From hoarder to minimalist | Ten tips from my personal journey

I embraced minimalism a few years ago, when I had to move, and we had to get rid of stuff one way or another.

However, I always recall being willing to organize and tidy up. I was not a minimalist at all; in fact, I was a moderate hoarder.

And in my case, there was a bit of mixed reasoning behind it; some of my clutter was sentimental (like toys when I was a child); the other was clutter for its sake (like CDs or books).

See, even though I was organizing and cleaning, it was a never-ending chore because there was just so much to do. The idea of minimalism was not even a popular thing back then.

For me going from a hoarder to a minimalist path was a long process, and it wasn't at all a straight point A to B kind of situation.

I took different routes to get to where I am now, and my journey is not complete, as I don't consider myself a full minimalist.

how to turn a hoarder into a minimalist

Before minimalism, I was always curious about organizing and making the most of every space I had available; I would not be happy unless all my CDs were alphabetically displayed, or I would enjoy opening the pantry and categorizing everything.

My first exposure to minimalism was through Marie Kondo (yes, I know she is not a minimalist), but she helped me see the light and have that a-ha! a moment in my head.

I remember reading about her online and then finding her clothing folding method. That alone got me hooked. I can't believe all these years I used to pile the clothes when the vertical arrangement is way more logical and efficient.

After re-arranging my entire closet, I wanted to do more, but the information online was through people who read her book, I wanted to see what it was all about first hand.

So I bought her best-seller "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing", purchasing this book was a recurrent thought in my mind, but for some reason, I would stop myself from purchasing it.

I remember going to the mall with a friend one day and entering the bookstore because there was a banner with Marie Kondo's book.

I took a look at it, and bought it; it was an impulse buy, my friend laughed at me, and told me, "why do you need a book to organize? Everyone can do it" Ironically enough, this friend is one of the messiest people I have ever met.

After reading the book, I was inspired and started decluttering all that I could, my room first, and eventually, some parts of my home.

A decluttered space with the things I loved lead me naturally to minimalism, and soon enough, I was binge-watching a bunch of minimalist YouTubers.

So before I share some of my tips from my own experience, let me clarify this; I don't consider myself a full minimalist (as I still have plenty of non-essentials that I love), but I'm much more cautious about what I spend my money and time in.

What is a hoarder?

I feel hoarding comes naturally to most humans. I don't know if it is instinct or what, but it seems plausible.

Some hoard because they fear needing specific items in the future (that most likely never happens), or they are sentimental objects that they can't seem to let go.

It feels as if most of us have a certain level of hoarding, but when things start to control your life, hoarding becomes an issue; if you spend your days worrying about your belongings, they are consuming your time.

Because things are meant to be used, they are not an extension of who we are as human beings, that doesn't mean we have to be neglectful but instead mindful.

Is it possible to make the switch?

The good news for most people making the switch is possible, as long as there are no rooted issues that cause the hoarding.

I was a moderate hoarder, and now I only own less than half the stuff I used to have.

If I did it, so can you.

What if I live with my family?

It is what happened to me when I started decluttering; one thing is sure we can't force others to do what we want them to do. Instead, we will create a rebellion and opposition to our ideas.

The best tip is to lead with the example; in most cases, people start following the herd, and if more family members get involved, eventually, the entire house will get into that mindset.

If you encounter resistance, be patient, talk to the person, and see the reaction, if they don't want a change, respect their decision. Still, it should be clear that their clutter should be limited to their own space; it is not fair if their clutter starts taking common areas like the kitchen or living room.

How to declutter to begin a minimalist journey?

Thank you for sticking me this far, now let me share some of the things I did right and wrong while decluttering, so you don't make the same mistakes.

In the end, this process is unique to you, and what I will share is by no means, a must-do list, take what resonates with you, and enjoy the beginning of your journey.

1) Change your mindset

It won't be possible to become a minimalist fully if you don't feel it in your heart, before Marie Kondo, I would have never decluttered because it was not something I would even consider.

If you are reading this article, you will most likely have changed your approach to material things and want to see a real-life change.

Or you might be worried about someone else and their excessive clutter; in that case, you will have to help them see if they can make a mindset switch; if they don't and feel forced to declutter, their clutter will always come back.

Decluttering is cool and mood-lifting, but what comes after that is crucial, because not everyone can maintain their homes decluttered because they never really did change their mindset.

