The Final Declutter

September 2, 2015


Three weeks ago, I set out to complete my final decluttering challenge. After moving back to Victoria in July, I realized I’d been living with the majority of my belongings still in boxes for a month and I couldn’t remember what most of them contained. I decided to spend the last three weeks of August going through those 8 boxes, as well as the rest of my belongings, and decide what to keep and what to get rid of – once and for all. Here’s what I found.

As I mentioned briefly a couple weeks ago, the first 5 boxes mostly contained things I’ll always keep but just hadn’t needed yet, like my slow cooker (used it on Monday), some towels and my high school yearbooks (they still make me laugh and I want my future kids to see them at least once!). It took less than an hour for me to open them all up, see what was inside and decide what to keep – and only a few small items were tossed into a bag to be donated.

The other 3 boxes is where I was able to do a little more damage. But first, I made one big decision: to get rid of my first piece of furniture, in all of this – my bookshelf. I’m still happy with that decision, as I have built-in shelves in my new place, which made the shelves redundant. It’s just weird to think I was once a girl who had shelves filled with 200+ books, and now I’m down to two shelves with maybe 35-40 books. (I haven’t counted recently, there might even be less than that.)

To go along with that, while I know the main takeaway from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up is to only keep things that “spark joy”, my greatest takeaway was that we shouldn’t buy storage solutions for our stuff. If we have to store stuff, it means we probably don’t use/need it. So, I also got rid of the 4 storage baskets that once sat on my bookshelves and were home to office supplies, magazines, and other random odds and ends. Now, what’s left is on my built-in shelves as-is.

Surprisingly, most of the things I got rid of in August were not in those 8 boxes – they were in my closet. Clothes, shoes, and accessories are things I will forever declutter, because you see them every day and, therefore, are constantly faced with the questions, “When was the last time I wore that?” and “Do I even feel good in it?” The latter is what helps me make most of my decisions around clothing items, and I think it’s a question that will help me keep a minimal wardrobe for the rest of my life.


All-in-all, I managed to bag up and donate or sell:

  • 5 pieces of clothing
  • 5 accessories (hat, two scarves and some gloves)
  • 1 pair of shoes
  • 1 pair of sandals
  • 4 storage baskets
  • 11 books
  • 1 bookshelf (sold for $70)
  • 3 kitchen accessories

I also recycled more magazines and threw out some socks/underwear. Altogether, I got rid of 46 items (or 5% of my former belongings). Technically, that means I’ve removed a total of 75% of the belongings I once owned from my home – and I’m happy to say I’m finally done decluttering.

One of the best parts about being in Victoria for this final round was that my family decided to join me in the challenge. I was at the house, when Canadian Diabetes called to say they’d be coming around with a truck and picking up anything people wanted to donate, so we told them to make a stop at ours. Everyone decided to tackle their wardrobes first and, together, we filled three heavy duty black garbage bags with stuff! (After being away at school for a year, Baby Bro seemed to have the easiest time with this, as he could see how much stuff he doesn’t wear anymore. I think he filled one bag himself!)


Oh, and I can’t forget they also sold a set of 3 dressers ($180). Tack on my bookshelf and the Flanders’ are officially 3 bags of stuff + 4 pieces of furniture lighter and $250 richer!

I can’t tell you how liberating this experience has been. I’m long past the stage where I once questioned why I was keeping things, and now have no problem identifying what I truly need and love. It makes sense that I would feel the need to declutter after a move, though. I left Vancouver fairly quickly, so I didn’t get rid of much while I packed, but am glad I took this time to analyze how everything fits into my new space. Now, it’s time to relax and enjoy it… and be grateful that I’m living with just 25% of what I once owned, so I will never have to do this size of a challenge ever again!

How did your decluttering challenge go?

PS – David also finished his KonMari Method experiment last week and wrote a great recap (which included some much nicer pics than I take!). I think you’ll find we’ve shared many similar experiences. :)

  • Kristen September 2, 2015 at 4:39 am

    Living with a reluctant declutter, I was able to get rid of an old TV, VCR, garbage bag of clothes, box of books and about 50 small items we don’t use. It was a step in the right direction! I felt lighter once those things were out of the car! (It was interesting to note how heavy they felt in the car).

