As we continue our Spring CLEANing series, today we discuss the “L” in our acronym CLEAN which is all about letting go and limiting. These are essential in reducing stress and anxiety and journeying towards minimalism. 

Simple Steps to Letting Go and Decluttering for Spring CLEANing Transcript

Welcome to week two of our Spring CLEANing series. CLEAN is the acronym that we are working through.

In Episode 49 we talked through how we are clearing off our flat surfaces, and classifying the things that we find. Then also looking for categories around our spaces so that we know where we may have several stockpiles of similar items. 

Today for “L” in our clean acronym, we are letting go and limiting. 

This is a common theme that I know I’ve talked about several times on the podcast, but I just find it everywhere when it comes to reducing your stress and your anxiety and being more comfortable in the spaces that you’re in. This idea of journeying towards minimalism.

I’ve been on a journey towards minimalism for like four years, and I’m still not there. And I don’t think I ever will truly get there because it’s just not something that feels completely right to me just yet. Especially with small kids. 

But I do know that every time I take a big step in that direction to reduce the number of items in my home, in my school areas, and even just in my car, it just feels like a safer, happier space. 

There are so many statistics out there that say you only use about 20% of the items in your house on a regular basis. We have 10s of 1000s of things in your home. If you were to truly sit down and count out all the pens in the junk drawer, and all the random pairs of socks that you have and the shoes for different occasions and maybe like 17 different lipsticks, you have 10s of 1000s. 

That is a lot of stuff to manage, and make sure that is organized and has a home. And not only that, if you have a two-year-old like me, that’s gonna get dumped everywhere. At some point, they will find all 10,000 things that you have in your home and it will end up on the floor.  

Letting Go and Limiting Things

So today, we’re going to talk about some simple ways to tackle limiting and letting go of the things in our spaces that really truly don’t deserve the right to weigh us down. 

Through this, there’s a couple of key things that you need to remember. We have to remember that several stockpiles of makeup, for example, in different areas means that we really have double in each of these spaces. 

So we need to decide if it’s truly needed to keep a separate stockpile in your car, in your bathroom and in a purse, for example. Or if we can maybe limit what our backup stockpiles are. 

Maybe your car doesn’t need the full kit and caboodle. You can house a little bit less in your bathroom, if you know that you’re always going to put the lipsticks and lip glosses in your purse for the day. 

Consider all of those category spaces that you found in week one as you go through this.

I also want you to recognize that we’re only doing a singular small chunk at a time. We’re not tackling your whole house at once. 

And until you’ve built up this muscle of looking at your things and determining if it earns its spot, I don’t think that this is a regular everyday activity. 

I think that this is a conscious effort. You really have to sit down and focus on it for five to 10 minutes at a time and just see what comes to you. 

Letting Go by Donating Items

It’s handy to have garbage bags ready for the things that you deem unworthy of your space and your time, but also unworthy of being donated. Have bins or boxes for donations. 

We actually have a drive through Goodwill near us, which has been amazing because it makes kind of that friction of having another step to add to the donation so easy. 

If you’re not a fan of Goodwill, or don’t have one near you, one thing that I always suggest is to check in with potentially local churches in your area. 

Or see if there’s also women’s shelters near you that will usually come and pick up items that you have for donation. You can schedule a time with them. 

They are always in need, and they don’t always get the same amount of direct donations as larger entities like a Goodwill or Salvation Army. 

You could even use those clothing drop off boxes that you find at the side of the road (which by the way, are usually for for-profit companies). 

However you feel about that, just make sure that you feel like your things are going to a cause that you feel worthy of donating to 

Start in Small Sections by Limiting Items

So when you start in an area, pick one small section. I really enjoy the kitchen for this because I feel like the kitchen can be a way that you can detach from things if you do need to get rid of them. 

You are truly practicing the different steps of deciding if it’s worth keeping, or if it’s worth letting go of. 

Decide What is Useful and Let Go

So when you open one cabinet or one drawer in your kitchen, I want you to look at each item and decide one, is it truly useful? 

Is this item actually used, or used often enough to matter? And is it not just there because, you know, somebody else convinced you that you needed the 10 in one rice cooker, but you don’t really eat rice ever.

How Many Do You Truly Need

Then I want you to consider how many of these things do you truly need. 

We at one point had three frying pans the exact same size for eggs, so that if one was dirty, we could rotate through them. However, you know how long it takes to rinse off a frying pan in the sink? Literally like two minutes. 

So I have started to limit us down. We have two. I’m working my way to one. But do I really need three? No, I probably don’t. I can get rid of the excess.  

The same thing with dish towels, especially in the kitchen. Dish towels will always sneak up on you. We have decorative ones, ones for different holidays. 

I had decided that decorative dish towels are not truly useful to me, because they’re just there for decoration. Who am I trying to impress? My six year old does not care. 

We only really need four dish towels. And that’s because we usually use one for major spills on the floor when that happens, so I have a secondary clean one hanging up on the dishwasher. 

