The Difference Between Decluttering And Minimalism

A beautiful calm blue sea and a little sailboat resting in the center of the ocean.

I have been satisfying a growing curiosity learning more about the relationship between decluttering and minimalism. Although the two are related concepts, they have distinct meanings and different sets of goals.


Decluttering is the process of getting rid of unnecessary material possessions or excess items in our living spaces. It involves getting rid of stuff considered to be clutter and organizing the rest. 

Most folks think of decluttering as a way to create a more organized and visually appealing environment. This practice is often associated with cleaning and simplifying a space without necessarily embracing a broader lifestyle philosophy. 

I practice and teach others that clutter is not limited to unnecessary items in your physical space. Long ago I made the connection my cluttered mind was preventing me from living the life I wanted to live due to so much distraction.

I pictured the inside of my head looking like the inside of a gerbil cage with a little gerbil going round and round on a little gerbil wheel. The repetition of the same noisy thoughts just would not stop – until I learned how to stop them by practicing new habits.

a simple white bud vase with 3 sprigs of green resting on a little broken slab of marble presents a calming minimalist picture


Minimalism is a lifestyle or design philosophy that emphasizes simplicity and the intentional reduction of possessions and distractions. 

A minimalist mindset goes beyond just physical spaces and extends to various aspects of life. To live a minimalist lifestyle encourages individuals to make a conscious choice to live with less and prioritize experiences, relationships, and personal growth over material possessions.

To live minimally is to focus on what is essential and meaningful, eliminating the excess that may distract or add unnecessary complexity to life.

While decluttering is a specific action aimed at removing excess items from a space, minimalism is a broader lifestyle choice that involves intentional simplicity and the reduction of possessions in various aspects of life.

Decluttering can be a component of a more minimalist lifestyle, but minimalism encompasses a more comprehensive approach to intentional living.

I wrote the following text, which is in the article, on a simple light color blues and green background - for people to print out if they want . The text is: I intend to live a simpler life = minimalist lifestyle.

To live a simpler life I will start by decluttering my home of stuff I don't need.

I intend to practice mindfulness thus setting myself up to have fewer distractions, and more focus to enable me to live this simpler life (Minimalist lifestyle) I intend to live.


I intend to live a simpler life = minimalist lifestyle.

To live a simpler life I will start by decluttering my home of stuff I don’t need.

I intend to practice mindfulness thus setting myself up to have fewer distractions, and more focus to enable me to live this simpler life (Minimalist lifestyle) I intend to live.

Living with intention is about choosing to live a particular way and mindfulness keeps you present on the path throughout the moments you are engaging in life.

a picture from the dictionary of the word 'semantics'.


Don’t let semantics trip you up. Think of it as slowing down a bit and figuring out what you want in life. Once we know what we want it is easy enough to set goals and make a plan.

I am in no way saying the process of change is easy, although sometimes it can be, I am suggesting despite all the excuses it can be done… a little bit at a time.

Simple or not we only have one chance to live our lives the way we want to.

black and white graphic of a question mark shown in a speech bubble

Questions to Ponder

Do you feel your life is more complicated than it needs to be? 

In a world inundated with constant stimuli and demands, the complexity and noise of everyday life can often feel loud and distracting. However, a closer look reveals that the degree of complication is not solely dictated by external factors but also by the choices we make.


Do you know what your priorities are? Identifying and acknowledging your priorities is like creating a compass for your life’s journey. It provides clarity and ensures that your energy is directed toward what truly matters to you. 

red and white seal with the word Priority.

Without a clear understanding of your priorities, it’s easy to get lost in the chaos of competing demands.


Has your path changed without your permission? Life’s journey is dynamic, and change is inevitable. Yet, there’s a significant difference between purposeful evolution and feeling like your path has been hijacked. 

Often, it’s the lack of intentional decision-making that leads to a sense of losing control over the direction of your life.

Schedule Time!

Could it be as simple as scheduling your priorities the same way you do your work, family, and personal care commitments? 

I aim for at least an hour a day to be creative. The lingering resentment from neglecting to carve out time for myself lasts far longer than the fleeting joy of that one hour. This insistence on carving out time for creativity is a powerful declaration of my commitment to self-expression and personal fulfillment.

a cool image of a clock. Looks like photo was taken at a high speed.

Rejecting the notion that every minute must be filled with busyness is a minimalist act in itself. Embrace the simplicity of dedicating focused time to what brings you joy and fulfillment.

I need to be creative every day. Maybe your go-to indulgence is a yoga class, meditation, or reading. Whatever your thing is find and schedule some time, as little as 10 minutes will do, to avoid resentments. This little single act can be a game changer.


Are your expectations your own or someone else’s? The expectations we carry can either be self-imposed or inherited from external sources. Minimalism invites us to scrutinize these expectations, challenging us to discern whether they align with our authentic selves. 

Letting go of expectations that don’t serve our truest desires is a liberating step towards a simpler, more intentional life.

Check out my new free Shift Into Action course I made for all my cluttered friends!

