How much is a Clutter-Free Home Worth?

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.” -Unknown


If you knew I’d give you a million dollars if you spent 30 minutes a day getting rid of stuff for 250 days out of the year, you’d do it, right?


A huge part of the problem is that we don’t see the value of getting rid of clutter. I’m not giving you a million dollars, but I honestly believe that what you’d gain from decluttering is worth even more than that.


Let’s face it, we could have a million bucks and still be stressed. We might be able to afford a bigger house, but without changing our habits, that big house could become just as cluttered as our current home.


After decluttering for about six months, though, you will have developed skills that can help you establish habits and overcome obstacles in other areas of your life. All that stuff you got rid of? You’ll won’t have to deal with it ever again, unlike when you try to just organize everything.


There’s a shift that needs to take place in the way you think about clutter as well as the process of getting rid of it.


A precious lady in her 70s that I know from my mom’s church told me recently that she declutters when she’s mad. She used to go shopping instead. What a great way to use decluttering to your benefit!


Just like with decluttering, plenty of people don’t think working out is fun. I’m one of them. But I can see the benefit of it, so I do it anyway, knowing the effort is worth it. But I also try to make being active a part of my lifestyle as well as something fun.


For example, I work outdoors where I take students on hikes. I get paid to exercise. Or I go swimming. It doesn’t feel like a workout because it’s fun, but I’m getting those same benefits.


That’s what we can do with decluttering. It isn’t very fun when we don’t see progress, when our decluttering isn’t effective. It’s key, therefore, to make a lasting and noticeable difference especially early in the decluttering process.


Sometimes it will feel very much like work. But other times it will be a stress-reliever. Sometimes you’ll be decluttering alone. Other times it can be a family competition.


Speaking of competitions, we like to reward ourselves, right? It’s important to make sure our rewards encourage our habit rather than destroy it. So with decluttering, we might not want to make “Take a week off decluttering” our reward after decluttering for 30 days.


According to Gretchen Rubin, an expert on habits and happiness, that wouldn’t necessarily be a good reward because it makes decluttering seem like something negative that you need a break from. Then it also gets you out of the routine and causes you to lose momentum.


That’s not to say that there won’t naturally be weeks where less decluttering gets done, but let’s not schedule an extra one in there just for fun.


As Rubin also explains, a better reward would be one that encourages your habit. For example, your reward could be that you invite people over. It’s fun, but it also will motivate you to do more last-minute decluttering.

Or your reward could be that you hire someone to haul stuff off for you after a certain amount of time. In addition to making you want to get rid of more before help arrives to take it away, this reward also makes the process of decluttering easier on you.


If you don’t value decluttering and its results, though, these rewards won’t make much of a difference. You’ve got to also remember how the process itself is benefiting you by teaching you things such as self-discipline and how to prioritize and make better decisions.


The packrat mindset is that decluttering is a poor use of time. Aren’t there so many better things we could be doing? Things that are more meaningful and fun?


But the clutter-free mindset is that decluttering helps every other area of your life: relationships, mental health, physical health, spiritual health, and finances. With that in mind, how much is a clutter-free home worth to you?



This is an excerpt from my upcoming book, From Packrat to Clutter-Free.


Since I’m still working on the book, I’d love to hear about your biggest clutter problems so I can be sure to address them in my book and make it a work that you get the most out of. Please contact me with any feedback or ideas at mcstarbuck {at} gmail {dot} com.

Or simply leave a comment on this post.


Simplifying Mother’s Day

Mom’s do so much to help make our lives simpler. (Yes, they can complicate it, too, but at this time of year, we’ll focus on how they make things easier on us.) Mother’s Day is a great way to repay them at least a little by simplifying their day.

simplifying mother's day

You may know a lot of ways to do this already:

  • Take over some household chores like cooking or cleaning
  • Manage her phone calls/texts for the day, so she isn’t on the phone all day but can also still receive any messages that can’t wait til Monday or that would be fun to get (I might have to try this one this year!)
  • Babysit a younger sibling
  • Help her declutter or organize a part of her life that’s been chaotic lately
  • Teach her a simple skill or habit that will save her time


The main thing is to think about them and what they have going on in their lives right now rather than giving a gift based on yourself and what’s happening in your world. What stresses them out that you could take care of for them for a day or two? What dreams or goals do they have that you could help them get closer to reaching?