    Congrats on finishing your declutter! Enjoy what is left!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      An old TV + VCR – that would feel great to get rid of, eh? I can only imagine how much lighter it feels with those two things out of the house (and car) alone!

  • Penny @ She Picks Up Pennies September 2, 2015 at 5:00 am

    I’m tackling my kitchen this month since I’m also working on reducing my grocery budget. One day in, and it’s already been so eye opening. How fantastic that you’ve decluttered so much. I definitely understand the idea that when we’re done decluttering, we’re left with more time and energy to value the things (and people!) that we have.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      Good luck in the kitchen! That was the easiest room for me, because I actually used almost everything I had – and only tossed a few small things + some old cookbooks. Hope it’s that easy for you, too. :)

  • Claudia @ Two Cup House September 2, 2015 at 5:02 am

    Congrats on finishing your decluttering journey! We’re also winding down our efforts. Last week, we spent a ton of hours sorting all of the belongings we want for the new house and donating/giving away to others what’s in good condition that we won’t use. Once we move, I’ll recap our efforts, but all in all, between the move and the shopping ban on clothing, we’re much better off!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 8:47 pm

      That’s awesome, Claudia! Glad to hear you’re almost there. :)

  • Amber September 2, 2015 at 5:21 am

    Decluttering in our house is a going to be a long process, I’m intentionaly doing it slow or I could quickly become overwhelmed. I too live with a reluctant declutterer.

    My big success this month is letting go, I have this pile by the door that is a mix of donate/loan to friends/sell on e-bay. I’ve been hanging on to alot of it that I’ll sell someday….well I realized that the time it would take to list many of those items wasn’t worth it and they are all in my car ready for donation. It wasa big rlease in my mind and I hope it will help with future decluttering.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 8:49 pm

      That’s a huge mental hurdle to get over, Amber. I see it in friends/family all the time. “I’ll sell it” says the person with a bag of 50+ clothing items. If you actually take the pics/post them or take it to consignment, great! But if it sits at the door for more than a week, it’s probably a project you’ll procrastinate and never do. Sounds like you took the best step for you and just got rid of both the physical and mental clutter. :)

  • Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 2, 2015 at 5:27 am

    Congratulations on making it to the finish line, Cait! Getting rid of 75% of your stuff? What an accomplishment! I definitely want to declutter, but I’ve accepted it may not be for a few months. Right now, I’m focused on losing weight. It’s starting to get easier, but the slow-carb diet was definitely really rough for the first couple of weeks. I can’t believe how much junk food I was eating. Cheers to getting rid of unhealthy habits!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      I’m going to email you about something, Kate. :)

  • Steve Miller September 2, 2015 at 5:28 am

    It feels great to declutter, we try to do this every spring.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      Nice, that’s great, Steve!

  • Liz September 2, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Hi Cait,
    Interesting reading. Especially the part about getting rid of things like storage baskets. I am aware that buying larger storage items like bookshelves tends to lead to storing more but did not see it on a smaller scale. I have always imagined that baskets etc help to keep order. HA – not a bit of it. They are just mini dumping grounds really….Sadly, I have arrived home from a jaunt out with my girls and their grandmother in which I was determined not to spend a penny on anything unnecessary, but bought in a charity shop, a crocheted basket by Ikea to keep my toiletries in… Had I read your blog before hand I would have been a whole $1.40 wealthier and have less to clutter the house up….still the seed has been planted and it is a learning experience. Continuing to de-clutter as before!!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Hey, if you actually use all those toiletries, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad purchase! The problem is when you have baskets/storage containers for things you might touch once/year (like most of what used to live in mine). Maybe just think twice about each item you place into the basket and make sure it’s something you actually love/use often. :)

  • Erin September 2, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Great job Cait! The fact that you motivated your family to declutter is proof about what an inspiration you are to others. :)

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Thanks, Erin!

