You've probably heard a lot of talk about Marie Kondo and the idea that the objects in your home should "spark joy." Maybe you've even tried her methods yourself—purging all your old clothes from your college years, siphoning your stuff down to only the beloved essentials, and the addictive method of folding what's left.
Turns out, that's WAY harder than it sounds—at elast for me. In theory, yes, I could have one slow cooker, one duvet cover, one favorite blanket, one essential winter pea coat. In reality, it's easy to keep things sticking around "just in case" a situation arises where you'll need 30 feet of creme-colored tulle.
I don't even have a family myself, and the aspiring minimalist in me struggles. As a magazine editor, especially in the lifestyle department, I deal with a lot of stuff. And I take home a lot of stuff to try out, which accumulates quickly in a tiny Brooklyn apartment that lacks a real living room or kitchen table. Still, I find that I can't bear to throw out my cat's favorite toy, even though she has it in three different colors. Trying to weed down to only the items that spark joy has been, well, less than joyful. But there are some practical, realistic ways to de-clutter your home like a minimalist champ, no matter the size of your abode or how large your family.
1. Use What You Have
This might be cheating a bit, but it's a Kondo method for re-organizing existing items. I recently went through my desk drawer, which had all sorts of supplies strewn about haphazardly. When I commented that I needed to buy a drawer organizer, my editor (the ultimate minimalist guru) told me to use a small cardboard box that I might already have, such as the carton my iPhone came in. After that, corraling paper clips, Post-It notes, and rubber bands into their assigned spots was a breeze.
The same can be done in your home with drawers in your kitchen or the kids' playroom. Re-purpose cardoard boxes, buckets, or plastic tins for de-cluttering purposes.
2. Establish a Folding Method for One Item of Clothing...
...and implement it for all family members' clothes. Then, you can work your way up from there if you like it. The Kon Mari folding might seem crazy, but it totally, completely, works. You'll be shocked at how much space your drawers contain once you're done (or how you don't actually need to go buy more hangers to squueze into an already-crammed closet). For some basic videos to get you started, try this T-shirt folding method.
3. Make It a Family Effort
Give everyone a de-cluttering job, especially to the areas each individual uses the most. If dad does the cooking, he gets the kitchen. If mom is doing laundry, she'll tackle the wash room. Kids can conquer their bedrooms.
4. Utilize Free Services
While we accumulate stuff that we don't use, there are plenty of people who are in desperate need of essential items. Look into sites like thredup.com; the site will give you a free cleanout kit, which you can send back free of charge. Any items they can't take, they'll donate. Sites like freecycle.org will let others take unwanted stuff off your hands, too.
5. Take It One Day at a Time
Don't expect to have a totally Instagram-worthy house after one long day of de-cluttering. It's a process that takes time, but that's part of the fun—you get to see your space take shape over a period of time, and cutting down on the things in your life become second nature. Give yourself tiny "goals" for each day, and revel in the satisfaction of dropping off a bag full of donations. You might just find that the more you say "no" to excess stuff, the more you'll say "yes" to staying at home, admiring your stress-free dwelling.
Brooke Bunce is an Editorial Assistant at Parents.