You already know that here at Easier Motherhood, I'm all about trying to help make our lives a little easier. Motherhood is hard, but it's also wonderfully worthwhile. And some of the things that make it feel hard are things we unconsciously do to ourselves. For example, judging ourselves harsher than we do our partners, or setting unrealistic, "perfect" expectations.
One of the things I do to help myself stay out of the trap of perfectionism is to listen to podcasts by women who get that, women who remind me that I am more than a good enough mom. The two I listen to most are Kendra Hennessy at Mother Like a Boss, and she introduced me to Allie Casazza at The Purpose Show.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning when you click them and make a purchase, I get a small commission at no additional cost to you. This is NOT a sponsored post, and early access to the book did not obligate me to write this blog post (I was asked to review it on amazon and goodreads).
"What takes up your space takes up your time"- Allie Casazza, Declutter Like A Mother
I'd realized through doing a cleaning challenge with Kendra that actually cleaning stuff wasn't what took up the bulk of my time. It was moving the stuff SO that I could clean, and then having to deal with that same stuff again AFTER cleaning. That's when I added Allie's podcast to my life.
So when I had the opportunity to read and review Allie Casazza's new book, Declutter Like A Mother, before its release, I jumped on it! I had already pre-ordered my copy, and getting to read and review it early has been a true gift.
In Declutter Like A Mother, Allie breaks down her no-nonsense, approachable methodology into 11 Chapters, which I'm renaming here with my takeaways. One of the things I found most powerful about the book was the way Allie managed to blend instructional with inspirational. Sometimes messages can be very inspiring but leave a lot of the "how, exactly?" unanswered. Others are very detailed in what to do, but don't make me want to go do it.
Also, remember that these are MY key takeaways. There is a lot more meat and detail in Declutter Like A Mother than I could possibly summarize here, so as long as this review is, I'm not covering everything. The quotes and metaphors that spoke to me- or that I thought of while reading- may not be the ones that resonate the most with you, and our "ah-ha!" moments may be different as well. If you read Declutter Like A Mother, be sure to let me know what your biggest takeaway is!
Chapter 1: Things are about to get so. much. lighter.
I call this one "the wakeup call", which Allie recounts her own wakeup call in the introduction. My experience has been very similar to hers, which is part of why I created Easier Motherhood in the first place. I want more good days not just for myself, but for all of us. While motherhood is challenging, it shouldn't feel this hard. It shouldn't be this overwhelming, or be something we "get through", while feeling guilty that we're not enjoying every moment.
In her introduction, Allie recalls "And then a thought popped into my head: What exactly are you spending all your time doing? Picking up. Maintaining my life. Maintaining... stuff."
The first sentence of the first chapter is so important, and really sets the tone. "Minimalism is not the point of this book." While she's known as a minimalist, she's really just about simplifying your home so that it's less overwhelming. So that it works for you instead of you spending loads of time keeping it up. In Allie's words:
"It's about having less of what doesn't matter in order to make room for what does."
She addresses the white-washed empty spaces type of minimalism that many people- including me- have come to mind. "Pursuing that type of minimalism for the sake of wide-open, empty space doesn't fit into a life full of noisy, playful kids and all the messes that come from having a good time." This book is not going to be around creating a modern looking space with barely anything in it.
Allie emphasizes that you shouldn't be getting rid of stuff JUST for the sake of having less. That it isn't about perfection, instead it's about lightening your load. She says "This isn't about spending every ounce of the time and energy you have making sure everything is as minimal as humanly possible. I don't want that for you. I do want your life to be lighter and more focused on what really matters to you."
I'll tell you that the last part of this chapter is advice I ignored (mostly because I started decluttering before I got my hands on the book). And that advice is to take before photos. No one wants to capture the mess, but seeing your progress compared to the beginning is SO awesome. She says that "trust me, everyone regrets not snapping one before they start." As someone who wishes I would have taken before pics of my closet, be sure you take yours!
Chapter 2: Everything you need to know about clutter (so you can get it all out)
Aka, the basics. Declutter Like A Mother the book is based on Allie's very successful "Declutter Like A Mother" online challenge.
"Progress, not perfection"
This is the mantra of the challenge, and also something I find myself now saying constantly. It comes up throughout the book, but for this recovering perfectionist it's basically an affirmation!
"Clutter does not equal messy. Clutter equals clutter"
I'm a naturally messy person. Allie apparently is too. There are still clothes on the floor of my closet, but there are less of them because I have less of them. Also there's more space to put things where they belong. So mostly now the floor is for things I've worn that aren't ready for the laundry basket but aren't clean either- like jeans and pajamas.