  • Alyssa @ Generation YRA September 2, 2015 at 6:28 am

    That is so wonderful that you’re family decided to join in with you for part of your challenge! That type of encouragement & support is really what makes such decisions in life even better. :) The book shelf decision, that’s amazing. That’s incredibly true that it would be redundant if you already have built in shelves. During our move we were able to donate/sell a vast majority of our books (when we moved in together initially, my fiance & I had many copies of the same books!), and now we’re down to 3 shelves which feels pretty nice! Now you’re settled in Victoria & ready to rock. :)

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:10 pm

      Many copies of the same books = soulmates. Just saying. ;)

  • Amanda September 2, 2015 at 6:46 am

    Great job! I am halfway through “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and love how far you have taken it! I recently moved and lost almost all of my kitchen belongings along the way. At first I was super bummed, but then I told myself to wait and see when I needed those things to actually buy them again (instead of going on a shopping spree). I think I have only purchased two things for my kitchen that I definitely needed. Keep up the great work – especially inspiring your family!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:12 pm

      Wow, that was probably a very eye-opening experience for you, Amanda! Now you have me wondering what I’d do if I lost all of my kitchen belongings… (I’d probably start by buying 1 of all the important things, hehe.) Thanks for sharing!

  • Leigh September 2, 2015 at 7:05 am

    My decluttering has been going great! I donated a carload of stuff back in June and I have 3 more boxes ready to go now. The “It’s Deductible” app tells me I’ve donated about $2,000 of stuff so far this year, which is insane! I haven’t even gone through much of the non-clothing yet! I donated so much of my clothing that I’ve needed to almost entirely refresh my wardrobe, which is kind of fun.

    Thanks for the inspiration, Cait!

    • Danielle September 2, 2015 at 9:37 am

      Thanks for the mention of this app. I typically just write down what I donate on a sheet of paper, but this will make valuing the items I’ve donated much easier!

      • Maggie @ Creative Clarity September 2, 2015 at 4:37 pm

        Wait – does this mean that you can claim the stuff you’ve donated on your taxes?
        How does that work?

        • Leigh September 2, 2015 at 6:11 pm

          I live in the US and yes, you can! The great thing about the It’s Deductible app (which also has a website!) is that it automatically fills in IRS allowed values for items and you just have to specify quantities and conditions. Granted, you can only deduct this stuff if you itemize your deductions, but I do that anyway because of my mortgage interest and property taxes.

          (Disclaimer: I don’t know if you can in Canada.)

        • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:15 pm

          You can get tax receipts from most Value Village locations, Maggie!

  • Maggie @ Northern Expenditure September 2, 2015 at 7:22 am

    It’s always great to get to a point in any project where you can say officially: “done!” so congrats! And it’s great getting the family on board. This week, we plan to tackle kid clothes. We have to do this seasonally, but it’s such an ordeal… trying on everything. What fits who? What will work for the boy that was the girls? What’s trashed? And what do we have to buy before winter hits? (my least favorite part of the process). I stick to it that it’s great you’re getting these habits down now because it’s so hard to move back towards that once a family is involved. Plus kids… why do they grow out of/wear through so many clothes?!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Just remember: one day, they will stop growing! I know my friends with kids feel the same way every few months, but the growing stops eventually. ;)

  • Ali @ Anything You Want September 2, 2015 at 7:29 am

    I was going to declutter, but then I put everything away (in all those pesky storage baskets) and wasn’t so bothered by all my stuff anymore. I am moving offices soon though so I think I’ll need to go through my books and see which ones I really use.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      Good idea, Ali!

  • Elizabeth September 2, 2015 at 7:56 am

    I think I will not be done until we have moved into our next place. We intentionally chose a very small home- 700 square feet- for what was originally a three month lease, thinking I would get reassigned and we’d have to move. When it turned out we would get to stay after all… we learned really fast to love the tiny home. And it’s true- when you are not living surrounded by clutter, it does make coming home feel like a vacation. I love the experience of coming down the street to home, tiny as it is. I do hope to have a larger permanent space (so I can have a guest room/study!) , but clean and small has been a godsend.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      That sounds wonderful, Elizabeth. :)

  • Caitlin September 2, 2015 at 7:57 am

    Congratulations, Cait!

    My boxes are still waiting for their final sort. It’s just a matter of deciding garbage, recycling, or donation.

