Sustainability

We Love This Low-Stress Decluttering Challenge

Christine Platt, author and minimalist, on her one-thing-a-day method of making space.

April 17, 2021
Photo by James Ransom

It’s rare that a new decluttering or organizing method comes along that feels like something new. But Christine Platt, the author of the forthcoming book The Afrominimalist’s Guide to Living With Less and the person behind @afrominimalist on Instagram, has our attention with her slow-and-steady decluttering challenge. Christine’s brand of minimalism looks very different from the one in our popular imagination—that of white rooms filled with the bare minimum of furnishings. It looks a lot more like what I’d call real life: In her home you’ll find colorful textiles, plenty of books, personal photos, and a cute (but small) collection of coffee mugs.

Christine Platt, aka, the Afrominimalist

Christine’s approach to decluttering is also radical in its simplicity. Two years ago, she dreamed up the #1thing1day1year challenge. The idea came about after hearing from so many people who said they wanted to live a more minimalist lifestyle, but couldn't do it. Christine says, “I thought if it's just one thing a day, it would be a nice way to have people ease into it. Making it just one thing keeps it low-pressure.” But she also knows the infectious nature of clearing space out would get people to say goodbye to more than just one thing on some days.

Home52 sat down to talk to Christine about her #1thing1day1year style of decluttering. Here are some highlights from our conversation:

Keeping the “rules” simple

“The only rule for #1thing1day1year is that you commit to let go of a minimum of one thing a day for an entire year. Some people do it all on the weekends. Some people get started with their one thing and they look up and it's four bags later. The idea is to get you started.”

Sharing her journey

“A lot of people are curious about the letting-go process. They’re curious about the lives of “real minimalists.” What does the average minimalist life look like? For me, sharing my journey is about showing others that it can be done. But I also share because I love the camaraderie—we're all in it together. No one has this whole ‘minimalism’ thing figured out. It is this continual journey, and I think that's also surprising to people. They’ll say, ‘You're still letting go?’ and I'm like, ‘Oh, yeah. I'll probably be letting go for a really long time.’”

why the process of editing never ends

“The things that we need, use, and love change. Some thing that I may have been struggling to let go of a year or I maybe can let go this year. You’ll find yourself thinking, ‘Why did I hold on to this?’ Minimalism is about constantly assessing what you have.”

what decluttering looks like in her home

“For me, it's definitely a weekend thing. That's when I have less distractions and I'm in the best head space. I recently went through my linen closet—well, my pandemic everything closet—and I couldn't believe how much stuff was in there: I needed uninterrupted time to do that.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Annual editing is not just good for minimalists, but keeping your ever-expanding life within the means of your space. What brings meaning to you one year likely won't be exactly the same 2 years later. That said, as someone who frequents food blogs, I'd happily tackle my closet before my kitchen any day.”
— M
Comment

Because I live in a small space, I like to get things out within 24 to 48 hour (that's another reason why the weekend works for me). I usually put everything by the front door until I can give it away. I try to give things to loved ones first. (Usually, if I tell my friends I just went through my closet and ask if they want to come over, they’re immediately on the way). Then I try my local Buy Nothing Group next. It’s about getting the items out of the house as soon as possible. That’s what works best for me because I don't want to start digging back in my bags.”

starting with the kitchen

“Most people want to start in their closets. And I'm just like, ‘Oh, honey, you are not ready.’ We may have attachments to certain things in our kitchen, but it's not like the attachments to clothes that we have in our closet. So, I like to tell people to start in the kitchen—and for people who are really struggling, I tell them to start with their spices. Once you get through one area where you can feel the benefits of a decluttered and organized space, it really motivates you to move on to the next phase.”

the beauty of community

“Buy Nothing Groups are like gold. I don't think people understand these groups are like superheroes. I have heard so many people say, ‘I don't know where I’m going to put X, Y, and Z, but I don't want to throw it away. I don't want to add to our growing landfills.’ With a Buy Nothing Group, there's very rarely anything that the community doesn’t either want for themselves or know where it can go. These groups are about sharing and community. Someone always has a resource or tip for where something can be useful.”

decluttering a little at a time vs. all at once

“In the Afrominmalist community, we give ourselves three months to work through our wardrobes. March was Round One, April is Round Two, and May will be Round Three, which is when it's gonna be the most challenging for people. I feel like it's important to pace ourselves and to remind people there's no rush.

