Post Updated on December 27, 2019
I’ve always been the kind of person who gets slightly antsy at the sight of clutter. Some people find they’re more creative in a disorganized environment, but I notice that clutter increases my stress levels and makes me less productive. For a lot of us, a cluttered home causes discontent and even agitation because things get lost more easily, and it begins to feel like your possessions own you, rather than the other way round.
But even for those of us who know we need to declutter, sometimes we can’t bear to face the stuff we’ve accumulated because of the time it’ll take to go through it all. After all, choosing what to keep and what to toss is a daunting process. We all have things we hold on to that we don’t exactly need, either because it was a gift, it holds sentimental value, or it was just downright expensive and giving it away would feel like a waste.
I’m here to tell you that the decluttering process doesn’t need to be so complicated.
Everyone has their own strategies for decluttering, the most popular being those outlined in Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but today I’m sharing my own practical tips for tackling the tough decisions and simplifying the whole decluttering process.
By the way, there’s a free 12-page eBook to guide you through this process (you’re welcome), so make sure you grab a copy of that before you leave. Okay, let’s do this!
How To Declutter Your Entire Home
Before you start decluttering, you want to ask yourself what your end goal is. Are you doing this because clutter is stressing you out? Are you hoping this will make you a more organized person? If you have a solid reason for wanting to declutter, it’s going to make it a whole lot easier to keep going.
Real talk: Some people use decluttering as a way to deal with deeper emotional problems because they think getting rid of things will simultaneously get rid of their problems. My advice is to not take this process so seriously that you think it will solve all of your woes. Also don’t go into it thinking, ‘I’m going to declutter so that I can buy more stuff later.’ That’s not what we’re doing here, yo.
3 Questions To Ask When Decluttering
You want to set some ground rules (boring, I know) to make sure you’re not keeping things you don’t really need. Marie Kondo’s guideline for decluttering is asking, Does this bring me joy? Some people have a hard time rationalizing this since, for example, toilet cleaner is not exactly going to bring you joy, but you still need to keep it (please keep it).
Instead of asking if it brings you joy, I suggest asking the following questions:
1. Does it make my life simpler or more pleasant?
2. Do I have more than one?
3. Is it easily replaceable and/or can I borrow it?
If it’s not making your life better in some way, it’s gotta go. If you have two black cardigans, choose which one you like better. If you don’t use your sleeping bag often and it’s easy enough to borrow one from a friend, get rid of it.
Now that you know the guidelines, you can start implementing them throughout the decluttering process!
The 5-Step Decluttering Process
There are five simple steps you can use to get your home feeling like a zen, clutter-free palace:
Step One: Choose An Area To Declutter
Make your way through the areas of your home listed below (and in the checklist that comes with the free workbook – keep reading to get your hands on that), one by one. The best way to get started is to gather everything from that room into a pile so you can see all of your stuff at once. Yes, I’m giving you permission to make a mess!
- Living Room
P.S. If you have more rooms or areas than I’ve listed here, use the three guiding questions to get you through those areas.
Step Two: Ask Yourself The Three Questions
If it makes your life simpler or more pleasant, keep it. If you have more than one, choose which makes your life more simpler or pleasant. If it’s easily replaceable, get rid of it.
Step Three: Separate Into Piles
Once you’ve asked yourself the questions (and been totally honest with yourself), start sorting your things into piles:
- Keep (includes repairs)
Step Four: Put Everything In Its Place
If you are keeping an item, choose where its home will be and make sure you put it back every time you use it. That’s basically the key to getting rid of clutter. And if you have something to repair, make plans to do so right away instead of leaving these items in a cluttered pile.
Step Five: Get Rid of Stuff ASAP
If you plan to donate or toss something, do so as soon as possible so you don’t have time to second guess your decision. Before you toss something, see if there are options to avoid dumping it in a landfill. Take broken electronics to a recycling facility, and search for thrift stores in your area that re-purpose damaged clothing.
What To Do If You Can’t Decide
If you’re having a hard time deciding whether to keep something or not, put it out of sight and set a notification on your calendar in three months’ time. If you haven’t needed it or you completely forgot about it, it’s time to get rid of it.
