decluttering ideas and tips for your home

Inside: Decluttering on a low income has its challenges, but it CAN be done. You just need to do it differently.

Here’s the thing about decluttering on a low income: it’s just different. Every single decluttering post I’ve read is written from a place of excess, and nice excess at that (not the run-down excess that was our clutter).

No one is writing about how to declutter differently when you start from a place of less.

When you aren’t sure you will have enough money for groceries this month, you are going to approach decluttering differently.

I know because I’ve been there.

My Decluttering on a Low Income Journey

When I picked up a copy of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up three years ago, we had three kids and lived on $45,000 a year.

Did we have clutter? We sure did. Bags and bags of it.

I got rid of a lot of stuff we didn’t need. But I also experienced major decluttering regret at different points along the way. I got rid of things that “didn’t bring me joy” without money to buy the things that did.

We also kept a lot of things our more well-off friends didn’t.

I have bins of hand-me-downs sitting in our storage room. I also have a box of maternity clothes for another baby we might have one day. And more things I don’t have time to list here.

I have (cue: horrified gasp) DUPLICATES.

We have four kids to support and one income to work with, it would be foolish of me to get rid of those things.

Minimalism Done Differently

When you live on a low income, you will feel the tension between frugality and minimalism. Minimalism can feel the very opposite of frugal.

Related: Can You Really Make Money Selling Your Clutter?

And it is, if you do minimalism the same way as your higher income counterparts.

But decluttering on a low income? It’s still worth doing.

But you will need tips from someone who has done it from that place. I offer you my decluttering experience – the good and the bad – and everything I’ve learned along the way.

With a little guidance from someone who’s been there, I hope you will find decluttering on a low income much, much easier than I did.

I hope you will find the benefits of minimalism outweigh the challenges.

More on Minimalism on a Low Income:

Decluttering on a low income has different challenges than when you are decluttering from a place of excess. Get 8 Decluttering Tips that will help you move forward with decluttering, from someone who knows.

How to Declutter on a Low Income: 8 Tips to Make it Easier

1) Start, even though it’s hard.

I don’t know where you’re coming from.

Life experiences like poverty, unemployment, great loss – all of these things shape your perspective on stuff.

I believe my house burning down as a child actually helped me in the decluttering process. I’m not sure if it was that exact experience that made me this way, but I am the extreme opposite of sentimental.

As opposed to my daughter who cries for twenty minutes about something we threw away a year ago, I willingly toss anything not tied down. I’ve actually had to rein in my purging tendencies with four little kids in the house.

More on Minimalism with Kids:

That being said, if you’ve lived through multiple cycles of unemployment, you might view the stuff in your home as your only asset. It might be extremely hard to part with some of it.

I get that. So, start small.

It’s for this very reason that I recommend starting in the bathroom. It’s the easiest room to declutter and will give you the momentum you need to keep going.

Just start.

Related: The Best Place to Start Decluttering (when you’re to overwhelmed to start)

2) Do not use the question, “Does it bring me joy?”

I read a post last month about getting out of debt on a low income.

The author made a confession that hit me hard:

We finally let go of the entitled belief that anyone who earned a college degree could get married, buy a house, have 2 kids, and otherwise afford a comfortable middle class lifestyle.   -Shannon of Growing Slower

(Read her full post on how to pay off debt on a low income HERE – it’s fantastic.)

Were we living a lifestyle that didn’t match our income? At times, yes.

My husband and I both have college degrees (I have a master’s degree). In our culture of “you deserve this”, it’s easy to feel entitled to a lifestyle that doesn’t match our income level.

The question “Does it bring my joy?” is a middle to upper class question. I pray that one day, you will be able to use that question to make buying decisions.

It won’t help you right now, though.

When we decluttered, there was a lot left in our house that didn’t bring me joy. I’m thankful to not be in that place today. We’ve graduated to being able to afford some IKEA furniture we like (even that, we got on Craigslist, instead of brand new).

If you get rid of everything that doesn’t bring you joy, your house might be pretty darn empty by the time you’re finished. You will probably also have a serious case of decluttering regret.

More helpful questions for decluttering on a low income are:

  • “Is it useful? Do I really need this?”
  • “Can I afford to replace this next month if I actually need it?”
  • “Do I have another tool or item in my house that serves the same purpose?”

Related: 5 Decluttering Questions to Use Instead of, “Does it Spark Joy?”

3) Keep duplicates, in moderation.

“Get rid of all duplicates.” This is classic decluttering advice that you need to skip right past.

If you have fifty pens, you certainly don’t need fifty, especially in your main living space. But you might need thirty.

We recently gave away extra pyrex dishes, forgetting we have kids who accidentally break things.

Two of the four we had left broke last week.

Thrift store, here I come!

You need to evaluate how easy and affordable it is to replace an item if it does break:

  • Do you have good thrift stores in your area ? (not everyone does)
  • Is Freecycle alive and well where you live?
  • Do you have a “Buy Nothing” group you can join on Facebook?

