7 Mantras to Sharpen Your Resolve to Downsize and Declutter


If the time for spring cleaning is long past, yet you still find yourself surrounded by clutter and feeling like you have way too much stuff, maybe you need a decluttering mantra — a statement or a question that you repeat to yourself as you look at each thing in your space. They way you answer the question or the way you respond from your gut after you say the statement will help you determine whether or not a particular item stays or goes. (See also: Do This One Thing a Day to Defeat Clutter Forever)

Decluttering is hard, and it's even harder when you are forced to do it because you are downsizing in some way. But having a mantra (or two or three) that works for you will make the process so much easier.

How do you know if a particular mantra works for you? Try it and see. If it frees you to get rid of items that otherwise you might have held onto, then it's working.

"How Much Would I Spend?"

When you look at an item you already own, think about how much you'd be willing to spend to buy it new. If it's valuable to you, you'll probably give it a relatively high dollar amount. If it's not, you might not be willing to spend a cent.

You can easily get rid of items that you don't value at all. For those somewhere in the middle, though, you can choose a dollar limit. You might decide to keep anything that you value at $50 or more, and get rid of the rest.

"Do I: Use It? Need It? Love It?"

Another way to determine just how much you value an item is to use a mantra that is a series of these three questions. These help you weed out items that truly should not be in your home, but it gives you space to keep things that, for instance, you may use once a year but, when you use them, you really need them.

Items you use but don't need or love might include things like soap dispensers and hairbrushes. Things you need but don't use often or love might include camping or fishing gear. And particular knick knacks or pieces of jewelry might be items you love but don't use often or truly need.

"I Only Need So Many"

If you tend to accumulate multiples of items that you love or find useful, it will be good for you to look at your stash and repeat this mantra. I have a friend who recently realized that she only needs, at most, one toilet brush for every toilet in her home. And I have been getting rid of wooden cooking utensils, because I bought a bunch on a whim a while back.

Another option? If you have multiples of items that will eventually wear out, then box them up and store them somewhere out of the way until you actually do need them. Then they're out of your everyday life, but you still have them when you need them.

"Let It Go"

If you feel like you're holding onto things and you don't really know why, this might be the mantra for you. Whether you are holding onto things for sentimental reasons, out of obligation or expectation, out of fear, or for some other reason, this mantra gives you permission to get rid of the things that are holding you back.

This mantra might help you let go of more than your possessions. As you repeat it, you may find yourself able to let go of negative experiences and the ways they've impacted you, which can then permit you to get rid of your stuff, too.

"'Just In Case' Is Just in the Way"

If you hold onto things because you're afraid you might need them in the future, then this is a mantra that will help you a lot. Several years ago, my husband was thinking about going back to school in a particular field. He spent hundreds of dollars on books for a semester of courses, only to drop out at the last minute because he got a new job, in a totally different field. Within months, he knew almost-for-sure that he wasn't going back to school.

However, we've held onto those books for years now. We've moved them at least twice, and those things are not light. His justification? "Well, if I ever decide to pursue that, I don't want to spend all that money again."

Just recently, though, he moved them to the "give away" pile in our garage. "I'm sick of tripping over them," he explained, when I asked him why. If you have things you're sick of tripping over but have been afraid to give away, this mantra can free you to finally get rid of them.

"Does This Lift Me Up or Bring Me Down?"

Sometimes, people keep things because they don't want to disappoint the giver, or because they were purchased with someone else's funds. Occasionally, people will even keep a gift from a former spouses or lover, simply because the gift was expensive and the person feels bad getting rid of it.

If something brings you down, it shouldn't be in your space. So let go of things with negative emotional connotations, and free yourself.

"Less Is More"

This is an oldie but a goodie. If you're finding yourself wanting more space in your life, more freedom and less responsibility, this mantra can remind you of these things. When you're on the fence between getting rid of something and keeping it, these words can remind you that getting rid of it gives you that much more spaciousness in your life.

To some extent, life is a tradeoff between having time and space, and having things. Sure, we need some things, and we are willing to give some of our time and space to have them. At some point, though, we have to decide to preserve peace and spaciousness instead of owning more stuff. This mantra can help you determine where that point is in your own life, and to maintain it.

What mantra or mantras help you keep your place tidy and uncluttered? Please share in comments.

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Guest's picture
Noah BoardwalkSavers

Great mantra. My personal mantra for motivation and reminder is “Don’t be a hoarder, be a seller.” A lot of times I’ve found myself struggling against the hoarding gene that my mom passed. Keeping things that you tell yourself that you might need later is just an excuse. Instead of getting rid of it, sell it so you will have an incentive to get motivated. If you don’t need it, sell it so you can save the money and space.

Sarah Winfrey's picture

I love that one! My husband's mom also has hoarding tendencies and we fight them all the time!!