    We’re down to one bookshelf in the house, which is almost seems wrong for someone who loves reading and writing. But yet, there’s still stuff to donate to the library. And cookbooks that haven’t been used will be gifted as nice grab gifts this Christmas season.

    Clothes wise – oh this pregnancy has thrown me for a loop. I’m on a (very small) capsule wardrobe and I’m waiting to see which of my old clothes I’ll actually fit into again before I get rid of them. The same with my shoes.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      One bookshelf! I wonder if we’ll ever get down to 0… doubtful, but it’s crazy to think my books once filled 16 square shelves and now they sit on just 2.

  • Michelle September 2, 2015 at 9:23 am

    We decluttered after we sold our house. We got rid of so much stuff and it feels great that it’s all gone! We are now traveling in an RV (still have a house as a home base, we just haven’t been there as much though), and being in an RV really limits what you can bring with you, which has helped tremendously.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:20 pm

      Yes, I was starting to wonder if you still had your home base or not. ;)

  • Polly September 2, 2015 at 11:35 am

    You nailed it with “…my greatest takeaway was that we shouldn’t buy storage solutions for our stuff. If we have to store stuff, it means we probably don’t use/need it”. I spent ages deliberating over the exact style (plus cost) of some underbed storage, until it dawned on me by getting rid of the stuff, I didn’t need the storage. Trada. I’ve never been a hoarder, but in my past life I was an organised mini hoarder.

    Btw my de-clutter journey really started 3 years ago when I became a house guardian for my friend, who’s parents had died and the house had been vacant for 7 years. Vacant, not empty, it was full of STUFF. 70 years of stuff. I had to learn to emotionally coach my friend into letting go (ok there’s still a box room here full of stuff she still can’t let go, but couldn’t name an item of the top of her head), but seeing how it’s paralysed her life and the potential rent she’s lost in that time, I saw the true cost emotionally and financially of STUFF. Still work/support in progress.

    Congrats on the end of your minimalizing journey :)

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:22 pm

      Oh my goodness, Polly – you are a good friend and probably a great support to her. That would be really tough to watch someone you love go through, but what a powerful bonding (and learning) experience for you both. Thank you for sharing that with us!

  • Heather @ Simply Save September 2, 2015 at 2:47 pm

    Clothes are constant for me. I have a ways to go but am constantly assessing and questioning! I’ve hit a lull, but once I go back to work and get into my work and winter wardrobes, I should see more progress again.

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:23 pm

      Clothes have been the easiest/toughest thing for me, for that same reason, Heather. Easy because I can quickly identify what I don’t wear often, but tough because it seems like something I’m constantly questioning. When in doubt, try it on and let your body make the decision. Good luck!

  • Karena September 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm

    Gooday Cait , Karena here from Australia. Just new to your blog this week and have devoured every post you’ve written. Your blog rocks and its great to see people helping /sharing the sisterhood.. I’m a Minimalist and have read every blog /book there is over past two years, From The Minimalists, Frugalwoods (love FW Hound), Leo Babuto, J Money, KonMari Method and hundreds of others.. I too sold/ donated 80% of my stuff when I sold my last property in the suburbs in March this year and paired down to 20% of my household goods & clothing (and I have 2 teenagers).. Moving to my new semi Rural property with amazing mountain views (with very little Mortgage remaining, hence the decision to move) on half an acre in Victoria Australia , with only 20% of items was so liberating to me , yet others thought I’d lost my tiny mind..
    I so enjoy your writing and you are an inspiration to us like minded folk.. You are a very switched on young lady and your blog brings me such joy. Loved seeing your last apartment photos and would be great to see your new apartment photos one day..
    Would be interested in your thoughts on Financial Independence (FI) it’s the new “it” word and I have a past finance background so I get the concept, but just writing about it is much easier than having it in full practise (unless you start in your 20’s).. For example not many of us have or can easily get to an investment amount of $150,000 + anytime time soon, so that the Interest portion it creates can pay our full living expenses , which equals FI..
    Looking forward to your future posts!

