When the Army Teaches You about Decluttering

New home concept. Boxes in empty room.

If I haven’t introduced myself, hi! I’m Shelly and my family moves constantly. All. The. Time.

Due to my husband’s job in the Army, we have lived in 3 different states, 4 different cities, and 5 different houses in the last 6 years. (The organizer in me is giddy over the fact that the numbers lined up so well.) Each house has had completely different layouts, different spaces, and different needs. One thing that has never changed is the fact that we have to move ALL THE STUFF every single time.


Thankfully, we have the option to contract out movers with the military so that we aren’t packing and moving everything ourselves. (For all my military friends, we have never done anything but Partial DITYs!) However, we still have to organize and unpack every move. Let me tell you, packing and unpacking your whole life every year or two is not for the faint of heart. It takes time. With little ones running around, it takes a LOT of time. When you move frequently, you really take stock of what you have. You realize what matters. You oh so desperately have a desire to trash everything because it is so much work. If you trash everything, you may as well star in a reality show about living in tiny homes.

Since my husband doesn’t want to join me in being TV stars and living in a box (boring!), trashing all our stuff isn’t an option. Darn it.  So how do I decide what is important enough to move? Here’s what the Army has taught me about “stuff”:


1. Keep what brings you joy.

Those of you familiar with the KonMari method of organizing will recognize this sentiment. Something can bring me joy in its function, its beauty, or preferably both. My husband and I recently donated a ton of clothes. A couple pieces didn’t fit anymore, some of his shirts couldn’t be used with his new Army uniform, but most of it just didn’t fit my current style. Instead of having it take up space in our closet, we donated. We kept the clothes that made us feel good about ourselves!

While most of the “stuff” in my house does have function, some of it doesn’t.




Take the cat for instance. (No, not a real cat! I’m not heartless people!) My grandfather hand made this amazing cat magazine rack that I straight up begged my parents to let me take. I mean, I really groveled for this thing.  I don’t keep magazines in the house and already have a place to keep all of our books. I don’t NEED a magazine rack, but guess what? Mr. Jingles brings me joy. In all of his creepy green-eyed, wonky glory, he brings me joy. So I keep him. Next to my bed. Not creepy at all to see this when you wake up right?


2. If it’s broken, toss it.

Broken chair? Throw it to the curb. Bent curtain rod? Trash it. Broken/annoying/loud toy? Ripped basket? Smashed knick knack? Toss it all! If you can’t use it, lose it. Especially if it’s not in good enough shape to donate. While to some, this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s not always that easy. We think, “Oh, I can definitely fix this!” or we keep around that broken knick knack thinking we can become Martha Stewart and repurpose it for that perfect Pinterest project. While you may be able to fix it or you may have your inner Martha just sitting, waiting to be released into the wild… do yourself a favor. Just toss it. It frees up space and doesn’t leave you a “to-do” for later.


3. Curtains are gold.

If you move frequently as well, you know this one. Always keep the curtains. Too many windows. Never enough curtains. (See why I have a curtain in my laundry room on the next blog post!)



4. Get rid of multiples.

Every time I move I always find a million pens, crayons, and markers. A million. Literally. My oldest son absolutely loves drawing and coloring and consistently goes through a new pack of markers every couple of months. But this also means that we consistently have some stragglers that like to stay behind and hang out with him. We go through, toss out the dry markers, broken or stubbed crayons, and keep 1-2 of each color. The rest goes. Even for linens, we try to keep the minimum around. It saves us storage space and we actually use what we own. Each bed gets 1-2 sheet sets. When we go to wash one set, the other one gets put on. No need to have more!


5. Have a home for everything.

I cannot stress this one enough. Everything in our home has its own home. When my husband or kids are looking for something (because let’s be honest, it’s always them and mom always gets asked) there are only a couple of places it could be. If it’s not there, it’s truly lost. And to be honest, things rarely get lost in our house because of this rule.

When we move, we keep as much as we can in its original home. We buy baskets, boxes, and bins that can easily be put into moving boxes as is. It has cut our unpacking time in half and makes life in between moves so simple.  Even when we don’t have a home, our belongings still do.



Since we constantly move, I tend to keep our house at move-out ready. (Don’t mistake this for deep cleaning. Deep cleaning is not my jam, but that’s for another blog post!) When I declutter in between moves and keep to my above “rules”, it makes life simple, it makes moving simple. It makes starring in that tiny house reality show not as enticing.

tiny house

Where my mind goes when my kids are running through my house screaming.


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