Prepare to get EXTREME! In preparation for a move, my family of four performed an extreme decluttering that cumulated in us moving overseas with only eight suitcases.
That’s right, we decluttered our entire lives down to eight suitcases!
So if you came here looking for crazy extreme decluttering before and after pics and helpful decluttering tips from someone who has been there, done that, and lived the crazy, you have come to the right place.
Today I am sharing our story and what we learned in the process, in the hopes that we can also help other families who would like to declutter their lives as well.
So here it is in all it’s splendid, glorious, messy detail — let’s dig in!
Why did we decide to go through an extreme decluttering?
Before this decluttering session, we had already been through what I would consider a fairly extreme KonMari method decluttering.
Don’t get me wrong, that was an amazing and truly life-changing experience in itself.
I am a huge fan of the KonMari method – I even created a five-page checklist to keep me on track because I was afraid I would forget something while I was decluttering!
However, there are definitely a few gaps when it comes to implementing the KM method IRL, especially when it comes to families with young children.
So when we decided to move overseas to Europe to reunite with my husband’s family I knew I was going to have to improvise.
When we looked around our house we realized that even though there were plenty of things that we did love and would have loved to carry with us, it wasn’t necessarily feasible to pay for it.
After all, no matter how much my children loved their well-worn miniature recliner it wasn’t worth paying the massive shipping fees to get it overseas!
Often when you move overseas, the cost to purchase something new is less than the cost to ship the same item, even in pallets.
Therefore, we decided we need to perform an extreme decluttering session — and we only gave ourselves eight suitcases to fill up.
That meant only two suitcases for each member of the family.
In the process, we also realized that you need much less than you think — and we are a happier family for it!
Is extreme decluttering hard?
Heck yeah, it’s hard!
If you have never tried it before and you’re asking this question, I would say it’s probably one of the hardest things you will do in your life!
(If you have tried yourself, I am sure you are nodding along with me.)
However, it was also one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my entire life.
I have zero regrets after decluttering our entire home and entire life — I haven’t missed one single item I got rid of.
I can honestly say the process has not only brought us closer as a family, but our happiness and life satisfaction levels went through the roof!
When you consider that the average American spends 55 minutes per day looking for stuff they can’t find (Newsweek) and that many also have storage space outside of their massive homes simply to keep all the extra crap they aren’t using at that moment (wasted time, space, and MONEY), it really makes you stop and consider what is important.
There is a minimalist quote that I really love by Don DeLillo that pretty well sums up the experience of extreme decluttering and a minimalist lifestyle:
The more I threw away, the more I found.
How to declutter your entire life
By now maybe you are saying, huh, I would really like to try this extreme decluttering thing.
I embrace you with open arms, my friend.
Welcome to the circle.
As Chinese philosopher and writer Lao Tzu once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Please remember to give yourself grace with this process. Don’t ever compare your minimalist journey to anyone else’s middle or end.
After all, comparison is the thief of joy.
My best extreme decluttering tips
#1. Clarify your motivation and purpose
Before anything else, take a quiet moment to think deeply about why you want to declutter your life.
Something must have brought you to this point and this very page.
You can either reflect silently on your motivations or sit down and jot down your thoughts and feelings on why you want to declutter your home and your life.
The positive benefits of decluttering are well-documented and abundant; which are most attractive to you?
Benefits of decluttering include:
- Less time spent on cleaning and organizing
- Less financial burden as you become more mindful of your purchases – some people find they can even make money off of their unwanted clutter
- Better physical and mental health
- More time to spend activities you enjoy
#2. Visualize the end goal
Once you have determined your motivation for decluttering, take a moment to visualize what your ideal home environment would look like after completing your decluttering.
Visualizing an outcome is a technique used throughout the world to manifest your hopes and dreams into a reality.
Successful people in all walks of life, from businessmen to top athletes, use visualization to drive their goals forward.
To visualize try to imagine:
- How does your home look after decluttering? Is there a certain color that stands out to you in your ideal home? Do the rooms seem brighter and more spacious? Are there certain items you want to display and others that are notably absent?
- Are there any noises you hear? Do you hear the sound of gentle music playing in the background? Do you hear the sound of your children laughing instead of fighting? When you wake, do you hear birds chirping outside of the window as you stretch luxuriously in your relaxing bed?
- What does your morning routine look like? How would you go about your day differently after decluttering? Is making breakfast easier because you can find everything in your kitchen? Do your children get out the door on time for school, unhurried, because you are more focused and relaxed?
