Declutter Tips: Take It Mug by Mug

by | Feb 2, 2018 | Minimalism | 6 comments

declutter tipsLet me ask you something. How many coffee mugs do you own? Do you even know?

The lady we’re currently house-sitting for has 25 mugs. In case you’re wondering, she lives alone.

Sporty and I owned two mugs when we still had permanent digs. Admittedly, that’s a little extreme, but we were busy with a new lifestyle experiment at the time.

Granted, we didn’t entertain. But even if you are more sociable than we are, how often do you have 24 people around for coffee?

In case you’re wondering, two is plenty.

Clutter Stats That Will Blow Your Mind

These surprising statistics reveal just how much stuff the average American owns. Our Stateside friends aren’t the only ones with a penchant for hoarding, however.

Here in South Africa we’re no better and my guess is it’s as bad elsewhere in the western world. The stats are all pretty shocking in their own right, but this one really made me sit up and take note.

“Over the course of our lifetime, we will spend a total of 3,680 hours or 153 days searching for misplaced items. The research found we lose up to nine items every day—or 198,743 in a lifetime. Phones, keys, sunglasses, and paperwork top the list.” [The Daily Mail]

How on earth can you lose as many as nine things in a day? Sporty and I rarely misplace anything, although I guess it’s hard to lose stuff when you own as little as we do.

When Last Did You Take Stock of Your Stuff?

The thing is, we still take stock of our stuff on a regular basis. Every few months (sooner if we’re moving to a new house-sit) we go through everything we own to see if we still need it or not.

Some things are a hell to the yeah no brainer, like Blendobi the Omniblend superblender. Others require a little mulling over, like our now dog-eared and food-stained Rawlicious recipe book.

We inventory our clothes to make sure they’re still in good condition. We go through our paperwork and whatnot to see if there’s anything we no longer need. The process never takes very long because we don’t have a lot to go through.

Whatnot in particular has a habit of multiplying, so we tend to keep a close on it.

But even you’re a house or apartment dweller, it won’t take too long if you a) declutter first, b) stay decluttered and c) take stock on a regular basis.

How Many Coffee Mugs Do You Own?

Just like there’s more than one way to peel a carrot, options abound when it comes to decluttering. You could take Dave Bruno’s 100 Thing Challenge, approach it room by room or play the popular 30-day minimalism game.

Another option is to employ the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning, which sounds more macabre than it is. (If you’re not convinced it’s a good idea, here’s what I learnt from cleaning out my parents’ home.)

Figuring out how to declutter when you don’t know where to begin can be tricky. When you’re surrounded by stuff it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Similar in theory to Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird approach, my suggestion is to take it mug by mug.

When you’ve pared down your mug collection, take it bowl by bowl and then teaspoon by teaspoon and so on. Until eventually all you’re left with is a reasonable amount of stuff.

Now that you’re no longer wasting your time looking for stuff, you can go to movies more, channel your inner vegan chef or learn to play the Ukulele. Because why not, right?

Watch Ang’s TEDx talk!

Who are Ang & Sporty?



  1. RJ

    Mug by Mug – YES! I have never had a lot of stuff. Even as a kid I preferred organization and “control” of my belongings which meant fewer things. When I moved into my current, one bedroom house, I had boxes of my things that had been packed for 10 years as I lived with a room mate during those years. YAY – felt like Christmas going through my boxes in my new place and seeing my stuff! Then, I got rid of 60% of it as it no longer had any meaning to me and I had gotten used to living small and without it – three rows of mugs in the cabinet included. I continue to live “small” (not as small as you two) and really THINK before a purchase about whether or not it will have meaning or use to me and my guests down the road. Not many purchases anymore as I enjoy viewing beautiful things and marvel at useful things but just don’t need to own them. Most purchases are just replacing something worn out now. I get the Swedish Death Cleaning ideal even before I knew it was a custom. I know that if I were to pass away, my family will have no problems with my STUFF. Pets – check as my highest priority! Everything else (not much) they will know what to do with. It’s a freeing feeling, not being overwhelmed with stuff or leaving my family with it. And, if/when I move again, pretty cheap!

    • Ang

      Hi RJ,

      I totally get the idea of enjoying beautiful things and marveling at useful things without the need to actually own them. I was chatting to a newly minimalist friend a while ago and she was telling me how her family had cottoned onto this same idea. Even her teenage daughters bought into it.

      Living with less and the feeling of liberation it brings with it just never gets old. Well done for not burdening your family with decluttering your stuff. They’ll thank you for it!

      Ang 🙂

  2. Carla Sage

    I have to much household STUFF. Letting go of it is killing me but I want a totally decluttered house when we move.
    How much should a family of 5 have; dishes, sheets, kitchen dishes, towels and etc.

    • Ang

      Hi Carla,

      Thanks for stopping by. I hear you, for a lot of people, letting go can be tough. Not to worry though, because it’s definitely possible! 🙂

      Kitchen dishes etc.

      At one point, Sporty and I owned only two of everything (one each). It might seem weird or extreme, but it was such a liberating experience. It means everyone is responsible for their own dish and cutlery, so no using a new glass or spoon every time you make tea or whatever.

      If that’s too out there for your family, then I’d suggest capping it at two of everything per person. If you entertain a lot you could add a few extra, depending on how many guests you typically invite around at a time.

      Towels & Bedding

      Here, I’d cap it at two of everything. I’m also of the opinion that you don’t need winter and summer bedding, as that just takes up unnecessary space. Instead, opt for medium-weight material that’s suited to all seasons. I mean, most houses are heated and cool nowadays anyway. We have a blanket we add in winter, so that’s an option to think about.

      Take a look at this post on how to declutter when moving abroad. It has lots of useful information, even if you aren’t moving countries.

      One last word on letting go. If you know you have too much stuff, think about sharing it with those who don’t have anything. For example, a woman might have left her abusive marriage with nothing but the clothes on her back. Or, a fire could have put paid to a family’s home and all their belongings. There are plenty of situations like these everywhere. By donating your overflow to a local charity, you’ll be making a very real difference.

      I hope this helps. Good luck with your move.

      Much love,
      Ang 🙂

  3. Mari R

    The most difficult thing to get rid of is OPS, which stands for Other People’s Stuff. Downsizing mother in law FedExed huge boxes of stuff (more like junk) to our home despite my begging not to do so.

    Gifts from in-laws are tough to remove. They come back and ask whereabouts if it’s not properly displayed.

    “Just thank the giver and move on.” minimalist tactics won’t work!

    • Ang

      Wow, that’s so inconsiderate. I reckon if someone says they don’t want something then they don’t want it. End of story. You must have been so frustrated when Fedex appeared at your doorstep.

      Unfortunately, in these instances you have to be honest. If you’re not, you’re the one left housing a pile of stuff you don’t want. Can you Fedex it back to her?


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ang writing old school letters

Sign up for our newsletter!

Join our mailing list and we'll email you a personal, handwritten response to your burning question about minimalism and decluttering. (There might even be doodles.)

You're in!