How to Declutter Your Home

How to declutter your home

Recently I’ve been on a mission to declutter my home.  I know that there are lots of benefits to having less clutter. I felt that I really needed to clear my space and give myself some breathing room. This article describes the basic methods I used as well as my thought processes. Hopefully, you will gain some helpful tips and insights on how to declutter your home and begin the decluttering journey.

Benefits of Decluttering Your Home

Before we get into how to declutter your home, I thought we would first talk about why you should. When there is lots of clutter and stuff lying around that does not belong anywhere, this is a source of anxiety.  Once I started tackling the clutter, I began to gain a sense of accomplishment. I felt like I was getting things done. This added to my overall self-confidence and increased self-esteem.

I also found that it added to my mental clarity as well.  Once my space was organized and free from clutter the effects were profound.  I implemented this decluttering habit into my daily routine and I was amazed at how this little change led to a cascading effect of other positive changes in my life.  I no longer felt paralyzed by my surroundings and was able to gain clarity in my other work. Try it, you may also be amazed at how much better having a clean and organized home will make you feel.

How to Declutter Your Home When you are Overwhelmed

You may be asking yourself where to start decluttering?  When you look at the task of how to declutter your home as a whole it can seem very overwhelming.  If you want a quick answer of how to start decluttering when you are overwhelmed, you can find that here. Remember lots of small steps add up to one giant leap. The key here is to focus on one thing at a time.  Take small steps and focus only on completing the small task at hand. Before you know it you will begin to see major progress.  

Start with just 15 minutes a day

Here, I would pick just one thing and complete it.  Often times it will help if you set a timer.  You will be shocked at how much you are able to complete in 15 minutes.  If you commit to decluttering and organizing for just 15 minutes a day, the changes will add up quickly. You will also be forming a good habit in the meantime.

Some small tasks that you can consider starting with are:

  • Clean out your junk drawer
  • Clean out your sock drawer
  • Centralize all piles of paper into one location
  • Pick 10 items that you can get rid of from your closet
  • Clear off your kitchen counters of anything that does not belong

You may be thinking that you will not be able to complete any of these tasks in just 15 minutes, but I assure you that you will be amazed at just how much that you can get done.  I started with my junk drawer. I thought there was no way that I would get through it in just 15 minutes. To my surprise and amazement, I finished in just 12 minutes and 30 seconds. The thought of the task is often much worse than the actual task itself.

How to Start Decluttering Your Home

First, I had to figure out where to start decluttering. You can either start with the 15-minute tasks discussed above or you can create a plan. If you want to create a plan that is fine but don’t let it stop you from starting. It really depends on your personality and how you work best.

If you like more structure, there are plenty of declutter plans available that you can follow.  You can download the declutter checklist below to help you if you prefer more structure. Or you can create your own based on your own specific home and situation and time available.

Download the declutter checklist below to help you get started and stay on track:

Decluttering Checklist

Plan or no Plan – Just Start

Personally, I worked best just starting with the 15-minute tasks and I did not have a plan beyond that. If you are like me and the thought of decluttering is overwhelming to you, then just start with a 15-minute task.  Do not try to do it all at once or spend too much time creating a plan. Just START. This will give you a sense of accomplishment to keep going.

If you have the time to plan or work better following a schedule, you can do the 30 day declutter challenge here.  The important thing is to take some sort of ACTION. Make the decision now to do it and honor your decision by following through.

Commit to at least 15 Minutes a Day

Commit to spending 15 minutes each day and actually schedule the time on your calendar when you plan to do it.  This will drastically increase your chances of honoring your commitment and actually spending the 15 minutes decluttering. 

Schedule the time out for at least one month on your calendar for at least 5 days per week. This is a total of about five hours of decluttering. You can definitely accomplish a lot in 5 hours!  You will often find that getting started is the hardest part and that you will continue working beyond the 15 minutes on a task on some days.  

How to Declutter Your Home Quickly

How to declutter your home quickly

While it is nice to be able to declutter in 15-minute increments, sometimes you do not have the time to take to do it that slowly.  You may have an event you are hosting at your home or guests coming over and you simply must get it done fast. If that is the case here are some suggestions for you to declutter your house quickly:

1. Prioritize what rooms should be tackled first.

Make sure you are tackling the most important rooms first.  For example, if you are having guests over, you will want to focus on your living spaces and areas where your guests will actually be.  Although your closet may be in need of some major decluttering, now is not the time to tackle that task. You need to focus on the areas that will be seen such as your kitchen, your living room, and your bathroom.

