This Spring we are discussing clutter. The last post was all about why you should get rid of it and setting goals to get started. Today, we’ll focus on tips to help you actually get the job done.
When I initially began outlining this post, I compiled a very detailed list of the “best way” to approach decluttering your home. It seemed thorough and useful, but it looked like a prescription for a whole-home overhaul. And even though that’s what I feel like WE need right now–since we have to drastically reduce our stuff to make room for this baby–that approach is super daunting. Then I remembered that this blog exists to make things easier for you (and for us), not harder. And who am I to decide what’s “best” anyway?!
There are MANY methods and resources out there (and awesome ones at that) that give detailed instructions on how to declutter your home for good, and if that’s what you are looking for, there’s a few resources at the bottom of this post.
But I’m more interested in helping you find easy, realistic ways to tackle your clutter and pare your belongings down to the stuff that is useful and reflects the life you want. You decide how far you want to take it.
So here are some tips for decluttering your home that are totally doable no matter how deep into this you wish to get. This is not an assignment you must follow in order. Take what you need, leave what you don’t.
1. Decide a plan of attack and how far you want to take it.
If it’s just tackling a couple of clutter “hot-spots”, great! If you want to take on the whole house, awesome. You can use the guides outlined in the last post to help build your plan and set your decluttering goals.
2. Start where it’s easy
Taking on a couple of easy projects first will give you energy/motivation to continue on to the bigger stuff. Here’s a few easy places to start:
- Get rid of expired items in pantry, fridge, spice cabinet, or medicine cabinet.
- Your makeup bag - toss anything you don’t use and anything older than a year. It’s not made to last near that long anyway.
- Clothing that’s too small, socks without mates, free t-shirts you’ll never wear, etc.
3. Break down rooms into smaller projects
For instance, instead of trying to tackle your entire kitchen at once, break it up into manageable chunks. Tackle the upper cabinets in one go, reorganize your refrigerator another time, do all the drawers at once, or if you have less time, take a few minutes and do just one at a time.
4. Make piles
Designate boxes, bins, or bags for items to “sell,” “donate,” and “discard.” You may also want a box for the items that are simply out of place (see next tip).
5. Complete each project before moving on to the next
It can be so easy to get distracted, especially if you find things in one area that lead you to another. Resist the urge to hop between rooms or areas by setting aside anything that belongs elsewhere, and wait until you are done to replace those items. This will keep you on task and help you to not start more than you can finish.
6. Break your attachment to THINGS
Come to terms with your mess. Of course, this can be hard because you spent money on those “things” or they were given to you by someone you care about. But in the end, it’s just stuff. If it isn’t being used or doesn’t bring you joy, then it has already served its purpose in your life, even if that was just to teach you what ISN’T right for you (you know, that sweater your grandma bought you several birthdays ago). Thank it for it’s service in your life and LET IT GO.
7. Use the six month rule
If you have an especially hard time letting go of some things that are no longer useful or joyful to you, put them in a box together and store the box somewhere you’ll forget about it (attic, garage, basement, or storage unit if you already have one). Set a date in your calendar six months from now. When that day comes around, open the box and decide if those items still have a relevant place in your home. You MIGHT revisit the box to retrieve something before that date comes around, but there’s a good chance you’ll forget about it and can just discard the whole box.
8. Walk around your house with a sticky-note pad and label anything big that isn’t serving you anymore either “SELL” or “DONATE”.
Give it a couple of days, and if you still think it needs to go and no one in your house objects, get rid of it.
9. Store your seasonal clothes
If you don’t already do this, you’ll be amazed at how much closet/drawer space it frees up, and how much easier it is to find the outfit you want.
You can get boxes, or even inexpensive zipper bags (I use the clear ones from IKEA that cost about $3 each, and can store ALL my off-season items in one bag) to put your off-season clothing (don’t forget socks and sleepwear!) in and slide them under the bed or in the back of the closet.
10. Shop in your own closet
Treat it is if it were a store, try things on, only keep the stuff you would buy. Donate, sell, or swap everything else.
