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Decluttering your home is more than just a cleaning task—it’s a journey towards a simpler, more organized, and more peaceful life.
Because if your house is cluttered, then your mind, body, and soul are cluttered. It’s science.
This guide will help you navigate this journey, providing step-by-step instructions and tips to make the process more manageable, efficient, and satisfying. By the end of this process, your home will not only be cleaner and less cluttered, but you’ll also have systems in place to keep it that way.
How do I start to declutter my house?
Begin decluttering your house by setting clear goals and creating a plan. Choose one room or area to start in. Go around and pick up any trash you can find and throw it away. If there are dirty dishes in the room, take those out to the kitchen sink. That gives you a good foundation to start with.
That’s how I do a quick-start. Now, let’s really dive deep and answer how to declutter your home.
Prep Work Before Decluttering
Set Clear Goals
Start by defining what you want to achieve. Do you want to have less stuff? Are you trying to create more space? Do you want to make your home more functional? Clear goals will guide your decisions throughout the decluttering process.
Make a Plan
Decide which rooms or areas you’ll tackle first. You might want to start with the easiest room to gain momentum or tackle the most cluttered area to make a significant impact.
Schedule decluttering sessions in your calendar—dedicate specific time blocks for this task to ensure it gets done. Write in exactly what you’ll do during the day and time that you’ve set aside.
Don’t overschedule yourself. If your schedule only allows 30 minutes a day devoted to decluttering, that’s how it is.
You’ll need trash bags for garbage and recyclables, boxes or bins for items to donate or sell, and cleaning supplies. Label your boxes to avoid confusion.
The Main Steps in Decluttering
Take everything out of the room or area you’re working in, and sort items into categories. This might include categories like books, clothes, toys, kitchen utensils, etc. If you’re like me, you really have to stay focused because you’ll start going down memory lane or playing with every little gadget you find. It’s a time suck. Don’t be like me.
Now, look at each item and decide whether to keep, sell, donate, recycle, or throw away. Ask yourself: Do I use this? Do I love it? Does it serve a purpose? Is it in good condition? Be honest with yourself. If you haven’t used it in a year, you probably don’t need it. I know; it’s hard.
Dispose of items according to your decisions—put trash and recyclables in the appropriate bins, take donation items to a charity shop, and list items for sale online. Don’t let them linger. Not even for a day or two or they’ll get stuck back into the vortex of your house again forever!
Before you put anything back, clean the space thoroughly. Dust, vacuum, mop, and sanitize as necessary. It is so satisfying when you go to put everything back.
As you return items to their place, organize them in a way that makes sense. Group similar items together and make use of storage solutions like bins, baskets, shelves, and organizers. Keep frequently used items within easy reach.
Repeat this process for each area of your home until you’ve gone through every room. Hit up the attic while you’re at it.
Start with the pantry—discard expired items and organize what’s left by type. Tackle your dishware next, keeping only what you use regularly. Take a hard look at appliances—if they’re not used frequently, they may be taking up valuable space. Lastly, organize your utensils and cookware, again prioritizing the items you use most often. Remember to clean out the fridge and freezer too! Once you’re hyper-focused on the kitchen, check out our breakdowns about how to organize kitchen cabinets, pantries, and small kitchens.
The Living Room
Sort through books, magazines, DVDs, and décor. Consider digitizing media to save space. Do you have a ton of cables and cords around our tv and sound systems? You can get cable management systems or cable covers to hide the cords. Assess your furniture—is it functional and do you love it? If not, it might be time to let it go. Is your coffee table always a mess? Clear it off. Make a designated spot for your remote controls. Remember, less is always more.
Start with your closet. Go through all of your clothes, shoes, and accessories. Donate or sell anything you haven’t worn in years or that doesn’t fit you. Just rip the band-aid off. You will feel so free. Be honest and don’t save things for later. Also, consider the practicality and condition of each item. Move on to your bedside tables and dressers, removing unnecessary items and ensuring what’s left has a specific place. If you are notorious for leaving dirty clothes everywhere, get a cute hamper!
Get everything off of the countertops. Discard expired makeup, toiletries, and medicines. Don’t forget the medicine cabinet. If you haven’t used a product in a few months, it’s probably time to let it go. Organize what’s left by type or purpose. If you’re stuck on how to store your towels in your bathroom, we cover that as well.
The Laundry Room
Throw out those empty bottles of laundry detergent. Finish the laundry that’s in there so you can get it out of the way. Now, in a lot of homes, this can be a catch-all room. So, go through and take out everything that doesn’t belong there. Then, go through any other random stuff that has been in there for months or years collecting dust from all the dryer lint, and get rid of it.
The Garage/Storage Spaces/Basement
These areas often become dumping grounds for miscellaneous items. Start by categorizing—tools, seasonal decorations, holiday stuff, sports equipment, etc. Dispose of anything broken or unused. Consider installing shelves or cabinets for better organization. In our garage, I got some that hang from the ceiling so we would have room to pull our cars in now!
