Are you ready to declutter everything? Today’s guest is going to help you do just that.
How to Declutter Everything with Allie Casazza
Allie Casazza is the host of The Purpose Show and the creator of Your Uncluttered Home, an online decluttering course that earned national attention for her philosophy of simple motherhood.
In today’s episode we’re talking all things decluttering, and how to make it work in real life.
This episode is the third in a three part mini-series all about decluttering for a calm mind and an organized home.
Are you ready to declutter everything?
Today’s guest is going to help you do just that.
Allie Casazza is from Southern California; she married her junior high-school sweetheart and is a mom of four young children.
She is also the creator of Your Uncluttered Home, an online decluttering course that earned her national attention for her philosophy of simple motherhood.
Her business is built on minimalism and how we can all live a more purposeful life if we cut out all the unnecessary stuff to create space for enjoying the life that we’re living.
This is the third in a three part mini-series all about decluttering; we have a great one with Gretchen Rubin and one all about decluttering your fridge and pantry so you can eat well and feel really good.
Today’s episode is brought to you by our free guide to decluttering your fridge and pantry.
In that guide we walk you step by step through decluttering those problem areas in the kitchen so you can eat well and feel good.
Grab the guide here!
Allie is the mama of four little ones, and her perspective on decluttering from a mother and wife’s point of view is so valuable.
It’s one thing to try to simplify and declutter on your own, and it’s another if you’re trying to navigate it while living with other people.
Even though she uses examples specific to moms, it’s still tactical if you have roommates or a partner or just live with people who are not on the same page as you when it comes to decluttering.
She will give you some nuggets of knowledge and a great philosophy to follow.
Allie is all about simplifying, decluttering, and getting down to the heart of what matters in order to live your life in a way that is true to yourself and true to your values.
On Allie’s story + getting to where she is today:
It all really started with Allie’s mom-journey.
She kind of just got thrown into motherhood-- she was told it would be incredibly difficult and maybe not even possible for her to conceive.
She met her husband in junior high and they got married pretty much right out of high school, not really weren’t worried about starting a family at that point in their lives.
She struggled to find a birth control that didn't make her violently ill.
Being allergic to latex, and unable to take pills, they were thinking if they can’t get pregnant, forget it.
So Allie stopped everything and eight months into their marriage she found out that she was pregnant.
She felt guilty, but she got a little depressed because they just were not ready for that.
They were told that basically this was an anomaly, but it seemed to be working right then so if they wanted kids of their own they should have them quickly.
Soon enough, they had four children.
However, Allie was in this weird place feeling lucky with how the struggle of fertility, which is so many people’s story, was not her story, but that she was struggling so hard with her kids.
She was very young, and at this point in her story they had three under three, which she assumed she was overwhelmed because of.
Her husband worked very long hours, she was at home with the kids, and they were just kind of doing the American house that’s too big and way too expensive for what they could afford, but that’s what people do-- they get into debt, they go way overboard.
They had these kids and just tried to make ends meet.
She was in a very thick overwhelm and in that time she really just started to question herself: Is this motherhood? Is this it?
She was hearing it from everyone, “Good moms have sticky floors and happy kids”, “You’re supposed to self-serve and let everything else go, just to just be there”, but it just didn’t sit right for Allie.
She felt like this was such a huge joy and a huge blessing, but here she was hating it.
So she began to seek out the source of the stress and the source of the depression that she kept coming in and out of.
Everyone told her it was because she was insane and had three young kids, but she really refused to believe that their circumstances needed to define them like that and that you “just get through it”, that it is what it is.
She ended up having a moment when she got the kids busy, went upstairs, locked herself in the bathroom, and sat on the floor in tears; she was just kind of crying out to God.
“This is the worst. What am I missing? I believe I am here for a reason, I believe I am supposed to live well and full and abundantly and to have joy and I’m trying so hard and nothing is working. I get organized and it comes undone in a second, what am I missing?”
She had an epiphany, and she’s never had anything else like that since.
In a moment, she felt a surge of energy in her body and a knowing.
She realized that all the stuff she was spending time cleaning up isn’t even stuff she needed.
That night Allie started letting things go, and started asking herself “what is worthy of this really sweet season of my life, that is currently not so sweet because I’m burdened and I’m giving too much time to my stuff?”
As she filled trash bags with things to donate, she realized how many moments were spent dusting, picking up and putting back, the kids ripping things off the shelves and putting them back, cleaning up for guests, and reorganizing an overstuffed toy room that wasn’t even serving its purpose because the kids were overstimulated.