If you can easily replace it for very little, you can safely get rid of most duplicates. If not, store the duplicates in deep storage (more on this later).

4) Have a box for things you aren’t sure you’ll need (but you very well might).

You might be wary of decluttering, and understandably so.

Just like me, you may have gotten rid of “clutter” in the past, only to realize a month later that you actually needed what you gave away. Only you don’t really have money to replace it.

That’s why you are really going to need a box (or a couple of boxes) to store the things you aren’t sure about, the stuff you think you might need later.

Label the box with today’s date.

That date will help you know with certainty six months or even a year later that you really didn’t need those things.

I recommend a year because then you can fully cycle through all the seasonal items (holidays, weather changes, etc.). When those holidays and seasons come and go without needing anything from the box, you will be able to confidently drop those things off at your local thrift store.

5) Use the heck out of deep storage.

Deep storage is your friend. Deep storage keeps everything you only need seasonally or occasionally. It keeps the duplicates you will need if something breaks that you cannot afford to replace.

Use it.

This book was the first (and only) minimalist book (and I’ve read my share) I read that talked about deep storage.

Related: What You’re Missing About Minimalism

6) Don’t feel pressure to throw things away.

I’ve read A LOT of decluttering posts and multiple books on minimalism. When you’re done reading them, you pretty much want to throw away/give away everything you own.

The pressure to get rid of stuff is tangible. It jumps off the page at you.

That felt pressure is part of why I got rid of things I regretted later. That pressure is probably helpful for someone on a higher income who can afford to replace something they get rid of and need later.

For someone who can’t? Not helpful.

Don’t feel pressured.

You know your stuff. You know your income. You know your situation.

Take decluttering advice (even mine!) with a grain of salt, and decide for yourself what to keep and what to get rid of. You will find a hundred posts on Pinterest titled, “100 things you can throw away right now.”

Not one of them is absolute.

That being said, I created this Declutter Your Home Checklist with lower income families in mind. Check it out – it may help you get started!

7) Take it slow.

It’s o.k. if it takes you longer to declutter. It’s not a race.

People recommend doing it in a shorter amount of time because you lose energy to finish.

Not finishing makes it harder to:

  • Start again (Have you ever stalled out trying to lose weight and gained a few pounds back? It’s even harder to start, again).
  • Experience the benefits of decluttering.
  • Avoid accumulating more clutter.

Choose an end date. Post it where you will see it regularly. Stick to that date, and you’ll be just fine. Until then, go on a shopping ban. Only buy what you actually NEED (not what jumps out at you from the Dollar Store shelf as something you could use – “could use” is different than NEED).

Finally, find an accountability partner, a friend in a similar situation. Ask them to motivate you, to remind you of your end date and your goals.

Related: How to Declutter with No Time and a Tight Budget

8) Organize what remains.

If I hear one more time, “If you have to organize your stuff, you might have too much stuff,” I’m going to scream. Whoever wrote that obviously doesn’t have kids or a low income. I find it extremely condescending [end rant].

I don’t care how much stuff you have or don’t have, you still need organization.

Organization doesn’t need to be expensive. Clementine boxes, shoe boxes, and cheap dollar store bins work just as well as the pretty $20 baskets at Target.

(This book has other great ideas for pretty, cheap storage!)

If you like beautiful storage containers (I sure do!), try using a roll of wrapping paper to make your boxes beautiful, especially if they are out in the open.
Decluttering tips for families living on lower incomes. You really can declutter your home, but you're going to need to approach it differently. Get 8 realistic tips from someone who's been there.
Decluttering tips and ideas for families with low incomes. You can get declutter your home, but to succeed, you need these tips to guide you (decluttering on a low income just looks different).

Remember the Benefits of Decluttering (especially on a low income)

Decluttering on a low income can help you increase your income. Let me explain.

When you come from a higher income, you probably can earn quite a bit from selling your clutter. Very few items were worth the time it took to list them on Craigslist. We sold a small handful of things, netting less than $10 a piece.

When I say decluttering can help you increase your income, I am talking about time. Decluttering frees up your time and energy to invest in side hustles.

After decluttering, I found the time and energy to invest in this blog (which takes quite a bit of work). I also found the time and energy to homeschool.

And that is why, despite some decluttering regrets, I continue to pursue a minimalist lifestyle (as much as you can with non-minimalist husband and four small kids) and encourage other families on low incomes to do the same.

When you’re done decluttering, you will have less stuff to clean, less stuff to maintain, less stuff to lose.

Decluttering gives you back the most valuable and limited resource: time. And who doesn’t want that?

Don’t give up hope. Keep going – it’s worth it!

Decluttering on a low income has its challenges, but it also has great rewards.

P.S. Do me a favor? If this touched you or helped you in any way, would you share it on your favorite social media platform? That way more people can know that decluttering on a low income is possible. Thank you!

Read Next: How to Declutter with No Time AND a Tight Budget

trash cans

cluttered home

Help a friend out: share this!

