Congratulations on making the decision to declutter and make your family’s lives ones of minimalism and simplicity!

Downsizing things, reducing debt, letting go of toxic relationships and overbooked schedules are all part of minimalist living and you’ll reap huge benefits from all of it.

But first, you have to get there. The question is, where exactly is “there”?

The truth is your destination is completely up to you.

Minimalism isn’t a one size fits all solution. Your definition of minimalism probably isn’t the same as it is for someone else.

Some people choose an extreme shift, (giving up cars, not having a TV, downsizing to a basic cell phone or not having one at all), while others opt for a more laid-back approach.

It’s an individual choice how extreme or moderate you go in your minimalist journey.

One thing’s for sure though – you have to start somewhere. That begins with purging the possessions and clearing the clutter, and that alone can be overwhelming. In order to keep your sanity and avoid burnout, here are three tips:

1. Make a Plan

You may think you don’t need a plan. After all you know you need to just get rid of things to clear the clutter and free the space around you of junk.

That’s true, but if you go into this lacking a plan (or vision), you’ll quickly feel overwhelmed, stressed, not sure where to start, and find yourself burnt out.

Instead, spend some time visualizing what minimalist living means to you.

Include your partner and older kids in the planning. It is so much easier to divide and conquer once you start.

It is also easier to stick to the plan and keep each other accountable if everyone in the house is on the same page.

Discuss your motivations for decluttering and minimalist living. Do you want more free time? Are you trying to maintain a cleaner home? Are you trying to save money? Do you want to help the environment?

Your motivations will depend on what you and your family value and may even vary amongst yourselves.

Once you’ve decided what you want minimalist living to look like for your family, you next need to decide how you will go about achieving your lifestyle.

Will you downsize your home? Cut back on your wardrobe? Spend less on Christmas and birthday gifts? Cut back on single-use products?

These decisions and others will help you and your family evaluate the things you can and can’t live without.

Once you have the plan, you’re ready to take action!

2. Start Small – Pick One Room or One Category 

The fastest way to confusion, chaos, and burnout is trying to do too much at once.

One approach is to take it one room at a time. Start with the smallest room first so you can see progress quickly and don’t move on until this room is completely finished.

If you follow Marie Kondo, she chooses to start the process one category at a time until that category is complete, like clothing.

How you decide to tackle the process is another decision your family will have to make, but once you decide, begin!

So how exactly do you declutter? This goes back to having a vision for what minimalism means to you. But here’s a general tip that is easy to follow regardless of how much you’re keeping or getting rid of:

Make four piles – keep, sell, donate, and recycle or repurpose. As you go through the room, or pile of let’s say clothing, every single item you pick up should immediately be put into one of those four piles.

Once you have everything sorted, get rid of the trash pile first because it’s the easiest one to let go of.

Then create a plan for getting rid of the sell pile. Consider how will you do it—online listings like Facebook’s Market Place, attending a car boot sale, or eBay are all great options. Mum2Mum markets are great for selling items for children under 5 (toys, clothes, baby gear, etc.)

Then move to the donate pile – load it up and drop it off at a local charity shop or wherever you decide to make the donation.

The Recycle or repurpose pile is something you can do together. Are there items that can be made into something else so you don’t have to buy new? Think cutting old towels into rags for cleaning, turning old shirts into bags for produce or pillows for keepsakes.

Then take your recycling to your local tip and get them into the appropriate place. Clothes in any condition can be taken to H&M in exchange for £5 vouchers. Schuh has started the same type of program for shoes.

The last pile, keep, can be set aside for now. More than likely you’ll need to go through this pile again to keep whittling things down. This is a good pile to implement Marie Kondo’s question as to whether or not your items “spark joy.”

I took what Joshua Fields Millburn said in The Minimalists about everything in his closet being his favourite.

That resonated with me more than the spark joy. Everything you own should be your favourite.

The bonus is that you are more likely to take care of your things if they are all your favourites.

3. Don’t Let Emotions Make the Choices

As you start sorting through your stuff, you’re going to come across possessions with sentimental value.

For instance, maybe you just found a box filled with your kids’ art projects from reception. Yes, they bring back fun memories, but what are you really going to do with that box of stuff after all this time?

Nothing.

I know this will sound harsh, but it’s true. Get rid of it.

You don’t need it, especially moving into a minimalist lifestyle.

Think into the future, when you are gone, what will your kids do with those items when they go through your things?

Will they treasure and store them until they pass it on to their children?

You can send things like the kids’ art projects to Doodle Nest where they turn them into cute coffee table books that you can keep and flip through from time to time without storing the actual projects.

There are plenty more ways to make mementos into keepsakes that you would proudly display and use rather than store.

Ultimately, what you keep and don’t will be up to you and your family and no one will come over and shame you for it. But if you get stuck refer to your family’s original plan and remind yourself why you are clearing the clutter.

Embrace the Process

The journey to shifting to a minimalist lifestyle is not going to happen overnight.

There is a lot of mindset reprogramming that will have to happen to make the changes permanent. You may find you have to do this process more than once and that’s ok. You’ll get to the point where it does become “just stuff” and you will realise just how much you don’t need.

Follow these three tips and you’ll find the process of decluttering and moving towards a life of minimalism doesn’t have to result in overwhelm, chaos and burnout.

Instead, these tips can help it be a less traumatic experience and help you and your family achieve the lifestyle you want to live.