Secret to decluttering success? Adjust to the life you're living now

Secret to decluttering success? Adjust to the life you're living now

Eve Kelliher consults US decluttering guru Dana K. White who has advice on where to start if you’re aiming for interiors minimalism this year

There's nothing like an expired use-by date to propel that pot of promise into the bin. Even if you paid a small ransom for it (back in 2018) and it’s the most expensive goo you own. New year and new interiors resolutions and mine is to zap clutter for good. And to maximise chances of success, I decided to start with the “low-hanging fruit” of cosmetics — in essence, those “boudoir to bathroom” items.

Fruit and fruity being the keywords here, as just one whiff of gone-off perfume will expedite the process.

The result? It’s given me a whole new appreciation of the few hardworking heroes that did make the cut. They’ve sure earned their spot on the dressing table and bathroom shelf.

Secret to decluttering success? Adjust to the life you're living now

Because while we are all mesmerised by minimalism as a concept and toy with the idea of scaling our world down to tiny-house dimensions, in reality some of us simply find it hard to purge and start from nothing.

Add in paralysing emotional attachments and constant life challenges, and it can feel almost impossible to make real progress, according to Dana K White, who is a self-confessed former clutter queen.

To make matters worse, decluttering and accepting minimalism challenges have also awakened competitive spirits on social media channels like Instagram as people (people I envy from the bottom of my non-minimalist soul) share (show off) their carefully curated bathrooms, wardrobes and homes. I’m just waiting for it to be named an Olympic sport.

But back to Dana K.White: Dana has long been a go-to guru for her online followers who, like me, relish her no-nonsense and brutally honest approach — and it helps that her unique selling point is her own clutterbug history — so I just had to get an insight from her on the entire process.

“I’m a decluttering expert because I have decluttered. I have purged my home of literal truckloads of junk,” she says. “I have opened random doors and slammed them shut, feeling completely and totally overwhelmed, and then opened them again and worked my way through the clutter inside.

I’ve dealt with my own stuff. My own sentimental attachments. My own excessive need to be prepared for any and every scenario that could possibly happen between now and the day my great-great-grandchildren die.

Dana shares her advice and progress on her website A Slob Comes Clean: Reality-Based Cleaning and Organising ( and in her practical and entertaining book, Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff.

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A post shared by Dana K White (@aslobcomesclean) on


As I cull my herds of moisturisers and hair products, Dana’s words ring in my ears: “I’ve collected the supplies I need to live my ideal life and then pried those supplies from my own tight grip as I adjusted to the reality of the life I’m actually living.”


Dana’s eureka moment arrived when she viewed her house as a container — try it, it’s so liberating to take a gimlet-eyed view of your possessions and ensure that only items that fit into “the container” get to stay. “Accept the limitations of the space you have, and declutter enough that your stuff fits comfortably in that space,” according to Dana.


Sounds simple but where and how to begin? “Start working in the most visible area of your home — the space someone would see if they came into your home. I call this the Visibility Rule,” advises Dana.

“There is nothing more discouraging than decluttering all day and then having nothing to show for it and still wanting to pretend you aren’t home when someone comes to the door.

“Also, you’ll see this improved visible space and it will inspire you to keep decluttering. Visible progress creates decluttering energy and will help you keep going in your quest to improve your home.”


And my idea of targeting low-hanging fruit wasn’t too far off the mark, it turns out. “Begin with the easy stuff. Remove and put away anything that doesn’t require any decision-making,” Dana tells me.

“The easiest of the easy stuff is trash, so that’s the very first thing to do. When you look for trash (or recyclables) first, you allow yourself to get started, curing your ‘decluttering paralysis’, and you begin to reduce the overall volume of the clutter, which reduces the feeling of overwhelm,” says Dana.

Credit where it’s due, while I said goodbye to a slew of slimy bottles and jars, I’m giving a round of applause to my must-haves (see the panel on the right) that made the cut this year.

See or Dana K.

White’s book Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

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