84 Comments

  1. I enjoyed reading the article. Disagree with your idea of low income being $45K. Obviously that might be low depending on where you live. We live near Boston and i’ve raised 5 children – 2 still at home & in University on less than $25K as a single parent. Thank God for income based housing.

    1. Author

      I totally agree that low income varies and is subjective. You have my utmost respect for raising 5 kids on that income in that area!

      1. I love this article. I ran into the same joy problem. Nothing in my house brings me joy. It’s all free hand me downs and dollar store necessities. With 6 kids and a husband on 30k a year, all of our toys are broken and all of our furniture is broken and patched. All my clothes are either over 5 yrs old and the other half aren’t technically my size because someone my mother-in-law works with gave me her old clothes. My kids wear hand me downs too. Our oldest 17yr old son and our oldest 12yr old girl are the only ones who consistently get “new” things because there isn’t anyone in their age group to get the hand me downs from. If I got rid of what doesn’t spark joy, we would be setting on the floor bored with MAYBE one complete outfit a piece. Part of it is self inflicted though because we made the decision to go without government assistance except for when I used Medicaid when pregnant so we bought a small run down house in the country were we can have gardens. We have one vehicle that is old but paid for and mortgage and gas take up half our income but I wouldn’t have it any other way. My dream is to be able to leave my job as a police dispatcher within 5 years and earn a living completely from home off our land. Then we want to work towards building cabins and one day offer youth and marriage retreats.

  2. I truly cannot thank you enough for this article. It meant so much to me that this is actually the first comment I have ever wrote to a blog. I have so much stuff, too much stuff and I know I do. However, I was raised with a very low and very tight income, I’ve fought and worked hard for every single item I do have so it is so hard for me to part with. I’m overly sentimental with everything. Due to money being such an issue for the majority of my life it pains me to just get rid of items that someone bought for me or I paid for knowing how hard it was to buy at that time; also knowing if I were to need it again I probably cannot afford it all back. This post reasonated with me as coming from this place I feel like most people just don’t understand why an old book or item can mean so much. I’m truly going to try to start small and try to let go of things I do not need or do not want. I need to let go of the guilty feelings and clear up space for my own happiness. Thank you so much!

    1. Author

      Nicole, you are so welcome! It still brings tears to my eyes that this post touches so many people’s hearts. Remember – baby steps. It’s not a race, and little by little, you’ll get there. ❤️

  3. This article really struck home for me!!!! Thank you for all the great points, and making me feel like i’m not alone on this subject.

    1. I agree! This is the most sensible and helpful organization, minimalist articleI have ever read!

  4. Haha! “Does it spark joy?” Frequently the answer is “No, but it sparks relief when I need/want it and I happen to already have it, and I don’t have to spend money to accomplish the thing.” I make, repurpose, and fix things. I have collections of random hardware, fabric scraps, paint… I have shelving I don’t use here, broken down flat, for use in the next place… extra dishes waiting to replace any that break, because the set I was re- gifted was larger than I need, but dishes break. Furniture needs fixed or revived – particularly the kind I can afford. Clothes need repaired, or repurposed. When my partner’s work pants were beyond repair, I kept a chunk of fabric to eventually patch the replacements. My partner asks why I have so much stuff. I remind him that my “extra stuff” is how he is able to live cheaply and comfortably with so much less stuff. And he is very appreciative whenever I am able to lay hands on the part, tool, or random item that will solve the issue of the moment, without anyone heading to a store.

  5. This post literally brought tears to my eyes. I know it’s not recent but wanted to say thank you SO MUCH and to let you know your words are still out there, touching a lot of us with a topic that carries so much shame. Thank you.

    1. Author

      Oh, Molly – you are SO welcome! I’m so glad you found it. ❤️

  6. I am living in Romania, my husband and I still have 5-6-God knows how many years to retirement, our daughter left to college in Holland(and we pay for that for now and the next 2 years), and we desperately need to downsize, just because I’m very sick and can no longer take good care of my house. We have no ways to sell any stuff, only donate or…get rid of, as garbage(which it’s far from the truth!…) Your low income would be a dream for us, still having to face prices comparable to US or Europe… I know for sure, from a long bad experience, that what I’m giving up today I won’t be able to afford three years from now… I really feel guilty to even donate a good dress to someone who’s gonna ruin it only because she’s living in a very poor environment(but I keep doing that with everything we no more use)… Any piece of advice?…’cause this is different, too.
    But your post is the best on this subject, by far! God bless you & your family!

    1. Author

      Hi Ligia! I hear you – income levels are SO different as is cost of living all over the world. I’m with you – some things we have given away or sold have been difficult, simply because we spent money on them buying new (even if it was on sale). I don’t struggle as much with thinking about what will happen to the item later on, but I have two ideas that might help. One, a generous spirit – I used to try to sell EVERYTHING, even things that were given to us. But eventually I realized I’ve been given so much, I need to pay that forward, and let go of what happens to it afterwards. Second, Ive committed to changing my buying habits moving forward, and thinking A LOT before buying something I think I need. I try to “press pause” as one minimalist author put it on a purchase. If I still feel like I need it 15-30 days later, I get it. Often, the impulse wears off. Hope that helps!

