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Decluttering 101 – The Simple Experiment That Changed Our Life!

When it comes to simplifying life and living without stress – nothing quite compares to decluttering.

For us, downsizing, purging and eliminating unneeded “stuff” was simply the most freeing, life-altering process we’ve ever accomplished together.

Clutter not only increases stress, it lends itself to an unproductive lifestyle.

Not only did it organize our home and life beyond our wildest dreams, it also helped save on our family budget more than we ever realized.

The Need For Decluttering

I can remember the day we started our little decluttering plan like it was yesterday!

We had dreamed for years to someday build a little home at our farm. And in the summer of 2014, we decided to finally take the plunge and start putting that dream into action.

A home that could be simple, affordable, and without unwanted space or clutter. We called it the “Simple House” project.

decluttering 101
The Simple House. Our move to our 1054 Square foot simple house made us realize how little we really need when it comes to space and things.

The Simple House was to be our ultimate downsizing move. We had planned it meticulously to be a home that held only the space we actually used and needed.

It eliminated all of the rooms that we never used, and certainly didn’t need.  See : Simple House Floor Plan

Gone would be the dining room we ate in once or twice a year. A living room that served to hold furnishings we never sat in. Extra bedrooms with extra furniture. And a finished basement that seemed to collect rarely used work-out equipment.

The Need To Eliminate “Stuff”

And that is where the need to declutter became front and center.

The house we planned that summer and eventually would build had a mere 1054 square feet of total floor space. Exactly what, and only what we needed.

Do you really need all of those old coffee cups that take up space?

But it was a far cry from the 3000+ square foot suburban house we would be leaving. And that meant we had 2000+ square feet of downsizing to accomplish before the move.

We figured it would be nearly impossible to attempt to attack it all at once. First, as with any project, if you try to do too much too quickly, the only result is frustration. That is almost always followed by despair, and finally defeat.

With a little over a year before we would move, we knew we had time on our side. So, we created a little experiment to help us purge our belongings in an orderly and efficient method. And it really did change our life forever!

Decluttering – The Experiment That Changed Our Life Forever

We called our little decluttering plan the One A Day / 365 Experiment.

The rules were simple. So simple in fact that there were just two.


Rule #1 We each had to discard one possession every day for an entire year. Not a few here or there, or on a weekend clean-up day.

It was simply a minimum of one item, each and every single day. 7 days a week. And it didn’t matter where it came from as long as it was leaving some portion of our home.

One day it might be an old pair of my sneakers. The next, a broken shovel still in the garage. Then perhaps a sweatshirt, an extra kitchen appliance, or even a collection of old baseball cards stuffed in a shoe box.

Every single day. That was the key. It didn’t overwhelm, because it was only one item.

But what that daily process did accomplish was keep the goal at the forefront of our thoughts. As we went about our daily routine, we would already begin to notice and think about other things that could go the next day. And the day after that.

It is amazing how much clutter a closet can really hold.

Rule 2 – Keeping Clutter Away

The second rule was intended to keep things from re-entering the house. To never let the clutter happen again. It was a simple rule as well.

Rule #2 : Nothing could be brought back into the house that did not replace a current possession, or fill an absolute need.

That meant a new pair of jeans replaced an older one. A new kitchen tool needed to replace one that left. There would be no more collecting multiple back-ups – which by the way, is truly the root of all clutter!

It was amazing as we progressed to see how we really could get by without duplicates.

How It All Worked Out

The first 60 to 90 days were a breeze. We all have plenty of things we know we can discard.

But then it became real. And that is when the real magic began to happen.

You might just find something you need when you clean!

As the possessions dwindled down, we had to take a closer look at what we really needed. There are some things we just can’t throw away for some reason, but that we never use. Like my old 3′ tall Snoopy piggy bank from when I was 10. Or Mary’s track shoes from high school.

All of those were tucked away in corners or boxes – simply taking up space. Getting in the way.

We started to realize that it was the memory of an event or an item that really mattered. Not possessing the actual over-sized souvenir cup from a college football game I attended long ago that takes up 1/3rd of a cupboard – or those shoes and 3′ tall Snoopy piggy bank.

The more we decluttered, the easier it became to find the things we really needed. Sometime, in our quest to purge, we actually found things we really needed and didn’t know we still had!

With less to organize, it was simply easier to organize. By day 365 – our life had been changed forever.

What To Do With All Of That Stuff

So what did we do with all the stuff? Well, with every item we purged – we followed these 4 simple guidelines.

#1 SELL – If the item had value, we would sell it and place the money into a saving fund for the future house.

#2 DONATE – If the item could serve a second purpose or life for another person or family, they we would give it away or donate it.

A simple approach with little clutter can help keep stress levels away. It is amazing how much “stuff” you don’t need.

#3 RECYCLE – If the item couldn’t serve a second purpose but could be recycled – then recycle it was!

# PURGE / TRASH – As a last resort, if items couldn’t be sold, given away or recycled, we disposed of them completely.

Happy Simple Living! Jim and Mary. Sign up to follow our blog via email in the right hand column to get all of our DIY, Gardening, and Recipe articles. You can also “like” and follow us on Facebook to stay in on the action there too!