Over the course of the following few months she went through the entirety of her home and immediately, even within a day, there was a difference.
She was lighter, the kids played better, she had more time, more energy, more mental space, she became a better wife, a better mother, she was able to become a better woman and actually pursue what she wanted, aside from being a mom.
Allie loves to write so she started her blog, which now employs like twelve families, and her husband was able to leave his job and now they work together.
It changed her life, just by letting go of excess.
She’s found that people are really resonating with her story right now.
Moms are told to basically do it all, even in the curated imperfection that’s trending on social media right now, it’s still fake it’s still kind of perfectly imperfect, even in the messages of “it’s okay momma, you don’t have to do it all”, we’re still being told in a lot of other ways that yeah, we do, or we’re told the opposite, that we can’t, that it’s all downhill from here and it’s so overwhelming and “don’t worry you’ll get through it”.
She thinks both of those messages are lies.
And Allie’s message isn’t that you can have it all, it’s that,
“you can have less for the sake of having more of what matters to you and creating that life that you want that’s actually joyful”.
Allie has done an amazing job of creating a step by step for people while also talking about all of the mental baggage that goes along with decluttering.
Because it’s one thing to do a sweep of your house, put a bunch of stuff in bags, and get rid of it, but it’s another thing to maintain that loop.
The challenges are making sure excess does not come back in and getting people in the loop of being careful about what comes in and also making sure that these leave that are weighing you down.
Perfectionism and all or nothing syndrome.
For those who are totally on board with this decluttering message: when it comes down to getting it done, people still run into barriers.
You hear an episode of something like this or you read something inspiring, get really gung-ho and ready to dive in.
But then life happens, and your toddler spills cereal all over the floor, or you have to go to work and you kind of forget, and feel like you don’t have time for this.
The shame about that is that this is one of the only things you can really do with this level of impact that will take more time from you initially but literally add minutes to your day, and hours to your week.
You don’t realize how much time is being taken up by your stuff until it’s gone.
You have to see the shift from version A with all the things to version B when you got rid of things that aren’t worthy of your precious time.
Decide: Is this something that’s resonating with you?
Then decide what you’re going to do: Write out your schedule.
If this is worth it to you, if this return on investment with your time is worth it to you, then how can you make this happen and fit it in?
Maybe decide on two separate hours a week that you can do this for.
When Allie used to lose momentum, she would do Monday mornings and Saturday mornings for an hour, and she’d finish and make progress.
Even if it’s 15 minutes, do something.
Don’t let yourself get trapped in that all or nothing syndrome, because it’s totally a version of perfectionism.
These mindset blocks are validated through the research, we have these great intentions but it’s not about a lack of motivation or a lack of discipline, it’s often these mindset blocks: “if I can’t do it perfectly then I’m not going to do it”, or “if I can’t spend the entire weekend on it then I’m not going to do it”, or “my version doesn’t look exactly like Allie’s, so I must be doing it wrong”.
A 15 minute way to get the ball rolling:
Let’s say you’re listening to this in the morning and you’re about to go have your coffee.
While your coffee is brewing, open up your junk drawer-- you don’t even have to finish it, just get rid of some stuff you see in there, like old rubber bands, a broken tape dispenser, things you won’t use, pens that don’t work, just do something.
Or open up your pots and pans cupboard and go through there.
There are always things that are big that we feel like “this was money and it equals a lot of value”, even though it’s destroyed and you never use it; it feels weird to make a decision like that.
Just while you’re doing stuff, while your water is boiling for pasta, go through your cups, get rid of the mugs you always avoid giving people when they come over for coffee, when you’re getting ready in the morning and you’re waiting for your curling iron to heat up, go through a drawer and get rid of old makeup.
A lot of “while I do this, I do that” type of stuff is really effective, and what’s cool about it is that you’re going to feel a difference right away.
Allie usually says if you’re going all in, you need to start in the bathroom.
If you’re going to do a full room, start in the bathroom first because it’s an easy yes or no area, there aren’t a lot of sentimental items kept in the bathroom.
What will happen almost every single time, people will declutter their bathroom and it feels so good.
You feel that difference immediately.
There aren’t a lot of other things like that, if you’re changing your eating, it takes months for you to really see something from that.
It’s a little discouraging, you want to feel that progress, and with decluttering, it’s immediate.
Be encouraged by that and start somewhere.
We might be drawn to the closet of baby clothes first or the thing that feels the biggest, but it can be so incredible to gain momentum with the stuff that doesn’t have as much personal value to begin with.
We might be drawn to some of those things because we know they’re bothering us.
