Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff

by Dana K. White


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You don’t have to live overwhelmed by stuff—you can get rid of clutter for good!

While the world seems to be in love with the idea of tiny houses and minimalism, real women with real families who are constantly growing and changing simply can’t purge it all and start from nothing. Yet a home with too much stuff is a home that is difficult to maintain, so where do we begin? Add in paralyzing emotional attachments and constant life challenges, and it can feel almost impossible to make real decluttering progress.

In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, decluttering expert and author Dana White identifies the mind-sets and emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter. Then, in her signature humorous approach, she provides workable solutions to break through these struggles and get clutter out—for good!

But more than simply offering strategies, Dana dives deep into how to implement them, no matter the reader’s clutter level or emotional resistance to decluttering. She helps identify procrasticlutter—the stuff that will get done eventually so it doesn’t seem urgent—as well as how to make progress when there’s no time to declutter.

Sections of the book include

  • Why You Need This Book (You Know Why)
  • Your Unique Home
  • Decluttering in the Midst of Real Life
  • Change Your Mind, Change Your Home
  • Breaking Through Your Decluttering Delusions
  • Working It Out Room by Room
  • Helping Others Declutter
  • Real Life Goes On (and On)

As long as we’re living and breathing, new clutter will appear. The good news is that decluttering can get easier, become more natural, and require significantly fewer hours, less emotional bandwidth, and little to no sweat to keep going.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718080600
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 02/27/2018
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 59,382
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dana K. White is a blogger, podcaster, speaker, and (much to her own surprise) a decluttering expert. She taught both English and theatre arts before leaving her job to make her family her life's work. In an attempt to get her home under control, Dana started blogging as “Nony” (short for anonymous) at A Slob Comes Clean. Dana soon realized she was not alone in her housekeeping struggles and in her feelings of shame. Today, Dana shares realistic home management strategies and a message of hope for the hopelessly messy through her blog, weekly podcasts, and videos. Dana lives with her husband and three kids just outside of Dallas, Texas. Oh, and she’s funny.

Read an Excerpt



Decluttering is stuff you don't need leaving your house. And that's really all it is. If five things leave or five hundred things leave, you've succeeded.

Decluttering isn't Stuff Shifting. It isn't rearranging or buying a new shelving unit or sorting into slots or drawers or baskets.

Decluttering isn't organizing. When I realized decluttering and organizing were two different things and that it was okay to just declutter, I felt a weight lift off my soul. I no longer slumped my shoulders in defeat before I even started, knowing from experience that whatever "solution" I might create would surely fail like all the others had. Instead, I purged. I focused solely on getting things we didn't need out of our house.

When I did that, a weight lifted off my home as well. As things left, life was easier, and my home functioned better than it had after any of my attempts at organizing, just because there was less. Eventually, I understood that is what decluttering actually is: achieving less.

But before we jump in, I want to go over some key terms. Through my own decluttering escapades I've come up with ways of explaining things to myself. Those of you who already know me and my made-up decluttering language will nod along. But if you are new to my style of decluttering, don't get overwhelmed. We're going to apply these concepts to each area of your home. If anything makes you say, "Wha ...? I don't get that ..." I promise you'll get it as you read the book. We'll go step by step through your home and your hang-ups.

My favorite made-up word is deslobification. It's what I call the process through which I improved my own home from a constant state of oh-my-word-what-is-wrong-with-me to I-can-totally-do-this-even-though-it's-never-going-to-be-perfect. Going from a worse-than-bad home to a livable one is how I learned these strategies and principles, and how I found a way to translate concepts that other people seemed to be born knowing into words that make sense to me and a lot of other people.

I definitely didn't make up the word clutter, but I did make up a definition for it that helped me get it out of my house. I define clutter as anything I can't keep under control. If a space in my home consistently gets out of control, I have too much stuff in that space. I have clutter.

