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
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! Decluttering expert Dana White identifies the emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter and provides workable solutions to break through and make progress.

While the world seems to be in love with the idea of tiny houses and minimalism, many of us simply can't purge it all and start from nothing. Yet a home with too much stuff 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 mindsets and emotional challenges that make it difficult to declutter. In her signature humorous approach, she provides workable solutions to break through these struggles and get clutter out—for good!

Not only does Dana provide strategies, but she 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.

In Decluttering at the Speed of Life, Dana’s chapters cover:

  • 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

As long as we're living and breathing, new clutter will appear. The good news is that by following Dana’s advice, decluttering will 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: 240
Sales rank: 54,532
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Dana K. White is the creator of the No Mess Decluttering Method and (much to her own surprise) a Decluttering Expert. Dana shares realistic home management strategies and a message of hope for the hopelessly messy in her books: Organizing for the Rest of Us, Decluttering at the Speed of Life (a Wall Street Journal bestseller), and How to Manage Your Home Without Losing Your Mind. Dana teaches her strategies through her blog, podcast, and videos at and trains coaches in her unique decluttering process at

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

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