Getting rid of little things like outfits that used to fit but don’t anymore just make you feel lighter-- you create that white space, and you remove those things that were just weighing you down; it’s so powerful.
You have to face it a little bit, but it feels so much better, you’re not being held captive by your old jeans (or whatever it is).
But this idea of starting in the bathroom is wonderful-- don’t make it harder than it has to be.
And when it comes to items of emotional significance, it can be really hard to get rid of and it means more than a purge.
After dealing with secondary infertility, for Robyn, getting rid of her daughter’s baby stuff meant the end of something.
While it doesn’t seem like having a baby is going to happen in the future, she knows how expensive all of that stuff would be to buy again.
She had all of the stuff in her garage and after getting rid of it she noticed that she also got rid of the constant reminder of being in the middle of not knowing what’s going to happen.
It made some space for what she does have.
And although she felt lighter, it didn’t mean she wasn’t sad; it just didn’t have stuff on top of it.
It’s getting rid of that constant reminder of something very difficult that you’re going through, or have gone through, or that you’re unhappy with, whether those are jeans or baby stuff.
And Allie works a lot with widows, and that is also so heavy.
Whatever it is, it can be big or small but it really does weight you down and it can feel wasteful to let those things go when you may need them.
The emotional attachment is probably 50% of the struggle, but the other 50% of it is just feeling like you’re going to need it later.
“I’m going to shrink back down, this baby is going to happen, I’m going to need this later”.
Even just saying that, you can feel the weight that you’re holding onto.
It kind of makes you live life with your breath held and then you’re unable to relax and enjoy what you do have and create space for what matters to you right now.
Even if you’re on a budget, you can always get more stuff if you need it: is it really worth the mental weight that you’re carrying around?
But there’s another side to this: you use something, for example with your child, and you hold onto it for the future.
But it has already served its purpose, and now it’s not, it’s actually hurting you, bothering you, making it harder for you to enjoy.
It has served its purpose, and you let it go.
Ask yourself: Did something already serve its purpose for me? Is it overused and I need to replace it with a new one? Did it work for me for a time but now it doesn’t?
That’s not waste.
You purchase things so that they can serve a purpose for you, and it did.
It’s okay to let it go, you’re not wasting, you spent money on something and it served the purpose you purchased it for.
Especially if you can donate it to someone else who needs it, they might be getting an amazing discount and they might really need that, how is that waste?
Side note: if you have the time and space to think outside of the Goodwill or Salvation Army box, it is so much better and more fulfilling if you were to give those items to a women and children’s shelter or even churches.
Think about that, you purchased it, it served its purpose, and now you’re giving it to somebody else who is actually going to be able to use it and is going to be hugely blessed by that because they may not have the resources to get.
But if going and finding the perfect donation spot gets in the way, just get it out.
Bringing your unwilling family on board:
It’s one thing for us to change our own behavior and start to declutter in our own homes, but it is another thing when you constantly have children bringing things into the house, your partner bringing stuff in, and your family members aren’t on board with decluttering.
It can feel like you’re just in an uphill battle, you have to deal with the incoming flow of stuff, and that is a big topic.
Part of dealing with that incoming flow is related to family, like gifts from grandparents, or paperwork from school.
One problem that Allie really has with some of the popular minimalist teachers is that there’s this rule that if you have to declutter again after the first time, you’re doing it wrong.
First of all, you’re not doing it wrong.
But also, kids change everything.
Especially for all the moms listening, it is normal and okay to have a constant wave of incoming stuff.
How can you even control that?
The thing that we need to do is figure out a solution.
One practical thing that Allie likes to do for paper-clutter is ask: where does that paper clutter collect in your home?
For her, it’s a ledge by her front door and the stairs.
Paperwork would constantly collect there, mail, schoolwork, stuff just collects.
Wherever clutter collects, that is a place to put storage.
She noticed that everyone was throwing their stuff there, their shoes, backpacks, and toys because they didn’t want to carry it all the way upstairs.
So she put a cute, rectangle basket with a lid at the bottom of the stairs and they clean it out every night as part of their evening pick-up routine.
And then for paper and mail, she put a cute little wooden tier from Target with a slot for mail, a slot for school papers, and then a slot for anything outgoing.
In the minimalist world, it feels like storage is a no-no, but that’s kind of ridiculous for moms; we have stuff to store and we need to make it work.
So notice where you’re feeling that incoming stuff that really puts clutter-pressure on you, even if it’s stuff that you already own that’s coming out to your car and then back in again and gets put down somewhere.
Find out where that pressure is and put storage there that works for you.
