Greg and I have been married for nearly two years now, and I’ve lived in our house for four years. We like to talk and dream about the kinds of habits we want to build as a family, especially the things we want to teach our kids. We recently realized that our lives don’t have the same decluttering mechanisms built in as they used to. When we were younger and living in dorms or apartments we moved every few years. By necessity, we had to sift through our belongings when we packed them up to move. Now that we’re homeowners, we don’t have the same frequency of inventory-taking. It’s so easy for things to end up forgotten in closets and cupboards. We’re firm believers in mental workload, however, so in our minds these forgotten corners take energy to maintain and store.
We decided to make a family holiday focused around decluttering. Right now while it’s just the two of us this serves a primarily practical purpose. When we have kids, we hope it will be a vehicle for teaching our kids about giving to those in need, valuing experiences over things, and avoiding buying new things just to have more. We are trying to structure it in a way that makes it fun to try to find new life for things we aren’t using. That’s why we consider it a holiday, not just a decluttering exercise. To that end, there are several things we do to try to make the day special:
- We do it consistently. Declutter day is either the first or second Saturday of August every year. Right now that’s an arbitrary date, but when we have kids it will allow us to sift through old things as we’re prepping for back-to-school. We also wanted to disassociate it from gift-giving holidays like Christmas so that there isn’t the expectation that acquiring new things will immediately follow getting rid of old things.
- We have a fun breakfast to kick off the day. Last year I made cinnamon rolls (try Amanda’s recipe!). This year we got breakfast tacos.
- We play fun music while we’re doing it.
- When the day is over, we have a fun dinner together as a family to celebrate.
A big key for making this feel manageable is doing it every year, but focusing it on one day. Our goal isn’t to declutter every single thing every year. Instead, we do as much as we can in a day. We keep track of what we touched each year so we can make sure one area doesn’t get neglected for two long. After doing it this year (this was our second year) I realized it goes a lot faster with frequency because there hasn’t been as much time for things to accumulate in between. I also think there is a sort of mourning process for sentimental things we want to get rid of but can’t bear to let go of yet. I need to see it several times and try to talk myself into letting it go. I think there’s a magic number for my brain that after I go through that thought process enough times, I can finally let it go. There are some things I’ll hold onto forever even though I don’t NEED them, but I’m okay with that knowing it’s a conscious choice.
Have you found an approach to decluttering that works for you? We’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or on social media. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get updates about new blog posts.