How I Went From Hopeless Pack Rat to Almost-Minimalist

woman organizing home

I've always saved everything: my childhood Snoopy doll, stories I drew on construction paper as a kid, every single holiday and birthday card I've ever received, college papers and textbooks, and on and on. I'm in stark contrast to my mother, who despises clutter and happily trashes anything without a useful purpose. "Take a picture, then throw it away," she tells me. That may be easy for her to say, but it's always been difficult for me to let go.


But now that I'm a mom -- to a 9-month-old who's on the verge of taking her first steps -- I'm feeling a maternal need to declutter. And it's not only for my daughter's protection (more junk around means more for her to pick up and put in her mouth), but also in my perhaps-futile attempt to keep her from "inheriting" my messy habits.

Hey, I'm not kidding myself. I'll never be a minimalist. But I've started doing a few super-easy things that have stopped the madness of letting stuff overrun my life.

1. I deal with papers right away.

If I let snail mail sit on my dining room table for a day or longer, I'll only end up adding to the pile as the week goes on until I have a huge stack to sift through. Most of it's junk mail, so I've started taking a minute each day to toss those credit card offers, and immediately open and file any important paperwork.

More from CafeMom: 3 Tips to Declutter the Paperwork in Your Home Office

2. I keep a charity bag handy.

In my daughter's nursery, I have a canvas tote bag hanging from the door. I fill it with clothes and accessories my little one grows out of. Once it's full, I drop the items off at the thrift store around the corner from my apartment. When my daughter's old enough, I'll have her help me fill the bag with toys she no longer uses, so she can learn the importance of giving to charity.

3. I toss all duplicates.

I try to only buy new household items (sets of towels, potholders, storage containers, etc.) when I need to replace the old ones. Then I'll trash or donate the oldies straight away. Before, I'd keep them all "just in case."

More from CafeMom: 12 Life-Changing Decluttering Hacks

4. I do an end-of-day pickup.

Before settling in for the night, my new routine includes going around to the different rooms to make sure things that were moved around during the day are returned to their designated spots. The baby's brush that I left on the coffee table goes back to her dresser, and my laptop goes from the couch to my desk.

5. I stopped leaving dirty dishes in the sink.

This is one of my mom's mottos, and it means gathering and washing errant glasses and plates before they accumulate, and doing dishes after every meal. It sounds weird, but she's right: There's something calming about having a clean sink. Dirty ones feel like a to-do list hanging over my head, and it's so easy to let more quickly pile up.

Valerie Berrios is a Brooklyn-based first-time mom to a baby girl. She's never been one to squeal with joy at the sight of little ones, but after giving birth, she realized she was more maternal than she thought. When she's not chasing after her increasingly mobile child, you'll find her writing and editing, squeezing in Pilates, checking out foodie and cultural events in NYC, and rooting for the NY Rangers.

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