Do what works
"Would setting aside an hour a week be helpful for you? Do that. Would setting a timer for thirty minutes once a day help? Do that." With the Declutter Like A Mother method, you don't have to gut a whole room, or closet, or house all at once. Decide what you can commit to, what works for you, and then do what works.
For me, that's usually decluttering after the kids bedtime. I put mine down on the earlier side, and then every other evening I spend an hour or so decluttering before winding down for bed. The other evenings I spend doing something else (for instance, blogging), because this is a journey and I don't want to get burned out. I will do extra spurts when I have extra help- for instance when my in-laws are visiting and I have extra hands with the kids.
What NOT to do
Allie covers a critical thing to not do, which is something you may have tried in 2017 after Marie Kondo took the world and Netflix by storm. I totally binged that series on Netflix, and while her methods obviously did a lot for a lot of people, I knew it wasn't for me every time I saw the clothes piled up on the bed. If I did that, I'd have nowhere to sleep for a week!
Declutter Like A Mother says NOT to throw everything on the floor and then start sorting. "Simply pick up the first thing you see, look at it, and make a decision. Decide first, then put that item into a pile on the floor."
Another thing to NOT do is get stuck. When you come across something sentimental that you can't decide on- set it aside or put it back. That "progress not perfection" mantra is my friend here. It doesn't have to be perfect after the first pass. Just better.
The hardest NOT to do suggestion Allie has is to NOT put stuff away until you're done with your decluttering session. Be it 15 minutes, an hour, or an afternoon, she suggests not leaving the area you're actively decluttering. Why? Because we end up putting things back in other rooms and then wind up down a rabbit hole of other tasks.
"Clutter is a thief"
Allie is adamant that clutter steals from us- it steals space, mental energy, and time. Every time I put mugs away out of the dishwasher and have to move the ones I never use? A few seconds stolen by those never-used mugs. A wee bit of mental energy rearranging them so the favorites fit. And of course, the literal space they take up in the kitchen cabinet.
Chapter 3: How minimalism can steal your joy (and how to stay happy instead)
I think of this chapter as "Avoiding labels and other people's rules" because as Allie reinforces throughout the book, the only rules that matter are YOURS. Her methodology is all about creating a box that fits your life, not creating a life that fits in a pre-fab box.
I personally find the words minimalist or minimalism to be off-putting, because of the negative, stark-white no-stuff associations I have with them. That's why I know Allie is going to change the lives of moms everywhere with this book by throwing out the rule book for minimalism.
Declutter Like A Mother takes all of those legalistic minimalism rules and burns them to the ground.
Put your entire wardrobe on your bed before going through it? Lol, nope! Where would you sleep if you can't do it all in one shot?
One in, one out? Nah girl. If you don't need or want something, go ahead and get rid of it, but don't turn buying something new into a punishment where you have to get rid of something else you love.
Keep X number of Y? If that works for you, great, but you decide the number. Or the set amount of space. Allie has a toy chest for her kids, so it's not they can have 10 toys, it's that the chest needs to close. And she reiterates that is HER rule for HER home, not THE rule for ALL homes.
The piece of this chapter I come back to over and over mentally
"The wasting of money doesn't happen by removing what's no longer useful to you; it happens when you buy something you don't need."
I don't want to think about how much money I spent on the clothes I used to wear. My hip bones widened carrying babies, so I'm never going to wear them again. But you know what? Someone else can. It's a better use of those items to donate them and let them find new life in a new closet, than to keep them gathering dust in mine.
Chapter 4: Let's get it started in here! (Nailed the Fergie impression, like I always do)
This chapter of Declutter Like A Mother is mostly about "setting the intent" for a space, and the mental exercise of what that means and why it's important.
I'm someone who enjoys cooking, while Allie and her husband keep things pretty simple. So I'm going to have more kitchen gadgets and things because my intention for my kitchen is to be a space where I can make fast, easy family meals (which I feature here on Easier Motherhood) but also where I can play around with sous vide scallops. On the flip side, Allie is someone who loves putting together fun outfits as a way of expressing herself. I mostly throw on a t-shirt and shorts and call it a day, so our closets will look very different. That's the idea! We're different people, which is why "there are no rules".
This is also where "The Clutter Crutch" appears. It's what it sounds like, that place or those places you shove things that have no place. Allie warns that while we're not going to deal with it until Chapter 10, that she brings it up here to say to not put more stuff in it while purging. I haven't gotten to my crutch yet, but I'll level with you here: I'm kind of dreading it, and adding more would definitely make that anxiety worse.