We don’t want to enable junk, though, and start to go back to our old ways of organizing things we needed to let go of.
But the fact is, life is life and there’s stuff that comes in and you still need to be happy to come home.
Even if you’re busy and you come home to a bunch of people and papers, it can still feel neat and make you happy to be there instead of super overwhelmed.
And then circling back to the other side of incoming things, talking to your family and dealing with that side of incoming flow:
People tend to, again, get into the all or nothing syndrome and they’ll tell Allie that their husband isn’t on board or that their kids are really pushing back.
How are you communicating what decluttering looks like?
You’re probably telling your kids “we need to get rid of these toys, this is ridiculous”, and they come at it almost like it’s an undeserved punishment.
And a husband is probably like, “whoa, we paid money for this why are you getting rid of everything”, and it’s just a miscommunication.
Allie always tells people that it’s okay, because you don’t need your husband to be on board for you to clean some of your own things and make the house flow better.
“You don’t need everyone on board for you to simplify”.
Do what you can, practice what you preach, lead by example, and let everyone come around.
Especially for little ones.
Around ages 4-6 kids go through this regular development where inanimate objects come to life and become really special for them; it’s hard to let go.
It’s important to take a deep breath and step back.
Realize that there are so many other areas that you can work on that are going to give you a lot of your time and mental space back.
Those other parts and other people, if you’re living this way, they will come around and catch on eventually.
They just don’t really understand what you mean and it can seem really alarming and overwhelming to say, “let’s change everything we’ve been doing so far and go the opposite way and get rid of stuff”.
It can just feel alarming.
Building in a rhythm:
Truthfully, Allie just has it on her checklist to just go through the mail and papers everyday, but that never happens.
She knows that for her household, it’s really important to have set times to do things, otherwise it just gets jumbled.
She has one day a week that is set aside for home love, when she goes through the mail, pays the bills, sends back whatever she needs to send back, and goes through the kids’ schoolwork-- a home/personal-life day when there’s no work and she can go through those things.
And she has it on her calendar, even though it’s every week.
Doing things like that, for Allie and her lifestyle, that’s what she needed to do.
When she was a stay at home mom without her business, she didn’t really need to have that set in.
It was just different, and now it needs scheduling.
Ask yourself: What do I need? What is my lifestyle? What kinds of rhythms do I need?
Taking the next step:
It’s one thing to listen to a podcast, it’s another to take action.
On her website, Allie always makes the landing page the best, newest step-one.
There’s a webinar (an online video class), which is really the best place to start.
In it, Allie walks listeners through the three main areas of your home that are the most cluttered.
Whether you’re single or you have seven kids, these are the three main areas of your home that are overstuffed and taking up most of your time.
If you’re not a webinar person, Allie has other resources available like her Clean the Clutter Starter Kit, which helps you get started and walks you through the same steps.
On what’s next for Allie:
Allie just put the finishing touch on her book proposal, so now that it’s done she can focus on her messaging.
She also runs the Declutter Like a Mother challenge every year, and they’re currently working with a production company to turn that idea into a television series.
How Allie feels about the Marie Kondo series:
Allie loves what Marie Kondo does and what she’s trying to do, because anyone spreading the message of simpler, even the ones that are a little legalistic and kind of out of touch with women and mothers who are struggling, she thinks anybody spreading that message is doing a great job.
It’s a little different for Allie though, you’ll never find her ranking everything before she lets it go.
She more feels in her gut whether it’s worth her time.
And Allie says she’s trying to create a life that allows her to roll with the punches and have a crazy, full life, not really thinking about lining up her produce and cleaning out her purse every day.
There are so many ways to approach simplification right now, so people have options.
To hear more from Allie, connect with her on Instagram @allie_thatsme and stay tuned for her vlog-style insta-stories.
On what it really means to be healthy:
“I think it means when you wake up in the morning that you feel good and excited… am I living healthfully, and that’s physically, spiritually, emotionally, how’s my mental health”.
Allie Casazza is from Southern California, married her junior high sweetheart, and is a mom to 4 young children. She inspires and encourages her audience at AllieCasazza.com, is the host of The Purpose Show and is the creator of Your Uncluttered Home - an online decluttering course that earned her national attention for her philosophy of simple motherhood. Her business is built on minimalism and how we can all live a more purposeful life if we cut out all of the stuff to create space for enjoying the life we’re living! She has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Huffington Post and even ABC News. Everyone has really taken to her realistic, doable mom-friendly, philosophy of minimalism and simplified living!
Inner Order, Outer Calm & Decluttering, with Gretchen Rubin