There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to decluttering. The process of simplifying is about discovering what works best for you and your home. Along the way I’ve found some decluttering advice that I refuse to follow.

Today I’ll share the decluttering advice I’ve heard that definitely doesn’t work for me and our home. It’s my hope that in reading this you’ll feel the freedom to break the rules if you want and to chart your own course.

Staying in Someone Else’s Home

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This past weekend I stayed in an Airbnb home with my family. If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb before, you can use my referral link to get a discount on your first stay.

I’ve stayed in a variety of places over the years and I always have takeaways from each one from what I do (and don’t) want in my own home.

Often I find them to be over decorated, but the place we stayed this past weekend was close to perfect. It had been completely remodeled and each room was done tastefully and minimally.

I wish I could have taken home the kitchen and bathrooms. The beds were all really comfortable. It was cozy and just lovely.

Throughout our weekend there I noticed how much I enjoyed the minimal decor and the muted colors. There was also one thing I really didn’t like which sparked my idea to write about the decluttering advice I refuse to follow.

Decluttering Advice I Refuse to Follow

Although I am writing about the decluttering advice I refuse to follow, it doesn’t mean none of these ideas will work for anyone. It just means they don’t work for me. You get to decide what works best for you and your home.

decluttering advice I refuse to follow

1. Have the number of dishes as people

This was just about the only thing that bothered me during our recent Airbnb stay. There were very few dishes. And I’ve heard the advice to declutter your dishes until you have one of each kind for the number of people in your home.

Conceptually, I get it. If you don’t have a dishwasher this may be a great solution. It keeps dishes from piling up as you are forced to wash them after each meal to have them available for the next one.

However, we own a dishwasher and I like using it. I don’t like handwashing any more dishes than I absolutely have to. I almost never hand wash our plates, bowls, or cups because it feels inefficient.

Our dishes

We own 12 place settings and I’ve even thought about moving it up to 16. Our dishes are Corelle, which means they’re thin and stack well so they don’t take up tons of space.

They are also difficult to break or chip. We’ve had them for over a decade with 2 kids and have never broken a dish or had one chip (and yes some have been dropped).

Our dishes made my list of best products that have simplified my life because of their durability and that they take up less space in the dishwasher and the cupboards.

Having more dishes means I don’t need to run the dishwasher more than once per day. We’re a family of four and I run it about every 1.5 days.

The extra dishes also means that we have plenty when we host other people.

In some cases, less isn’t more. For dishes, I prefer having more than than the bare minimum as that simplifies my life more than constantly hand washing dishes.

decluttering advice I refuse to follow

2. Have the number of towels and sheet sets as people

Similar to the previous decluttering advice I refuse to follow, this one suggests having one (or maybe even two) towels of each size and sheet sets for the people in your home.

When I went through the process of decluttering our entire home, I got rid of many things we no longer loved and used.

However, at the same time, I am also frugal. I did get rid of towels and sheets I either didn’t like or were in poor shape. However, I didn’t try to limit what we had to one or two of each size for family members.

The first reason was that I realized towels will continue to get worn. I didn’t want to get rid of things I’d already purchased that were in good condition. We have plenty of space to store until we need them.

I also like having extras for when there is a sickness in the house and I’m washing everything more often. It’s also nice for when we have guests come over.

For our home, I didn’t see the need to be extreme in decluttering linens as they do get used in rotation. Having some extras will keep us from needing to buy anything new for quite a while.

decluttering advice I refuse to follow

3. The 20/20 rule

The 20/20 rule states that if you are unsure about an item but can replace it for under $20 in under 20 minutes then you should let it go. While twenty dollars doesn’t sound like much, that could add up and to someone on a budget, it wouldn’t be the best rule.

As I mentioned in the second decluttering advice I refuse to follow, I practice frugal decluttering. I’m practical in how I approach decluttering and am cautious of getting rid of anything I would have to replace.

That is not to say that I’ll always get it 100% right, but I also don’t easily toss things aside with the idea that I can simply easily replace it. I’ve found it to be a delicate balance between letting go of the excess while still being realistic.

That means I’m not as extreme as other people may be comfortable being with the decluttering process and that is completely ok.