When our own lives are hectic, it’s easy for us to put little time, effort, or sacrifice into our Mother’s Day gift. Try to simplify your life enough this year to be able to put some more thought than usual into your gift this year. Think of all the ways your mom has simplified your life. You don’t have to go over the top or be super creative. Just be thoughtful.

And if you’re a mom, try to simplify your own Mother’s Day weekend so that you can fully enjoy whatever gifts your children have for you this year.


“She deserves an armful of roses, but she’s satisfied with a

handful of weeds.” -Sheri Easter

3 Things Caregivers Need to Hear

No matter what type of care you’re giving, there are a few things most caregivers face: exhaustion, feelings of inadequacy, and questioning one’s purpose.

Having been a caregiver myself throughout my twenties as a nanny, at a special needs camp, and with my grandmother and now my dad, I still have those struggles. I never feel completely prepared or qualified for all of the responsibility as well as physical and mental demands. Hopefully what I’ve learned will help you overcome these feelings if you ever struggle with them, too.

Simple life of caregiving

Here are 3 things that I’ve needed to remind myself in order to stay somewhat sane:

  1. This is just a season. It may be a long season or even a very long season, but it’s only part of my life. It’s a difficult balance because caregiving can be all-consuming. It’s been important for me to maintain hobbies and work outside of my role as a caregiver while also giving up other hobbies and jobs that no longer fit my schedule. I love being a caregiver, but I also love other things. I still have a life outside of taking care of others.
  2. What you’re doing matters. This helps me because some days it seems I’m doing more harm than good. I mess up so many times and think someone else would be better at it. Other days I don’t feel like doing anything. It just seems unimportant, and I feel like I’m trapped and ungrateful. When I remember that I’m helping my family as well as the person I’m caring for, it helps me have a better attitude (although I still have lazy days).
  3. Your life has purpose outside of being a caregiver. Even though being a caregiver is huge, sometimes it doesn’t seem like it in the grand scheme of things. It’s great to be able to get away when possible to help in the community or even to write a letter or blog post to encourage others and let them know they aren’t alone.


I’m so blessed to have people in my life who are encouraging me with these same messages. Sometimes I feel like I’m the most selfish caregiver and that no one else has these struggles. But as I think about friends and family members who are taking care of others, I remember some of the things they’ve said about it and realize that maybe I’m not the only one.

If you know a caregiver, I hope this helps you see how you can affirm what they’re doing and allow them the space to take care of themselves as they take care of others.

If you are a caregiver, I hope this helps you know that someone else understands. Try not to be so hard on yourself. You can make it through another day.


If you’re a caregiver, I’d love to connect with you and share support and resources as this has become a big part of my life again.

Day 30! Decluttering Blankets

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

You guys have done so much this month! Look how far you’ve come!

For blankets, I suggest having a heavy one for each bed in winter, a light blanket for each bed in summer, and maybe one extra blanket per person. (I confess that I actually have four, although since I don’t have kids or anyone to make my total number of household blankets higher, it’s good to have extra for guests.)

That doesn’t count sleeping bags and other camping blankets.

One of my students in Clutter-Free by Thanksgiving shared this idea of what she does with blankets she isn’t using (instead of putting them in a closet):

Store blankets spread out under the mattress.

I love this because I only have to take them out and put them back twice a year, and I save so much space!

Today’s Task: Take some time to look back at where you were at the beginning of January. How has your closet changed? Go through your blankets and choose 2-4 that spark the most joy per person. Try storing the ones you aren’t using under a mattress.

Day 28: 30 Day Decluttering Challenge

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

I’ve counted towels in clothing because they take up a lot of space and affect laundry.

For those of you with kids, this may be especially helpful.

My sister was tired of seeing towels on the bathroom floor, so she got one towel for each kid of a different color. She got a hook for each one, and if she ever saw one on the floor then she’d know whose it was.

I haven’t seen a towel on the floor in some time now!

You really can do with just one towel per person and maybe two extras for guests and big cleanups, like if the bathtub were to overflow.

Today’s Task: Go through towels and have everyone choose a favorite. Keep a couple of extras if you want and get rid of the rest! You can also go through hand towels and dish towels.

How to Stay Inspired to Declutter

Day 26

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

I’ve been writing about clutter for over a year now. I keep wondering when I’ll run out of stuff to say.

