality might sound discouraging when we’re all pumped up about reaching the moon if we just jump real high. But acknowledging that we can only do so much–and that “so much” is in fact one thing at a time–acknowledging that can really help us with all the things, whether related to our work, home, or life.
Knowing my limitations allows me to…
I used to keep crazy long to-do lists, that of course never got done. Now, I might write a task down somewhere just to get it out of my mind. But on a daily basis I aim at most to get 3 tasks done. If I complete them all, I can move on down the list. More often than not, I’m doing good if I can get 1-2 bigger things done each day besides caring for kids. (Because kid-care is my top priority.)
let something go
If I’m only focusing on completing 1-3 bigger tasks each day, that means there’s likely lots more not being done. Sure, these can kind of passively fall to the bottom of the list. I’ve found it saves my sanity a little if I acknowledge some of those bottom priorities and give them a peace out. One of those is weekly deep cleaning–scrubbing showers and floors and toilets. Sure, our home needs it. I used to do great at it when I had only one kid. But, now, it’s more like a once-a-month deep cleaning if I’m lucky, and intentionally letting that go for this season of our busy little-kid-raising lives is a sanity saver and a peace-maker. Also, I used to think hiring a cleaning lady was pointless, but I am totally on board with that now.
When my mentality is set on “reaching the moon,” I’m likely unsatisfied with anything less and discontent until that happens. When I can acknowledge that reaching the moon is a little unrealistic since I’m a stay-at-home-mom and not an astronaut, then I have the freedom to celebrate my actual progress from today. Which might be something small like folding the laundry and putting it away or writing a new blog post or cleaning out a drawer or actually looking at my kid when she said “hey mom, watch this!” I may not do all of those in one day, but when I do then I really know I’ve finally reached the moon of my little world.
The best part of knowing I am one person that can do only one thing at a time is the permission to get help. I don’t have to be super woman, and while I sometimes feel like I’m trying, it can be freeing to reach out to others. Help might be involving my husband and kids in a quick family cleaning in the evening because I didn’t get to it during the day. Help might be using some of my freelance earnings to hire a sitter so I can focus on work for a couple hours without full-on kid-neglect. Help is also when I’ve gotten great ideas from other authors who encourage, support, and simplify a process for me.
All of that starts with acknowledging I can only do so much.
Today, that meant making my sick kid my priority, even though the Ultimate Homemaking Bundle went live today and my ebook Simplifying Home is included and I still had lots to do (like get this post up). It meant telling the dishes and laundry and crumbs and whatever else that gathered, “you’re not my problem right now.” It meant celebrating that we’re all alive and our house is still livable. It meant getting help from my husband and my mom who both got off work early to help with the kids (some days it feels like we just have so many kids).
And maybe I didn’t do everything on my list today, but I did some things and for today, that’s enough.
You are one person with one mind able to focus on one thing at a time. What gets top priority now? What does that leave to let go of? What does progress look like for you on a day like today? Where could you get help, whether it be physical, emotional, spiritual?
I kind of quietly jumped into blogging here on SimplifyingHome.com without much of a “launch” or explanation of the heart behind all of this. I hope this post offers you a little more behind Simplifying Home–why I care, what you’ll find here, why you being here matters, and my hope for you…
That you would feel validated and understood.
I know and deeply need the value of simple, but I also experience the very real struggle to find it. Distractions are everywhere and I easily get tripped up in my simplicity and focus. I feel that tension daily, and I know others feel it, too. It is my hope that my words and the experiences I share will help you feel validated in your struggle to find simplicity.
That you find help where you are.
Everyone is different and what helps each of us might be different, too. I can’t be all things for all people, but I try to offer a variety–an ebook, blog posts, a Facebook group, updates on Instagram and Twitter, emails, and even some videos. You likely don’t need it all, but hopefully there is something that will meet you where you are. If not, rest assured there are other people that share about simplicity and home that might be more your style. (Becoming Minimalist, Nesting Place, Miss Minimalist, Apartment Therapy, Be More with Less, Konmari… just in case you needed some suggestions ; ) That does not hurt my feelings if you move on to whatever/whoever resonates most. The point is: find support that leads you to action.
That you find benefits beyond your home.
Each day starts and ends at home. That is why I believe getting our lives together–better health, more community, minds at peace–also starts and ends at home. Sure, I want you to create the simple home you’ve always wanted and to be proud of it. More than that, I want you to live a life with purpose and find a deeper sense of satisfaction and contentment. As we work toward the calm of a simple home, may we also find more fulfilling benefits.
That you’ll press into your reluctance.
Some days it feels like I’ve read every word of help, scoured every inspiring photo, and nothing has changed. That’s because encouragement and inspiration are just the beginning. And, really, it’s nothing if it doesn’t lead to action. So I hope above all that you will press into your reluctance and persevere through the resistance to actually make your home simple. It’s up to you. Unless you hire someone to do it for you, but even then they’ll likely still need your involvement.
That you’ll enjoy peace along the way.
None of us is guaranteed the future, that’s why I think it’s so important to enjoy peace and calm now. Even when our homes aren’t all we want them to be and even while we have endless goals still yet to pursue. I believe it’s possible to move forward while enjoying the present. I share more about that in my ebook and encouragement in that also shows up in posts and updates.
Ready for the simple home you’ve always wanted? Or maybe it’s the peace, health, or life purpose you’re after. Whatever the case, I believe it can all start with the foundation of simplifying your home. To learn more, you can checkout the Simplifying Home ebook or sign up for emails.
I love the kids, not the chaos. Those were words, or something like them, that I shared a couple weeks ago as I introduced myself at our table-reading for the Listen to Your Mother show. I love simplicity. I need simplicity, and the last 8+ years of motherhood have felt anything but. Messy, chaotic, cluttered, overwhelming. Those are words that too often fill my thoughts and slip out of my mouth to the sweet and innocent ears of my mini-bystanders.
That’s also the very reason I have a desire to write and speak. There’s this message I need, and I know others need it, too. That motherhood and raising kids is messy. Some of us go about it entirely imperfectly and full of #momfail moments. But there is still some calm, joy, and even peace to be found in that. Even when I have a deep desire to throw away all of their toys. Even when these mini-mes are the chaos to my simplicity. And I don’t have to wait 10 years to find that calm, joy, peace when they start leaving the house.
I’m learning about finding calm in the chaos now. It’s still sometimes a messy and imperfect process that leaves me feeling overwhelmed some days. But there’s also joy and peace to get me through the hiccups. Following are some things I remember and do to help create a calm home even in the chaos of raising kids. read more…
I’m Trina, the girl behind Simplifying Home. You can learn more about me and my simplifying journey here. Enter your name and email below to keep in touch. And use #SimplifyingHome for your simplifying photos and posts on social media. Look forward to encouraging each other toward simple!