Decluttering is about finding the right amount of stuff for you and your home. Not for living up to other people’s standards or having to follow their rules.

4. Pick up each item and ask yourself if it ‘sparks joy’

When Marie Kondo came out with her book and her Tidying Up show, the idea of letting go of everything that doesn’t spark joy became very popular.

Marie’s method was to get out each item, touch it, and see if sparked joy. If yes, keep. If no, toss (although she does say that there are some exceptions to that).

While there is merit to checking in to see how you feel about your belongings, the question falls short for helping you declutter your entire home.

What we own isn’t just about what makes us happy. There are plenty of things I own and need to keep based on function, not feeling. I’m very practical and frugal in my decluttering approach. Some of what I keep is based on the purpose it serves, not how much I enjoy that particular item, so I didn’t find the ‘spark joy’ question to be all that helpful.

When I am stuck in the decluttering process, these decluttering questions have been the most clarifying. They go beyond just how you feel about something to get to your intents and purposes.

5. Get your wardrobe down to x amount of pieces

Capsule wardrobes have become popular in recent years. Along with that, challenges have arisen to get your clothes down to a certain number of items

The idea was to have all intermixing pieces and to have far less because really no one is paying attention to what you’re wearing anyway.

Those are all legitimate reasons, but I still decided to do my own thing when I decluttered my closet. I chose to do a simple alternative to a capsule wardrobe without trying to teach any magic numbers.

The process for me was letting go of what didn’t fit or that I didn’t like or feel good in. I wasn’t trying to get rid of clothes that still fit well that I liked just because I had a predetermined number.

I know capsule or uniform wardrobes work well for some. It just wasn’t for me.

6. Don’t bother trying to sell anything

This is another piece of decluttering advice that I refuse to follow. I understand that for many people, trying to sell the items they no longer want derails their decluttering process.

There are things to consider if you want to sell your stuff. For a lot of people, it is more hassle than it is worth. However, I’ve been able to get some money back in my pocket by selling things. It was worth it to me.

Lately, it has not been a priority for me and I haven’t wanted to deal with the hassle. It’s about looking at what your current priorities are. You may need the money and are willing to invest the time. Or the extra money may not be worth the time it takes.

Neither option is wrong, it just depends on the person and situation. If you are going the selling route, my one piece of advice would be to set a time limit on it.

If you don’t sell it by that date then give it away or donate so that you don’t continue to have unwanted items taking up space in your home or trunk.

7. If you haven’t used it in a year, let it go

Have you heard of the hanger method where everything in your closet is hung backwards and as you wear them you turn them forward? Then, at the end of the year, you get rid of the items not worn that year.

While that can be an enlightening exercise to see what you are really wearing, I don’t think the necessarily means it needs to go. Some years are colder than others. Certain years you may have no formal occasions (like this one).

There is nothing magical about 365 days. We have tools in our garage that we do not use yearly but still like having for the occasional project.

I’m not advocating for keeping everything no matter how rarely you use it. You wouldn’t be decluttering much is you kept all of the what-if and someday items.

Be practical in what you let go of, but it doesn’t have to be anything you’ve had and not used for over a year.

8. Don’t bulk buy or have overstock

I don’t find many people who promote decluttering, but also talk a lot about shopping at Costco or having an overstock of paper goods or food.

It’s a challenge to balance having less of things with having extra of others. On an ongoing basis we keep extra stock of paper goods and canned goods.

I’m not a fan of having to run out and get anything last minute so we find it easier to keep extras on hand of things we know that we will use.

Some of this is based on preference and the space you have available in your home. We’ve just found that shopping selectively at Costco and stocking some extras in our home has made life easier.

In case you’re wondering, we did not run out during the toilet paper shortage of 2020. We had enough on hand to make it through that frenzy and replenish our supply after demand wasn’t so crazy.

9. Declutter your kids’ things

I’ve heard the advice of decluttering your kids’ things when they’re not looking. I understand not wanting the drama that can come with kids decluttering their things, but doing it for them was not our solution.

Instead, my system has been to provide what I determine are the appropriate size storage containers for their room. They get to decide what gets stored and can’t overfill the containers.

The rest gets donated. While it takes longer when the kids are involved, it also helps teach them from an early age to be responsible for their things.