But I continue learning and trying new things.

Even when I’m not decluttering, I’m reading about it or studying other people’s behavior or just observing the clutter or lack of it wherever I go.

This naturally inspires me to re-evaluate my own clutter when I get a chance. It keeps me from getting bogged down in the same old thing.

Today’s Task: Try moving out of your typical routine in the next few days. Make it a competition with yourself or your family. Dress up just for your decluttering time. Invite a friend to join you. Actually set a timer. Review your chart of all your progress or look back at your Before pictures to see how far you’ve come.

Decluttering to Make Room for Something New

Day 25!

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

You guys have made it so far!

Last year, my older sister tried the same decluttering strategies that I have learned and been teaching.

It’s so funny because she’s always been the cleaner one, and I was the packrat. Once I found ways to have less stuff, she was ready to try them. It made it so much easier for her to keep her home, with five children, tidy.

About halfway through the categories, she found out she was pregnant! So she hurried to finish decluttering while she still had energy and mobility.

She started worrying that the house would fall apart again with all the extra stuff for a baby. But because she had just decluttered so much, she was very intentional about what she accepted as far as baby stuff. She knew a lot of what she wanted already.

Her baby was born January 24th! And because she got rid of clothes and stuff from her closet, she had room for a shelf of his clothes.

Today’s Task: Think about something new you can use some of your closet space for once you’ve gotten rid of some of what’s in there now. As you declutter today, realize that maybe you don’t even know yet what good and exciting thing might come into your life next. Because you’re decluttering now, you won’t have to be rushed/stressed/crowded as much later.

Thinking Ahead: How to Keep a Decluttering Habit for More than 30 Days

Day 24

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

February starts our reading of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I’m so excited! I started it sometime around this day last year, and it was so encouraging that I was on the right track. It really kept me motivated.

If you want to join the Clutter-Free by Thanksgiving course and community to go through the book together in the Facebook group, you can sign up here. I plan to do a weekly discussion on what we’ve read, so even if you can’t keep up with the reading, hopefully you’ll see the highlights on the Facebook page. (This is a different FB group than Living Tiny, Dreaming Big and is a paid service, so it isn’t for everyone. However, you could just buy my booklet for $4 and go through a similar training on your own.)

I wanted to let you know about it now so that I can mail the book to you in time to start reading along with us. (I could buy you the digital version instead if you don’t want the physical book.)

I read it the first time by borrowing it from the library, but I ended up buying it because I liked it so much. I have lots of free information on the blog, too, so obviously there’s a lot you can do for free. The course is just for extra support and structure if that’s important to you.

All of that to say: if you want to continue decluttering, you need to have a plan for after this challenge is over. Think about what has worked so far and try to set yourself up to continue that even when these challenge emails stop coming.

Today’s Task: Come up with a simple decluttering plan for February. Write your own, get The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, find another challenge to join, sign up for my course, or schedule a phone call with a friend who can help you.

P.S. If you joined in December and want a refund, this is your reminder email to let me know by January 31st so that I can get that to you.

Wants Vs. Needs: 3 Questions that Helped Me Let Go of Clutter without Regrets

Day 23

30 Day Decluttering Challenge

A big problem I ran into with clutter was remembering wants vs. needs.

Although technically you can live without shoes, if you’re going to function in a culture that requires shoes to enter a building then you need shoes.

But we don’t need 100 pairs of shoes, and we don’t even need one of each type/style of shoe.

It’s ok to have things we want, but when we recognize them as wants then we’re more grateful. We realize we could do without them but we don’t have to. We also feel less deprived when we don’t have them because we know that they are just things we want and maybe we can get them one day, but we’ll survive without them for now.

Yet for a while I listened to people when they told me I needed a pair of tennis shoes. But I don’t like them and hardly wore them.

It was helpful for me to attack each category by thinking these three things:

  • What do I actually need to live?
  • What do I need in order to function more fully and freely?
  • What do I just want because it’s awesome and fun?

Once I did that, it made giving up what was left so much easier because I knew I had even more than I needed already. Doing this helped me stop holding onto items I’d allowed outside influences to convince me to buy or keep. This has also made me careful not to project what I consider necessary onto other people.

Today’s Task: Spend about 20 minutes reviewing your clothes, bags, and shoes with theses questions in mind and get rid of any additional items you may have been holding onto just because you were told they’re essential.