Use Effective Storage Solutions
Several organizing tools and storage solutions can be instrumental in maintaining a decluttered home. Here are some crucial ones:
Shelves and Cabinets
These are essential for storing books, dishes, decor, and other items. They can be standalone pieces or built into walls to save space.
Storage Bins and Baskets
These are great for grouping similar items together and can be used in any room. Clear bins are especially helpful as you can see what’s inside without having to open them.
These can range from simple hanging shelves to complete systems with rods, drawers, and compartments for different types of clothing and accessories.
These can be used in the kitchen for utensils, in the office for stationery, or in the bedroom for small clothing items like socks and underwear.
Hooks and Racks
These are useful for hanging items like coats, towels, or pots and pans. Over-the-door hooks can make use of often-overlooked storage space.
Furniture with Built-In Storage
Beds with drawers underneath, ottomans that open to reveal storage space, and coffee tables with shelves can hide clutter and save space.
Labels can help you quickly identify what’s in a bin or basket without having to rummage through it.
Break It Down
Decluttering can be overwhelming, so break it down into bite-sized chunks. Choose just one room or one space to work on at a time. Maybe all you have time to do on Saturday afternoon is clear out the kitchen drawers. That’s okay. You can even start with one junk drawer, one shelf, or one corner.
Set Time Limits
Set a timer for each decluttering session—this could be 15 minutes, an hour, or an afternoon, depending on your schedule. When the timer goes off, take a break or stop for the day.
A good rule of thumb, for example, is ‘don’t move on to another room or area until the first one is finished’.
Don’t Let Sentimentality Hinder You
Letting go of items with sentimental value can be difficult. If it’s something you don’t use or don’t have space for, consider taking a photo of it before you let it go. Remember, the memories associated with an item aren’t in the item itself, but in you. I used to be terrible about being a pack rat and keeping every little keepsake. So, I actually started taking pictures of my kids’ toys I’m getting rid of or their school work I want to remember.
Create a 6-Month Box
If you’re struggling to decide whether to keep certain items, put them in a box and set them aside. If you haven’t needed anything from the box after a certain period—say, six months—you can probably let those items go.
Remember To Dispose of Hazardous Materials Properly
For an in-depth look at how to purge, recycle, or upcycle electronics (and other hazardous items), take a look at this post. This includes medications too. Your local pharmacy probably has a drop-off receptacle for it.
Maintaining a Decluttered Home
Maintaining a decluttered home is an ongoing commitment. It’s about developing habits that support an uncluttered lifestyle—cleaning up after yourself, putting things back where they belong, and regularly reviewing your possessions.
It might seem odd to need to set up rules for yourself when you’re a grown adult, but it actually makes life much easier.
Creating rules that you turn into habits will get more done than willpower. Think about how far you’ve come and how you don’t want to go back.
Rules such as “one in two out”, “clean up right away”, and “everything has a home”, will go far in ensuring your success.
My favorite I heard on TikTok is, “Don’t put it down, put it away.”. I have tried to burn that mantra into my mind!
Regularly Review Your Belongings
Make decluttering a regular activity. Review your belongings once every few months to ensure unnecessary items haven’t accumulated.
Be Mindful About New Purchases
Before buying something new, ask yourself whether you really need it, where it will go, and whether it will add value to your life. Try to buy quality items that will last rather than cheap items that will need to be replaced frequently.
Handle Mail Once
Set up a mail station either in your home office or near a garbage can with a shredder. Look at the mail and handle once.
Toss the trash and open bills. Organize the area for easy payment and processing in your filing system. Do it right away, and don’t let the mail pile up.
If you have a big enough mailbox, and it’s not in your door, you can check your mail less often too so that you don’t have to deal with it as much.
Set Up Stations
For everything you usually do each day, create a designated place to do it in.
For example, if you drink coffee daily, create a coffee station that houses mugs, teaspoons, coffee, and your coffee machine. That way all the things you need are right there, and you don’t have to take them out or make the effort to put them away.
Develop Clean Habits
Developing habits and keeping your home clutter-free will become much easier. Develop the habit of cleaning up the kitchen after you eat. Make it a habit to take your water bottle out of your car. These types of habits help ensure your space stays uncluttered.
Schedule All Cleaning
The best way to get more things done in life is to put it on your calendar.
Schedule daily cleaning, monthly cleaning, quarterly cleaning, and yearly cleaning. For example, you need to change your air conditioner filter at a minimum of every 90 days. Schedule it. Remember to give yourself enough time for each task you put on your calendar.
Develop Clutter-Free Habits
Now that you’ve cleared out a lot of unnecessary items, inventory and organize what you have. Get rid of things the moment you don’t need them (donate or sell as much as possible, rather than tossing it), and stop buying things without a plan for its use.
Create a Sanctuary
Your home and especially your bedroom is supposed to be a safe place for you. Creating a sanctuary out of your bedroom, a “spa” out of your bathroom, and a cozy, comfy reading and movie area out of your living room is a great way to view your home so that you use each space as well as possible.
