How to declutter on a low income when you don’t want to get rid of your things.
Have you ever wondered how you’re supposed to declutter when you can’t afford to go out and buy new stuff? Why would you get rid of something that is perfectly usable just because it doesn’t bring you joy, when you can’t afford to buy the things that DO bring you joy?
(THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. YOU CAN READ OUR DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.)
If you’re curious:
Almost every decluttering post, article, and book you’ll read will tell you how to declutter your things in a way that sounds so simple it’d be crazy not to do it. But they all have one thing in common –
Most decluttering posts, books, and articles are all written from a place of excess stuff.
The reason why it’s so easy for these people to get rid of their stuff is because they have more than what they need, and they have the funds to go out and buy whatever they may need if they don’t already have it.
Related: 7 Decluttering Tips for Hoarders
But no one is writing about how to declutter when you’re starting from a place with less stuff. No one is talking about how to declutter on a low income when you don’t even have the money to go out and buy the things you NEED, nevermind things you want.
Decluttering on a low income means learning how to make do what you have when you don’t have the money to buy what you need.
Here’s the deal:
Decluttering on a low income is possible, and in this post we’re going to go over the exact steps you can take to learn how to declutter on a low income – because it IS different.
Why decluttering on a low income is different
Decluttering on a low income is different than decluttering when you have money to buy the things you need because when you have a low income you naturally want to hold on to everything and anything you get your hands on, just in case you’ll need it one day.
It’s a lot easier for someone to get rid of things when they know they have the money to go buy it back if they were to ever need it again in the future than it is for someone who doesn’t even have the money to pay all their bills for the month.
But, just because it’s harder doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
Living on a low income often means that you are doing your best to live as frugally as possible, and sometimes decluttering can feel like the very opposite of frugal living.
And sometimes it is.
If you declutter everything in your house – every duplicate, every single item that doesn’t bring you joy – you’re likely going to wind up needing it someday but not having the money to buy it again.
But, if you do decluttering a bit differently (which we’re going to talk about below), you CAN declutter and live frugally.
How I declutter on a low income
A couple years back when I finally decided it was time to do something about all the clutter in our house, my husband and I were living on one low income and I really struggled to get rid of anything at all.
I felt like everything we had in our house was an asset.
Even the 3 coffee makers… they were all assets. I kept them around just in case one broke. And in case the next one broke.
There was a part of me that knew we needed to get rid of the clutter in our house – even though I didn’t see it as clutter. But, I struggled so much with the idea of getting rid of stuff, just in case we ended up needing it one day – because we certainly couldn’t afford to just go out and buy it again.
We had two options:
Either we could continue to keep everything we had in our house because we couldn’t afford to go out and buy new stuff.
Or, we could get rid of the clutter we were holding on to and learn how to make do without this stuff and, in turn, live happier and less stressed by emptying our house of all the unnecessary stuff.
It was a long process, but eventually we started to learn how to get rid of the clutter in our house, and then we started learning how to stop the clutter before it even had a chance to enter our house.
Living a clutter free life on a low income IS possible.
Here’s the thing:
Decluttering on a low income teaches you how to make do with what you have until you can afford to buy what you need.
And most of the time, when you finally have enough money to afford the things that you need, at that point you realize that the things you thought you needed weren’t really necessities at all, and you can continue to live without them.
7 ways to declutter on a low income
1. Separate the necessities from the luxuries
I realize that when you’re living on a low income everything you own can start to feel like a necessity.
When you don’t have enough money to pay the bills every month, it can feel like you NEED everything you own – and you’d be foolish to get rid of any of it.
When I decided to start decluttering I walked through our house with a couple of these bags in hand. Then I went through it again. And again.
I had all my decluttering tools, but I was getting nothing done.
I had heard that you should walk through your house with a couple bags or bins, and go through each item and put them into the appropriate bins or bags (donate, keep, and sell).
I went through each room, but everything we owned felt like a necessity.
I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. I was scared that as soon as I got rid of something, we would end up needing it the very next day.
I wasn’t ready to get rid of anything in our house, because everything felt like it was something we needed – even the things we hadn’t used in months.
The first step to getting started decluttering on a low income is to separate the things you NEED from the things you WANT.
It might not feel like you have any luxuries right now. It might feel like everything you own is a need. But really think about each item you own. Is it something you truly need and use on a regular basis, or is it something you keep around for convenience?
Does it make your daily life easier, or is it just taking up space?
Do this to get started decluttering your house, then move on to step 2.
2. Stop comparing yourself
I once heard a spectacular quote, and it has been one of the biggest things that has helped me not only declutter but also live contently on a low income.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
It’s true. When you compare yourself, your life, or your home to someone else’s, you’ll always wind up feeling unsatisfied.
Every single person has something different going on in their life than the next person, and comparing yourself to someone else is never a good idea – you will only end up feeling dissatisfied, unencouraged, and like a failure.
Instead, focus on where you are RIGHT NOW.
When it comes to decluttering, it can be tempting to look at someone else’s house or decluttering habits and think they have it all together. It’s tempting to put yourself down because you need more time to declutter, or your house doesn’t look as perfect as theirs.
Quit comparing and start DOING.
Stop wasting your time comparing yourself, your house, to other people’s and start doing something about your situation to keep yourself moving forward.
Go spend some time decluttering your house rather than wasting time scrolling through photos on social media and comparing your life to someone else’s.
3. Keep some duplicates
I’m sure you’ve heard many people tell you to “get rid of ALL duplicates” (in fact – I’ve mentioned this in my other decluttering posts), but when you’re decluttering on a low income, keeping some duplicates is a good idea.
The key is to keep duplicates in moderation. Don’t keep everything, just the things you may need.