And then two are usually cycled through in the wash because we just flip flop them out. 

If I only need four dish cloths, that takes up a lot less space than the literal 25 I used to have. 

So consider how many of those things you truly need, again, making sure that you’re collecting from all the spaces that that category might be hiding in your house. 

Limiting Items

Try to set a limit for yourself for that type of item that feels realistic and minimal at the same time. 

So for dish towels, I came to the conclusion that we need four. Could we do less? Probably, but right now it feels more realistic for me to have four than for me to cut all the way down to two that I just keep in rotation. 

If you’re not really sure how to set a number for the item that you’re looking at, then use some sort of container to set the limit. 

This could be the entire drawer that you have just chosen. Once that overflows, you have to trade something out because you decide that that is the container for your dish towels. And if they don’t fit there, they can’t be included, something has to give. 

Maybe it’s an entire cabinet, or it’s just a small section within a drawer. 

If we look at junk drawers, for example, you probably had at one point, a little tiny pencil container in your junk drawer that held all of the pens. And then there were more, and they magically multiplied and had pen children while we were asleep. They are no longer in just that cute little pencil holder. They’re all over the drawer. 

If the container limit is that pencil holder, then you know that you’re going to pick your favorite ones, the best ones, and the rest donate to your classroom or to another person’s classroom. Because we know we can never have too many free pencils or pens for students to use. 

What to Do With “What-If” Items

If you really truly aren’t sure if you need something, but you know you don’t use it all of the time…think of specific holiday cookware that you might have, or even some decorative plates. Items that you’re not sure you truly need, but you know you don’t truly need it out in the kitchen right now. 

Maybe you’re trying to decide if it is actually worth giving up. Or you want to hold on to it to see how you feel. Then we need to decide if we can contain it somewhere else while we decide. 

These are the “what-if” items. You’re going to have a special tub, bin, or container that you either put in a storage space (or in a closet if you don’t have a large storage space), and you’re going to put in your phone right now a reminder six months from now to go back through that bin. 

If you haven’t touched that item in six months, it should give you a lot more clarity on whether or not it’s worth keeping or donating. But because it’s out of sight out of mind, you also won’t go for it unless you truly need it.

I also love this one fun tidbit from The Minimalists. They say if it can be replaced in under 20 minutes for under $20, then it should help clear up that debate of if you should keep it or not. 

If you’re not sure if you would use it, but you could get another one really quickly and rather cheaply (if you absolutely did need it), or you could borrow one from a friend, and you could get one in your possession for those dire moments, then maybe it’s not worth holding on to it right now. Wait and see if that dire moment ever actually shows up again. 

This is actually how I feel about milk frothers. Now, I do love my little $5 milk frother, but once it dies, I’m not going to replace it. I don’t truly need it. I can use a spoon to mix in my drinks. That’s all I use it for. I don’t actually use it for frothing anything. So I’m going to get rid of it. If I desperately decided I needed one, I could replace it on Amazon for $5 or less. 

So as you go through your spaces, you’re going to ask yourself these questions: 

  • Is it truly useful? 
  • How many do you truly need? 
  • What item limit, or container limit, can you set for yourself in the future so that you don’t collect and collect again? 
  • Can you contain the “maybes” somewhere else until you decide if it’s truly valued. 

Value the New Empty Space

Now, when you do this, you’re going to find that you open up a lot more space. 

Sometimes the urge is to refill that space with things. I think that’s a struggle that a lot of people fight when they first declutter, for even the first couple of years probably. 

They think they have all this space, so let me go get more stuff to fill it back in with. 

If you regularly do this practice, you will start to value the empty cabinets and the fact that your closet has a lot more space in it. 

You will start to value the fact at school that you have empty cabinets that you don’t even have to worry about. We’ll talk more about school stuff specifically in a second. But the empty cabinet feeling will grow on you. 

It’s not there initially, and I know it will feel like you want to go out and spend money to fill it back up, but you don’t have to. 

The beauty of it is now if you needed to tidy up for something that’s important happening, and you wanted to impress somebody, yet your house does get into a disaster zone…you have dump-and-go cabinets that you can throw all of your kids’ art supplies into. 

What To Do With All the Paper

Let’s talk about paper for a second because paper is actually a pretty big one. It’s a common question that I think almost anybody gets when it comes to how do I organize or contain all this stuff. 

I am a paper person and don’t like digital very much. I don’t like digital planners, and prefer to have a printed out handout in my hands rather than to scan something digital repeatedly. 

I’m able to draw and write on things to make me feel like I have control of it. So I have papers everywhere. 

The way to go through papers is you’re really going to consider…can it be found online, or a copy retrieved in like a 10 minute search-in-print if you absolutely needed a paper copy again?

So a lot of these medical files are currently housed online. You don’t need to keep those physically at your fingertips. If a medical emergency were to happen, you’d probably only have your phone with you anyway.  

If you have bills, do you really need to keep the paper copies of the bills? Or do you have an online system that has all of those kept there for you as well. 