- How would you fill your time after decluttering? Are you sitting down in a cozy nook to read a book while enjoying a steaming cup of camomile tea? Do you have time to drive to the park and take a long walk with your husband, chatting about the day as you hike amongst the trees?
If you have trouble visualizing your decluttering goals
It helps to use plenty of adjectives and action words when you visualize your ideal lifestyle.
Should you feel really stuck, try and list out each of the five senses and jot down a sensation for each.
Here are examples for each sense:
- Sight – I see bright and open spaces that are filled with green lush plants instead of clutter.
- Sound – Instead of my children fighting I hear them playing happily together.
- Smell – I smell cookies baking in the kitchen because I have had more time to explore my passion for baking.
- Touch – The tables and kitchen counters feel smooth and free from crumbs and dust; it’s so much easier to keep things clean when there isn’t clutter!
- Taste – I sip luxuriously on camomile tea in my backyard with the sun on my face instead of spending so much time cleaning up after my family.
#3. Should you declutter items by category or location?
The KonMari method is famous for advocating decluttering by category.
While decluttering by category definitely makes sense for certain items, like books, clothing, and papers, at times decluttering your home by location is much easier in practice.
Here are some of the areas to tackle by location, rather than category:
- Kitchen and pantry
- Office and family areas
- Bath and laundry
- Garage and tools
- Playroom and toys
Do save sentimental items for last — and have some tissues present while you tackle them. You will be feeling all the feels.
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#4. How to decide what to keep
There are only two rules to help you decide what to keep around your home.
- Keep items that make you feel happy
- Keep items that you need to fulfill a purpose in your life
Resist the temptation to make the decision process harder.
Hold each item in your hands and give it the benefit of your full attention and notice your reaction to the item.
Does holding it elicit a sense of joy or do you know that you will need the item to perform a necessary function in your home?
If so that item is a keeper.
Take note of any negative emotions you have related to letting go of an item, whether it’s guilt, fear, sadness, etc, acknowledge them and the place inside your heart that they are coming from, and allow them to pass.
Remember, letting go is a natural and healthy process; holding on because of negative feelings is unhealthy and causes you undue stress.
#5. Find eco-friendly ways to discard your clutter
While it may be tempting to simply toss all of your unwanted clutter into a sack, place it in the garbage, and wash your hands of it, resist that temptation.
After all, most of this clutter is something that you loved or served a purpose at one point or another; doesn’t it deserve your respect and thankfulness?
Every year the U.S. alone sends 21 billion tons of textile waste to landfills, textiles that could easily be donated or repurposed for other uses.
How to get rid of clutter mindfully
First, before you even start tackling your clutter, gather a few large cardboard or plastic storage boxes and designate them as follows:
- Keep: these are, of course, the items that you want to carry with you in your new clutter-free life.
- Sell: these are unwanted items that might be worth something; you can sell them on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, or any number of online apps. There are many reasons to prefer selling over donating; people who pay money for something tend to appreciate it more and you may be able to recoup some of the money you spend on that clutter. Your clutter might surprise you — I found out that my grandmother’s old head vase was worth nearly $500 (I did not sell, that one was a keeper).
- Donate: items that you do not wish to sell that are still in good condition can be donated to a number of international or local donation sites, charities, and churches. Some, like Habitat for Humanity Restore, may even pick them up (make sure you try and schedule well in advance). Keep any receipts for donations and claim as a charitable donation on your taxes.
- Recycle: did you know that even worn-out pants with holes in the knees can have a shot at a second life? If your items are not in donation-worthy condition there are still lots of eco-friendly options other than your trash can!
#6. Organize the items you have left
Once you have fully decluttered an area, it’s time to consider how you want to organize that space. Remember, the less stuff you have, the less stuff you will need to clean and maintain.
Keep that in mind as you explore storage options and focus on using solutions that allow you to see everything at a glance and bring you joy when you look at them!
#7. Be mindful about what you bring into your life and your house
Your home is your sanctuary.
After decluttering resist the temptation to bring new items into your home.
Approach every single purchase mindfully and ask yourself, what place does this item have in my life?
If you can’t visualize space for that object and it doesn’t make you happy, don’t bring it home.
Remember, you can appreciate the beauty of an item without needing to own it yourself.
Ask yourself, are you ready to exchange money and time for that object?
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it. – Henry David Thoreau
I hope that you enjoyed this post on extreme decluttering!
Check out the entire YouTube video documenting our extreme decluttering journey if you feel like you need a little extra inspiration and help getting started!