It also doesn’t feel sneaky and honors their wants. While my kids didn’t love the decluttering process always (or even usually), they’ve gotten used to it.

This summer they even opted all on their own to completely declutter their rooms. One of my daughters is more sentimental than the other but knowing that the toys and clothes she has outgrown are going to her younger cousins makes it easier.

Decluttering advice I refuse to follow

As you can see by the decluttering advice I refuse to follow, I tend to be a bit of a rule breaker. I choose to focus on simplicity, not minimalism for that reason.

Some of the decluttering advice I mentioned above may work great for you and your home. That wonderful, but if you’ve tried and it didn’t, that is ok too.

The decluttering process is about figuring out what works best for you. It’s your journey to navigate how you want to.

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19 Comments

  1. Yes! I agree with all of these. If you have space, why only have 2 plates??? I will never be accused of being a minimalist. Haha!

  2. this year a bit late in life i have decided to be frugal – its surprising what you can live without.
    but i have kept loads of things ‘for later’ as i use things up. i am saving lots of money, then i can treat myself when i want to. i wish i had had more info about saving and not wasting during my life – pinterest is so good for this advice. dont waste money and think twice before buying anything – its so nice to see a little nest egg building up.

  3. I am totally on the same page! I found your site and fell in love with your outlook and philosophy. It is so “sensible” and “practical”…..two of my favorite words. I think simplicity is also one of my favorite words and it suits me much better than minimalism. I joined your FB group, but eventually removed myself because I was getting a lot of mixed messages from other members. I felt many weren’t “on the same page” with your philosophy. That’s fine. We’re all different. But the longer I stayed there, the more confused and agitated I became. So I’ll just follow you and your messages and keep the communication lines free of interference. <3 Thanks for being a great source of knowledge, experience, and motivation!

    1. Thanks, Kristy! I’m glad you’ve found the posts helpful! Totally fine that the group wasn’t for you. If you sign up for my email list, you’ll get weekly emails that notify you of any new posts so you can keep up to date. Have a wonderful day!

  4. In simplifying my home I have made use of the “keep or donate” box for way longer than some recommend. If I retrieve it, it stays. If when sorting things to take , I still am not sure, it stays. I too dislike the 20/20 rule. Sounds like privilege.

  5. I agree with these points. I do not sell items, but only because it is not worth my time and effort at this point in my life. However, there were times when it would have been.
    When our son and his family were visiting – 5 additional people in our home – can you imagine if we had only owned 4 towels? Insanity. Also the kids got sick and I was very glad to have extra sheets on hand, even for beds we rarely use.
    I guess I’m not really aiming for other people’s version of minimalism, just for a neat, tidy, uncluttered home. But still with all we need for things to be convenient and cozy.

  6. My problem is that I have the plates, towels etc in very good condition. I have spent over a year decluttering, on and off. But we have no large cupboards, no attic or basement, no garage. So we are very hard pressed for space. There is only the two of us. But as you say we need the plates and towels, and bedding. But where do we keep it all?

    1. Hi Sue. That’s tough. When you have plenty of storage space it isn’t a big deal to keep backup items you know you will use. However, if you truly don’t have any space to store them I probably would pass them along. It’s important to have your space be liveable and comfortable.

    2. Hi Sue, I had to be creative with storage space. So here is a few ideas for you:
      Kitchen cupboards often have room for another shelf. Instead of trying to stack things higher, I added a shelf so I can have plenty of mugs and glasses ( because I use disposable as seldom as possible), without them being precarious. And that is not even in the newer cupboards that go to the ceiling! In your living room/ family room try using a trunk or other storage possibility for blankets, pillows, games, etc. The biggest and best thing I did was thinking vertical. Replace a long low dresser with an upright one for more space. In my small master bedroom, I got rid of my dressers altogether, and bought 3 Ikea Billy bookcases – the deeper ones, and put glass doors on the top half to display things ( and keep dust free) and the bottom half solid doors. All of our clothes fit in the there, with a few dollar store organizers for socks and underwear. I also raised our bed up and have long low storage bins for our winter clothes, rolls of wrapping paper, etc.
      Also think of decorative storage, like a few vintagey suitcases can be displayed while holding lots of guest towels. Hope this helps!

