How to downsize when you don't want to declutter

I've received several messages from people who are struggling to declutter because whenever their thoughts roamed anywhere near their clutter, they stressed out.

They knew they had to do something about it, but they didn't want to think about it.

If you can relate, and you really don’t want to declutter, you might try the gentle solution that I’m suggesting today.

clutter-free space

The inputs and outputs of clutter

To accumulate clutter, your clutter inputs must be greater than your outputs. That means that if you want to reduce your clutter, you should do the opposite and make your outputs greater than your inputs. How can you do this without active decluttering? By going on a shopping fast.

The benefits of slow decluttering

The "no decluttering" plan takes more time than active decluttering, but the slow, gradual change is more likely to bring about a permanent shift in your clutter-cumulating habit, and you’ll be less likely to rebound.

This passive decluttering is also ideal if your energy level is low.

By keeping the inflow of things to your home at a low level, you will be able to see your consuming patterns more clearly. You will know what non-essential items you’re most likely to buy and will be able to devise a plan to resist temptation.

The rules

For the next three months (or any duration that you're comfortable with, but no shorter than two weeks), you will stop bringing anything new into your home, except for essentials such as food, medicine, and toiletries.

  • Don’t buy new clothes unless you need a new professional outfit for a job interview or a meeting with very important clients, or for any other valid reason.

  • Don't start a new hobby that requires new tools, material or furniture.

  • Don’t buy new containers and boxes to organize your stuff—you should get rid of your clutter first.

  • Don’t buy any new cleaning supplies if you can help it. You should use what you already have—e.g., old t-shirts, vinegar, dish soap.

  • Include free items as part of the rule. If anyone offers you free items that don't meet the definition of essentials, you can't bring them home either.

  • Avoid going to shopping malls as much as possible. You should be able to buy all of your essentials from grocery stores, drug stores and hardware stores, so you have little reason to go to malls. Ditto for yard sales.

  • Avoid visiting online shopping sites. Remove any shopping sites from your bookmarks.

How it will work

Out of sight, out of mind

By simply not going to shopping malls, yard sales and online shopping sites, you will reduce the temptation to buy things that are not important. Eliminate other triggers such as fashion magazines and anything that makes you want to shop.

You may find stopping your recreational shopping hard at first, but—trust me—it will get easier with time. Keep practicing, and you may even lose interest in shopping. I personally experienced this after a long hiatus from shopping malls. I used to love window-shopping. Now, most things in shops look like things I want to declutter.

You will have more time and energy to do other things

If you used to spend most weekends shopping, now you have a lot of spare time. Instead of going out to buy new things, you can “shop” in your own home.

Do you have untouched crafting supplies? Start making holiday gifts or things to donate to charity. Use the ingredients in your kitchen to bake cookies to share at work. Read unread books. Explore new ways to mix and match your existing wardrobe.

You bought things with the intention of using them—so use them. Make something out of your clutter.

You will learn to be more creative and resourceful

By using the things you already own, you’ll be forced to find creative ways to use things for different purposes. Did you know that you can use Ziploc bags in place of bubble wraps, and powdered cinnamon as ant repellant?

If you have a lot of particular ingredients, items and pieces, google “what can you do with____,” “unexpected ways to use____,” “smart uses for____” or “surprising uses for____.”

As you continue to unearth things in your home, you will start the process of decluttering naturally

To find clear space for crafting, you will clear out your hobby room desk. As you experiment with cooking and baking, you will notice you never use some of the kitchen gadgets. You will find books you know you’ll never reread in your life. And forget mixing and matching clothes that don't fit you anymore.

You will pick out some clutter even without trying. It won't be hard to gather these items and put them in a garbage/donation bag. Enjoy decluttering as much or as little as you want.

In conclusion

Even if you have no energy to actively declutter, you can still reduce your clutter by being mindful of what you bring into your home.

You now have more time and energy, previously wasted on shopping. Use this opportunity to scan your home, without the pressure to actively declutter, and get to know yourself. What does your clutter say about you? What have you kept buying that you didn’t use?

Ultimately, decluttering is about knowing what you want in life, and there are many different ways to accomplish it. Don’t let anyone pressure you to declutter their way; stick to what works for you.