Benefits & Obstacles

If you are considering the benefits of a minimalist lifestyle know in advance the obstacles you may encounter. Some common challenges may include the following.

Emotional Attachment to Possessions

People often develop strong emotional connections to their belongings, making it difficult to part with items that hold sentimental value. Overcoming this emotional attachment can be a significant obstacle to adopting a minimalist mindset.

a woman sitting with her head on her forehead and symbols surrounding her indicate conflicting thoughts

Social Pressure

Society often places importance on consumerism and material possessions. Individuals may feel pressured to conform to societal expectations, leading to resistance when attempting to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. Peer pressure and societal norms can make it challenging for someone to simplify their life.

Scarcity Mentality

The fear of not having enough in the future can hinder minimalist efforts. Some folks worry that letting go of possessions today may leave them unprepared for unforeseen circumstances, fostering a reluctance to embrace a minimalist lifestyle.

a graphic of yellow hair child in bed with covers up to her nose and boogey man hands reaching out

Spending Habits

Consumer habits developed over time can be deeply ingrained. Breaking the cycle of continuous consumption and adapting to a more intentional and mindful approach to acquiring possessions requires a significant shift in behavior.

Consumer habits work the other way too. I have always been extremely mindful and frugal regarding the purchases I make. If I had all the money in the world it would be challenging for me to spend more because my spending habits are so deeply embedded. I would try though!

Misunderstanding minimalist living

There might be a misconception about what minimalism truly means. Some people associate it with deprivation or extreme frugality, which can discourage them from exploring the benefits of a simplified life.

The fact that a minimalist lifestyle will free up time to enjoy the things I love to do and relieve stress is all I need to embrace this idea. Just those two things are a game changer for me, and there are many more benefits to enjoy than these 2 examples.

It makes so much sense to me to have a daily routine to include something you love to do.

I understand the busy lives we all lead, some more than others. I also understand the big blocks of time we fritter away mindlessly scrolling and viewing content.

100 dollar bills scattered

Money Matters

Investments made in material possessions, such as the money you spent on an entire home and furnishings or an extensive wardrobe, can create the feeling of financial obstacles when attempting to downsize.

The financial implications of selling or letting go of significant assets may be a concern for those considering a minimalist lifestyle. Only you can decide if it is time for you to live with less stuff. I look at it knowing I can always replace things if I miss them.

Analysis Paralysis

I hear form people the process of decluttering and simplifying their life can be overwhelming. I say phooey to that. What I hear is just one more excuse to procrastinate.

Facing numerous decisions about what to keep or discard may lead to analysis paralysis, causing some individuals to abandon their minimalist goals, especially when decluttering sentimental items. This most definitely is an example of physical clutter being related to mental clutter. 

A lot of people suffer extreme anxiety when they try to declutter, sometimes to the point they are unable to take action steps. Having support in place or a decluttering buddy to lean on, is an enormous help.

The benefits of decluttering can have an immediate positive impact, such as less stress. I am willing to try things that minimize life stressors for me. There is much to be said for living a simple life.

image of overwhelmed lady with stickie notes posted on her face with names of tasks to be done like - gym, motherm shopping, pets etc

Cultural Expectations

Cultural expectations and societal norms vary across regions and communities. Some cultures place a high value on material success, and sometimes having a ton of stuff is not considered physical clutter. This makes it challenging for individuals to deviate from these expectations and embrace a simpler lifestyle.

Lack of Information and Guidance

Without adequate information and guidance on how to adopt a minimalist lifestyle, individuals may struggle to get started. Uncertainty about where to begin and how to sustain the changes can be a significant hurdle. Being well-informed is one of the most important things, but you know that!

a diapered toddler taking a baby steps

Baby Steps

The first step in anything new is to take baby steps at your own pace, by starting to make changes within little ​different areas of your life. If you have a lot of stuff in your storage spaces this may be an easy way to begin because the items you have been storing have been out of your sight for some time.

Know too you can donate or sell many of your items that are in good condition. Why keep things in storage when others can benefit from the use of these things?

How do you measure wealth?

I consider myself to be rich in spirit. I measure my wealth in my relationships, pretty good health, and the fact that I intend to find some joy in everyday. If I measured my success in money and stuff I would be considered poor by some. All that matters in this discussion is how I choose to define wealth.

I would find it impossible to feel the same peaceful feelings I often have if I were surrounded by too much physical and mental clutter. This would very much complicate my days.

Sending peaceful wishes to you and your loved ones during this holiday season!

Marj Bates is a life long ridiculously organized declutter-er and artist. Less is more are words Marj lives by in everything she does except collecting dogs. “Dogs are like potato chips! Can’t have just one.” says Marj. Marj wonders if growing up with a fanatically clean Jewish mom means her decluttering and organizational skills are in her blood.

For more Declutter Buzz & Freebies check out our safe and private Decluttering community on our Facebook page. We are a safe and private space of like minded folks tackling this all encompassing clutter thing once and for all. No shame allowed! We will have a few laughs too!

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