For example, you probably don’t need 30 hand towels, but you might need a few extra mugs.
Maybe you only use 5 hand towels in a rotation before washing them and starting again. If that’s the case, you could get rid of 20 hand towels, keep the 5 you use most, and keep 5 extra for when the ones you use wear out.
It might be a good idea to keep some extra mugs on hand since they can easily break. But, if you have a LOT of extra mugs, chances are you don’t need them all.
So, keep duplicates of things that make sense, and only in moderation.
For bigger things such as baking dishes and coffee makers, it might be a good idea to keep a duplicate of them in case they break in the near future and you don’t have the money to replace them.
If you have good thrift stores with affordable stuff around where you live you could get rid of most of your duplicates knowing you can replace them for very cheap if they do break. This way you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to store them in your house.
4. Learn how to make do with what you have
The thought of decluttering and getting rid of things is terrifying when you know you don’t have the money to go out and buy new stuff if you ever end up needing what you just got rid of.
But it doesn’t have to be such a terrifying thought. You can learn how to make do with what you have until you have the money to buy what you need.
If your kettle breaks, you don’t have to run to the store and buy a new one. You can start boiling water on the stove in a pot. It may take a bit more time, but it works just as well.
If your magic bullet or blender stop working but you have a hand blender, you could still get the job done without going to the store and buying new appliances.
Most things in life are luxuries disguised as necessities.
If you get creative with what you have you almost never have to go out to buy and replace whatever broke or needs replacing.
5. Take your time
It’s okay if decluttering your house takes you weeks to complete. Decluttering isn’t a race. It’s something that you can – and should – take your time with.
While someone might promise you that you can declutter your entire house in a weekend, they don’t know your house.
They don’t know what you have.
YOU know your house. You know the stuff you have. And you know that it very likely will take you longer than one weekend to declutter your entire house.
When you’re decluttering you might also end up discovering that you have a lot more stuff than you realized you had – which could “set you back” a couple days in the whole decluttering process.
Instead of focusing on getting your decluttering done fast, you should focus on getting it done right.
Focus on doing a thorough decluttering of your house so you don’t realize after you’re done that you were so focused on doing it fast that you missed half of the stuff.
Because then you have to go back and start again.
But, don’t take so long that you end up fading off the decluttering bandwagon before you have a chance to finish. It is a good idea to set a date that you would like to be finished decluttering by, but don’t feel pressured to set a date that someone else is telling you to.
If you think it will take you a week to declutter your house, set a date for a week from today (yes – you should start TODAY. No more putting it off). If you think it will take you two months to declutter your house, set a date for two months from now.
Work as hard as you can until you have completely finished decluttering your house. (If it takes you longer to declutter your house than the finish date you set, keep working at it and don’t stop until you’re completely done.)
You’ve got this!
6. Use the hanger method to declutter your clothes
Getting rid of clothes when you don’t have money to buy new ones is terrifying.
I used to hate parting with my clothes until I realized that I was barely even wearing a quarter of them, and the rest truly were just taking up space in our home. (And making it harder for me to decide what to wear every day.)
Instead of looking at your closet and guessing which clothes you don’t wear often and getting rid of those ones (because I’ll bet you really don’t wear as many as you think you do), take the whole guessing game out of it.
Hang all your clothes up on hangers, then turn ALL the hangers around so they are backwards in your closet. You’re going to need a lot of hangers for this decluttering challenge and you can get bulk hangers for cheap here.
Each time that you wear a certain article of clothing, turn that hanger around so it is facing the right way, and leave it there.
After a year (or a season, if you have different clothes for each season), any clothes on hangers that are still facing backward can go.
You know that you haven’t worn those clothes in an entire year, so they really don’t need to be taking up space in your closet anymore.
7. Organize everything that’s left
The fact of the matter is, no matter how much stuff you get rid of, you’re going to need to keep some stuff behind.
And, you’re going to need to organize the stuff that you do keep.
No matter how much stuff you get rid of and how little stuff you keep in your house, you’re still going to have to organize the stuff you keep and create a place in your home for it.
The bonus is that organization doesn’t have to be expensive. Many people want their homes to look Pinterest-worthy and just like the home out of that Home & Design magazine, and when you organize like that, it WILL be expensive.
But, if you’re decluttering on a budget, chances are you are organizing on a budget, too.
You can organize for cheap by using a couple of small baskets like these in various rooms of your house to keep items together in a neat and tidy way. I also like to keep a miscellaneous basket in the common areas of our house (the entryway and living room). These baskets collect items that don’t belong in that room, then at the end of the day I can walk around the house with the basket and put everything away where it does belong. These are what I recommend using.
The benefits of decluttering on a low income
- It creates a peaceful home. When was the last time you were able to sit on the sofa at the end of the day and just relax? Not look around at the disaster in your house and feel stressed? When you declutter your house you will be creating a much more peaceful and relaxing environment for you and your family to enjoy.
- Reduces your cleaning time. When you declutter your house you will be slashing the amount of time it takes to clean your house significantly. You no longer have to clean around, under, and behind a large variety of objects.
- Saves money. The less clutter you have in your house, the less tempted you will be to buy things that are just going to end up becoming clutter. The more clutter you have, the more clutter you’ll let into your house.
- Increased productivity. When you declutter your house you will be a LOT more productive throughout your days. A cluttered space makes it harder to focus on the task you’re trying to complete, and your mind will tend to wander off. Working in a clean, clutter-free space will help you get more thing done throughout your day.
It can be stressful to declutter on a low income, but remember all the benefits and the amazing feeling of satisfaction you’ll get when you have decluttered your house – and use that to keep you moving forward.
You can do this!
What are your favorite tips for decluttering on a low income? I’d love to hear from you!