Congrats, you made it to the third part of the series Decluttering Life. If you found this article by accident, make sure to checkout the previous articles on the topic:



How to declutter your WARDROBE

How to declutter your DIGITAL LIFE


In this last article of the series, I want to tackle the topic that usually comes first in a Minimalists journey: getting rid of physical things and reducing visual clutter.

Especially if you live in a big space, there is so much potential to accumulate a lot of things. For me, it’s interesting to observe that the number of things is growing in parallel to the amount of space we have.

It seems to be in our nature to fill up the void in our lives.

Luckily, since I don’t own a big house, my cleaning process was much easier and faster. In general, the process only took me a couple of days and involved the following:

  1. Getting rid of unused items
  2. Cleaning out shelves in the kitchen
  3. Getting rid of old books / articles
  4. Digitizing paperwork

1) Give away unused items

For me, this mostly included my digital equipment that I hoarded over the years.

As my income increased, my expenses also took a slight upturn and I ended up buying more stuff than I needed. I am sure many people can attest this interesting phenomenon 😉

I had a second phone, a second iPad, an old Sony Nex C3 camera with lenses and many other things that I haven’t used for a while.

Whenever we spend a lot of money on things, we tend to hold on to them as long as possible. The more expensive it is, the more painful it is for us to get rid of them.

However, I realized that a lot of my stuff was just lying around so I decided to give them away.

There are a lot of ways to get rid of things. Here are some tips:


Give it to your neighbors

With some of my household items, I just put them into an open box next to the entrance with a note that people can take it for free. This worked pretty well because people love free things Also putting them next to the entrance will ensure that everyone in the building will see it.
You won’t make money with it, but it’s a very fast way to get rid of things.


Give it to your friends

However, before giving away your stuff to your neighbors, you might want to ask your friends first.
Especially for things that are more precious, it’s a more comforting feeling to give it to people you know.


Sell it on eBay

For things that have more value you might want to look into selling them on eBay. The goal here is not to squeeze as much money out of it as possible, but rather to seal the deal quickly. If you price your items too high, it becomes harder to find a buyer and you will spend more time on it than necessary.
Find the average price for your item and go below. Again, the highest priority is to get rid of it. In my case, I sold my Sonos speaker. The new price on amazon was listed for 223€. the average price on eBay was around 180€. I priced it at 160e and it was sold in less than a day.


Sell it on Facebook

Another fast way to sell items is the market place on Facebook. I put my iPhone 6 on Facebook and got overwhelmed by all the incoming messages on the first day. The same item was sitting on eBay for weeks and surprisingly no one wanted it. I sold the iPhone for than I expected in under a week.

2) Cleaning the Kitchen

When I moved into my apartment, I bought all kinds of utilities. The Kitchen is a beautiful place to accumulate a lot of things.

Looking at my kitchen, I realized that over the years I bought so many things that I only used once.

After moving in, I started to buy a lot of cutlery and tableware because I thought I would need them one day for visitors. That never happened.

I also bought a lot of ingredients and spices that I only used for one meal.

All that stuff was still sitting in my kitchen and occupied the space. Every time I cleaned my kitchen, I had to take all that stuff out to clean the shelves just to put them in right after.

I am sure that most people have a lot of things in the kitchen that they haven’t used for a long time.

So think about what you use 90% of the time and get rid off the rest.

3) Getting rid off old books / magazines

I used to subscribe to all those interesting science and tech magazines. But over the years, it all grew to a huge stack of paper. I read them once and never looked at them again.

I always thought that I should keep them and someday I would like to read them again. I even kept some on the toilet for entertainment. I never looked at them.

The same with books. Many were just gathering dust in my bookshelf. I personally love to hold a physical book in my hand, but reality is, that since I got my kindle, I safe a lot of money and space by purchasing eBooks.

So I decided to let go of many of them because I wouldn’t be able to carry them around while traveling anyway.

4) Digitizing paper work

This is the most tedious part. Living in a country with such bureaucracy, I managed to collect a ton of paperwork over the years.

A lot of it were from administrative bodies, old receipts or just outdated contracts. It was time for me to do a clean up.

Step 1 – Trash vs. Important

I looked at all my documents and divided between those that I really need to keep ( e.g. Tax documents) and those that I can get rid off (e.g. old receipts).

Step 2 – Digitize

For this step, I used Evernote to archive all my paperwork for the following reasons:

  1. cloud based solution to access from anywhere in the world
  2. fast scanning method
  3. reasonable quality (good camera in smartphone a must)
  4. text in documents becomes searchable

I create a new notebook stack in Evernote to give it some structure:

Step 3 – Destroy

After all my paperwork was safely stored in the cloud, I had to get rid off it somehow. As with paperwork, it is recommended to shred it for safety reasons.
For this reason I bought a cheap shredder on amazon. I was hesitant at first because it’s exactly the opposite of what I am trying to do here (getting rid of stuff) but I will probably also give it away later also.

get rid of paper - use a shredder
It's amazing to see how much paper you accumulate over the years once you put it through a shredder.

Summing Up

Thanks for getting this far. You now might think: this is crazy, where is the joy in life if you get rid of everything? I am glad you asked: The purpose of decluttering is not to get rid of everything and making sacrifices. The purpose is to get rid of things you DON’T NEED and that doesn’t add value to your life or that doesn’t bring you JOY.

I am not encouraging you to throw everything out the window. This series of Decluttering Life is purely a documentation my own journey of making more space for the important things in MY life. It is by no means a general guide to become a minimalist, if such thing even exist.

If a room full of books acts as your private library and brings you joy then it’s great! Keep your books! I have 5 different coffee makers that doesn’t make sense for some people, but hey, it brings me joy and I LOVE coffee. The point being is, don’t get rid of things because you think you have to, but because you want to.

Sometimes such a radical cleanup will reveal if you really need all the things that you collected over the years. Believe me, once you get started your life will feel so much lighter.