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Book Review/Summary and 10 mindset shifts to consider: “Decluttering at the Speed of Life”

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You have to wonder – if you’re feeling overwhelmed and are in the middle of considering decluttering your entire living space, should you pause to take the time to read an entire book on decluttering?

The book “Decluttering at the Speed of Life” by Dana K. White could be worth the read and the time you’ll be taking away from actually decluttering if you feel you keep accumulating possessions and need a different way of thinking about decluttering and organization.

“Decluttering at the Speed of Life” delves into mindset changes that could help with maintaining a clutter-free and organized living space at all times. It provides a step by step approach for stopping the cycle of sporadic spurts of decluttering followed by a slow progression into the re-accumulation of clutter.

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The book delves into the author’s own battle with the repeated accumulation of clutter as well as the strategies that she came up with to change her mindset on how to declutter and stay organized.

At the beginning of the book, a sentence that stood out to me was – “The more I focused on the future instead of the present, the more I justified collecting things I might need one day.”

Dana talks about how she made the decision to live in the now and what this meant for her home – “This doesn’t mean forgetting the future exists. Living now means giving now preferential treatment over the future or even the past. Living now means I need a dining table that is consistently (or at least easily) clear of stuff. Living now means the only things in drawers and closets are clothes that fit.”

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I liked this shift toward keeping all the spaces you inhabit usable in the present rather putting off cleaning and organizing for a future date or even holding on to an abundance of things for a possible future event.

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Throughout the book, Dana discusses how a mindset shift can provide greater clarity and more momentum if you’re trying to simplify and organize your home with systems that stick. Here are some of her other recommended mindset shifts and strategies that stood out for me:

  1. Use the Container Concept
    • Have defined spaces or containers that act as boundaries. Once the container is full of your favorite, “usable now” and “worthy of the container” things in a particular category, you can have no more of that item. This is a way of creating physical limits (or a clutter threshold) for your things so you can enjoy your space and function with ease.
  2. Value Space over Stuff
    • So many people collect what the author calls “comfort clutter”. Instead of thinking of “stuff” as valuable, if you shift to thinking of space as valuable (as something that bringing ease to how you function in life), you will be less likely to accumulate more things. In her words – “I started valuing a lack of stuff.”
  3. Make Progress with the Visibility Rule
    • The author recommends starting with the most visible spaces first so you’re inspired to keep going and have something to show for the time you spent. She recommends standing at the door of a room, seeing what guests would see and starting there so you’re using your energy on a space that you’ll see every single day.
  4. Make Decisions and Move Past Emotional Blockades
    • Chapter 6 of the book discusses the layers of a clean house. These include the decluttering tasks that need to be done daily to prevent accumulation, dealing with the angst of the resistance we feel when it comes to tasks we don’t want to do and finally the deeper cleaning that truly makes your home clean. If we make the decision to start with repeatedly reducing or removing the clutter – initial overwhelm can decrease quickly.
  5. Speedy Decluttering with a Donate Box – Reduce the Complexity
    • This may be counter to what so many of us do. The author recommends deciding to consolidate and donate instead of selling extra items on eBay or finding specific organizations or people who would benefit from the donation. This makes sense if you want to see quicker, visible progress and don’t want to deal with different donate piles that may sit in a corner for long periods of time.
  6. Only Add Carefully Chosen, Just Right Pieces
    • This mindset shift is for those of us who tend to buy things on sale or hold on to pieces that are sentimental hand me downs but not quite functional or useful in our living spaces. Once you decide to live without the things you might use but actually don’t, you can free up physical space as well as mind space. The author recommends saying no to “maybes” so you can have a home free of clutter where everyday living is easy and enjoyable and where the things you love have the room to breathe.
  7. Make Measurable Progress in 5 Minutes
    • This particular strategy and way of decluttering differs from those of other organization experts who recommend going all in and getting things done in huge chunks. Instead, Dana recommends using small chunks of time to put things in a trash bag, donate box or in a place where we’d look for that item first if we needed it.
  8. Aim for Less and Better rather than Perfect
    • There is no such thing as decluttering perfectly so rather than falling into the perfectionism trap, the author recommends aiming for better and giving yourself permission to just declutter rather than continue to try to create a perfect space.
  9. Know the Purpose for that Space
    • Get clear about what you want the purpose of a particular area in your home to be. This gives you a clear vision for exactly what you want the end result to look like. Dana suggests only keeping things in that space that contribute to achieving that purpose. If your aim is to use a desk for work, only keep what you will use specifically for work on that desk.
  10. Eliminate Emotions from the Decluttering Process
    • Let the container for the space provide the physical limits, the purpose for the space provide the vision and end goal and the feeling of being overwhelmed with a space provide the compass for how much you need to declutter. The author recommends taking the emotions out of it so you can free yourself up and simplify the process.

The author also gives detailed, clear examples of how to apply these mindset shifts to go through the steps of decluttering in each of the rooms and living areas in your home.

She walks the reader through looking at each surface in each room in your home and asking specific questions with the goal of getting to “less” and “better”. This can help with quickly resolving the challenges of both the easy and difficult clutter in each disorganized space.

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If you’ve sometimes felt stressed out at the prospect of organizing a space, I’d recommend giving this book a try to see if any of the author’s strategies resonate. I think that each of us might find different parts of the book to be uniquely relatable to our own particular organizational struggles.


15 thoughts on “Book Review/Summary and 10 mindset shifts to consider: “Decluttering at the Speed of Life”

    1. I find that different parts of different strategies appeal to me depending on what I need to accomplish – this one is a good one for getting a different perspective from Marie Kondo’s :)..thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I think she brings a new perspective to decluttering – very different from Marie Kondo. It’s funny how something as simple as decluttering can have so many psychological roadblocks. Agree, space over stuff makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I read so many decluttering books before I did my 52-week challenge. Some were too extreme and not at all practical (Marie Kondo). Others were interesting but I didn’t really learn anything I could use. I found this book to be one of the better ones, with practical tips that anyone can use.

    Liked by 1 person

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