40+ Tips For Decluttering Every Space In Your Home
Now that we’ve covered the three guiding questions and the five-step process, I’ve put together some practical tips for keeping each area of your home more organized. These are tips based on things that have worked for me or genius solutions I’ve seen from other people.
- Get rid of anything that still has a tag on it
- When you take clothes out of your closet, put them back as soon as you decide not to wear them instead of leaving a pile on your bed
- Follow the ‘goes with three other items’ rule
- Get drawer dividers to help keep your underwear and socks organized
- Fold clothes and store them vertically instead of on top of each other
- Keep a tray or bowl on your bedside table to hold loose ends like chapstick and lotion
- Get rid of pens as soon as they run out instead of putting them back into the pen pile
- Keep cords and cables organized in a pouch or drawer
- Use one notebook until it’s full before writing in a new one
- Opt for paperless bills + receipts
- Scan everything and recycle the originals
- Keep one file folder for papers that need attention
- Store documents in the cloud
- Keep your desktop organized with this free wallpaper
- Use unroll.me to unsubscribe from junk mail
- Get a makeup organizer unit so you don’t have to rummage through a bag to find your mascara
- Use something up before buying a new product
- Try to stick to one of each type of product (one daily moisturizer, one eyeliner, etc)
Tools + Extras
- Store your hair dryer and styling tools in a fabric bin or try this awesome Bamboo Organizer
- Keep cotton balls and Q-Tips in mason jars for easy access
- Use multi-tasking products like this Multi-Surface Cleaner for the kitchen + bathroom to reduce clutter under sinks
- Dedicate a cupboard for all cleaning supplies instead of keeping them in different parts of your home
The Living Room
Books + DVDs
- Get rid of anything you haven’t read or watched yet
- If you wouldn’t read or watch it again, donate it
- Make a habit of reserving books from the library or get a kindle for books
Coffee / Side Table
- Consider getting a side table that doubles as a DVD holder
- Leave a tray or bowl on top to collect random things like bobby pins that often end up in random places
- Add a wastebasket to the room if trash seems to accumulate (most people don’t have one in their living room)
- Utilize a basket for storing miscellaneous items like blankets
- Keep a tray near your entryway for holding keys to avoid misplacing them
- Store grains, pasta, etc. in mason jars to eliminate bulky packaging
- Dedicate separate shelves for breakfast foods (cereal, oatmeal), lunch and dinner options (pasta, legumes), baking goods (flour, sugar), and snacks
- Store Tupperware lids in a hanging pouch on a cupboard door like this
- Store spices in a spice rack for added cupboard space
- Keep soon-to-expire food on the top shelf so you reach for those first
- Take a fridge inventory before grocery shopping to avoid buying multiples
- Dedicate a room or space for hobbies or exercise, and keep related tools in their own drawer or cupboard in the same space
- If you have no idea what a cord or button goes to, you might as well get rid of it
- Don’t worry about organizing too much – everyone needs a junk drawer!
- Scan photos to an online album or start working on that photo album you’ve been meaning to put together
- Don’t feel too bad about getting rid of unwanted gifts. Let people know that you’d appreciate gift cards or a donation to charity in the future
- Try to sell expensive items on Poshmark or OfferUp so you can at least make a little bit of money
How To Avoid Clutter Creep
Now that you’ve done all of this hard work and you’re feeling content with your home and everything in it, it’s important to avoid letting clutter creep back in.
All of the tips shared above are going to help with this, granted you continue to follow them, but one thing that can really help is implementing the one in, one out policy. If you find yourself wanting to buy something new, you have to donate something you already own.
This definitely makes it easier to resist impulse purchases because you have to pause and ask yourself if there’s anything you can get rid of to make room for it. Try it, and see what happens!
Free 12-Page Decluttering Workbook
Ready to get started on this whole decluttering thing? This workbook is going to make it even easier! I’ve outlined the step-by-step process for easy reference and included a checklist for you to print out and track your decluttering progress. Did I mention it’s free? Just click below, and I’ll give it to you! BAM.