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Clutter to Clarity Quick Guide

Read time: 9 minutes

Ronald L. Banks [An open letter to clarity seekers]

I started decluttering my life in 2016, and I’ve been on a mission to conquer my clutter, prioritize my values, and pursue meaningful work.

Throughout my experience and lessons learned, I’ve developed a singular belief:

There’s only one way to ensure you live a life you have creative control over – and it’s not wishing or hoping for it.

The only reliable way to find success on this journey is through constant, disciplined pursuit of more clarity.

I’ve seen many people struggle with letting go, and most of what you feel I’ve experienced.

This guide is designed to help you take the first steps in the right direction and start transforming your life from cluttered to one filled with clarity. At the end, you’ll have an action plan you can implement.

I can’t wait to hear about the progress you make.

Talk soon!


- Ronald L. Banks

Rule #1: A Written List of Your Core Values

Focusing on what matters to you becomes feasible when your values are clear. This means you know with all certainty:

  • Who you are
  • Who you are not
  • What’s important to you
  • What’s not important to you

This is the level of clarity you need to succeed in life and foster a successful decluttering experience.

(My Core Values Worksheet makes this very easy to figure out)

Once you have written down 3-5 core values, the next step is clarifying what they mean in practice.

How are your values represented in your day-to-day? What actions are you engaging in? If your values and actions don’t align, now is the time to make the necessary adjustments.

Here’s how:

In the context of decluttering, your values are your primary decision-making tools, and they help you declutter by filtering all your decisions through them.

In short, ask yourself if keeping said item (or getting rid of it) will help you prioritize your values or pull you away from them.

It isn’t easy to live with clarity if your life is filled with things that prevent you from prioritizing what you value.

Rule #2: Find a Big Enough Why

Wanting to declutter simply because “I have too much stuff” is not a big enough reason to keep you going during those challenging or emotional moments.

Sure, it’ll get you started, but that flame will quickly burn out, as you may have experienced.

Additionally, by not having a why, you increase the likelihood of:

  • Decluttering for the wrong reasons
  • Ending up stuck in the frozen zone
  • Quitting before you had a solid start

At the beginning of my decluttering journey, my why consisted of three statements, first shared in 2018.

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  1. I want a new challenge
  2. I want to reinvent myself
  3. I have too much stuff

I know đź«Ł

That third one is exactly what I’m advising you not to do. This is because it landed me in the middle of everything I listed above – the things you don’t want to happen.

I’ve since discovered a more effective and consistent formula to find a big enough why, and I will walk you through it now.

Step 1: Gather Stories

Reflect on memories and special moments when you were “enjoying the things and people who matter,” free from stress, overwhelm, worry, and chaos.

  •  Who were you with?
  •  Where were you (physically, mentally, emotionally)?
  •  Why do those moments stick out?
  •  What are the common denominators?

Step 2: Ask Discovery Questions

Questions to consider:

  • What opportunities will living clutter-free afford me?
  • What am I hoping to achieve by decluttering?
  • What type of life do I want to create for myself (beyond decluttering)?
  • Why is this achievement important to me?
  • How will simplifying impact my life?
  • Who, other than myself, will benefit most from my decluttering?
  • What does decluttering success look like for me?
Step 3: Draft and Refine Your Why Statement

Participating in the above two steps will unearth many reasons why you want to declutter (beyond having too much stuff).

This is precisely what you want.

Following this, your next steps are to take the collected data and draft (and refine) your why statement.

When doing so, keep it:

  • Simple
  • Clear
  • Focus on your vision beyond decluttering
  • Written in one sentence (the best you can)

Suggested format:

{{Benefit}} + {{Impact}}


I want a clutter-free, clean, and organized home with the freedom to entertain family and friends without any preparation.

I want to create a safe space for my toddlers to play freely without worry.

I want fewer distractions and better focus throughout the day with a clearer mind.

I want to feel less overwhelmed in my environment and have the confidence to pursue interests I value.

Rule #3: Follow a Structure That Doesn’t Overwhelm You 

Following a proven, systematized action plan is a great way to build self-confidence and momentum on your decluttering journey.

This is why I’ve spent several years creating a formula that helps me declutter all aspects of my life while minimizing feeling overwhelmed.

Here’s my formula (in 4 parts) so decluttering life can feel approachable for you:

Step #1: Take inventory of your clutter and build a project bank

A project bank is a list of all the decluttering projects you have across your home and your life that you want to complete.

If you aim to jot down 1-2 decluttering projects every day, you’ll soon have 10+ new projects a week to choose from. That’s plenty of runway to build momentum and produce results.

The beautiful thing about this project bank is that it will eliminate the feeling of being overwhelmed by not knowing where to start.

Step #2: Pick one project and flesh out a personalized action plan

Think through all the steps (in order) that would need to be completed before you can deem this project “decluttered.” Give each task a “Do” Date and note any additional tools you need.

Don’t stress if you miss something; you can always add more tasks as needed.

But what about using a free decluttering checklist I can download online?

You could.

However, I recommend creating a personalized action plan versus a predetermined decluttering checklist.

There are two noteworthy reasons for doing this:

  • Your action plan should reflect what matters most to you. What you need to “let go” of will differ from others depending on your values and priorities.
  • Writing an action plan is an essential part of the decluttering process. If you want to achieve less clutter and more clarity (for good), then you have to tackle the thoughts and beliefs that led to your clutter in the first place. This can only happen when you take a hands-on approach to creating your “decluttering checklist.”

Pick a strategy to help you build your action plan:

YouTube and Google are your best friends here, and I wouldn’t overcomplicate them.

Look for a video, book, tweet, Instagram post, or article that offers sound and easy-to-implement decluttering advice.

These information snippets offer diverse perspectives toward decluttering and are a backup for when you feel stuck. 

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Step #3: Use momentum to conquer more projects (mindfully)

After completing your first decluttering project, it’s time to ride the wave.

Use the self-confidence you gained and the momentum you’ve built from the last project to carry you through to completing another.

The more you declutter, the more momentum you build.

But you still have to manage that momentum properly so you don’t become addicted to decluttering.

The solution? Slow down.

Not in your efforts or regarding the change occurring in your life.

Slow down in your approach and use your momentum mindfully.

In other words, keep going on your journey, but don’t turn it into a race to zero.

Step #4: Reflect and learn

This step is my secret sauce for effective decluttering—reflect and learn.

On a weekly or monthly basis, reflect on your decluttering success so far. Celebrate your wins, acknowledge the lessons you’ve learned, and observe how that’s made you feel.

After reflecting, review your why statement, core values, and goals.

You want to ensure that you are on track, staying true to the vision you established for yourself and prioritizing the values you’ve selected as most important.

If you believe you have lost sight of either of these areas over the last week or month, zoom out and determine why.

The greater your understanding of your experience, the more tweaks you can make to refine your process and get more results.

I highly suggest starting with refining your decision-making process. How are you deciding what stays and what goes? How confident are you in that decision despite the item in question?

You can steal my decision-making process here ↗

With this approach, you’ll foster a manageable and enjoyable decluttering experience – making your efforts count and last over the long haul.

Rule #4: Go Beyond Minimalism

Whether you’re just getting started with decluttering or you’re already years in on your journey. Eventually (if it hasn’t already happened), you’ll begin to look at your life like an onion that you are peeling away layers at.

  • Layer 1: Minimalism (decluttering your home)
  • Layer 2: A Quiet Mind (decluttering your headspace)
  • Layer 3: Emotional Peace (decluttering your emotions)
  • Layer 4: Financial Freedom (decluttering all debt)
  • Layer 5: A Meaningful Career (rethinking the work you want to do)
  • Core: Ultimate Clarity (having the freedom to prioritize what you care about)

However, many people stop after layer one, and I understand why.

Achieving a clutter-free home and enjoying the stress-free environment it creates is a fantastic feeling.

So I get it.

Layer one is where it’s at. It offers a ton of benefits that are very satisfying.

But the difference between layer one and every layer after that is all in the vision you have for your life.

And odds are you want more out of minimalism than just a clutter-free home.

So, how can you begin to make that you’re reality?

Here are three practical questions I challenge you to answer:

These are meant to be open-ended; draw it up how it makes sense to you.

Question #1:

What kind of life do you want to live?

Think big-picture and long-term. The best place to start is your core values.

Question #2:

How do you plan to create that?

Today is day one of your journey of creating the life you want (beyond minimalism). What’s your game plan?

Question #3:

What will you fill your life with to help you get there?

After decluttering, you’ll likely feel tempted to refill your life with temporary thrills and things you don’t need.

Don’t give in to those pacifiers. Instead, seek things, relationships, and thoughts that fill you with purpose and lasting fulfillment.

If it’s not helping you attain the life you want, then it’s clutter.

Here’s how I’m going beyond minimalism on my journey:

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Rule #5: Play Defense

We usually think about playing defense only in the context of sports — football, basketball, soccer, etc.

The team or player playing defense has one primary objective — to prevent the other team or player from scoring.

Athletes worldwide practice specific skills and habits for hours, to the point of mastery, to perform at the best of their abilities during game time.

So that they can play defense effectively.

I’m sharing this metaphor to say that we must also play defense in life.

Not just on the football or soccer field, the basketball court, or any other sporting arena.

Here’s what playing defense means in the context of maintaining a clutter-free life:

“Mastering specific skills and habits that will help you keep the clutter gone and maximize clarity and clutter-free living.”

There are three skills and habits that I believe we should focus on:

  1. Swim against the current. You’re already doing this by choosing to declutter and own less. I’m simply asking you to turn it up a notch. Swimming against the current is doing something you believe in, even if the majority don’t get it.

    When friends don’t understand what you’re doing, keep swimming against the current.

    When your family keeps throwing unnecessary gifts at you during the holidays, have an open and honest conversation about what you value receiving (and keep swimming against the current).

    When the world wants you to fit in, keep swimming against the current.

  2. Be your gatekeeper. If something does not add value to your life, don’t allow it to enter your life.

    Being your gatekeeper is about grabbing life by the reins and taking control. Clutter happens when you leave the gate open and unmonitored.

  3. Daily maintenance. When you master the first two things I mentioned, this one becomes second nature. Daily maintenance is about doing the small things that help you maintain your clutter-free life.

    For example, getting dressed and something no longer fits? Put it in a bag right then and there to be donated later that day/week.

    Are you feeling overwhelmed with commitments? Start saying no.

    Notice yourself outgrowing certain relationships? Disconnect from them sooner rather than later.

    Mastering daily maintenance like this will guarantee your decluttering efforts don’t go to waste.

Ronald L Banks Headshot Photo
Ronald L. Banks
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