One of the most important things to remember is that this is a process. It may take a few missteps before you get it right. Once you do, it will make your life much better overall. So, stay committed. It’s so worth it in the end.
Popular Decluttering Techniques
The Four-Box Method
This is an effective way to categorize items. Label four boxes: Keep, Donate, Sell, Trash. As you sort through items, make quick decisions about where each item belongs. You can use your “Sell” boxes to have a garage sale the upcoming weekend! Make some money while you’re at it.
What is the 12 12 12 rule for decluttering?
Find 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to be returned to their proper place. This is a quick and easy way to organize 36 items in your house.
What is the 20 20 rule for decluttering?
The 20/20 rule for decluttering suggests that if you can replace an item in less than 20 minutes for less than $20, you should consider letting it go. It’s particularly useful for decluttering items kept “just in case.”
The KonMari Method
The KonMari Method, created by organizing consultant Marie Kondo, is a system of simplifying and organizing your home by getting rid of items that don’t bring joy into your life. You are to gather all of your belongings, one category at a time, and then keep only those things that make you happy, choosing to discard the rest. The categories Kondo suggests you tackle are clothes, books, papers, “komono” (miscellaneous items), and sentimental items.
What is the 80 20 rule for decluttering?
The 80/20 rule for decluttering, based on the Pareto Principle, suggests that we generally use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time. This concept can guide us to identify and remove the less frequently used or unessential items during the decluttering process.
What is the rule of 5 decluttering?
The rule of 5 in decluttering is a simple, daily practice to keep clutter under control. Each day, you find five items in your home to discard, donate, or find a proper place for. By consistently applying this rule, you can gradually declutter your home without becoming overwhelmed by trying to tackle too much at once.
What is the one in one out rule decluttering?
The “one in, one out” rule for decluttering is a simple strategy to maintain balance and prevent clutter. It means that for every new item you bring into your home, you should remove an existing item. This rule helps to limit the amount of possessions you have, and it can be particularly effective for items like clothing, books, and toys.
What is the 5 second rule for decluttering?
The “5 Second Rule” is a motivational concept developed by Mel Robbins, but its use in decluttering isn’t widely recognized. It’s meant to keep you making immediate decisions about items within a 5-second timeframe to avoid overthinking and procrastination. However, it’s important to note that decluttering often requires thoughtful decision-making and may not always be suited to such quick judgments.
How often do you have to declutter your home?
It’s recommended to do a major declutter of your home at least once or twice a year. However, implementing daily or weekly tidying routines can help maintain a decluttered space and prevent the accumulation of clutter over time.
What should you not do when decluttering?
Don’t Attempt Everything at Once
Decluttering is a process. Trying to do everything at once can lead to burnout and make the task seem insurmountable.
Don’t Keep Items Out of Guilt or Obligation
If an item doesn’t serve a purpose or bring you joy, it’s okay to let it go, even if it was a gift or expensive.
Don’t Buy Storage Solutions First
Assess what you have and declutter before investing in organizing tools.
Don’t Neglect to Create a System
Have a plan for where things belong and how to maintain your decluttered space.
Don’t Forget to Dispose Responsibly
Donate, recycle, or sell items when possible, rather than simply throwing them away.
Success Stories: Why To Live Clutter Free
A family of four decided to embrace minimalism. They spent a month decluttering, getting rid of unnecessary furniture, paring down their wardrobes, and digitizing photos and documents. They now live happily in a smaller, simpler home and spend less time cleaning and organizing. They’re way less stressed and a lot of the arguments they were having over and over again are gone.
The Busy Professional
A busy professional found her cluttered apartment was adding to her stress. She took a week off work to declutter, focusing especially on her home office. She now reports feeling more focused and productive, and she enjoys her home more. She’s not embarrassed to have anyone over now either!
After retiring, a couple decided to downsize. They spent several months sorting through a lifetime’s worth of possessions, ultimately selling their large family home and moving into a smaller, clutter-free apartment, which they say has given them more freedom to travel and enjoy their retirement. They were able to sell quite a bit of it by holding an estate sale too, which helped them now that they’re living on a lower income.
In conclusion, decluttering is more than just a physical process—it’s a journey of renewing your living spaces and, in many ways, your own sense of well-being. As we’ve explored throughout this comprehensive guide, effective decluttering involves careful planning, thoughtful decision-making, and sustained effort. Whether you choose the KonMari Method, the Four-Box Technique, or your own unique approach, the key is to be patient with yourself and to recognize that decluttering is a personal journey that takes time.
With the tips and strategies shared in this guide, you now have the tools to transform your home into a clutter-free, harmonious space that truly reflects your lifestyle and values. Remember, the ultimate goal isn’t perfection, but rather creating a space that brings you joy and peace.
From understanding the psychological impacts of clutter, adopting various decluttering methods, and understanding the importance of different storage solutions, to maintaining a clutter-free home, each step of the process is equally significant. Embrace the process and enjoy the transformative journey that decluttering offers. It’s not only about creating a more organized home but also about fostering a more mindful, conscious approach to our possessions and our lives.