Chapter 5: Begin here: where poop happens
I call this chapter "time to (stop binge reading and) TAKE ACTION". Allie suggests starting in the bathroom, because you're not likely to run into sentimental things, or a lot of stuff to donate. Everything is generally pretty easy to put into the "keep" pile or the "toss" one.
One reason I like starting in the bathroom is that it's a place most of us start our day. Shortly after waking up, I go brush my teeth. Staring at a nice looking bathroom that doesn't have a bunch of excess stuff on the counters while I do feels like a fresh start and a clean slate, even if the day before was absolute chaos.
It's also a reminder that while the bathroom is a small space, this process isn't about tackling entire rooms all at once. You don't have to declutter your bathroom in a day. "Progress, not perfection". Allie includes a lot of very detailed and helpful guidelines for makeup, shower products, and how to set things up for daily use.
Chapter 6: Closets and sentimental things
This chapter is about the closets that aren't keeping clothes the people in your house wear. It is otherwise known in my head as "if everything is sentimental, then nothing is sentimental". When I was working at my first job out of college we had a similar saying about priorities. Because if everything is number 1, then in actuality, NOTHING is number 1. Things aren't equally important, we have to put them in order. Allie says a lot that clutter is just unmade decisions, and I think that's especially true here. We don't want to decide what's more important, so we shove it all in a closet. Which by the way, is not where grandma would want her stuff.
In Declutter Like A Mother, Allie recommends for sentimental items that when you can, to use or display things. It's better for them to be seen, or get used- or yes, even broken- if the alternative is to keep them in a bin you never go through.
For things you use like linens, she advocates thinking about your families needs, not a set number based on someone else. If your kid wets the bed, you're going to need more sheets for that bed than someone who is well past that phase of life. Personally, I'm keeping every crib sheet I have because I've gone through all 4 in one night before with a sick baby.
Chapter 7: A Kitchen you can't wait to cook in (seriously, trust me)
Also known as "you don't need 17 spatulas Anne!". I'm someone who generally likes to cook, and I love gadgets. My kitchen is still very full- of stuff I use. And I was able to get things that we needed but didn't necessarily belong on the counter into cabinets by clearing out things we weren't using.
As it turns out, I don't need a million snapware and rubbermaid containers. I clear out our fridge weekly on trash night, and before this at least half the containers never left the drawers they were stored in- but they were moved around a lot when I unloaded the dishwasher on trash day to make room for the ones I do use.
Allie recommends a semi crazy idea that I didn't latch onto here: having one plate/bowl/etc per person in the kitchen. The idea is to force the washing and reusing of dishes so they don't stack up. I'm good with clearing plates into the dishwasher throughout the day so they don't pile up in my sink. Since that's not an issue for me, I didn't implement a solution to fix it. However, plenty of moms who tried it dubiously now rave about it.
The chapter also addresses appliances, the pantry, and all the random stuff that tends to end up on kitchen counters. It's also where Allie mentions that "life is too short to drink out of a fugly mug".
Chapter 8: Minimalism and kids
I'd have titled this one "don't declutter your kids stuff without them- trust issues yo!" because if I have one critical thing to say about Declutter Like A Mother it's that I wish that idea would have come up a bit earlier in the beginning chapters. I could see another reader going through the process and being halfway through their house before getting to this. And personally, my kids stuff tends to end up everywhere, not just kid areas. Working on that- I get to make my own rules, and my personal plan is to have stuff in the living room, the play room, and their rooms.
Anecdote time. I made the decision to get rid of a ride-on giraffe in our living room before getting to this chapter. We knew someone who LOVES giraffes and was having a baby, and my kids weren't using it anymore. My son was with me when we dropped it off, and while he has a hard time expressing things verbally, I could tell he was disappointed and sad to see it go. We talked about it during the drop off, but in hindsight I should have addressed it with him before then.
Allie goes into strategies to help your kids be involved in the decluttering process of their things. I mentioned earlier that in Declutter Like A Mother Allie answers the "how, exactly?" questions that pop up as I'm reading. In this case, it's figuring our their personality type (of 5 she details) to motivate them. Oh, and giving grace and going slowly if needed, because kids are also people who may need time to adjust.
"Set the intent for the childhood that's taking place in your home"- Allie Casazza, Declutter Like A Mother
Allie brings up setting the intent in any room, but here is where it hits hardest and digs deepest. Decluttering kid space isn't just about lightening our load. It's about creating an environment with space for our children to thrive. Space where they aren't overwhelmed by endless toys they don't use, but instead have items that foster pretend play.
The other quote that really hit me is "toys do not stay organized unless Mom does it". One. Hundred. Percent. Fact. That's the real reason organizing too much stuff doesn't work. Organization is looks great initially, but it creates ongoing work. That lands us right back where we started- spending our time maintaining stuff.