2. If it is broken, get rid of it.

Not only is the item not usable, but it is also taking up valuable space in your home and it is probably causing you a bit of anxiety every time you see it.  If you plan on fixing it or having it fixed, make sure that it is actually your intention and you will actually fix it. Be sure it is not just something that you plan on doing someday.  Chances are that day will never come and you are better off just removing the broken item from your home.

3. Create a donate container, a throw-away container, and a put-away container.

Go through your space and for each item that you come across, decide quickly to either donate it, throw it away or put it in the put-away container. You will put something in the put-away container if it has been left out and is not where it belongs.

If you are unsure, put it in the donate container

If something is in plain sight and is not where it belongs, it must go into one of these three containers. Do not allow yourself to get confused or unable to decide what to do with an item. If you are unsure of whether to keep it or donate it, put it in the donate container. Do not overthink it because you will just be wasting valuable time. You do not need to worry too much about this now because as described in the next paragraph, you are not going to donate the items in this container immediately.

Next, throw away all of the items in the throw-away container.  Take the put-away container and put each item where it belongs.  Take the donate container and put it somewhere out of site such as a basement, attic or closet.  If you do not retrieve an item from the donate container because you need it within 2 months, give it away to your favorite charity.  It’s that simple.

The fact that you are putting items that you are unsure of whether you want to keep or not in the donate container, allows you to avoid difficult decisions. The simple fact that you know you will be holding on to the donate container for just a little while longer will ease your mind. This allows you to move quickly through your home decluttering. And chances are you will not need or miss those items so you will actually be successfully decluttering.

4. Mark it on Your Calendar

Just make sure to make a note on your calendar to donate the items in 2 months so you don’t forget. Do not go through the items again at this point. You did not need or miss them in the last 2 months, you can safely get rid of them.

How to Declutter a Room

Since we’ve already covered how to declutter your home quickly when you have limited time, this section is going to assume you have more time available to devote to decluttering and it doesn’t have to get done as soon as possible.  If you must get it done quickly see the section above for those tips.

Put all your stuff in a central location in the room

Start on one side of the room.  You can have a central location in the room such as a couch in the living room that you can use to move all of your stuff that is able to be moved.  Once all of your surfaces and spaces are clear, this is a great time to wipe them down.  

Next, take each item and decide if you would like to keep it, donate it, or throw it away.  If it is broken, throw it away unless you plan on fixing it in the immediate future and not just someday.  

Put the stuff you are keeping where it belongs

Now you can put the stuff that you have decided to keep back where you would like it or find a new home for it.  Everything must have a home or a permanent spot. If you are unsure of an item, you can put it in a separate container and put this stuff in an area of your home where you will not see it similarly to what you did with your donate container above.

If you do not retrieve an item from the container because you need it or miss it within the next two months, you can safely get rid of it and donate it. This, of course, does not apply to seasonal items of which you may need to wait through the next season that you would normally use it to see if you miss it or need it.

Move to the other side of the room and repeat the process. Move all of the items that are able to be moved to a central location. Then take each item and decide if you would like to keep it, donate it or throw it away. Remember, you are trying to declutter your home. So make sure you are not always deciding to keep the item. If you are not absolutely positive you want to keep it. put it in either the throw-away or donate pile.

Move on to drawers cabinets and closets

Next move on to drawers, or cabinets or closets that are contained within the room.  Go through each one individually. If you are doing the 15-minute tasks suggested above, then set your timer and do at least one drawer or cabinet a day.  You will often find that getting started is the hardest part and that once you have started you want to keep going for longer than 15 minutes.

If you are able to declutter one drawer in 10 minutes, then start another one, you may wish to continue beyond the 15 minutes to finish the second drawer as well.  Put no pressure on yourself to do this though, you have committed to yourself to declutter for 15 minutes, so if you must stop and come back to that drawer tomorrow that is okay.

How to Declutter Clothes

First, take all of your clothes out of your closet or your drawers or wherever they may be.  Put them all on your bed so you can see them all at once. This will give you a good look at the sheer volume of clothes that you have.  Now, pick up each item and ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do I like this?

If yes, go on to the next question.  If no, put it in a separate donate pile.

2. Do I wear this?

If yes, keep it.  If no, put it in a separate donate pile.

