How I Vanquish Clutter and Reap the Benefits of a Minimalist Lifestyle

As you’ve undoubtedly noticed by now, I can be kind of tight with money. But here’s another thing I’m tight with….space.

I guess I’m what you would call a minimalist. Not in the sense of I’m going to live in a tent or I’m going to live off the fat of the land, but more so in the sense that I love clarity and hate clutter. It’s really as simple as that.

If you were to walk around my house, you’d probably notice the lack of decorations. Especially on the walls. It’s not that we don’t want them there, it’s just that neither my wife nor I like the feeling of having a bunch of stuff around. I’m not sure if this caused my frugality or if it’s a direct result of it, but there’s almost nothing in our house that doesn’t serve a direct purpose. So with decorations, I guess we just look at them and think: “So it just sits there? It doesn’t actually DO anything?” Now that I think about it, our dogs fit into this category pretty well, but I digress…

For everything I buy, I figure out something else of similar size or value that just has to go.

For everything I buy, I figure out something else of similar size or value that just has to go.

This whole methodology has also led me in the direction of a “one in, one out” system of purchases. For everything I buy, I figure out something else of similar size or value that just has to go. You’d be shocked at how much that lessens my buyer’s remorse! Things never pile up and it always feels like there’s a proper place for the new belongings. Plus I force myself to question whether I need something. If I’m not willing to give something up, it probably wasn’t worth the purchase to begin with. And let’s not forget how selling old items can offset the cost of new purchases!

But my absolute favorite part of my minimalism is getting rid of the “I might use it one day” decisions to keep anything and everything.

This anti-clutter mentality started with my workshop. For a handy, fix-it-yourself person like me, it can be quite a struggle to keep a workshop free of junk. There are nuts, bolts, wires, and screws to the thousandth degree. However, the added storage and cleanliness of my shop has FAR offset the only handful of times I needed something that I had already gotten rid of. Even then, it’s likely only a purchase of a few dollars. Now, the same attitude I have in my workshop extends to everything else. If I don’t know exactly when I’ll need it, it goes! No second thoughts and no remorse.

Just because I’m a minimalist doesn’t mean I don’t make a good mess every now and then (my wife is probably nodding along right now). I always feel like I have a method to the madness, and that’s the difference. I haven’t always been like this, but the more I get into it and the more effort I put into it, the more soothing and calming my surroundings feel to me.

Have you successfully eradicated clutter and unnecessary purchases from your life? Which methods to you use to keep your work and home environments in tip-top shape?

Be sure to check out Lauren’s response to this post as well!


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  1. Amanda Sneed

    Super blog Jeff! =) It really gets me thinking….. I tend to be the opposite with things, and sometimes it’s frustrating! Our house is not full of clutter, but it does have more clutter than I’d like to have around. But it is hard for me to get rid of things that are still working, or are still valuable in some way. I find myself looking at the stuff from my childhood, or clothing that no longer fits, extra kitchen items, and sentimental knick knacks, and not knowing where to keep them, not knowing when I’ll use them again, but still not being able to part with it either. I find myself going through closets on the weekends not wanting all this “junk” cluttering up the closet, but then going over each item and finding a reason why I can’t get rid of it. Then I have my mom always telling me “that’s what closets are for”. So I need to put some of your tips into play…I think they would help me out with my clutter problem, especially the tip about if you don’t know when you’ll need it, to get rid of it. That’s always where my dilemma comes in. I think, “this is too good to throw away, so I have to keep it”. Hopefully now that spring is here, I can get my spring cleaning going and put some of your tips to use! =)

    • Jill Tooley

      I’m the same way, Amanda! I have clothes with sentimental value (even though there’s no possible way I’d ever fit into them again) that I’ve been toting around with me for years. I finally had to bite the bullet and say enough is enough! Now, when I find an item like that, I ask myself: “Are you REALLY going to miss this if you never see it again?” Usually the answer is no, in which case it goes into the Goodwill pile. If the answer is yes, then I fold it up and store it. It’s hard to throw things away (I was always taught to make the most of my belongings) but sometimes we have to do it. However, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, so we can only hope that someone benefits from our newfound minimalism.

      One step at a time, my friend…that’s all we can do. 🙂

      • JPorretto

        There’s nothing wrong with keeping things with Sentimental value. But you don’t need to keep EVERYTHING with sentimental value either. Try keeping just a couple favorites from a large group of items.

      • Amanda Sneed

        That’s exactly how I felt when we moved into our house in 2008…..why do I have all of this stuff!? I was toting around so many things from house to house while in college, I’m so glad to now be settled in our house and be able to start getting rid of all the old junk I don’t need! =) Those are good words of wisdom Jill, I’d much rather have someone get good use out of something than me upset every time I pull the thing out of the closet and wonder why I still haven’t part with it.