  7. What a brilliant thoughtful post 🙂

  8. For me, with children getting married and leaving house, the one question is: Can’t they maybe use / need it?

    Being low income means our children neither have money or means to set up a new home with all new stuff. Luckily they grew up with hand me downs and secondhand, so they don’t have major hiccups with “mom’s old stuff”, except where technology brought huge changes.

    Decluttering will be different for every household (homeschooling, large family, farming in South Africa makes my situation quite different from that of New Yorker living in an apartment with only a mirror for companion) therefore I don’t let rigid rules dictate my way of decluttering and minimizing.

    But, my biggest drawback is my husband. He will keep every thing. A real hoarder!! And I need space, clear open spaces (which he immediately wants to fill up)…..

    1. Author

      If your kids are blessed by your stuff, that’s awesome! Can’t think of a better way to minimize than passing things on to someone who wants/needs/loves that thing. And I totally agree that living situation, family size, occupation, and where you live make every situation unique.

  9. Great post. As I can see from the comments many people agree! Maybe one other item to consider when getting rid of something you hardly ever use but may need in the future or are considering buying for one time use is “do I know someone who has one I can borrow if I need it?” Something like a sewing machine that is gathering dust or an extra crockpot you keep on hand for parties. I’m having a hard time decluttering because I like to craft and sometimes that little piece of fabric/paper/yarn/whatever comes in handy.

  10. This is one of the best things written on decluttering/purging I’ve read on the internet! Thanks for taking the time to write it. I think the “Does it spark joy?” question gets lost in cultural translation personally. When I Konmaried my clothes I knew I had to keep my work shirts even though they didn’t really spark joy for me. A good friend asked if my work sparks joy, though, and it does, as does getting paid, so sometimes it’s not a direct link. Do my sanitary napkins bring me joy? Compared to what women had to deal with 100 years ago, hell yes!!!

    1. Author

      Thanks for sharing, Lisa. Definitely laughing at your last couple sentences: spot on and well-said!

  11. This post was wonderful! Thank you! We live in a two bedroom right now with five small children! This post really spoke to me and was very encouraging! Thank you!

    1. Author

      Hi Holly! You’re so welcome! We have three tiny bedrooms in our 1200 square foot rental (thankfully a single family home) and and will soon have five children as well (9 down to newborn). I feel you – decluttering is the ONLY way to stay sane with this many people in a small space.

  12. So refreshing to read a post like this. So many minimalist books, videos, and articles I’ve read have been so condescending, believing that there’s only one way to do things and can make you feel guilty for doing something different. I have chronic illnesses and very limited energy. Our income is small and I can’t drive so I can’t easily run to the store to buy something I got rid of. But I’m still finding big ways to make minimalism work for me and am loving the benefits

    1. Author

      I’m so glad that this resonated with you, Lisa!

  13. THANK YOU!!! This is a MUCH needed post.

  14. Like many others who have commented, I just want to say, this is the first article I have seen that tackles the decluttering issue from a low income perspective. The whole, you can just go out and buy another one if you need it mentality drives me nuts! Actually, no I can’t just go out and buy another one if I need it. Thank you! We have six younger children and are expecting number seven. We have bags and bags of clothes. We can’t just get rid of them either because we need them. Even though thrift stores are cheaper than retail, I still can’t afford to go and buy our kids “new” clothes every time they move up a size. I grew up middle class and have a college degree. However, I have chosen to stay home and homeschool our children. This has meant sacrifices that we have been more than willing to pay. But it does come with a mindset change. And it hasn’t always been easy. But, this article has really helped me to think about the things that I can let go and the things that I can’t. For example, we have recently started a major decluttering of the children’s clothes that we have. We are trying to only hold onto A) the items we love and B) the amount of items we need. People have been very generous and we have lots of hand-me-downs. However, we aren’t very good at letting go of those hand-me-downs, lol. But slowly, we will get through everything and make our living space much cleaner and less cluttered. Thank you for the advice and encouragement!

  15. Thank you so much for this article it was very helpful. I was able to relate to it. Kids are grown only 2 left and in College i find myself overwhelmed with all we have. My fear has been, finding i need something afterwards and not being able to replace it. Again thank you for your advice.

  16. I just came across this article on Pinterest, and WOW! Did you hit the nail on the head! My huband was in contruction when the economy fell apart several years back and we sold almost every nice thing we owned – furniture, clothes, home decor, you name it – just trying to pay the bills when he had no work. We eventually lost our home anyway. At the time my husband promised that we’d just buy new when things got better, but things never went back to the way they were. My husband started his own business, and things eventually improved. We replenished our home with hand-me-downs and Craigslist items and things he or I have made/made-over/repurposed/etc. But now I am scared to part with all the extras because I know how hard it can be to replace them, or supplies because I end up using them, maybe just not all the time. I’ve come a long way in decluttering and organizing, but we now have 6 people, 2 cats, 1 dog, a business, homeschooling materials for 4 kids, instruments, and just LIVING essentials in a very small space. There really isn’t much more I can get rid of, but I still have a tremendous amount of guilt over what we DO have because I keep reading how relaxing a minimalist home is. Walk beyond our common area and our house is not all that relaxing most days! This made me feel better. A LOT better. And definitely less alone in my fears.

