These Memorable Mantras Will Help You Declutter and Guide Your Quest for Less


The most powerful tool in your decluttering arsenal? It’s your mind. Truly, when you seem to have a problem with “too much,” the biggest obstacle in the way of getting rid of needless things is your own brain. It’s there in the background insisting, maybe, that you’ll wear that ill-fitting dress some day again, or that this old broken lamp is the last thing that connects you to the memory of your grandparents’ condo.

Your brain is also responsible for the clutter that keeps coming into the house, when it convinces you that, yes, you’ll surely get tons of use out of that on-sale cherry pitter, though you’ve never bought fresh cherries in your life.

You see, before you attack the mess, you need to attack the mindset.

In order to re-frame your brain to not only need less but also to desire less in your life, I wanted to collect just a few quotes that I’ve been hoarding and share them with you. Each of these insightful quotes has helped me wrap my head around some aspect of the quest for less, encapsulating the mission of decluttering and downsizing, and left me with a mind more ready to let go. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

“Do not keep anything in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”

— William Morris

A century before Marie Kondo, English artist and designer William Morris spoke into action a concise, eloquent mantra for deciding what should stay in a home and what should go. I like this quote better than the “spark joy” philosophy because it manages to close one of KonMari’s loopholes, that is, some things in your home don’t spark joy, but yeah, you kinda need them around. (A plunger comes to mind.) With the “useful or beautiful” rubric Morris outlines here, you’ll allow for a much more comprehensive and realistic view of what things you should keep and which you should let go of.

“There are two ways to get enough. One is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.”

— G. K. Chesterton

Quick-witted writer G. K. Chesterton certainly had a way with words, and I love how he plays with the concept of “enough” here in this quote. At the heart of all of our piles of clutter is a universal desire: We think we need these things. They were bought or brought into our homes for a reason at the start. And now, at the inauguration of our decluttering project, we understand that it was too much. So use this moment right here, the moment where you’re realizing that you want to cull down your collection of things, and use it to re-frame the collecting side of your brain and stop bringing stuff in.

“More and more in my life I am interested in getting the right thing or no thing. This was one of the times when I got the right thing.”

— Blaque Reily, of this beautiful Nashville house tour feature

This is certainly a quote you’ve never heard before (unless you happen to be an avid and scrupulous Apartment Therapy house tour reader). When asked about her biggest indulgence in the 1930’s East Nashville home, this house tour participant mentioned a desk lamp and added this keen first-person advice you can use to steer your shopping. Get the right thing, or no thing. Or, in other words, don’t bring placeholders into your home. Everything inside should be a thoughtful, meaty collection of things you use and love, with no filler.

Do you have a quote or mantra that helps you think about getting or getting rid of things at home?

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