The 4 Pillars of my Decluttering Philosophy will Kickstart your Fabulous Second Act!

Decluttering seems like a no-brainer activity, doesn’t it? Get rid of the junk, organize your stuff, boom! But if it’s truly so simple, why is it so hard for many of us to do it? Why do thousands of us nod and say without hesitation, “Oh yes, I need to do this now!”…but never really get started?

Here’s my theory: we need specific parameters as to why we are going to do it. We need to know the WWWWW&H of it all! In other words, the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” of decluttering. As Midlife Women, we’ve spent a couple decades or more making savvy decisions on where to direct our efforts. And now that we’re in a sweet spot to focus on ourselves, why not clear space in our homes for our next season? So let’s call out the building blocks of the decluttering philosophy I ascribe to which can help pave the way for you, too!

Keep what you need…

What things are essential to your daily routine?

Pillar I

Retain the items you faithfully rely upon. They are the workhorses of your regular routine! Your coffeemaker, makeup bag, yoga pants, gratitude journal, water bottle…this is but the short list of what you can’t be without. Also think about what you do daily with friends and family as well as what generally happens over the weekend. What allows you to accomplish what needs to get done? Those items definitely enable you to complete your to-do list. In short, a simple glance at any one of these things and you know without hesitation that they are your essential keepers!

Keep what you use…

What things do you regularly reach for?

Pillar II

Identify  what you reach for regularly.  Are you familiar with the old adage that we wear 20% of our closet 80% of the time? This leads into what I’m talking about here, too! What do you use without fail, whether daily, weekly or monthly? It could even be items used annually when you think about Christmas decorations or Halloween decor.

Equally important, think about what materials you use frequently in your hobbies and pastimes. If you’re a crafter or an artist, it could be the same type of yarn, ribbons or paint. If you’re a chef, it’s the spices, condiments and staples that you’re constantly replenishing. So whether it’s an item for a hobby you’re passionate about or a garment you don often, the items you use on a regular basis should also be retained, as well.

Keep what you love…

What things are dear to your heart?

Pillar III

Now it’s time to reflect on what makes your heart swell! OK, I’ll say it: What sparks joy for you?! Bear in mind this can be a tricky category to define. After all, at some point, almost everything you own meant something to you. I mean, who acquires something they didn’t care for at the time? Well, unless we’re talking about inherited things, which is quite tricky since we associate the item with the person…then sentiment or guilt descends if we dare consider releasing it. But that’s a dedicated blog post for another day!

Instead, think about what you truly enjoy doing or viewing when you have a choice in the matter. As you look at your belongings, which of them brings the biggest smile to your face? Another way to hone in on what you love is to contemplate how you would describe yourself to someone you just met. Which accomplishments would you mention? What memories would you describe? Which goals or activities come to mind that you would share? Ultimately, the answers to these questions will shine a light on what you truly love now!


…In all the right quantities!

How much is too much?

Pillar IV

Last but not least, what’s the right amount of stuff to keep? At first, this may seem like a difficult number to pin down. However, start with how much physical space you currently have. If you cannot safely maneuver from one room to the next, that’s too much stuff. When items tumble out of cabinets or closets when opened, that’s too many items! Similarly, if you can’t see everything you own without moving numerous other things, that’s overkill, as well. But don’t confuse these examples with the fact that you might just be a little disorganized or messy!

Next, determine what quantities are reasonable to maintain. Again, this will be interpreted differently, from one person to the next. For example, if you loathe grocery shopping, then having a fully stocked pantry which reduces those store runs makes sense for you. On the other hand, if you have so much that turnover never really occurs, you may want to consider “shopping your pantry” for the next few weeks.

Yet another way to contemplate the right amount of stuff is to think about how much time, energy and money you expend to keep everything you have. What is your quality of life, given the amount of things and stuff you own? Is it better or worse with that current number?Are you truly doing the things you love more often than not? Would you look back and say you spent your time wisely on new experiences or activities with family and friends? Or are you devoting time to acquiring, storing, curating and sometimes searching for things in your home? Is your house a museum or a home? Do you need to collect endlessly or can you derive just as much satisfaction from admiring but not acquiring more things? Lots of questions that only you can answer for yourself!

The Wrap

What matters most to you now?

Bringing it all together

So there we have it: “Keep only what you need, use, and love…in all the right quantities!” A simple yet powerful philosophy for decluttering your home. Now it’s time for you to ponder what these words mean to you! Each of us is unique with what is important to us. Our available square footage varies as well. This is why there is no one-size-fits-all guide for specific items and exact quantities to retain. But when we pause to practice meaningful soul-searching, we can tap into what makes sense for us personally!

Additional resources

Circle back to this post for definitions of “need” and “want”:

Next, refer to this post for how to craft your own “decluttering manifesto”:

Finally, listen to the incomparable Denise Dunn to get your midlife mojo flowing:

Your turn!


Discussion points

  • What’s in store for your fabulous Second Act?
  • Which category of things will you tackle first?
  • What holds you back from starting?

Please share your thoughts and tips below…and thanks for stopping by!