  17. Thank you! I’ve read several ‘get rid of it’ declutter posts and books but your blog is one that fits me:) You are more realistic in your approach and thoughts and easiest for me to relate to. I am older but it’s never too late to start making my house be what would definitely ‘bring me joy’ with your words. My family will be so thrilled that I will actually make some progress!!! Please keep the great ideas coming:)

  18. Omg, I was thinking I need to write my own blog post on this very topic just this past several days. Thanks for taking care of it already lol. Another thing that makes it harder to declutter as a low-income person plus one who is in chronic pain 95% of the time is just how to get the items to the charity shop without a vehicle. Buses and cabs are expensive, especially if more than one trip is needed. Also, the cost of transportation needs to be taken into consideration if one needs to go and replace an item that was tossed or donated too.

    1. VVA and Easter Seals will do a donation pick up. Check on-line for your local branches

      1. Author

        so helpful! Thanks for sharing, Francesca!

  19. Thank you, this is the first “decluttering” advice I’ve read all the way through! I love that you understand that an attachment to things is different based on what we’ve been through. At one point we had both lost our jobs and had 2 small babies, I was using cloth diapers but couldn’t even afford rubber pants that went over them, which were .50 at that time. I have a terrible time getting rid of things because I have really needed things I could not get at times. Not that I need everything I have now, but that’s where I’m coming from. When they say get rid of all DVD’s, I stop reading because without cable, we watch our DVD’s. You had some great advice and since I am in a better place, I can feel more comfortable getting rid of all the stuff we really don’t need, thank you for aiming me in the right direction!

    1. It’s been a long time since babies for me, but in an emergency you can use plastic grocery sacks for baby’s booty. Had to take care of that in a store one time??. As long as you have them, why not use them?

  20. Thank you! I’m recently divorced with 3 kids and need to downsize. So decluttering key. Your article focused on low income decluttering was very helpful.

  21. Wow! Not only was the post encouraging, but skimming the comments, all the other people like me who found it heartening to find a post describing their situation! You wrote about what I thought every time I tried reading a new article on decluttering and cleaning up! Money, or the lack of it, changes everything! I have a mother in law who sends me those 100 things to get rid of pins/articles, and I don’t even own most of the stuff in them! Nor did I want to discuss with her why I didn’t want to get rid of baby clothes (in case I got pregnant again, which would upset her). And I home school, so all their current and past school stuff (afraid to purge past work as it is proof that we did what we said)is at home as well. I am a work in progress, but adding more cleaning as part of my daily routine (habits) has actually helped tremendously with keeping the place cleaner. Thanks for the relief of knowing I am not alone!

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Stephanie! I’m so glad it encouraged you!

  22. Excellent article, one of the best I’ve read on Pinterest!
    Most of my 8 children are grown now, but I’ve been there, done that.
    One suggestion I have is to simply use up what I have before purchasing additional. I consider the local thrift store my storage. Whatever I will need later I will probably be able to find at that time. This helps me to resist a great buy that isn’t timely.
    And the local salvage grocery, that’s my pantry. I am so blessed to live minutes away from both!
    It takes a long time to clear out clutter like this, but for those of us on a low income (single teacher income, homeschooling 8) I simply could not justify getting rid of items that would definitely be used before too long. Now we have only 2 at home and income has doubled, so we are no longer low income. However, I feel there are way better things to do with my money than buy nice stuff. Stuff is just stuff, no matter how much I paid for it, and whether or not I could afford the purchase.

  23. I absolutely loved this article…. I’ve been reading up on decluttering for weeks and was one of those people who thought I could immediately get rid of 91% of my things…. And you’ve made me realise i don’t need to. I’m on a single income too and although the alure of a beautiful minimalist home that looks like a stylist lives here is goal worthy, it isn’t realistic…. I was getting to the point of giving up because I couldn’t seem to do it a easily as all the articles make it sound but you’ve motivated me and I’m starting to realise this doesn’t need to be an overnight change. Starting, persevering and trying to change my shopping habits will get me there. Thank you!x

  24. I’ve seen so little guides like this, I feel vindicated about my desision to keep some duplicates. I like the idea of deep storage, so I can move some duplicates there. I don’t have kids but I can only work part time so just surviving in half a low income. I’ve seen this come and a few times on Pinterest but the link just went to a fake site that had nothing to do with the pin, I reported the, but I really hope you can put in a copyright claim to take them down. Thanks again for your wonderful insight, I will be reading more of your articles.

  25. Hey, June. Great post!

    Just wanted to let you know that I live on a low income AND have kids (3 of them). What I said in my post (Signs You May Have Too Much Stuff) was…
    ” Instead of decluttering, you buy more stuff to “organize” your existing stuff.
    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Unless you declutter before you organize, you are putting the cart before the horse. When your solution to clutter is to buy more clutter in order to store your clutter, the end result is well-hidden clutter.