    • Cait Flanders September 2, 2015 at 9:25 pm

      Loved every word of this comment, Karena! Hi from Canada! :)
      I actually have a post drafted that I’m trying to finish which touches on my thoughts re: financial independence. In short, it’s not a goal for me right now… but I’m still allocating as much as I can towards retirement, whenever that may be! Will share more soon.
      Have a great week!

  • Mia September 2, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    I’m tackling my wardrobe and am about half-way through. I’ve got about 3 small boxes worth of clothes that I’ll keep (stored in actual wardrobe, not boxed up obviosuly!) and about 6 boxes that will either be sold/given away to friends or donated to charity. Before my move I had about 20 boxes of clothes so I think I’m doing pretty good here! Because I live in a 4 season location I need to keep 2 “main” wardrobes; one for spring/summer and one for autumn/winter. There just isn’t a way to escape the need for knits and gore-tex boots here!
    Just like you I have a few boxes that I won’t ever part with; it’s mostly photos and nostalgic items that I just can’t bear to get rid of. My goal is to own 10 small boxes worth of stuff at the most. I feel that’s my “magic limit” :)

  • giulia September 3, 2015 at 12:53 am

    congrats on your final declutter, I’m going to do the same with closet because I noticed that I wear the same outfit so anouther decluttering into closet is absolutely necessary…like to read your progress good job girl keep it!!!

  • Christina Garofalo September 3, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    Ugh so needing to do this myself. Planning on clearing out a bunch of stuff over the upcoming long weekend to prep for my fiance moving in over the next couple of weeks. I can feel myself already dreading it. This post will be my motivation.

  • Isabelle September 3, 2015 at 1:26 pm

    Good for you Cait! Must feel nice to be “done” with it. For me, it feels like it’s always on going… And I live with people that love their stuff, so I am on my own with this. Oh well, it’s not so bad. The one area I am trying to “minimize” at the moment is food. I have a chest freezer full to the max, the fridge, a full pantry and what’s in the kitchen shelves…. it’s just too much. I tend to hoard food, to go a little crazy with sales, it needs to stop. So this is my challenge at the moment.

  • Our Next Life September 3, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Congrats on finishing! I love that you’re capping off the decluttering project, and not letting it linger on forever. Though I have a pretty regular decluttering habit, the thing that has stopped me from going for it 100% is the fear that if I get rid of a lot of stuff, then later on I’ll just have a desire to buy more to replace it. So for now, I’m comfortable with what we have, because at least I know that there’s not a single thing we need (or even really want), meaning zero temptation to buy. That is a victory on its own. :-)

  • Tre September 4, 2015 at 5:34 am

    I used to find it hard to get rid of books, but now I have them in my Kindle app and get to keep as many as I like :-)

  • Chelsea September 6, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    Frequent reader, infrequent commentor… just chiming in to say that your year of no-spending and de-cluttering has REALLY inspired me!

    I typically do a big purge of my closet once a season, but often feel super guilty to donate things I’ve only worn/used a couple of times (“ugh, but I spent money on it” I always think). I usually have one medium sized garbage bag a season that I donate. However, I’ve been hanging on to various sizes of clothes (have gained/lost around 70 pounds in the past 4 years) on the off chance I change sizes again. Since I’ve been the same size now (and happy about it!) for about 1.5 years, I’ve recently gone through all those wrong-sized items I’ve been holding onto and donated 3 HUGE garbage bags. It feels GOOD!

    Thanks for your inspiration :)

  • Heidie September 7, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Hi Cait,
    I discovered your blog several months ago and have really enjoyed it. In April I stumbled on a FB post about capsule wardrobes. That was the begininng of my minimalism journey without even realizing it. I’ve always been one to get ride of things when I felt they were no longer useful to me but the capsule wardrobe concept offered a different approach to my closet, intentionality. I felt lightness, relief and joy after thinking through everything that I kept which led me to look at how I could incorporate this new found freedom into other parts of my life. That is where your blog came in. These last several months of decluttering and reading more about living intentionally have brought me to the place I am today and as of September 5th (the day after my 41st birthday) I have joined your year long shopping ban. I am excited to see where this part of the journey will take me and what I will learn about myself. Thank you for your blog. It has been inspirational and a huge part of the catalyst that brought me to this point.