Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: clutter

Decluttering the Scariest Room (Weekend Project)

I did it! After nearly three months of de-owning, I’ve finally finished every space in the house EXCEPT the basement storage room. I saved it for last because it looks like this:

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Storage & Craft Area

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Workshop & Exercise Area

It’s also holding the most memories, useless junk, and dust of any room in the house. My original goal was to get the clean sweep of the house done before the end of the year so I could realize the tax benefits of any donations I make. At this point, I definitely won’t finish, but this weekend, I felt like I needed to put in my best effort anyway.

I got halfway done with the room.

Cleaning the Scariest Room

Here are the steps I took to tackle this crazy mess.

Advice for Decluttering the Scariest Room

  1. Start with one shelf or drawer and move methodically from one end of the room to the other.
  2. Work in 90-minute cycles. I learned this trick by reading Overwhelmed by Brigid Schulte. 90-minute cycles seem to line up with your body’s natural rhythms. If you work for 90 minutes, then take a short break, you’ll be able to work longer and have higher quality output.
  3. Make a list of things to come back to. If you have all the time in the world, don’t skip things. However, I am specifically looking for items to donate before the end of the year. That being said, I skipped my box of childhood photos (which I know I want to digitize later – perhaps I’ll throw a photo scanning party!) and my file cabinet (I can come back to that in a few weeks). I also left my husband’s keepsakes alone. He needs to go through those himself.
  4. Clean as you go. Once you’ve pulled everything off a shelf or out of a tub, take a minute to clean it. It made me feel much better to remove two years of dust.
  5. Label, so you’ll be able to find the stuff you still use (which should be most of what’s left) without making the room explode again.
  6. Involve hot chocolate. Everything is better with hot chocolate.

Next weekend, I’ll try to do the other half and get our final batch of stuff to Goodwill — just in time for a relaxing week with family and the New Year!

Two Months of Minimalism

 Nightstand Minimalism

I’m really enjoying my minimalism project and find that the more excess stuff I clear away from my life, the more focused and better all parts of it are. For example, I decluttered my bedroom last weekend, which included cleaning up a six-inch-tall stack of papers, notes, magazines and books from my nightstand. Now, my nightstand has only a lamp and the current book I’m reading (which is Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has The Time by Brigid Schulte). Whereas when the pile was there, I would never read before getting some sleep, now I’m inspired to read every night.

While I know I’m making amazing strides toward the lifestyle that I want, the strides toward my $25K goal are not as big. In the past month I’ve saved only $81.56 for a total of $271.94. What I realized is that while clearing away the clutter is a wonderful place to start (it gives you energy and a great sense of accomplishment), I’ve been ignoring the benefits of compound interest. That is, the earlier I can strip away the excess money we’re spending, the faster it will add up to my $25K goal. Therefore, December’s challenge will be all about money. More specifically, I’m going to look at all of our recurring bills and see if there are ways to save money. I haven’t examined my Netflix options or gotten a quote from another insurance company in years. It’s time I knew I’m not spending more than I should for what our family needs.

Declutter The Bathroom (Weekend Project)

Why is there so much stuff in the bathroom? I don’t spend a lot of time there and there aren’t a lot of places to store things (at least that’s true of our 1960s-era bathrooms).  When you declutter the bathroom, you not only find extra space in the room, you get extra time in the mornings – time usually spent searching around for the items you need.

Declutter The Bathroom

The bathroom is where a lot of samples, partially used beauty products, and bath toys lurk. We use a lot of disposable items (toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant) in the bathroom, but we don’t always use them up and dispose of them. That’s why my drawer looks like this…

Drawer with Clutter

…and the cabinet and tub look like this.

Under the Sink
Uncleaned Tub

I’m tackling my bathroom in two steps:

  1. Get rid of as much stuff as possible and organize it now.
  2. Future Project: Examine my morning and evening routines to see what else I can cut out of my life to give me even more time and space.

What to Throw Out

I like to go into a space with a plan and these questions helped me decide what to keep and what to pitch.

  1. Do I use this every day?
    If this isn’t part of my daily routine, it doesn’t belong in the bathroom.  Consider throwing it out or moving it to a closet.
  2. Do I need this?
    Is this really enhancing my life?  Would my life be better without it?
  3. Is this too big for the space?
    If you still need and use the item every day, but it’s too big for your bathroom space, find a smaller container and use the larger container to refill it.


I cleaned out and organized everything in the bathroom except my husband’s drawer. Now I can actually find my hair dryer in the mornings and the kids’ toys are in one specific bucket – out of sight.

Clean & Organized Cabinet

Clean & Organized Cabinet!

Clean & Organized Drawer

Clean & Organized Drawer!

The most surprising thing I was storing was a very large and completely empty bottle of bubble bath.

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

Clutter No Longer in my Bathroom

I’d love to put our toothbrushes out of sight too, but am afraid they’ll just touch each other or get dirty. Luckily, a few people have solved this problem by creating a nice toothbrush holder for inside the cabinets. That will be another fun future project.

All-in-all, I’m pretty happy with my newly-de-owned and organized bathroom. It’s been over three weeks and everything is still organized!

Quick Tip: Definition of Clutter

No Clutter in the Shenandoah Mountains

Having a specific definition of the types of things we want to throw out is important.  It’s like a strong mission statement: whenever you find yourself unsure of whether to do something, you can always fall back on your original mission.

I’ve been readying Joshua Becker’s book Clutter-free with Kids and he offered up a beautiful definition of clutter (i.e. the types of things we should be throwing out).

Clutter is a) too much stuff in too small a space; b) anything you no longer use or love; or c) anything that leads to a feeling of disorganization.

I find myself coming back to this definition every time I’m debating whether to pitch an item or not.  Write this down and refer to it whenever you get stuck.


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