    Reduce what you own. Next, shop around your own home before adding anything to your cart. You may discover you already own all of the storage solutions you need. Once you’ve shopped your home for organizational items, then, and only then, should you go shopping for additional storage.

    Bonus: if you declutter before you organize, you may discover that you can declutter some of your storage items too.”

    You can scream now 🙂

    1. Author

      Lol. Love that last line! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Cheryl. I think my biggest frustration with a big family is of course the constant need to buy more stuff (things wear out, kids get older and need different things, lose stuff, etc.), and that as a big family, we will always need more stuff that perhaps other minimalist families do. I absolutely think you still need to declutter, I would even dare to say “especially” if you live on a low income, but I think that statement often comes not from people like you or me, but people who come from a place of more. And in my opinion, it can come off as condescending – I don’t hear it that way coming from you though. 🙂

      I definitely agree with shop your house first, too – I often find that by rearranging and shifting things, I can find what I need to get and stay organized. We happened to need to get rid of a ton of stuff in our move a couple of years ago, baskets and organizers being one of them, so ironically, I’ve had to slowly acquire different baskets/bins over the past year and a half to replace what we lost. Thankfully, the thrift store, yard sales and friends often have what I need, though I have needed to purchase a few bins here and there when I couldn’t find what we needed.

  26. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on Pintrest. I’ve cluttered up my Pinterest boards on decluttering and organizing. I get it. I’m a Retired teacher, fixed income which is 50% of a teacher’s salary. That should scare you! Deep Storage. Great nomenclature! I have so much of my teaching stuff that I’ve saved for former students who are becoming teachers. I couldn’t/wouldn’t throw that away even though the experts say I should. New teachers paying off student debt don’t get the pay to run out and buy everything. You have to look out for the next generation. Keep writing, teaching and organizing. You’re on the right track. Deb

  27. THANK YOU, THANK YOU FOR THIS POST!!! I am a low-income wife with no children and low and behold a pack rat. My wife has tried to declutter some of the items only to reappear in another part of our home. In some other blogs, their articles are somewhat informative but yours hit home for me, especially with the title. I never really understood asking myself the question if it brings me joy. Of course, it brings me joy, that is why I have not just one but multiple copies of them. After reading your blog, I am actually writing down the types of organizational storage containers that will allow me to follow the steps you suggested. I am more excited now to begin on this. Thank you again and keep these articles coming!!!!

  28. This was good advice! It can be challenging to know what to keep, but it is also beneficial because there is more space in a small space!

  29. Thank you! I find it really challenging as well. I like the term “essentialism” better then minimalism. Most of what we have in our house is a hand me down from someone in the family, or gifts What’s hard is telling them we don’t want or need any more “stuff” and making us seem ungreatful.

  30. Very cool post. It’s never sat right with me that decluttering advice (nearly) always comes from such a privileged perspective, with no acknowledgement of this.

  31. At last common sense for the decluttering goal. I’m doing ok now but I spent the first half of my adulthood as a low income single parent. I have a hard time letting go of stuff I might need. You advice will help me to achieve my goal…at my own pace. Thank you!

    1. Author

      I’m so glad it was helpful to you, Susie!

  32. I never ever comment on things but I decided to comment on this because WOW. I appreciate this so much. I am not a mother (yet) but I have been living on a low income my whole life and frequently find myself helping family/friends too. Between working a lot, trying to finish a degree, dealing with health issues etc., it is so so hard to keep things minimal, organized, or even clean at times. I find myself googling how to do certain things on a tight budget quite often, and this is the first post I have seen that has really hit the mark. Sometimes it’s just encouraging to read that other people deal with the same kinds of things and it is really a refreshing break from all the (mostly middle class and higher) posts on pinterest and such about minimalism and hygge etc. It can be pretty cringy and discouraging at times. So anyway thank you!

    1. Author

      You are so welcome, Chelsea! Thanks for taking the time to share. 🙂

  33. This is without doubt the best decluttering article i have ever read (and I’ve read a lot of them)
    Thank you so much ❤

  34. Thank you! I needed this. I’m writing this with tears running down my face. My mom was widowed with 4 young children, the youngest being me at 2. We didn’t have a lot of things so we hung on to everything. We had two house fires growing up and lost over half of our possessions, one of which was the stuffed momma and baby rabbits my dad gave me before he died. Now divorced with five children of my own and two grandchildren, I still hold onto my “stuff” because 1. I want my kids and grandkids to have something that was meaningful. 2. Because I can’t always afford to replace it. 3. I worked hard for the things I have. I never knew there was someone else out there like me who felt the same guilt as for having as for not having (if that makes sense). It IS okay to let stuff go. But now I feel like it’s also okay to hold onto a few things – that I deserve to not have to worry about replacing it because I have a backup in storage. I just don’t need 3 backups 🙂

  35. Thank you for this post. I’m a homeschool mom with 15 kids, 13 still at home. We’ve lived in tje same house for 20 years and I need to declutter badly, but I can’t just get rid of everything! It’s good to read this.