Kids’ Artwork

Another thing when it comes to kids’ artwork is that you can take a picture of it to save it for later if your kids are the type that are really going to be sad if you get rid of it. 

So you have a picture to say it’s living memory is living on. 

There’s actually companies now that will take the pictures you take of your kids’ artwork, and you can just print those into a photo book for your children if you really wanted to.     

Also with kids artwork, I have loved the artwork collection frames. I’ll put all the artwork in there, but I can thin it out later without them noticing and keep only the things that I truly think are a good representation of them at that age.  

My entire pantry door right now is covered in Pokemon coloring pages. So I understand that kids’ artwork can get out of control. 

But what happens is when they come home with something that I think is really adorable, or I want that memory, I have one of those scrapbook boxes that I keep above my fridge. I just throw it in there, and once that fills up, I’ll put it into the memory bins that we have. 

For right now, that’s like my easy go-to space to put it away because I really want to keep it to remember it, and kids are totally fine with that.     

The thing is, you really only want to keep it if you actually need the paper copy. 

There are so many things that we don’t actually need the paper copy of anymore. Most papers are pretty easily disposed of. 

And if you do actually need a paper copy or you have important documents, then you need to create a file system in a secure location so you have easy access to that whenever you do need it. And it needs to be in one spot only.  

I also highly suggest that you just have a paper collection spot for the days when there’s papers that just get dumped everywhere. You can pile them up, put them in that container, bin, file holder, whatever you have, and go through when you have the chance. But when it fills up, you know that’s your signal to go through the papers and weed out what you truly need and what you don’t need.   

Decluttering the Classroom

So let’s talk a little bit about the classroom specifically. I am a science teacher, and I know that science teachers and art teachers are probably on a different level of hoarding than anybody else. 

We could turn anything into a piece of lab equipment, or make some sort of model out of any sort of empty paper tube holder thing. So we keep all of it.

Right now I have this packing foam from hot plates, that is just sitting on the counter in one of my lab stations. I had students help me unpack it. It’s bright pink, but also forms this cute little crate shape. And I’m like, Oh my gosh, I could do something with that. But I have to stop myself and say, Nope, that is not for now that is not for me

I think it’s so hard to be ruthless in our classrooms. But it’s also the place that we really truly need to limit what can occur with all those items.     

Your classrooms can already be either homey or overwhelming space depending on how much stuff you’d like to have around you. So limiting what you provide, and what you store is amazingly helpful. 

When it comes to the classroom spaces, if you haven’t used it in one school year, you have this great plan for it, you know that this would be so awesome, but you haven’t used it yet…it’s time to get rid of it. 

The honest truth is, by the time that section comes around again, you can either recollect that item, ask for donations from parents or from the community, or from other teachers in their classrooms as well. Or you didn’t really need to do it in the first place.  

We are not going to worry too much about how our classrooms are organized just yet. There is actually going to be a whole special set of classroom specific organization suggestions that I have in a future episode. But I don’t think any of us have the brainpower right now to focus on it. 

Instead, I just want you to focus on leaning out and letting go of the things that you know would be nice to have, but you don’t truly need. 

Talking about all those bins of extra dried out Expo markers you have. We all keep a couple of dead ones around without throwing them away, because we have hopes that they just come back randomly. They’re not going to so you can trash them now. 

Letting Go to Things on Your Calendar and Phone

This also is going to be something that we’ve talked about before with your calendars. 

Let go of the things that don’t really matter. That isn’t really useful for you. It doesn’t provide you with some sort of outcome that is going to help you in the future. 

If it’s on the calendar because it feels like an obligation, but it doesn’t feel like an obligation that’s beneficial, then maybe you bow out gently.

How about your phone? Let’s go ahead and let go of some of those apps we haven’t used in a really long time. Let’s just do it. 

I also want to tell you to download the Slidebox app, it’s free. It’s like Tinder for photos. So clear out some of your extras, photos and your phone. You can feel a whole lot better after you get through all of that. 

So while this week feels like a big one…truly letting go, limiting, getting ready for all of those community wide yard sales, donating to a noble cause…I just want you to feel the freedom that comes from letting go of what isn’t actually useful to you. 

I think that as you start this week, and tackle it for the weeks to come, like I said, I don’t think that this is a one week type of thing. 

Letting go is going to become easier and easier. You’re going to see the benefits as you kind of move through a simpler lifestyle, which is what the goal is. 

So I hope that you enjoyed this episode of our Spring CLEANing, and we can just let it go. But also set some new limits so that things don’t crowd back into your house. Make sure it’s useful. 

How many do you actually need? What is your new limit? And let’s get it out. Until next time.             


Related Episodes:

49: Spring Cleaning Series, Part 1 – Clear, Classify, and Categorize

50: Extra Credit Strategies for Spring Cleaning Your Counters


5 Steps to Simplify Your To Do List

Focus Blocks

Productivity Planner

Unit Planning Kit

How to Find Me


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Keywords: classroom, space, paper, artwork, donating, stockpiles, container, bin, decluttering