Chapter 9: A maybe-not-so-capsule wardrobe
Also known as "your closet". Allie recounts her experience with a capsule wardrobe, which wasn't a fit for her. She reinforces that everyone is different, and that there are no rules. Except for the ones you make. And not to keep things that make you feel bad. And P.S. you've kept those things for reasons. I mean, there's a reason Allie didn't put this chapter right after the bathroom. It's probably very physically close to your bathroom, but is FAR more emotionally charged.
This is a place I have spent a crazy amount of time decluttering. I had SO much stuff I didn't fit into anymore. I'll be honest, some of it I still do. Some of the things I can get into but aren't comfortable at my current weight are sticking around for now. But if I couldn't button the pants, they had to go. Because being honest with myself, I'm not driven to lose that kind of weight. My body gave me my babies, and overall I'm not unhappy with it. You know, when I'm not trying to put on clothes that don't fit it anymore.
The Reality Check: "Do I Feel Absolutely Amazing in This?"
I'll level with you here, this is the chapter I felt most defensive reading. And I recognize that's because my pride is internally screaming that I'll fit those super cute LOFT tops well again. Allie recognizes this too, "this chapter might have you not liking me so much". She asks readers to ask themselves very direct questions about any given piece of clothing. I just said that I have some things sticking around "for now" because some I might legitimately feel amazing in again soon, and others because I'm just not ready to say goodbye to them. I know that I'm not done, and that's okay. Round 1 is done, and the progress feels even better than perfection.
Chapter 10: How to handle everything else
I think of this chapter as "the various other places in your home". Allie knows not everyone has a home office or garage or basement, but that if you do it needs included in the decluttering. Otherwise it'll just end up as a place you shove stuff, which will then multiply like the bunnies in my backyard.
The bunnies are really cute though.
This is also where Declutter Like A Mother really addresses how you actually use a space, rather than what the builder put on the layout. A dining room might be an office or homeschool space. It also addresses that "clutter crutch" from Chapter 4. I haven't tackled mine yet, but I'll tell you where they are: our home office, and garage. All the sentimental high school yearbooks and things we never look at, all the paperwork that might be important but probably isn't, our DVD collections from before we streamed everything. Both of those are specific sections in the chapter, because guess what? I'm not the only one with those crutches!
Chapter 11: Maintenance Mode
Also known in my head as "cruise control". You know how when you're on the highway for a road trip with not a lot of traffic, you crank up the tunes and jam? That's maintenance mode in my head. I'm not there yet, but that's how I picture maintenance mode. You have to steer and sometimes adjust speed or change lanes for the other cars and trucks around, but most of the time your foot isn't on the gas or the brake.
You'll still have to declutter things, because people are still living in your house! Things will come in, from school, and birthdays, and holidays, and life in general. And mail, my personal arch nemesis. Allie discusses all of those things along with shopping here (which, yes, she still enjoys).
Declutter Like A Mother Afterword: You're gonna ruffle some feathers (and that's okay!)
P.S. some people won't like you not being overrun with stuff. Why? Because they interpret your decluttering as judgement of their clutter.
If you've ever read The Four Agreements (even if you just saw them on a Pinterest pin!), you may recall that agreement 2 is "Don't take anything personally". The reason for that agreement is that what other people do and say is a projection of their reality. It is 100% about them, not you.
My overall thoughts on Declutter Like A Mother
Obviously, I liked it. And while I'm nowhere near maintenance mode, I am through a round or two of the areas I use most in my home (the bathroom, my closet, kitchen, and kid stuff). Just having that level done I am already finding it easier to stay on top of the house and spend more time being present with my kids without that nagging "you should be cleaning/cooking/etc" feeling dragging me down.
The book was a pretty easy and quick read. I'd pick up my iPad after the kids went to bed and read for about an hour or so at a relaxed pace, and was done with it in less than a week. Obviously if you declutter as you go it'll take longer, I'd started going through some things beforehand. I'd also do a bit here and there while reading, but mostly waited to finish the book to fully dive in.
Declutter Like A Mother releases September 7th, and when you pre-order on Amazon you are guaranteed the lowest price between the day you order and the release date. I love that because I hate ordering something and it going on sale the next week. I won't be charged for my copy until it ships, and I'll be getting it a great price (I ordered it in June). And while I got early access to it digitally- it would be impossible to have written this before the release date otherwise!- it is a book I definitely want to have a physical copy of.
Where are you on your decluttering journey? Just discovering, maintenance mode, or in between like me? I'd love to hear about your experience below!