Once I defined clutter this way, I finally understood why my friend and I can buy the same décor, and her house looks like a magazine but mine looks like a thrift store. I have a Clutter Threshold, and it's unique to me. My Clutter Threshold is the point at which stuff becomes clutter in my home. When I'm living above my Clutter Threshold, there's more stuff in my home than I can handle, and my house is consistently out of control. Living under my Clutter Threshold helps my home stay more naturally under control. I found mine (and you'll find yours) through decluttering.

But it wasn't easy. I suffered from Decluttering Paralysis, a real phenomenon that makes me unable to move when facing an overwhelming mess. I cured it by moving. By starting with the easy stuff. And strangely, every time I did something easy, the space looked better, and I was less overwhelmed.

Not that I don't make mistakes. I totally do. But I've accepted that while Decluttering Regret (the realization that I need something after I declutter it) isn't fun, I've survived every time. And the peace I feel over a home that's easier to manage outweighs the frustration I feel over having to write "medium-sized cutting board" on my shopping list. I accepted that people with homes that are consistently under control prefer living with regret over living with clutter. I want to be one of those people.

But even though Decluttering Paralysis and Decluttering Regret are terms that make me sigh, this one gives me hope: Decluttering Momentum. It's a real phenomenon. By starting with easy stuff and working through the steps I'm sharing in this book, I saw visible, measurable improvement in my home. As my home changed, I changed. And decluttering got easier and easier. I'm so excited for you to experience that too.



I had to develop decluttering strategies out of necessity. I couldn't go on living the way I'd been living, with stuff (quite literally) spilling out of every cabinet door, covering every surface, and taking up every last available space in my home.

I had to dig my way out, and it was the most unnatural thing I'd ever done. If I'm left to my natural tendencies, clutter builds, and clutter stays.

I didn't know it was clutter. I thought it was all amazingly useful stuff. I just needed a moment to remember why I'd considered it useful in the moment I brought it through my front (or side or back) door.

And that totally logical thinking was how I ended up in a place where I couldn't function in my own home. I couldn't even use my second largest room, and the rooms I could use were difficult to use because I had to work around all sorts of extra and unnecessary things, even though I didn't realize they were extra and unnecessary.

You want proof I know what it's like to deal with clutter?

When my husband and I got married, he was thirty-two and I was twenty-five. We'd each lived alone and had whatever we needed to live alone.

Our marriage meant moving into one apartment that was, honestly, pretty large for a newly married couple just starting out. If I remember correctly, it was 960 square feet.

In that 960 square feet we had three dining tables. One formal dining table was in the dining area. Another formal dining table was awkwardly shoved in the teeny-tiny breakfast nook. And the small table (the one that actually made sense for a newlywed couple to have) was in the room we used for storage. The room that had boxes piled to the ceiling.

Eighteen years later I see the ridiculousness of our table situation, but at the time it didn't seem even a little bit strange. The apartment wasn't our "real" house. It was temporary. Who knew what kind of home or dining-area situation our future would bring? Why in the world wouldn't I keep all three tables until we knew what we needed in our real house? We were ready for the future and all the possibilities it could possibly bring.

Even the dining area (that fit one of the full-sized formal dining tables) was cramped. The walls were stacked waist high (at least) with more storage boxes full of totally-useful-in-the-future stuff. Or at least I assumed they were full of useful-in-the-future stuff. I didn't remember what was inside them.

Then we moved, and the house we moved into was a real house.

As we left that first apartment, my parents hired professional movers as a gift to us. I was about four months pregnant with our first child, and I appreciated their thoughtfulness so much. Those movers had no idea what they were getting into when they agreed to pack up and move our stuff. One of the men spent the entire day in my kitchen. My teeny-tiny kitchen in the apartment where exactly zero formal dinner parties had been held. All day. Just packing dishes.

We moved into our 1,752-square-foot real home from the 960-square-foot apartment and purged huge amounts of excess that we'd never needed. And we still ended up with more stuff than space.