  2. Amanda Sneed

    Oh, and I was just thinking….sometimes I find myself not wanting to buy new things because our house is already full with lots of stuff, some of which I don’t even like or use, lol. So I think by putting your tips to use, I can start bringing in some more new, useful items! =)

  3. Jill Tooley

    What a coincidence! I’m doing some hardcore clutter elimination right now…just in time for spring! Want to come over and help me hone in on my minimalist skills? 😉

    I’ve always been sort of a pack rat, and I’ve tried to put a stop to that over the past couple of years. Now I’m turning into a lean, mean, junk-fighting machine! If I haven’t used something in a year or more, then what’s the point of keeping it around? I’d much rather donate it to someone who’d actually use it instead of having it collect dust in a corner somewhere. I don’t spend as much as I used to, either. Amazon got about half of my paychecks last year…but that won’t happen this year! See, your frugality AND your clutter prevention advice is rubbing off. 🙂

    • JPorretto

      Success!! I would be happy to help you de-clutter, as long as it’s not like an episode of Clean House or Hoarders… =)

  4. Juliette

    I’ve been really trying to cut down on clutter and such myself lately. The day I stopped being an army brat and realized that I could stay in one place for more than a few months I started being a packrat. Too bad that means a lot of stuff to sort through years later. But I love having stuff on my walls (my living room is covered in original art, prints and anime cels) and showing off my geeky loves.

    Still, I’ve been finding ways to either get rid of things (yard sales ftw!) or putting them to new purposes (making quilts and throw pillows out of old t-shirts that I can’t bear to get rid of). April is going to be my month for the serious decluttering. I’m gonna have to try your method of only buying something if I really need it and if I can part with something else I already have. That might help me kick my yarn-buying addiction.

    • Jill Tooley

      I love the idea of giving older items a new purpose! That won’t do much for my book-buying addiction, but it’ll do wonders for my t-shirt and jewelry hoarding…

      Next on the agenda: learning how to not suck at sewing so I can have arts and crafts AND cool stuff! 🙂

      • Juliette

        Well, the book buying is something that is hard to resist. (I have that problem too!) But I’m loving the idea of turning some old shirts into blankets and pillows. I also tend to keep old clothes made out of neat material (like corduroy) to use as patches on my jeans. Luckily those can be hand sewn. 🙂

  5. Joseph Giorgi

    Jeff, I envy you. I’m not allowed to be a minimalist any longer, and I don’t think my surroundings will ever be calm or soothing again. (“My significant other is nodding along right now”).

  6. LK

    I can’t be a minimalist. I love stuff, and I love buying stuff..
    I do however get rid of old clothes but some things I can’t help but thinking, “I only wore this once, I can’t get rid of it, I’m sure I’ll wear it again… sometime!”

    My other problem is that I only have a room (seeing as I still live with my parents) so a lot of my stuff is hidden. I have winter clothes in the attic in the summer, and summer clothes in the attic in the winter. So a lot of times what I don’t think I have, is really just hiding from me.
    Another plus to when I move out is I’ll find all this awesome stuff I didnt know I had!! 🙂

    YAY for STUFF!!!!

  7. LGroce

    I’m a minimalist with just about everything except for t-shirts. I probably have enough old t-shirts to last a few weeks without washing one of them, which can be nice when you really don’t feel like doing the laundry. However, my dresser is always expanding. Maybe I should consider getting a few of those blankets made with some of my more sentimental ones.

  8. Bret Bonnet

    Jeff your minimalist nature doesn’t have ANYTHING to do with the fact that you’re short, does it?

    I think you’re suffering from MAJOR little man syndrome…

    My question for Mr. Minimalist is what did you give up when you bought you’re wife her engagement ring? Granted the space it occupies is minimal, there had to be some BUYERS remorse (I hate the concept or idea of jewelry in general!) for such a frugal and minimalist person like yourself when making such a large purchase.


    I’ve lived in my new home for 3 years now and my basement is still 50% filled with boxes of crap from when we first moved in. My wife and I keep talking about how we should just throw this crap out, but we can never bring ourselves to actually do it.

    I just gave away and old couch and plasma TV (that I once spent $7900.00 on!) last month; that felt good – except for the fact that I never got nearly my monies worth out of either purchase.

    This comment is depressing!

    … If I made my wife throw away a purse or pair of shoes every time she bought a new one my closet would double in size! 🙂

    • JPorretto

      The cost of My wife’s ring – in which I threw all my cheap tendencies out the window – was well worth getting her to contractually obligate herself to me. No buyer’s remorse here =)

  9. Mariew

    I am having a late night cathartic moment with getting rid of stuff. Clutter makes my mind cluttered. It drives me nuts. I need advice about selling books. I have a lot of them. I love having them, but they are taking up space.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      What JPorretto said below!


      Selling books is easy on Amazon
      Your local library would love to have those books
      Goodwill and other thrift shops
      You can also donate them to Better World Books:

      Good luck and happy purging!

  10. JPorretto

    Mariew – Ebay is your friend! Or donate them and take the tax write-off. Can’t go wrong either way. 🙂

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