    1. Author

      I’m so glad it was helpful! And 15?! I want your secrets! 🙂

  36. I’m a grandma now, but we have lived and raised our children on a single teacher income. I have a college degree also but made this choice. Cheers to you and this blog for another perspective on decluttering! Income definitely affects how we approach this subject!! Love your perspective and suggestions!! Deep storage is a necessity!!!

  37. What a fantastic post. Thank you for covering this subject matter. It is important to speak to the people who would like to live with less clutter but don’t have the money to replace or pay for storage of personal items. I’ve watched plenty of YouTube channels where they focus on decluttering a few times a year and then follow it up with a huge shopping haul to decorate for a season or holiday. It’s easy for them to get rid of things knowing they won’t have to do without for long. That’s not how it is for many of us : /

    1. Author

      I’m so glad it was helpful for you!

  38. Thank you for writing this. I was wondering why I find it so hard to “de-clutter” when I look around and all I see is things that I could not afford to replace. The “joy” thing is also a bugbear. All these articles keep us in an entitled mindset, that we “shouldn’t” be in this position. It was very humbling these past few months to admit that we couldn’t pay rent (my husband is starting his own business and I have an autoimmune condition after having my baby). Asking for government housing help to pay rent seemed like the “unmentionable” thing to do. After going through the very humbling process of asking for help, I realize that what we are doing is brave, and pretending we don’t need help is not serving anyone. I also come from a low-income, homeless at one point family background, though we were meant to be “middle class”. Just accepting that low-income doesn’t mean we have inherent character flaws was liberating. If no one took the risk to create a business, no one would have a job at all! Excited to get out of debt, use the help we’ve been given to create businesses that will create more jobs and wealth in the economy, and give us financial stability we can build on top of. Thanks for showing me I’m not the only one!

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome! We received WIC benefits at one time, and it was seriously humbling as we also were both from middle class backgrounds with college degrees. To admit you need help and to be willing to receive it for the period of time that you need it is admirable and brave. We are excited to get out of debt to, and I’ve definitely caught the business bug! Believing for things to turn around for you, soon!

  39. Finally read what I needed to know about decluttering ! Thank you from the bottom of my heart dear. Also want to say something about what could make you scream 😉

    These words are not accurate: “If you have to organize your stuff, you might have too much stuff,” the real sentence is: -“If you have to buy things to organize your stuff, you might have too much stuff.” 🙂

    Thanks again, will begin to eagerly read you, hugs from this grandma that is trying to live within means,

    1. Author

      Thanks Marie! I’ve heard that second phrase, too, you’re right! I’ve also read the other phrase though (perhaps quoted incorrectly then?), and it rubbed me extremely the wrong way. 🙂 In fact, the I don’t love the first one either – that person clearly didn’t have kids. 😉

  40. Thank you for sharing your insight! My parents are pack rats and I struggle to understand them/have patience, while simultaneously fighting those same urges myself. It truly is different when living paycheck to paycheck.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Holly! I more I reflect on it, the more I think the problem with most decluttering articles is they are written by people who 1) didn’t have a hard time decluttering (it comes naturally to them) or 2) come from a place of excess and/or financial independence. I hope to write more that will help people to whom it does NOT come naturally. 🙂 I’m glad it was helpful!

  41. Thank you thank you thank you. I didn’t recognize how biased the decluttering craze is against those with a lower income level. This makes so much sense, and you’ve written it from a loving perspective, not a bitter one, which can be quite the challenge. Finally, thank you for giving us stalled declutterers some self-esteem and a dose of reality back.

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome! I’m so glad it spoke to you.

    2. Yes! Couldn’t have said that better myself. Article brings reality back again to decluttering.

  42. I could not agree more about organization. My husband and I got rid of 90% of our stuff in a recent move. You would think we would have nothing to organize after a declutter and donate session like that.

    We still have to be organized. Probably more now. If we can’t find an item that we are looking for because we aren’t organized we will need to go out and purchase it.

    It’s extremely important to have organization systems or plans in place when you make the decision to start living a more minimalist life.

    1. Author

      Absolutely! You do still have stuff, and it still needs a place. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Crystal!

  43. Thank you for writing about this. I have been flabbergasted by all the writers insisting that you spend less money as a minimalist. Not the way I spend money. I do declutter but I also have a garage full of tools because some months we have to do our own tire rotations and oil changes. My pantry is exploding because I have to buy those 12 cans of tomato paste when they are on sale. Your approach makes so much more sense for those of us who don’t have money to burn. I keep things where it makes sense and don’t spend money on dumb stuff.

    1. Author

      You’re welcome, Alex! I agree – it’s frustrating how nonchalant and easy minimalists make it sound (I just read a post like this – “Just get rid of it! You can always buy another if you really need it.”. When you don’t have a lot of extra, it’s just different. Glad to hear that you are decluttering! I still stockpile here and there on the things we regularly use, when I can get them for the best prices. We also have stuff in deep storage, as I mentioned. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts! I always appreciate thoughtful comments.