And then I became a stay-at-home mom. As we adjusted to living on a single income, I discovered garage sales and fell head over heels in love with them. I'd been to garage sales before, but I became obsessed. I loved having a way to go shopping for pennies, since pennies were all we could afford to spend on nonnecessities.

With the you-never-know-what-you'll-find excitement of garage sales and the might-as-well-keep-it-if-there's-any-chance-I-might-use-it-one-day mentality I already had, our already cluttered home grew more and more cluttered.

When we moved again, and it was time to pack up our 1,752-square-foot house, I reserved the biggest moving truck I could find, which the rental place said could fit the contents of a typical 3,000-square-foot home. We filled that truck completely — and still left behind our entire master bedroom suite, our dining set, a full-sized couch, various other furniture items, and many more boxes of stuff.

We had enough to furnish a rental house and make the house we were selling look livable.

Once that house sold, we rented another moving truck (this time for a 2,000-square-foot house) and filled up our minivan and my mother's minivan. We brought all that stuff to our 1,400-square-foot rental house. For a year, we lived with all that stuff in that house. The two-car garage was completely full of boxes, and boxes lined every wall of our living area.

But never once did I consider getting rid of the boxes that were making our everyday life difficult. I needed that stuff for the future. Or I might need it for the future.

It was not that I didn't know I needed to declutter. At the end of our time in our first real house and through our transition year, I started selling on eBay with the exact purpose of getting rid of stuff. Purging was my goal. But I almost immediately started buying things at garage sales so I could sell them on eBay. My purpose shifted from getting rid of stuff to making money.

It wasn't a slippery slope. It was a landslide. A landslide so fast and violent that my most adamant request for a new home was that it have an eBay room.

You're right; I should have known. Looking at the past, I can see my severely flawed thought processes, but at the time I couldn't.

I did not understand that my overabundance of stuff was directly related to my inability to function well in my home. The more stuff I brought into my home, the more out of control it felt. The more out of control my home felt, the more I looked to the future as the time when I'd finally have things figured out. The more I focused on the future instead of the present, the more I justified collecting things I might need one day.

The cycle continued and increased in force, and I felt increasingly out of control. This ultimately swirled me straight into a place called rock bottom. Rock bottom happened in the home where I live now.

At rock bottom, I stopped bringing stuff in and started getting stuff out. As I got stuff out of my house, living in it became easier. As living in my house became easier, I liked my house more. I didn't have as much stuff tripping me, blocking my path, and falling out of cabinets on top of me.

And that was when I made a conscious choice to live in the phase of life I was in. Right then. I decided to stop assuming I knew what I'd love to already have in the future.

Living for now became my new goal: living in the house we have, in the city where we are, and in the moment when we're alive.

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. I am passionate about eating together as a family around the dinner table. It's one of my core values, and it needs to happen now. If I put that off, my kids will be gone, and the opportunity will be gone as well.

There's a constant rotation of dishes and newspapers and school projects going onto and off of our table, but that table can't be the permanent resting place of anything that doesn't directly contribute to eating dinner as a family. Cute vase, napkin holder, and a salt and pepper set? Great. Printer, paper shredder, and jewelry tree? Nope.

Living now means my kids can easily get dressed for school because the only things in their drawers and closets are clothes that fit. Not clothes they outgrew two years ago or clothes they'll grow into someday.

Living now means open floor space so my sons can wrestle. It means I can walk to my bathroom in the middle of the night without stubbing a toe. It means my daughter has space to dance around in her room.

I know these things are obvious, and I would have said they were obvious to me too. But I wasn't living like they were obvious.

I'm telling you my story because I know how hard it is to completely change your thinking about stuff. I also know how hard it is to take advice from someone who doesn't understand. I have stood in my own home, completely overwhelmed, crying tears of frustration and hopelessness over my inability to deal with the sheer volume of clutter.

I have trialed and I have errored and I have succeeded. I've used every imaginable way to get stuff out of my house, and I know what works and what doesn't. I've experienced the joy of an after photo and the agony of another disaster reappearing in that same space. And I've decluttered again.

You can totally do this. I did.



