How letting go of stuff improved my life:  3 ways to begin decluttering

March 21, 2016
Letting go creates peace
Letting go creates peace

I kept a 10 foot by 20 foot storage unit in rural Minnesota for 13 years.  I didn’t live in Minnesota any of those years; I was busy exploring other parts of the country and didn’t want to bring everything with me until I felt like I was going to settle somewhere.  (Ha.  I’ve lived in four states and three different time zones since loading it up and leaving the lovely Land of 10,000 Lakes.)


Thankfully, I didn’t have so much stuff that the unit was full; I took it because it was only $35 per month.  (I know, right?)  And, the company never raised the rate (I know, right?). 


Regardless, there came the time for finally reckoning with it.  


I decided it was time to have all my stuff with me for the first time since leaving grad school, which meant spending four days on the hot and humid prairie amidst dust and the relics of my past, sifting, sorting and deciding what was worth putting in a truck and driving 1000 miles.  


To say it was an amazing and challenging process is an understatement.


I revisited a past relationship, shed some tears as well as laughed out loud, and felt gratitude for it.


I was stunned at how much I had forgotten I had.


I truly was baffled about why I had 25% of it.


I was pleased with how well things were preserved and how little damage had occurred in that many harsh winters and blistering summers.  


It felt a bit surreal getting back in touch with parts of myself I had forgotten about:  I had changed so much.  Many things that used to hold so much meaning now felt almost lifeless.  


(If you’re familiar with “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo, you know that she insists you touch everything you own and ask if it brings you joy. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a delightful little read with good advice about reducing your stuff and living in a more organized, healthy, lovely fashion.  I didn’t touch every single item, as I had labeled everything extensively when I packed it all up, so some boxes I knew were keepers, things like my parents’ wedding china and crystal.)


It was joyous to reconnect with those things that still mattered, and an interesting reflection on how I was the same, how our essential self, our core is always there inside.


The result:  I let go of about two-thirds of my stuff.  Here's what I learned:  

  • Letting go of stuff helps us define who we are and what our values are.  
  • Letting go of more stuff than we need or have room for creates the space we need to live the life we really want to live.  
  • Having more space allows for more of the things we love to have room to come to us, and for us to appreciate the things we love.  
  • Having more space can have a profound effect on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing as well as for those with whom we share space.  

I have found all of these true for me, and for the people I’ve coached on decluttering and downsizing (it is a true passion of mine, and I love helping people for whom it’s daunting and scary and seems impossible).  

I have continued to downsize and created a daily declutter habit. My life has transformed in many ways as a result:  

  • Less to clean means more time.
  • Less to manage in my home and office.
  • More light and air in my environment, allowing me to breathe, problem-solve better because there aren’t all these items laying around or stacked in corners anymore calling to me, relax more deeply, meditate more easily, and simply enjoy my space.
  • It’s easier to find things and I no longer lose time to searching for stuff.
  • My flow in my activities is far more efficient and satisfying.
  • My space is more beautiful and peaceful because it only has the things I love, am inspired by, and/or use regularly in it.

I can hear some of you saying, “Okay, that's what I want, but where do I start?”


First, take pressure off yourself right now:  There is no absolute right or wrong place to start.  Anywhere you start is going to be the right place for you.  Starting is what matters.


Here is what I recommend, that you can do today, and not be completely overwhelmed:

  1. Choose one small spot, such as one drawer, one section of a counter top, the top of one coffee table, etc..  (Do not pick a whole room, a large closet, or a big filing cabinet or the garage.)  
  2. Get one small bag, and only put in it items to throw out (because it’s worn, doesn’t work, ripped, dirty, damaged in some other way), recycle, or give away (as in a thrift store or for regifting). Walk around your space and put those items in it until it’s full, and then disperse it into the garbage can, the recycling bins, or a bag for the thrift store.  
  3. Set a timer for somewhere between 3 and 10 minutes, whatever feels right to you, and start it.  Work on that one small spot, or walk around, putting things in the bag (or, if really energized already, immediately put things back in their storage space when not in use).  When the timer goes off, see what you’ve accomplished, and be so proud - you have started and survived it!  Then, decide that was enough and stop, or, that you feel energized and want to keep going.  

Letting go can be a very cathartic process, a satisfying activity, a profound time of rediscovery and inspiration, can provide awareness into what makes you tick or has dragged you down, or some combination of all these things.  


Letting go lightens us up:  It helps us sustain our physical world, reduces emotional baggage, allows for clearer thinking, and helps lift our spirits, when before, everything felt heavy.     



I help you reduce stress, practice daily self-care, and declutter your spaces to open you up to fresh life, a return to yourself, and make your dreams seem attainable.  If you'd like to talk about how I might help you, please click here for a no-cost 30-minute coaching session.    If you have general questions about coaching please contact me at your convenience.


I've been decluttering, and it does feel good. The tips to set a timer, and to only tackle one small space at a time, are great - it's so much less overwhelming that way!
By: Andi on March 21, 2016
I witnessed some of the storage unit closing process and I was inspired. Decluttering is on my horizon and I will be signing up for a session!
By: Clare Dingley on March 22, 2016
Nicely done, Lauren. Do you have expertise on how to approach a good friend who has a space (whole house) that is borderline hoarding....or, is it none of my business?
By: Carol McCannon on March 22, 2016
The session I attended on de-cluttering was immensely helpful, and is an on- going process.
By: Betty on March 25, 2016
Hi Carol McCannon! Yes I do. Please contact me, would love to chat about it! xo
By: Lauren Oujiri on March 28, 2016

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