Simply Living is a new column by Christine Platt, aka the Afrominimalist. Each month, Christine shares her refreshing approach to living with less, with clever tips for decluttering, making eco-friendly swaps, and creating a more mindful living space that's all you.
Every season has its benefits when it comes to home organization, the most common, of course, being spring. But I’m actually a bit biased when it comes to summer. Because in 2016, it was the season I first confronted and acknowledged the painful reality of my overconsumption.
Until then, I had no clue that I owned over fifty pairs of jeans (even though I always wore the same two pairs). I had mastered the art of ignoring the cluttered bins under the bathroom sink, refusing to own up to my obsession with health, beauty, and wellness products (even though I regularly discarded brand-new containers because I was unable to use them before they expired). In fact, if I hadn’t transitioned to being a stay-at-home wife and full-time writer I likely would have spent the summer of 2016 like I had summers before: buying more bins to hide my clutter instead of learning how to let go of those things that no longer served me.
The pandemic has likely caused many people to experience what I did five years ago—spending more time at home often means more time being up close and personal with just how much stuff we have, don’t need, and aren’t using. In retrospect, it’s easy for me to see why that summer of 2016 was the perfect time to let go: the warm weather and leisurely days made it much easier to begin a process that I’d been avoiding for far too long. Here, five tips to help you spend your dog days of summer decluttering:
Choose Your Own Adventure
Whether you follow the advice of Marie Kondo to declutter by category or go it your way by going room by room, choose your adventure by selecting one focal point. Few people find the process of decluttering a joyful one, especially when beginning their personal practice. Depending on how much stuff you have, the process of sorting through items to decide what you need, use, and love can quickly go from hopeful to daunting. Focusing on one area rather than the entire house ensures that you’ll be able to dedicate the time and energy necessary to get the job done. Of course, having a bit of sunshine and warm weather to brighten your mood helps make the process a bit easier as well.
Schedule With Care
Regardless of how sunny and bright your decluttering environment is, no one wants to spend all of their last days of summer sorting through their belongings. So, make sure to schedule your decluttering adventure with care including setting a realistic timeframe to complete the task. As my friend and decluttering specialist, Pia Thompson of Sweet Digs often reminds her clients, expect the process to take twice as long. Letting go of things (even those things that no longer serve us) can bring up deep emotions, and you want to make sure you have time to choose with intention.
Identify Donation Recipients
One of the biggest concerns that people have when it comes to decluttering is what to do with the things that no longer serve them. As I shared in a recent column about the benefits of Buy Nothing groups, thrift stores can often be a source of wish-cycling or a brief stop for our belongings before they head to a landfill. However, when you choose to declutter in late summer, there are numerous individuals and organizations in need of your donations. From students headed off to college in need of back-to-school supplies, to people moving to new cities and homes and looking for basic household items, and fulfilling wish lists for teachers, there are so many opportunities to ensure that your donations go directly to those in-need. (This can also be a guide to help you determine which category/room you want to focus on decluttering).
Determine What You ‘Need, Use, and Love’
Applying the ‘need, use, love’ philosophy to my belongings was the only way I was able to truly assess what items it was time to release from my life and, hopefully, you find it useful as well. Ask yourself, “Do I need, use, and love this item?” And if the answer is “no”, release it so that it can serve someone who does. The benefit of ‘need, use, love’ is that it is all-encompassing, a way to objectively look at your belongings. Obviously, if we look at these considerations individually, we can justify keeping everything we own. You may love something but not use it. You may even need something but not use it! That’s why every item you are considering should meet all three criteria: You have to need, use, and love it… or let it go.
Remove What You’re Letting Go ASAP
Once you’ve chosen the items you want to keep with intention and care, it’s time to pay it forward by releasing the items that no longer serve you. And to do so sooner rather than later. Because the longer we hold onto the things we plan to let go, the higher the likelihood of them finding their way back into our living spaces. This is why it’s so important to identify the recipients of your donations so that you already know where they are going. Additionally, if the items are going to loved ones or your local ‘Buy Nothing’ group, consider sending pictures to get folks excited about their forthcoming gifts. (This is also an added layer of accountability!)
Although I am partial to summer being the perfect time to let go, I have found that taking a seasonal approach to decluttering is truly the best way to maintain your lifestyle with less. In addition to the benefits of a newly cleared and organized space, decluttering regularly means that you’ll be more prepared for the forthcoming season. Whether it’s clearing out your summer attire, getting your children organized to return to school, or further settling into retirement life, devoting time to decluttering during the summer only ensures that you’ll have less to do when fall arrives. And who doesn’t want more time to enjoy pumpkin spice lattes?
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