The single biggest mind-set change, the greatest moment of understanding, the most impactful I-can-let-go-of-my-stuff pivot in my cluttered home didn't come from hearing an inspirational speech or experiencing an emotional trauma.

Honestly, it wasn't emotional at all, and I believe that's why the moment had such an impact on me. I finally understood what I now call the Container Concept.

The basic idea is this: the purpose of a container is to contain.

According to, contain has multiple definitions.

These are the ones that speak to my clutter-collecting soul:

to keep under proper control;

to prevent or limit the expansion, influence, success, or advance of;

to succeed in preventing the spread of

Those definitions describe what I was desperate to make happen in my home. Keep things under proper control? Mm-hmm. Prevent or limit the expansion or advance of my stuff? Yeah, baby. Succeed in preventing the spread of clutter? Yes, please!

But I kept buying containers, filling them up, and buying more. And my house was worse off every time I did. I was using those containers incorrectly because I didn't understand their purpose.

Used properly, containers are limits. They keep clutter from spreading. They keep stuff under proper control by preventing and limiting the expansion of that stuff. But how?

I thought the purpose of containers was to hold stuff. That's why I kept buying more when the ones I had were full and I still had stuff that needed to be held.

I assumed there was a solution lurking just beyond my current organizing abilities. Someday, when I reached that elusive State of Organization, my stuff would all work together perfectly, and I'd be glad to have whatever I already had.

But as long as I was using containers incorrectly, I was never going to reach that State of Organization.

I'm going to choose an example that will surely offend some but could be neutral and nonemotional for others. If you're offended, please replace the word scarf with something that doesn't upset you to consider decluttering. You can replace it with any item in your entire house, because the Container Concept applies to everything: forks, shoes, cans of black beans, or books. (Yes, I just said books.)

Scarves are accessories. They dress up or change the look of an outfit. They're useful. I can't personally wear them, because I have issues with things being wrapped around my neck, but some people love them. Like, they love them so much they have walls and closets full of scarves.

At first glance, there seems to be no reason to even think about how many scarves you have. Scarves are small. They can be hung or folded or dropped carelessly into a box with other scarves.


Excerpted from "Decluttering at the Speed of Life"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Dana K. White.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Decluttering Expert? xiii