I just don't feel like there's any reason to add this extra pressure to try and get it done in a weekend—or even to even work through your entire wardrobe in a month! That's just unrealistic for a lot of people. And there's no reason for it to be that stressful.”

the liberation of less

“Once you start to feel the lightness, you know how much better it is to be more mindful about what you purchase, but also about what you allow yourself to bring into your home and even into your life. There's no way that you're not going to want to be intentional with every area of your life. So my words of encouragement are: Try it. Start with just one thing a day and see where it leads you.”

What's your decluttering method? Share it with us in the comments.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

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    Katherine Gray
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    MARYLEE
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    OldGrayMare
Laura Fenton

Written by: Laura Fenton

Laura Fenton is the A Full Plate columnist at Food52. The author of The Little Book of Living Small and the former lifestyle director at Parents magazine, she covers home, design, and sustainability. Laura lives in Jackson Heights, Queens in a 690-square foot apartment with her husband and son. You can follow her on Instagram @laura.alice.fenton.

7 Comments

Katherine G. May 13, 2021
I moved recently, and the first thing I tackled was my spices. I'm a real foodie and could not believe how outdated some of them were!! I mean, I had spices that expired in 2014. Ugh! So I did buy new spices, along with a terrific spice organizer that fit in my tiny cabinet.
Next, I worked on my clothes as I unpacked. Also all my kitchen plastic was replaced with silicone, when needed (not often) or I just use casserole dishes. When you live in a 900 sf apartment with a makeshift pantry, you have to make sacrifices! Most of my space is taken up with appliances, to which I am addicted. I suppose that's going to be the next thing to go.
All in all, I took six SUV loads of gently used things to our local charity to benefit my church. And I'm starting another box even as I type! But it doesn't contain any appliances... :)
 
MARYLEE May 3, 2021
Best way to do it. No stress this way.
 
Robin May 2, 2021
More interesting than what was expected. I anticipated a keep all the clothes on hangers facing in reverse with hooks on a rod, and if you come back a year later you know what you haven't worn etc. I have been complaining to those who ask/listen about the chaos/clutter in the 100 square feet known as my room, shared with my pup, in a home shared with my elder and messy parents. Last fall I nearly died from an aortic dissection and so I have spent much time here, sometimes weak or tired with zero help. Zero. I wouldn't impose the mess on anyone else and with each weekend's arrival I hope anew to clean it up....and then fail. Sleeping and eating, staying hydrated and alive are a priority; the clutter isn't going anywhere. My cousin has advised I should just take one corner, drawer etc at a time. Then the other day I sent her a picture of my desk top which she suggested I could work from. She responded that for once she was truly speechless....Stay tuned....
 
Helen April 27, 2021
I liked this article quite a bit and am trying to implement it. It is similar to something I do when my messiness gets out of hand-I set the timer for 15-20 minutes to pick up - which is a short enough period of time that the process is not overwhelming but still yields noticeable results. The one thing a day plan is an awesome suggestion- thank you.
 
OldGrayMare April 25, 2021
Liked this article very much, as we seriously downsized several years ago from 3500 sf house w/3 acre lot to 1350 sf condo. My closet is in DESPERATE need of minimalizing...was planning a long cruise last year right before Covid hit, so now have a cruise wardrobe that hasn’t been worn. Maybe next year?
I am committing to tackling this closet this week.
Finally, I had a good giggle at the end of the article....where there are THREE ads for new stuff!
 
AntoniaJames April 19, 2021
So interesting. So helpful. Thank you! ;o)
 
M April 17, 2021
Annual editing is not just good for minimalists, but keeping your ever-expanding life within the means of your space. What brings meaning to you one year likely won't be exactly the same 2 years later.

That said, as someone who frequents food blogs, I'd happily tackle my closet before my kitchen any day.