With the prospect of moving into a new, smaller home, my husband and I were faced with having to declutter ten years’ worth of belongings.

Certainly, it felt daunting at the beginning; however, the more we decluttered the more objective I was able to be about what really was worth keeping and what I could let go of.

1. Decluttering takes time

Initially, I thought that decluttering would be a “one and done” deal; that I would do it once and it would be over. However, it wasn’t so straightforward!

As the decluttering progressed, I’d find my mind wandering back to rooms I’d already decluttered and thinking about items I’d kept. More often than not I would return to these things and decide that, in fact, I didn’t really need them.

Also, I recognised that as time goes on, decluttering will be a lifelong process. I’ll need to keep on top of it to ensure that our home doesn’t return to the same state it was in prior to the initial declutter!

2. You need less than you think

One area where this felt most relevant was my wardrobe. I had lots of clothes that I didn’t really wear. I discovered that I tend to rotate through wearing the same items because they’re comfortable and I feel good in them.

This isn’t to say that if you like clothes and they bring you joy, you should get rid of them. However, in my wardrobe, I had a lot of items that weren’t getting much wear and were unlikely to in the future.

I got a lot of satisfaction from donating those items to charity, knowing that other people would be able to get more use out of them.

3. We put too much value on material things

The decluttering process helped me realise the overinflated value I placed on material things and that, in comparison, relationships and experiences bring far more meaning to my life than physical possessions.

Often, we may buy things as a way to replicate or replace the feelings we get from experiences. However, those feelings tend to be fleeting, whereas the feelings we get from memories and experiences are with us for life.

4. Letting go can be hard but liberating

During the moments where I felt anxious about getting rid of particular things, items that weren’t at all sentimental, I realised that these were just things. Suddenly, it felt absurd that I was getting so worked up about a physical object.

However,  the meaning and memories we attach to physical items is why it can be so hard to let go.

Nonetheless, when I was able to let go of these items, I felt a huge sense of freedom and relief. I realised that, by holding onto them, I’d grown more anxious because I knew I wasn’t using them but at the same time I was worried to let them go. Once I ripped off the band aid I felt so much better!

5. Emotions play a huge role in holding onto stuff

I owned quite a few sentimental items, bought or given by people dear to me. However, some of these items were worn and broken and they didn’t bring me joy.

Nonetheless, I felt huge guilt at the thought of decluttering them; as though I was insulting the memory of the person.

That being said, I don’t believe we need to declutter sentimental items if we’re not ready to. I did declutter some items but there were others I was not willing to declutter because of how special they are to me.

6. Decluttering reduces decision fatigue

By having fewer items, we reduce our options and therefore the potential overwhelm of having to choose between particular things.

For example, now that I have fewer clothes, and these are the ones I was wearing anyway, there are fewer options for me to rummage through and therefore fewer opportunities to get stuck in making a decision!

7. You learn what’s really important in life

When I recognised how worked up I was getting over stuff, this really helped me gain clarity of what matters most to me in life. I thought back to all the precious experiences and relationships I’ve had, and how my physical possessions cannot compare to these. 

8. We hold onto a lot of “just in case” items

I had quite a few “just in case” items which I’d kept hold of, thinking that I might need them at some point in the future. I had many books and hundreds of CDs, most of which I’d kept “just in case”.

However, during the major declutter I took a more objective view and realised these have been “just in case” items for over five years. Therefore, it felt the right time to declutter them and give them away so other people could enjoy them.

9. Often the simple things bring us the most joy

One of my favourite activities is walking in nature. It’s such a simple thing to do but it brings me unending amounts of joy. There is no complex relationship, no anxiety or guilt, just pure enjoyment of being in the natural world.

In comparison, we can have complex associations with our physical objects that can make it hard to let go of them. When I experienced these conflicting emotions, I remind myself of the joy I found in simple things and that helped with the decluttering process.

10. Decluttering is just one aspect of a minimalist lifestyle

Often, when people think of minimalism they associate it solely with decluttering, and it doesn’t help that there’s so much decluttering content out here on the internet.

However, Minimalism, to me, is a way of living life whilst remaining mindful of what truly matters, so that I can fill my life with more of those things rather than material possessions.

Let me know in the comments, of the lessons you’ve learned from your decluttering experiences!