Learning To Live Simply: An Ex-Hoarder’s Progress Report

Hello, I'm Daisy, a recovering hoarder who's finally decided to tackle her stuff in a big way.

And since bringing you all along for the ride helped keep me accountable, I started No Mess Mondays every last Monday of the month: a real honest "No, I do not tidy before I snap these photos." walkthrough as I go from hoarding to minimal living in my home.

It's been ugly. It's been funny. And ultimately, it's been all-around awesome.


I first (literally) came out of the closet as a hoarder two years ago.

Since then, I’ve decluttered in stops and starts, made more piles and got rid of others, and slowly started enjoying staying in a clutter-free home.

And I’ve learned a few things I thought you’d find useful.

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Decluttering to live simply never stops but it gets so much easier.

When I started, I looked forward to the day all this paring down of stuff would be over with.

There would still be the dusting and wiping down, of course, but no more going back and forth over letting go of things.

Two years and counting, I’ve learned this is so to a point.

I’ve cleaned out my closet twice: once in 2016 and a second time this year.

I’ve also gone through my shoe collection and dressing table twice. (I talk a bit about that dressing table below, by the way.)

Part of it was dropping the ball on simple living for a time and letting things I didn’t need accumulate again.

But even if I hadn’t made that mistake, I’ve realized learning to live simply will always be a work in progress.

Our needs change as we grow as people. Maybe we’ve stopped cooking complicated meals and need to get rid of extra pots and pans. Or maybe we’ve started a hobby and need a few tools that go along with it.

When our needs change in the different seasons of our lives, it might also be time to evaluate the things we’re holding on to once more.

This idea of no real end point shouldn’t discourage us from adopting simple living though.

Because as we go along, I’ve found the process gets easier.

We notice when something we own doesn’t serve us quicker because we’re more honest with ourselves. This leads to small bursts of decluttering instead of one big draining episode like the first time we went through our stuff.

It’s way more manageable and becomes a part of living a simple life.

Takeaway: Start small with just one section of your home where the clutter’s been bothering you. It could be where you stack your mail, one drawer in the kitchen, and so on. Just do a little bit every day and you’ll be well on your way.

Simple living helps us learn who we really are.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Psychology has found that we relate what we own closely to who we are. In other words, we don’t think “this is mine” when we look at our stuff --- we’re probably thinking “this is me”.

This is why it’s such a struggle to get rid of things we’ve held on to for a while.

We’re not actually getting rid of things; we feel like we’re getting rid of who we thought we were when we received those things. This isn’t actually true: letting go of something doesn’t take away anything from who we are as people.

In fact, it’s the opposite: letting go often means we’re more clear about who we are.

We don’t need to have things to prove our identities anymore, whether it’s a pile of dusty paint canvases to show how creative we are or a trophy collection we’ve stopped looking at to show how successful we’ve become.

Knowing who we are without our stuff helps us get comfy in our own skin. It gives us confidence as we go throughout our day: We learn to make decisions based on what we really want and let go of commitments that don’t align with our priorities.

I’ve experienced that for myself, and so have other people who’ve begun living simply.

Takeaway: One way to help make decluttering easier is to ask yourself “What does this thing say about me? Why am I holding on it?” Be honest about your answers: you’ll learn more about yourself aside from getting clutter out the door.

Simple living for what?

When simple living is done just for simple living’s sake, it loses its meaning.

We end up caught in the details: counting exactly how many things we have and comparing that number to others’, being overly obsessed with how everything has to look just so, and generally stressing over the small stuff.

This is when we have to ask ourselves: Why do we want to live simply in the first place?

It’s a hard change to make, after all. It involves shame to face things we’ve bought but never used and ways we’ve spent our time that don’t help us in the long run.

Living simply frees up time and mind space that would go towards maintaining our things and obligations we don’t care about, but what is that extra for?

In my case, I noticed living simply helped me change my life. It gave me more confidence in myself (more on this in the next lesson I learned). It gave me less “I don’t know what to wear” moments in the mornings. It helped me sleep better as being in an uncluttered room is a lot more relaxing. It’s helped me focus on the things I want to do.

How about you?

Takeaway: Why do you want to live simply? Is it to spend more time with family? To volunteer at a cause you care about? To become debt-free and financially responsible?

When we can answer the question, simple living becomes less about stuff and more about living meaningfully with less.

So, tackling my hoarding tendencies continues this month.

I decided to go through my dressing table again as my beauty routine has changed in the year and a half since the last purge.

From left to right: here’s how the table used to look when I was still hoarding, how it changed when I first decluttered in 2016, and how it looks today.

Since I have a lot less things on my dressing table, I’ve been able to add stuff that makes me smile when I’m in front of it each morning.

First, meet Marcus. He wears my necklaces when I’m not wearing them.

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Beside him are some opera glasses I just had in a drawer in my hoarding days and my hair dryer. Behind him are my lipsticks and makeup brushes.

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BB-8 --- Star Wars reference --- sits with my perfumes while a fish is beside some everyday essentials (sunblock and dry shampoo, among others).

I’ve pared down my jewelry so they now all fit in this drawer.

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The makeup I use everyday has also been simplified (below right). You can actually see the bottom of the drawer now (as opposed to my last purge to the left, which was still a little cluttered).

I’ve gotten rid of almost all my hair stuff and made room for my sunglasses instead. Below that are some combs I use everyday and my eye makeup.

One drawer that’s really seen some change is the extra bottles I used to hoard (before on the left, now on the right. I’d decided last time to use them up slowly and stop buying multiples of products that were easy to find when I needed them.

Like my dressing table shows, simple living is often about being a work in progress.

But even with how challenging making changes has been, my everyday life has become less complicated now that I have less stuff.

And I’m excited to see how else I can reorder my life for the better as I continue letting go of things I no longer need.


Want to get an inside look as I go from hoarder to minimalist?

In my experience, seeing how other people do it encourages me in my own journey.

If it’s the same for you, you’ll enjoy the emails I send every other week (read: when a new post goes up) with extra stories and tips I don’t share on the blog, freebies to help you live simply, and links to good stuff I’ve found around the internet that I believe you’ll enjoy.

Just click the button below to connect.