11. Toss the duplicates
One easy way to assess this is to group like items together. For example, take all your cooking tools out of their drawer or container and lay them out. Have three pizza cutters? (We do!... Did) Keep your favorite and toss the rest.
12. Delegate if you can
If you live with someone who is willing to help out, and understands your wishes, let them. Give them small tasks to start, and maybe even tackle some bigger things together. If you don’t have to take this on alone, why try? Plus, it’s never a good idea to throw out someone else’s stuff without their permission.
13. Create a filter for the things you are having trouble making decisions about
Ask these questions. If the answers are mostly no, be grateful for its service and let it go.
- Do you use it often? Will you use it in the next 3 months?
- Does it bring you joy?
- Does it reflect the life you are striving to live?
- Does it possess deep sentimental value for you?
Make sure this not out of obligation (i.e. if it’s a family heirloom you aren’t crazy about, maybe it’s time it finds another family member).
- Will you miss it once it’s gone?
14. Paperwork - don’t hang on to the stuff you don’t truly NEED
Have piles of mail, papers, and other documents lying around? Or maybe they are all jumbled together in a box. Keep the important stuff (tips to organize it will be in the next post), deal with what needs to be dealt with, and trash the rest. Here’s a couple tips for cutting down your paper clutter:
- Don’t keep around piles of mail to shred - most of it can be torn up by hand and tossed in the recycling. Trust me, that’s not how someone will steal your identity or information. It’s much easier to get online.
- Let go of old greeting cards, announcements, invitations - if the date has passed, take any information you may need (names, address, etc.) and let it go. If you’re really sentimental, take a picture of it, then toss it.
- Toss the credit card statements, manuals, pay stubs, etc. - we hang on to many of these with the idea that we will need to reference them at some point. But how many times has that point ever come? There’s really no need to keep any of this.
15. Mark the items you can’t get rid of until you replace them
This goes for anything you are still using but doesn’t fit the life you are trying to create for yourself (i.e. plastic cooking utensils, tupperware, or toxic makeup). Use something noticeable like tape or marker (if appropriate) to mark these items as a reminder that you want to find a replacement for them. Then do so as you are able.
16. Clean the area before you replace the stuff you want to keep
Okay, so this is probably something you would do anyway, but I feel the need to add it just in case. There’s no sense in putting items back on a dirty shelf, or back under the sink if there’s gunk all over it. Take the extra minute to wipe it down, you’ll be so happy you did. It will make the job feel DONE.
Whether you are cleaning up a few piles of miscellany or going through your entire house with a fine-tooth comb, I hope some of these tips can help you get a step closer to the home you WANT to live in.
One last tip, and I think it’s the most important one: Be kind to yourself. This process may take longer than you initially thought. And that is totally okay. Just keep at it and know that you are making progress and that’s what matters.
If you have any tips to add, or anything else you’d like to share, I’d LOVE to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.
In the next post we’ll discuss the many options for your discards, and ways to keep the clutter from coming back.
Other resources for decluttering your home:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo
If you are ready to rid your life of clutter for good, and you want your home to reflect the lifestyle you want to live and figure out who you really are along the way, this is the overhaul you may be looking for. Some of her methods differ greatly from traditional tidying advice. It is drastic and the change is dramatic, but Marie (or KonMari) is sure you will only need to tidy this once and you’ll never have to do it again after experiencing this life-changing process. (Note: I’m attempting this method right now, and to be truthful, half of the advice in this post is in direct conflict with much of what KonMari suggests. But I really think it all depends on what your end-goal is. Her’s is a complete overhaul that changes your life for good and helps you get in touch with who you really are.)
The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home
If you want step by step instructions on how to tackle your whole house, but in a more conventional way. This may be the guide for you.
How to Declutter Your Home in a Weekend Without Spending a Dime
This is for those who want to (and can) rush through the process in a single weekend. Great for a quick purge, but may be a bit ambitious for most.