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  • Decluttering: The Alternative to Minimalism
  • Sonee Singh
  • Clean LivingLifestyleStress ManagementWellness

Decluttering: The Alternative to Minimalism

Decluttering: The Alternative to Minimalism

I am amazed at people who own very little. I’ve heard stories of people who live with the bare essential, with a wardrobe of 2 dresses, 3 skirts, 3 sweaters, a few t-shirts, 2 jeans, and 2 trousers (Luhrs, 2016).

While I cannot live with a minimalist wardrobe, stories like these make me realize I own too much. My closets are filled with items, some that I use, others that I barely use, and still others that rarely see the light of day. At a time of year when people generally acquire, I have decided to discard.

Whether we realize it or not, the things we own have an effect on. They clutter our space, they create dense energy, and they encourage us to remain attached to things that no longer serves us. It is quite likely that the more we own, the more baggage we carry- literally.

I was on a conference call recently where someone mentioned they had gone through a 21-day journey into minimalism, following what two men did in 2009. Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (n.d.), founders of The Minimalists, documented the daily schedule of their 21-day challenge.

I know I cannot be a true minimalist, but I used the 21-day challenge Joshua and Ryan documented as inspiration to declutter.

Overview of the 21-Day Challenge

Resources on minimalism tout their many benefits, such as added time, financial freedom, happiness and improved personal style (Luhrs, 2016). To me this served as a good incentive to give it a try, at least partially.

The 21-day challenge on the outset seems pretty simple.  Each day has a one-word theme to it, such as Decision, Packing, Fear, Belief, Sell, Reduce, and many others. They describe each day of the challenge, and it is logical.

What I Took from the Challenge

As Joshua and Ryan describe, the first step is making a decision- intellectually and emotionally. Deciding to reduce what we own is practical, it makes us feel better, and it helps us feel less cumbered upon.

Joshua and Ryan’s strategy was to pack up everything. Yes, everything that we own. As the challenge progresses, they suggest only unpacking what is essential. This sheds light into the items we truly need, such as toiletries, undergarments, linens, plates, and silverware. But not all of it, only the items that address our basic daily requirements.

They then suggest we confront our fears, particularly those we feel around the items we do not want to let go of. Why do we hang on to items that aren’t necessary in our daily lives? If we fear we may need them, why is this so? Is there a genuine need for them? If so, that’s ok. But if not, they aren’t necessary.

It is important to recognize if we hold on to things to abate fear, or out of a real necessity. Maybe we do not need items in our daily life, but we may for a future event or circumstance.

While going through this process Joshua and Ryan suggested that the items remain packed for at least a week. Then, they suggest to sift through the packaged items and sort them into a pile to trash, a pile to donate, and a pile to sell, and handle each accordingly.

The 21-day challenge is more complex and includes other elements, but what I have described is what I used as inspiration to declutter.

My Approach to Decluttering

I followed their recommendations, albeit not to the detail. My intention was that my house only contain items I find necessary and essential. I didn’t pack all of my items, but I did empty one closet at a time. I took everything out of the closet and laid the items out. I did not put the items back until I used them. Some items were easy to sort into piles to discard, sell, or donate. Others weren’t so clear. These items I kept out of the closet for a week. During that week, I looked at the items every day and sorted them as I became clear on what to do with them.

In the past, I have gone through my closet and removed items to donate. But there was a difference in having all items laid out and only placing items back that I wanted. There was a different consideration. When an item was already hanging in my closet, keeping it there was easy. But when the item needed to be placed back, I thought about it thoroughly- several times if necessary. Unless I found a compelling reason to put it back, it was left out.

As I faced the pile of items, I knew what to do with the items to trash and donate, but I wasn’t sure what to do with items to sell. Friends recommended websites that facilitate the purchase of books and electronics, such as Sell Back Your Books and Decluttr. If items qualified on these websites, I mailed them at no charge, and they gave me back money. They are used items, so I didn’t get very much. Some were worth mere cents, but cumulatively, I got over $200 USD.

After going through this process, I have less in my closets, and I feel more at ease, less burdened, and happier. Getting rid of things didn’t make me happier but owning less makes me happy. I have less weight in the world, and carry less in my being. I’m encouraged that others can make better use of my discarded things. Rather than sitting in a closet, these items are seeing the light of day.

Related Reads

Get It Done

DIY Cleaning Products: Why & How to Make Them 

5 Practices to Support Your Wellness 

The Key to Longer Life Expectance? How I Believe My Grandmother Achieved It 

Beyond Recycling: 5 Other Eco Efforts We Can Practice

Website Links


The Minimalists

Sell Back Your Books


Luhrs, J. (2016). Guide to creating a minimalist wardrobe & 4 reasons to get on it right now. Elephant Journal.  Retrieved on December 10, 2018 from

Millburn, J. F. & Nicodemus, R. (n.d.). Our 21-day journey into minimalism. The Minimalists. Retrieved on December 10, 2018 from


Unsplash, Andrej Lišakov

  • Sonee Singh
  • Clean LivingLifestyleStress ManagementWellness