Part 1 Building A Decluttering Mind-Set

Chapter 1 What Decluttering Is and Isn't 3

Chapter 2 My Clutter History 6

Chapter 3 Accepting That Your House Is a Container 11

Chapter 4 Valuing Space over Stuff 21

Chapter 5 Making Progress with the Visibility Rule 30

Chapter 6 Understanding the Layers of a Clean House 35

Chapter 7 Getting It Out, or the Case for the Donate Box 40

Chapter 8 Changing Your Mind-set Changes Your Home 46

Chapter 9 Decluttering at the Speed of Life 54

Part 2 Decluttering Room by Room

Chapter 10 Steps for Working Through an Overwhelming Mess 61

Chapter 11 Living Areas 68

Chapter 12 Kitchen 81

Chapter 13 Another Chapter About Kitchens 93

Chapter 14 Bedrooms 104

Chapter 15 Closets and Clothes 115

Chapter 16 Craft Rooms and Hobby Spaces 128

Chapter 17 Storage Areas 139

Part 3 Helping Others Declutter

Chapter 18 Other People's Clutter 151

Chapter 19 Friends 157

Chapter 20 Kids 162

Chapter 21 Older Family Members 172

Chapter 22 Spouses 181

Chapter 23 Accepting Help 185

Part 4 Special Circumstances in Decluttering

Chapter 24 Forced Decluttering: When It All Has to Go 193

Chapter 25 Decluttering Dreams (Small Ones and Big Ones) 201

Chapter 26 A Lifestyle of Decluttering 214

Acknowledgments 219

About the Author 221

Customer Reviews

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Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Teadrinker More than 1 year ago
Do you feel like you have way too much stuff and your house is always a mess? If so, then Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White might be just what you need to help you through the mess to the light at the end of the room. Decluttering at the Speed of Life is written by someone who says she is a reluctant decluttering expert. White admits that she had to get her own house under control so they could live better lives. She shares what she learned in this book. It is divided into Four parts: Building a Decluttering Mind-set, Decluttering Room by Room, Helping Others Declutter, and Special Circumstances in Decluttering. She shares her story and she offers practical advice to work through your own clutter. I did a lot of cleaning out before moving to our current house three years ago, so I don't have a huge amount of clutter. I was just looking for some spring cleaning inspiration so I chose this book. I think it would be a great book if you are looking for help to completely clean out your house and you struggle to do it. However, in my case, I didn't find it to be too helpful because my house is mostly clutter-free. I just needed to do some maintenance work to get it back to looking good again. There is some redundancies in the steps she shares as she goes from room to room in the house. I thought the last section was especially good and helpful as I consider helping other friends and family members declutter. White offers great advice for encouraging others who ask for it. I would recommend Decluttering at the Speed of Life to those who have serious clutter issues. I received this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dana K. White’s Decluttering at the Speed of Life is a funny, realistic, and useful book about how to tackle clutter. She offers real tips for getting started and keeping momentum. She recognizes that the reader might have just a few minutes at a time to work on decluttering. She realizes that decluttering can be hard. White’s decluttering strategies seek to take the emotion and therefore the difficulty out of decluttering so the reader can see real results. She shares her own experiences with decluttering, painful and funny and real. She understands, because she has lived it. She knows that piece of exercise equipment is an easy place to throw clothes we don’t have time to hang up; and it’s funny and real, and then she explains how to fix it. Decluttering at the Speed of Life will inspire you to get started, to take that first step, to overcome that fear. Whether your clutter is a small annoyance or a big overwhelming disaster, Knight’s strategies will give you a starting point. This book will give you hope! You may even laugh out loud while you read this book. Thank you to NetGalley and publisher Thomas Nelson for the privilege of reading this book in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 3 days ago
I've read many decluttering books but this one made sense to me. Dana White gives common sense tips for decluttering and wow has it made a difference in my house. Reading the book, it was like she was reading my mind--guilt over throwing things away--she addresses it; what if I need it again--she addresses it. At least for me, she hit the nail on the head.
Anonymous 3 days ago
I've read many decluttering books but this one made sense to me. Dana White gives common sense tips for decluttering and wow has it made a difference in my house. Reading the book, it was like she was reading my mind--guilt over throwing things away--she addresses it; what if I need it again--she addresses it. At least for me, she hit the nail on the head.
Anonymous 9 months ago
Loved this easy to read book! Great advice and tips about decluttering your home.
storyconnections More than 1 year ago