2) Start easy

I know Marie Kondo goes from one category to the next, but it was so difficult for me to do for some reason.

So, I took my approach. I started decluttering magazines and no-longer useful papers, coupons, cards, and expired products.

When you see some progress, it feels like an achievement, and it will be easier to want to tackle more complicated tasks.

Some significant areas of your home to start to include the bathroom and kitchen, as they are filled with mostly non-sentimental items, besides you can quickly check for expiration dates for a flash declutter.

3) Declutter by categories

Marie's method is the best one; if you live with more people, focus only on your belongings.

I have to be honest, as I did not follow her advice to the T, so here is what I can say about my process and the things I did wrong.

Even though I knew I should focus on one thing only, I would start paying attention to a different category, be careful of this, I ended up with a bedroom looking like a war-zone with piles of stuff everywhere, and it can become very overwhelming.

Instead, take one step at a time; you won't be able to declutter all in one day, which is entirely reasonable.

4) Have a plan for all the clutter

When I decluttered, I made sure to create three areas, things to donate/gift, recycle, and trash.

If you declutter but leave the piles lying around, it will still be clutter in your home, and you might be tempted to go back and pull out stuff.

You shouldn't stop once you decluttered, the process is not finished until all that clutter has left your home for good!

5) Beware of the abominable just in case

We fear change and the idea of losing something we might need in the future is scary, this is where the dreaded just in case and what-ifs start to pop up.

But this X item could be used just in case, or what if we run off this X thing? Will be common thoughts or comments.

Inside a hoarder mind, this will be a common thought, so you have to be honest and say that it is not needed or already have one item, so duplicates are not necessary.

The only things I would not discard right away, are expensive items that have not been used as much or passed down from a loved one.

It is better to leave those things stored, and give it some time to meditate if they are worth keeping.

6) But it was expensive

Another common excuse is not decluttering something because it was expensive.

If you purchased something you don't like or use, then the waste of money was at that moment, not when you declutter it, you are better off learning about what not to buy anymore and saying goodbye to that reminder of your wrong decision.

Think about it, if you bought it but never got to use it, storing it in your garage doesn't make it less of a waste of money.

I spent a lot of money on original DVDs and eventually sold them for next to nothing, they were expensive as a whole, but they serve no purpose anymore.

7) Don't burn yourself too early

Decluttering is a long process, erase the idea of getting it all done in one day unless your clutter is minimal.

The worst thing you can do to sabotage yourself is trying to do a lot in one go, it is not realistic, and you will be overwhelmed by all the dishes on the dining table, clothes on the bed, and counters full of food, cookware, and utensils.

Be smart, and go either room by room or by categories, your stress levels won't shoot through the roof this way.

8) Don't throw things that do not belong to you

I was tempted to do this when I started decluttering because it is much easier to get rid of things that do not belong to you; there is no attachment.

But that is one of the worst things you can do to damage your loved ones' trust.

There are two solutions to this dilemma: labeling different baskets with the name of each family member and collecting their clutter in it, place the basket inside the person's bedroom and ask them to please sort the clutter.

As I mentioned before, if they want to hoard, they are free to do so, but within their personal space.

Sometimes people need a little push to start decluttering, if the person is willing to make a change, start guiding and helping, this will encourage the hoarder to keep decluttering.

9) Don't expect sudden changes

I briefly mentioned this earlier, but it is critical not to set yourself up for failure, be realistic about your home, and how many possessions are there.

Some hoarders have collected stuff for years or even decades, so the process might take longer than expected, remember that nobody is born a hoarder, it is a learned process.

So we have to re-learn our approach to things, as long as the process is not halted, there is no need to stress about it.

10) Don't be hard on yourself

Seeing decluttering as a task or punishment will make things harder than what they need to be.

If you have been a hoarder for a long time, it will not be easy to declutter everything as quickly as we would like because our brain is programmed a certain way, and we have to re-educate it.

If you or anyone in your family reaches a decluttering milestone, have a reward, like going to the movies or eating out, just be wary and don't reward yourself by buying more stuff!


If you have any questions please write it down below and I'll answer it as soon as I can.

Here are some other Minimalist Lifestyle posts you might find interesting.

A Minimalist is not a Cheapskate

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10 Ways to Have Fun without spending Money

10 Ways to Save Money

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from hoarder to minimalist ten tips from my journey