    3. I know this is months later but I thought it would be worth it to mention that you can “find” extra space if really needed. There’s containers that fit under most beds, so that’s where me & my family tend to store things like our air conditioner, seasonal outdoor gear, books, office supplies, etc. (We built our beds with that specifically in mind: storage.)

  7. Of all the articles I’ve read and shows I’ve seen related to decluttering and sizing things down, your article made the most sense. It highlights the reason for decluttering rather than focusing on the how tos. The goal is to make life simple for you. And you find the right tool and the right balance for decluttering. Your article reveals this point. You’ve put to words what I do! Enjoyed reading your article. Thank you!

  8. Awesome advice that I have already learned over the years. I’d like to add some suggestions that I used when my kids were younger.

    For toys
    I would start with the eldest. Questions to ask child.
    1. Keep or go? Keep it simple for them.
    2. Donate or garbage?
    I don’t fight with them I do encourage them to get rid of items that they don’t use. Even if they keep it now the bug has been planted that they usually choose to get rid of it later.

    On to child 2. Same questions however they can also choose from eldest child’s donated stuff.

    Continue with other children. After you’ve finished with the youngest then I sort through donations and decide if there is anything that I want to keep for any younger children that might come on to the scene. I do take into consideration the amount of space I have and whether something is worth keeping.

    Kids clothing.
    Same idea. Eldest first. Rotate clothes downwards but keep in mind what will be useable. This includes styles, preferences and storage available. 2nd child goes through own clothing first. Then I show the next size up to them. They have to try it on but can decide whether they want it for everyday, for work/outside or not at all. Sometimes I have hand me downs from other families that I throw into the rotation. Continue on down to other children. I then only purchase what I absolutely need. From about age 5 I would take a kid shopping with me. Usually 2nd hand store.

    Collectables
    I allowed my children a limited amount of space to keep a few favourite things. I have also kept a box for each kid of momentous
    that either I or the kid might like to see as adults. Examples: A sample of artwork or writing from each stage as they were growing up. A favourite stuffy that they had growing up. Baby book. Etc.
    My youngest (19 yrs old) recently spent 3 months in hospital. With covid we weren’t even able to visit him. He found great comfort in his childhood stuffy that I’d put away years earlier. He showed off Hobbes to other patients, staff and also slept with him. It was a double momentous as his older sister (then a preteen) had made for him for a bday.

    It’s a lot of work but I saved tons of $. I am lucky because I have lots of storage space. My adult children still use this system including the 2nd hand store. My adult children have enjoyed going through their childhood box(s) and I now allow them to retrieve things from it if they want. I am not a hoarder, I only keep what’s meaningful and that I can organize in my space. Now that the kids are all out of the house I have done major decluttering of all of my organized items.

    Hope this is helpful to young families. I would have loved these suggestions instead of having to invent the entire wheel. I do pick and choose from the decluttering rules as to what works for us at any given time or stage of life.

    1. Oh hey, that is helpful, even if I don’t plan on starting my own family anytime soon. I’ll use that on myself & maybe help my younger siblings (we all have a slight hoarding problem which we’re working to change).

  9. I have my late sister in laws cedar chest in the living room. It’s beautiful and reminds me of her. I found it was the perfect toy box for our toddler grandson! The lid stays up and there is plenty of room. He goes straight for it when they come and visit.. perfect!

  10. Love this all. I thought that was the silliest thing to get rid of extra linens specifically. I have good quality ones that it would have been crazy to get rid of just to,pare down. The linen closet is deep . And all my inside Christmas tree ornaments fit in the top so I don’t need it for anything else. I inherited a bed that is so tall! I was glad to see that people are utilizing this space.

  11. I felt so sad when I looked at the few white dishes on a shelf. One of my greatest enjoyments over the years has been collecting china, crystal, and silver. Several sets of dishes have given me the opportunity to use different ones to set beautiful tables for my family and visitors. I know, I am older and have planned a house that has plenty of space, but I feel that there is not the love and appreciation for beautiful things that there once was. I hate the “throw away” society we are becoming. Instead, take care of things, keep what you love and display beautifully.

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