Thanks to Netflix, it seems like right now in January 2019, every woman and many men in America are “tidying up.” I read Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up when it first came out. I thought that it was interesting read and that she had some good ideas, but since she’s Japanese, it felt very Japanese and honestly, I had a hard time relating to all of her suggestions because I simply don’t have the time to dump all of the clothes that belong to me in a pile and sort through them, plus my one and two year old would “help” by moving my piles around. Now I’ve read a TON of cleaning and organizational books since I became a wife and mother. I kept hoping that some book would have the magic sauce that would allow me to spend minimal time on cleaning my house and doing things more enjoyable like giving the cat a bath. So, when I say that I found THE book for me that helped me approach my house in a completely different way, I know of which I speak. Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White is fantastic. I summed up my impression of the book on Instagram a couple of months ago like this; “I just finished this book. It’s one of the best books on home management I’ve read in a while. @aslobcomesclean is super funny. She’s been there, done that, had three shirts and learned how to get rid of two of them. I highly recommend it!”. I’m not kidding when I say that Decluttering at the Speed of Life is one of the best books I’ve read on home management. She comes from the American way of thinking that we need more, more, more so she knows all about the guilt about letting things go. Kondo tries to address this by having people say thank you to items as you let them go, but White gets to the underlying psychological issues that Americans have towards keeping everything. Americans are drowning in stuff, I was drowning in stuff and I didn’t really realize it, I really thought I could organize my overwhelming amounts of random stuff, but she makes it clear you can’t. White talks about the idea of containers and this was paradigm altering for me. Containers are only meant to hold so many things and a house is a type of container. We can’t get mad at the container when it won’t shut because there’s too much stuff, and we can’t be upset when our house is messy all the time because there are too many items in it. We can’t organize our way out of too much stuff, we can only start to get rid of it. White is gentle, but firm that we need to start getting rid of stuff and she gives you a plan that doesn’t seem so overwhelming like putting all your clothes in a pile and getting decision fatigue. I’ve given away at least three, maybe four copies of Decluttering at the Speed of Life and I can’t say enough good things about it. If you’ve been inspired to declutter and tidy up, I HIGHLY recommend Decluttering at the Speed of Life by Dana K. White.
JennGrand More than 1 year ago
Clutter. It's just a reality of life. When you have a growing family and children who leave their stuff EVERYWHERE, clutter will happen.  Enter Dana K. White! She not only offers actual steps towards decluttering, but also addresses the emotional obstacles women face when they want to hold on to their belongings. I know there have been numerous books released recently about decluttering and minimizing belongings, but this book is the real deal. I am the worst with clutter, and my husband hates it, so he has been a huge fan of me implementing the suggestions in this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dana K. White has once again struck gold with her second book (her first was terrific too!), Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff. Featuring wisdom gained from her personal struggles with clutter and chock-ful of her trademark sense of humor Dana shares her thoughts on Stuff Shifting, Procrasticlutter, Time Passage Awareness Disorder, clothing known as SWDMMTIWWTs (if you have a mother you do know what these are - otherwise see page 117 for an explanation) and the all important Head Explosion Rule, all of which reflect her down-to-earth style that make the reader feel that they are conversing with someone with whom they can easily connect. Dana brings her readers through detailed steps on how to declutter each area of their homes using tips such as how to deal with Duh Clutter and how to use the Container Concept to really cut down on your stuff. She also touches on how to help others declutter and special circumstances such as moving or situations where one must deal with items from a part of your life that is over - items that you are "keeping out of fear you'll forget". If you are a person who feels the need to get their home, as well as their life, under control, you will benefit from reading this book. It will make you easily say to yourself "I can do this!"* *I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. (less)
Dayna_H More than 1 year ago
This book isn’t for everyone but, my oh my, it IS for me! If you make executive decisions about stuff fairly easily and are able to keep a minimalist or organized home, it’s not for you. BUT... if you’re an idealist, dreamer-type who can’t seem to figure out why you struggle to manage the stuff in your home: it will be a God-send. With whip-smart humor and gentle repetition, author Dana K. White exposes (her and your) perfectionistic, procrastinator (read: crazy-town) thought processes for what they are. She acknowledges the beauty of the way “clutterers” are made, but helps us keep our eyes on the prize: a less-complicated, more peaceful life. This very practical, hope-delivering book is a welcome (and fun!) help manual in our home. *I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. (Hallelujah!)
WisReader More than 1 year ago
Who hasn't read a book on decluttering? And organizing, feng shui, how to clean everything, etc. From the Sidetracked Home Executives to Peter Walsh's psychological approach to the Queen of Clean, everywhere you turn someone has advice for you. I have read them all, and had some short term success. The difference with Dana is she gets it! She knows how I think. She understands how a person can see future potential in any object. "Future potential" That is the key and she address the mindset as much as the steps to a less cluttered room. If you cringe at a friend or relative's style of "housekeeping" or of you are the one who never allows anyone into your home, this book is a wonderful place to start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't purchase this book. Just get up and get rid of stuff. The tips given in this book could be condensed into an article. They're given over and over with the idea that they will sink in I guess. Also, this book is more for someone who is a full blown hoarder. Not really any new information I hadn't heard before.