  44. I never comment on blogs but I had to say, I really enjoyed reading this! We’re a lower income family of 7 and I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient. De-cluttering and minimalist posts really don’t hit the mark with me because of the idea that anything extra is expendable.

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome, Renee! I agree – that attitude that anything extra is expendable does turn off people from lower incomes. My hope with my minimalism posts is to make minimalism doable for lower income people because we can benefit from it, and I hate to see people run the other way because of how its presented. 🙂

  45. I am wondering if it has occurred to you that some folks that maybe you don’t consider to be “low income” have grown up very poor and therefore cannot let go of things because they have a mentality of “just in case I need it”.
    I am not sure that there is such an easy socioeconimic divide to decluttering as you try to make it seem.

    1. Author

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Lindy! I don’t think the socioeconomic divide is easy by any means, but I do know from the response to this post and others I’ve written about trying to implement minimalism on a low income that it is a struggle. For how many, I’m not sure. It was for me, and other readers I’ve corresponded with. I also realize that if you come from poverty, the “just in case I need it” mentality IS a huge struggle, even when you start earning more…

      1. I agree, when trying to downsize my clutter I’ve always done it with a “We might need that later” mentality. Because, I assume we won’t have the money to replace anything!! And I secretly admire those that can go into a secret hiding place and pull out whatever is needed, be that a stock pile of school supplies or screws, nuts, zip ties, you get the idea!! Lol But this “we might need it later” mentality has gotten me no where… Well, I never hit my goal of a decluttered well organized home!! Lol But I think the idea of deep storage, which yes i do use, just I think I could step it up a notch, or twelve!! Lol Thanks for the post!!? low income is a relative term, but if you can afford to go out and buy 10, 20$ bins right this second for your closet, and its not because you got your tax check?!?!!! You are not low income!!! And those of you that know what I mean by that… lol we are????? Have a great day! And get to work on that bathroom!

  46. I am curious as to what area you live in. My husband and I have 5 children . They are getting older but 3 of them still live at home. The youngest is 12. We are a one income family, and I don’t think we have ever made as much as $45,000 in one year. I don’t consider us to be “low income.” Do you live in an area with a high cost of living?

    1. Author

      We lived in Boston for over ten years, but the numbers across the U.S. still put us in the low income bracket. Low income is different than poverty level. Low income in the United States is considered to be 200% of poverty level. For a family of 5 (which is when I decluttered – now we have 6), low income was less than $57,560 a year. For a family of 6, which is what we currently are, low income is less than $65,920. We still fall in this range, though earning income blogging is thankfully changing that.

  47. This is a really helpful perspective. I always had trouble with the joy-sparking question as I was going through my clothes. Quite frankly, NONE of my clothes sparked joy, but that didn’t mean I could pay to replace all of them. So I had to modify a bit for my situation.

    1. Author

      Thanks for commenting Maggie! Yes, most of my furniture didn’t, but we didn’t have money to replace most of it at the time. It took a long time and slowly replacing individual items (often with thrift store and Craigslist finds).

  48. When we were poor it was hard to find storage space sometimes. We has such a tiny place but could not afford to throw stuff out or purchase things like storage containers that would make organization easier. No one ever wanted to buy our stuff even if it had the tags on it. Decluttering was such a bear. When we had more money it was easier to declutter because if we donated all of our extra clothes or whatnot we could afford to replace them if needed. I get the may need it later part all too well.

    1. Author

      I totally get that! We used to live in a big city and had next to no storage space in our tiny apartment. At times, we’ve used moving boxes, shoe boxes, super cheap Room Essentials bins from Target (I think they were $1-$2 a piece? and a really good size).

  49. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for your post. I felt like I was reading about myself when I was reading your article. You wrote this specifically for me, didn’t you?! 😉 I’ve read so many de clutter articles and I just quit trying because I get to frustrated with the things I’m told to get rid of or that I shouldn’t keep. It never fails I regret getting rid of certain things. I grew up not having anything of real value because we moved and were even homeless at some point. We lost storages, things got stolen and even sold. I promised I wouldn’t let that make me a pack rat. Then as an adult, I’ve had to figure out how to make ends meet. Luckily I’ve rolled along with the income potential of eBay, Craigslist, garage sales, etc. I used to look at my clutter and say, “I can sell that!” Then I remember selling all my baby girl stuff because I was DONE having kids just to find out 4 months later I was pregnant with another girl. Now I’m stuck in the mindset of my clutter being an asset. I can’t get my mind away from the homeless child, broke parent to now just letting go of some things. Until now! I’m going to get to work using your advice. Thank you so much!! I’ll let you know how it goes!

    1. Author

      You’re so welcome, Rebecca! I did write it just for moms like you. It IS a struggle, but I’m excited to see you overcome and get some time back. 🙂 Keep me posted how it’s going!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *