2017 was the year of minimalism and decluttering

minimalist desk
CC BY 1.0 Hamza Butt

We can summarize the year's most popular cleaning and organizing posts in two words: Less stuff!

Looking back at TreeHugger's top 10 posts in the 'cleaning and organizing' category reveals that 2017 was the year of the minimalist. The winner, by a long shot, was an article on Swedish Death Cleaning, a topic that is both catchy in title and concept. Stories about purging excess belongings and paring down to the bare necessities featured prominently, as did reading about the practices of other, experienced minimalists. These are great trends to see! Read on to learn more.

'Swedish Death Cleaning' is the new decluttering trend

luggage bagMaxPixel/Public Domain

Some articles become massive hits out of the blue. I've written about decluttering countless times, but there was something about the Swedish take on it that captured readers' attention. The idea is compelling, despite its slight creepiness -- that one should begin decluttering their belongings slowly and steadily from the time they're in their fifties until the end of life.

"The ultimate purpose of death cleaning is to minimize the amount of stuff, especially meaningless clutter, that you leave behind for others to deal with."

I think the article's popularity was also due to the fact that many of us have experienced the frustration and agony of having to sort through deceased parents' belongings. It's a long and thankless task, and one that only becomes more pronounced as people buy and keep more stuff. Countless readers commented on the post, saying they were forwarding the article to their elderly parents in hopes that they might initiate their own Swedish Death Cleaning.

More: 'Swedish Death Cleaning' is the new decluttering trend

10 eco friendly all-purpose cleaners for a toxic-free home

10 eco-friendly cleaners© Bon Ami

In this article, editor Melissa compiles a list of the top-rated eco-friendly house-cleaning products reviewed by the Environmental Working Group's Guide to Healthy Cleaning. All of these products scored an 'A' for their safe, non-toxic ingredient lists and effectiveness. Never before has it been so easy to get your house looking spic and span without the help of nasty chemicals.

More: 10 eco friendly all-purpose cleaners for a toxic-free home

The Joy of Less is the best minimalism book I've read

The Joy of Less book coverAmazon/via

There are hundreds of blogs and books out there singing the praises of the minimalist philosophy and trying to convince you why it's better to live with fewer belongings, but there are relatively few that focus entirely on the practical side of how to make that happen. Francine Jay's "The Joy of Less" is one such rare treasure that is entirely dedicated to the how-to of domestic decluttering.

Jay has a nifty acronym called STREAMLINE that she applies to every room in the house, and it's meant to become a mantra that will help keep that clutter from piling up once again.

More: The Joy of Less is the best minimalism book I've read

Marie Kondo has kids! How's she coping?

Marie KondoWeb Summit -- Marie Kondo speaking at a conference in Ireland in 2015/CC BY 2.0

Another minimalist guru, Marie Kondo, is back in the news. Kondo is famous for her "sparking joy" philosophy -- the idea that you should not keep anything in your house if it does not bring you great joy and happiness. Kondo, we found out, is now the busy mother of two young daughters, a discovery that made me immediately wonder how she's faring, stuff-wise (insert evil laugh). With three little people running around my own house, keeping clutter to a minimum is a near-impossibility.

It turns out, she's doing just fine, although she's had to tweak a few aspects of her approach. Read on for the full scoop.

More: Marie Kondo has kids! How's she coping?

How to clean white sneakers without bleach

Clean shoes© @sarahtraceyy/Twitter

Editor Melissa just had to write about the cleaning tweet that went viral this fall -- before and after pictures of white Converse sneakers that were cleaned with a baking powder-detergent mixture. The difference is amazing, and while you couldn't pay me to buy a pair of white shoes, it's a great natural cleaning technique for all of you white shoe-owning folks out there to know.

More: How to clean white sneakers without bleach

Clutter is bad, even if you're not a hoarder

pile of shoesasteegabo/CC BY 2.0

This article was a follow-up to Swedish Death Cleaning, after some readers took issue with me criticizing my mother's tendency to hoard belongings. For example, someone wrote angrily, "You are the only useless piece of clutter in your mother's life!" No, I don't believe I am, nor does she think so (though she did have a good laugh after hearing about that comment).

It led me to dig deeper into the psychological effects of hoarding and why it's important to declutter long before it becomes worthy of a reality TV show. Keep reading to learn about the powerfully negative effects of having too much stuff in your house.

More: Clutter is bad, even if you're not a hoarder

8 paper planners that will change your life

Self Journals© Best Self Co.

Paper planners are enormously popular these days as people realize that navigating a smartphone is not nearly as efficient (or as fun) as scribbling ideas and appointments in a beautiful notebook. We've featured lists of smart, attractive planners in the past, but this one stands apart because of its focus on success-building, goal-smashing planners. These are a special breed of planner that will walk you through your day, organize your time in a highly efficient manner, encourage reflection, and see real results. If getting organized and getting important stuff done is your New Year's resolution for 2018, then take a careful look at this list.

More: 8 paper planners that will change your life

Is your dish soap toxic? Here's how to know

Dish soap© Everett Collection

Ingredient lists are like a code; if you have the persistence and knowledge of a code-breaker, you'll be let into the secrets of what a product really contains. In this article, Melissa looks at dish detergent, that most basic of products that we all have sitting next to our kitchen sinks, and delves into the worst of the worst -- specific ingredients of high concern that, according to the Environmental Working group, we should avoid at all costs if seen in the ingredient list. Learn these, memorize them, and shop like a boss next time you're in the cleaning aisle.

More: Is your dish soap toxic? Here's how to know

All you need is one

old shoesMarisa/CC BY 2.0

It sounds like common sense, and yet it's a rare phenomenon in U.S. households that tend to prioritize preparedness. Having only one of any particular item is all we really need and could go a long way toward emptying and simplifying our home environments. The idea comes from minimalist Joshua Becker, who runs the Becoming Minimalist blog and wrote "Clutterfree with Kids". He says:

“When we first started decluttering our home, we started noticing a troubling trend: duplicates. In fact, we owned duplicates of nearly everything: linens, jackets, tennis shoes, candles, televisions, even duplicate remote controls to control the same TV! We began to quickly realize we had bought into thinking that went like this, ‘If owning one of something is nice, owning more will be even better.’”

And just think -- if we all embraced this concept, Swedish Death Cleaning wouldn't even need to happen!

More: All you need is one

10 things you should purge today

nail polishGabriela Pinto/CC BY 2.0

It seems people love being told exactly what they don't need in their homes. Or maybe it's just easier when someone else takes the reins because we get so used to seeing the same belongings in the same spots, day after day, that we lose perspective on how irrelevant and unnecessary they've become. This list comes via one of my favorite cleaning mavens, Melissa Maker, of Toronto. She makes popular cleaning videos (yes, I actually watch cleaning videos) on things you should toss now, and they always leave me wanting to declutter like a maniac. Here are some of her suggestions.

More: 10 things you should purge today

Tags: Cleaning | Minimalism

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