Find the Thought of Decluttering Stressful? Try This.

A simple method for letting go, courtesy The Afrominimalist.

January 27, 2022
Photo by Meredith Jensen

Simply Living is a 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.

There’s something about the start of a new year that inspires us to do better—and live better. Whether it's making resolutions regarding personal milestones or committing to an aspirational goal, many of us find ourselves ready to take on matters we’ve set aside for far too long. And often, that includes confronting areas that we need to declutter and organize.

In previous years, I started many new year’s weekends with excited determination to get every cluttered area of my home under control. With cleaning supplies and donation bins in hand, I’d turn on my Beyonce playlist and sing “To the left, to left. Everything I own in a box to left!” But within a few hours, I’d find myself frustrated and overwhelmed. Sound familiar? If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation or, if the mere thought of decluttering makes you cringe, consider this approach instead: commit to letting go of one thing per day.

The idea of letting go of one thing a day isn’t novel. In fact, many minimalist practitioners encourage stress-free decluttering approaches. In 2018, I was still in the midst of my journey and I regularly heard from others who wanted to declutter but didn’t know where to start. Many people felt completely overwhelmed, which often led to being immobilized to start or complete the process. So, I created the #1Thing1Day1Year Decluttering Challenge as a way to guide anyone who wants to live with less on a year-long decluttering journey. If you release at least one item per day, at the end of each year you will have let go of 365 items that are no longer serving you. Simple, right?

Here are the three rules to joining in on this stress-free decluttering challenge:

1. Make the Commitment

No matter how simple the task, it won’t get done if you don’t make the commitment to complete it. So, the number one rule for the #1Thing1Day1Year Decluttering Challenge is to commit to letting go of one thing per day each year. How you arrive at that number is entirely up to you. For example, some people do the challenge daily while others may declutter on Sundays and find a minimum of seven things to let go of. And remember, you are committing to let go of at least one thing per day—if you feel inspired to release more, do it!

2. Follow the Monthly Themes (Or Make Your Own)

Perhaps there’s one area of your home where you want to focus your decluttering efforts. If not, feel free to follow along with the monthly themes to guide you through the #1Thing1Day1Year Decluttering Challenge:

January: Kitchen/Pantry
February: Linens
March: Closet/Wardrobe
April: Toiletries
May: Bedroom
June: Closet/Wardrobe
July: Garage/Basement/Attic
August: Books/Crafts/Toys
September: Closet/Wardrobe
October: Family Room/Living Room
November: Miscellaneous
December: Closet/Wardrobe

Bonus: These monthly themes are also structured to encourage you to assess your wardrobe seasonally! This is also an area that many people find overwhelming, so it’s much easier to declutter over time.

3. Have a Plan to Pay It Forward

Lastly, have a plan to pay it forward with the items that no longer serve you. And think beyond common donation centers and thrift stores. There are likely individuals and organizations in your community that will need, use, and love your donations. Consider joining your local Buy Nothing Group, organizations with missions that you support, and nonprofits that service at-risk children, families, and adults. In this way, you know that your efforts to pay it forward are benefiting those who need it the most.

There aren’t many pitfalls to avoid with this approach. Even if you forget to declutter for a few days or weeks, it’s easy to make up for lost time whenever you’re ready to catch up.

The #1Thing1Day1Year challenge is an easy and accessible way to manage your clutter without the stress. Feel free to share your progress on Instagram using the hashtag and to connect with others participating in the decluttering challenge. Remember, the goal is not to become a minimalist, but rather, to become a more mindful consumer who is committed to having only those things you need, use, and love.

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Christine Platt

Written by: Christine Platt

Author of The Afrominimalist's Guide to Living with Less