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The #1 question minimalists are asked is “what does your house look like now?”. Followed quickly by “what did your house look like before?”. Every minimalism journey is unique, so it’s easy to find lots of written words about minimizing and decluttering your home, but harder to find pictures, especially of family homes.
What does a minimalism journey actually look like? How long will it take? What would it really require of you?
All fantastic questions!
And while the answers will vary because a decluttering journey is personal, a general outline can apply.
The Standard Home
The size of our homes and the average living space per person are rapidly increasing in the US, meaning we have more space to put more stuff, regardless of family size.
When my husband and I got married, we moved into a 400 sq foot one bedroom apartment and it very quickly filled to the max. I had no interest in minimalism at that point, but I was trained as a professional organizer and I hated the piles of clutter. You can see how bad it got in my video tours showing the mess and my organizing efforts.
My closet was also a mess, but thanks to the glories of Pinterest, I knew about capsule wardrobes and downsized by half over the course of a month.
Then we got the opportunity to move into a larger home, about 1500 sq feet. In less than two years that home was bursting with all the stuff we had collected. And it wasn’t just my husband and I, but also tons of baby stuff for our newborn daughter and pet accessories for our cat.
Despite all my efforts to stay organized, the intake of clutter was more than we could handle and we ended up with rooms looking like this:
Garage & Attic
Living Space vs. Storage Space
Of course, our living space didn’t look like that. We had lots of dressers, desks, bookshelves and storage containers filled with books, toys, gadgets, and household items. Our dining room table was almost never useable due to the clutter piles. Life was overall, absolutely overwhelming.
In February 2016, I decided enough was enough. I was done with the stuff and it was time to start my minimalism journey. I declared Project Simplicity, and began taking baby steps to clean out our home.
Toddler Room Before & After
I decluttered and purged spaces one by one, then organized and maintained them. A helpful principle that kept momentum going was getting rid of at least 5 items a day. Many days I’d go searching around the house just to find 5 things.
It wasn’t easy, but getting those things out every day made a massive difference. During phase one of my minimalism journey, I methodically went through:
- Baby Clothes
- Laundry Supplies
- Home Office/Cloffice
- Dining Room Table/Catch-All Spaces
- Kids’ Toys
Living Room Before & After
- Do you need it?
- Do you use it?
- Do you love it?
That was wave one, and it took 2 years and 2 large garage sales to get through it! I also donated box after box of items, sold a lot via local buy/sell groups and recycled/trashed many broken and unusable items.
Advancing Over the Years
Our house was more uncluttered, but it was still more than we needed. At the end of 2017, we downsized and moved to a smaller home, about 1200 sq feet this time. And while the size may not seem like much, the biggest difference was that we gave up a garage and an attic–the two biggest storage spaces!
Not to mention that this house was an older build, meaning the closets and storage space are smaller in design.
We had to do intense decluttering to make it work. I fretted and pondered. What to get rid of. What to keep. It was stressful and exhausting! Even in our smaller home I decided we still had too much, and proceeded to do more decluttering challenges.
Our Simplified Home Today
We are now three years into this minimizing journey and I still have big goals. I’ve let go of a lot of bigger furniture pieces and pared down the little things day by day.
- I have a Project 333 Capsule Wardrobe
- My preschool daughter has a Capsule Wardrobe
- Our Kitchen is simple and easy to maintain
- Our Family Bedroom doesn’t collect clutter anymore
- Our Living Room, Homeschool Area & Playroom always evolve, but have more open space
- I’ve learned how to let go of the guilt-filled hard stuff
But I still have more simplifying to do! Plus maintaining the areas I’ve already purged.
There’s no such thing as perfection, but there is progress and peace.
Every time you clear a space, it’s a breath of fresh air.
Every time you donate a bag of stuff to someone who needs it more than you, it’s a blessing.
Every time you make a hard decision to let go of something from your past, you’re achieving freedom.
The hard work is worth it. Dream it. Plan it. Do it!
Related Minimalist Articles
- The Minimalist Home Book Review
- Why Minimalism? The Meaning of Less Stuff, More Life
- What My Minimalist Kitchen Actually Looks Like