That is it. Those are the only two questions you really need to ask about each item.  Yes, there are many other questions you could ask such as is it stained or ripped? Does it fit?  Is it itchy? Does it make me feel good about myself when I wear it? But really, those will be taken care of by the above two questions.  If something does not fit, then you don’t wear it. If something has a flaw (ripped, stained, etc.), then you probably do not wear it. Same with if something itches. You either are going to say no to the first question of whether or not you like it or you are going to say no to the second question of do I wear this? No need to further complicate things.

Those two questions should take care of 99% of your articles of clothing.  Continue this process of asking those two questions until you have gone through all of your clothes.  The ones you have decided to keep put back in your closet or drawers or wherever you keep them.

You can repeat this process every month to assure that your wardrobe contains only the items that you like and you wear. If you find that to be unnecessary or too often, you can do it seasonally when you are likely to wear different pieces of clothing.  You may find that you no longer like a piece that you liked last year or that it no longer fits in which case you will no longer wear it.

At a minimum, you should get rid of clothes you no longer like or wear at least every 6 months.

How to Declutter Sentimental Items

This is the one that is always the hardest for me and I am sure many others.  In fact, it is so hard for me to declutter sentimental items that I considered not adding this section. However, I do have some suggestions that help me to get rid of stuff that is tied to strong memories or just means a lot to me.  

Save Your Sentimental Items for Last

Declutter the rest of your items before tackling your sentimental items. By saving your sentimental items for last, you will have gained momentum by clearing out a substantial amount of clutter and will already feel the benefits of having to take care of and maintain less.  You will experience first hand how much better your newly organized, decluttered space makes you feel. This may make you more willing to part with a sentimental item after you have experienced these benefits first hand.

Getting Rid of the Item, not the Memory

When considering whether to keep a sentimental item or not, remember that although an item may invoke a special memory, just because you are getting rid of it in no way means that you are getting rid of the memory that you associate with it. You will still have the memory even if you no longer hold on to the item.

Take a Picture

Another tip if you are having a hard time letting go of something meaningful to you is to take a picture of it and keep the pictures of your special items in a separate file on your computer.  This works particularly well with kids’ artwork throughout the years. For some people, myself included, it is hard to throw away your child’s artwork. This way if you ever want to look at them again, you will be able to without them taking up valuable space. Chances are just having the comfort that that folder is there on your computer will be enough.  

Live in the Present, Not the Past

Finally with regards to sentimental items, just remember you may want to cherish the past, but you want to live in the present.  You want to provide yourself with space, well-being, mental clarity and breathing room to live your best life now. When I remind myself of this desire to live in the present and make it the best it can be, it is easier to let go of sentimental items.

How do you Declutter Checklist

So for simplicity sake, and in case you are skimming (you wouldn’t do that would you?)  Here is a summary and quick declutter your home checklist to follow to make it a little easier:

  1.  Think about why you want to declutter and how much better you would feel if your space was free of all that stuff.  When you focus on why you are doing it and the benefits you will gain, this will give you motivation to start.
  2. Pick one small task such as cleaning out a junk drawer and complete that task.  Set a timer for 15 minutes and do what you can in that 15 minutes.
  3. Commit to spending a minimum of 15 minutes each day decluttering.  Schedule the time on your calendar for the next month.
  4. Use three containers, one for items you wish to throw away, one for items you wish to donate and one for items that you wish to keep but that need put away.
  5. Go through your home room by room clearing all surfaces, going through all drawers and closets and put the items in one of your three containers.
  6. Put your container of items to donate out of sight for 2 months. Put a note on your calendar for two months out to remind yourself to donate whatever is left in the container.
  7. Go through your clothing at least twice per year to determine what you no longer like or do not wear and donate it.
  8. Save your sentimental items for last.  Keep what you absolutely love. Take a picture of anything you want to remember but do not need to keep. Remember you are decluttering to improve your present day.  You do not want to live in the past.

There you have it, some easy tips for how to declutter your home and help you to get motivated to do so.

I wanted to write this post about how to declutter your home because of all the benefits I realized once I tackled the clutter. I hope the above tips help you as much as they did me.  Believe me, when I say, I did not think I would ever get to where I am today.  It all starts with one small step. Don’t focus on the whole task, focus on the next task.  Most importantly, start today! Do you have any other suggestions or tips that you have used for how to declutter?  If you have tips for how to declutter your home, please let me know in the comments.

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