When we had our second daughter, I finally got up the courage to set foot in the insanely horrible (and embarrassing) area of our home called “The Closet.” I know it sounds dramatic, but if you saw it…well, you'd understand. Living in just 1,000 square feet, it seems like we always have too much stuff. The Closet was filled floor to ceiling. I've had to get creative with knowing what to keep and what to give. We have two little girls, but we also want one more baby, so it seems I’m in a constant quandary over sorting through items. Here's how I started our family's journey of minimizing clutter!

1. Pick a day when your kids are not home.

Okay, this tip sounds really obvious, but my toddler suddenly attaches herself to her "most favorite toys ever" when I bring up the idea of getting rid of any of them. Pick a day, find the time, and power through. Doing a larger chunk of organizing at one time means you will take it seriously and emotionally invest (particularly if you're paying a sitter!) in the experience. You will be able to make more objective decisions without the input of your kiddos. However, when they get home, have a few things they can help choose to donate. Involving them in the process of giving is an important thing as well.

2. The space in your home is a budget!

We live on a consumer-debt-free budget for our household finances. We abide strictly to our budget because there is no room for error, and we treat our home the same way! If it’s not necessary, it goes. We treat our 1,000 square feet as a budget of its own…every item must have a purpose and a place. That mindset keeps us regularly donating items or tossing them. I like to view the outflow as higher than the intake; I try to get rid of one item if I add another item to our house, but preferably at a 2:1 ratio.

3. Create a designated donate/sell spot in your house.

I keep a huge basket on top of my washing machine. When I find items like shoes that are too small, clothes that don't fit or that won't work for our second daughter (wrong season, wrong size, faded), they go right into the basket. All donations go into that basket. I schedule going to Goodwill or a resale shop once a month. By making a true effort to go, I get rid of at least a full laundry basket of items we don't need! If I waited until I "had time," I'd honestly never go. The basket is a tangible (and huge) reminder that I see every day to keep minimizing our items.

4. When you purchase an item, have a mental timeline of when it will leave your possession.

My husband calls this an "exit strategy." When we buy an item, we automatically think about when we will get rid of it. It sounds funny, but we really examine how long an item will be in our home, if it's worth the money, and if we could get a resale value from it. We factor all of that into our purchasing. Recently, I wanted to get our daughter a giant jumper/play-yard. It retailed at around $98, and I knew she would probably use it for 3-4 months. At $98, I could resell it for around $40 after four months, but there were other things to consider. Did we want it taking up a large part of our living room? Was it worth the money? Nope. I got her a few floor toys at a thrift store instead. They take up less space, and they'll go straight into the donation bin when she's done.

5. We don't buy totes!

Those giant Rubbermaid garage totes? I think they're supposed to be fireproof and waterproof. Those totes are indestructible, I'm pretty sure. But guess what else…they're magnets for things you don't need. We found the more totes we bought, the more we filled. When I went through a few last month, I was shocked at what I found…old paperwork, broken picture frames, old prom dresses. I asked my dad to take them straight to the dump!

Since we started clearing the clutter, I honestly feel that I can breathe a little easier. I feel less cluttered, less claustrophobic. My girls can actually see inside their closet, and we got rid of seven boxes of stuff. We don't miss it. Start with your donation spot, and you'll see how quickly things wind up out the door!

This is a guest post by Grace from Medford, OR.

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