How to Declutter Your Home: Simple Step-by-Step Tips
“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I love this quote and agree with it–in theory. In practice, though, I sometimes have trouble sticking to it!
Lately I’ve allowed a lot of non-useful and non-beautiful things to make their way into our home, making me feel a bit overwhelmed by all the excess stuff.
I’ve found that having too many things to keep track of–even if they’re hidden behind a closet door–weighs me down, affecting my energy and creativity. If you’re also in the mood to simplify your life and get organized, read on to learn how to declutter your home with my simple step by step tips.
How to Declutter Your Home: A Fast and Easy Step-by-Step Plan
Use these steps to motive you to finally let things go and get organized. It’s easier than you think! And once you’re done, you’ll be able to breathe, think, create, and feel light.
1. Get in the right mindset
The decluttering process will be so much easier and more enjoyable if you take a few minutes at the start to get into the right mindset. One thing I like to do is imagine how good it will feel when the project is completed.
Remember that decluttering your home can help lighten the load on your brain, elevate your mood, give you more clarity, and allow you to concentrate on the things that really matter, like feeling ready to entertain and welcome guests into your home.
Having an organized home makes your day run more smoothly because you’re not constantly looking for things. Every time you open a cabinet or closet, you can find what you need without digging around for it.
Having fewer clothes makes getting dressed in the morning a breeze, because you’re not overwhelmed by too many choices.
I’ve found that organizing the office, cleaning out closets, or even just tackling the junk drawer can be amazingly uplifting for my spirits. The ultimate gift in decluttering and getting organized isn’t just clearer spaces, it’s clearing out the mental cobwebs, too.
2. Begin with the area that will give you the most satisfaction
For me, the biggest hurdle in decluttering is knowing where to begin, so to help you get started here’s a list of 25 things you can probably get rid of:
- Old shoes
- Damaged, torn or soiled clothing
- Old formal wear
- Outgrown kids’ clothing
- Socks without a mate
- Old prescription glasses or reading glasses (donate if they’re not damaged)
- Old jewelry
- Expired medicines, vitamins and prescriptions
- Expired makeup and beauty products (carry a big trash bag into the bathroom and have a good old-fashioned clean-out!)
- Old toys and Halloween costumes (including pet costumes)
- Appliances you never use (rice cooker, I’m looking at you!)
- Excess plastic storage containers, especially if they’re stained or don’t have a matching lid
- Old spices and seasonings (tip: if you can no longer smell it, it’s lost its flavor)
- Expired food and condiments from the fridge and pantry
- Frosty or unidentifiable freezer contents
- Old gift wrap, bows and gift bags
- Old holiday decorations
- Old DVDs you no longer watch (and VHS tapes if you still have those, too)
- Old chargers, cables and remote controls
- Old craft supplies
- Old or outgrown toys
- Old puzzles and games with missing pieces
- Old paint
- Old manuals from items you no longer own or use
- Old magazines, books and cookbooks
Now that you’ve gone over this list of ideas, choose one area in your home to concentrate on. This should be the space that will give you the most satisfaction, or “bang for your buck,” to declutter. I usually start decluttering in the kitchen because it can easily be broken down into manageable chunks, such as one drawer or cabinet at a time.
Recently, I felt like my kitchen was bulging at the seams with excess utensils, dishes and appliances. I dreaded opening up the pantry door because it made me feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Finally, I put on some music, told myself I only had to work on it as long as I felt like it, and just started. The funny thing is, it actually only took a couple of hours to completely declutter and organize everything. I can’t even begin to tell you how happy I was to complete that project!
Once I tackled the kitchen with success, I was motivated to keep going because everything else seemed easy in comparison! Over the next few days, I organized the bathrooms, the laundry room, my decor closet, the coat closet, my nightstand, my jewelry box, and my makeup. Whew!
3. Take small, doable steps
“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.” -Mark Twain
Baby steps–this is my favorite approach to just about anything that seems daunting! Taking small, doable actions is always so much easier than setting out to complete an entire project all at once.
When your home is filled with clutter, trying to tackle a mountain of stuff can be overwhelming. So give yourself permission to work on decluttering for a certain amount of time or in a certain amount of space.
For example, look at the clock and tell yourself you only have to work on the project for 15 minutes, or an hour, or whatever. Or clean out one drawer, one cabinet, shelf, or section of the closet per day.
The main thing is, you’ve begun–and that’s the hardest part–so celebrate your achievement! Bien fait!
Then do another chunk of time or space tomorrow. And another the next day. You’ll gain momentum, and before you know it, you’ll have completed an entire closet or space.
4. Sort into piles
First, make sure you have plenty of trash bags handy for the items you’re throwing away. Designate an area to place items for donation or sale and have boxes or bags on hand for those items as well.
I recommend completely emptying the drawer, cabinet or closet you’re working on. Then sort each item into piles: things to keep, things to toss, and things to donate or sell.
Deciding what to keep and what to donate or get rid of is what usually trips me up, but it actually becomes easier once I go along. It all comes down to deciding what’s really important to you–and what you can ditch–for maximum happiness.
Basket // Basket // Bamboo Window Shades // Live Fig
To make the “keep vs. donate” decision a little easier and faster, I also create a box or area for items I’m not sure about. I come back to these items later, after I’m done decluttering, and decide whether to keep or donate them.
If I’m still not sure, I pack those items away and look at them again in a few weeks. Usually, if I haven’t needed them, it’s easy to let them go.
If I haven’t used or worn something in over a year (unless it’s something I need to keep for special occasions), it’s usually a pretty good indicator that it should be passed along to someone else who will appreciate it.
This may sound corny, but when I can’t decide whether to keep or discard an item, I touch it to see whether or not it still brings me joy. If it doesn’t serve you or bring you joy, you don’t need it! This is one of the tips I learned from Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Another thing that helps me let things go is to think about the person who might benefit from my donated items. It makes me feel good to think that someone else will experience joy from something I pass along.
5. Find creative storage solutions for what remains after your purge
Next, I put away everything that remains, nice and neat. When you get to this point, you might find that you need some drawer trays, baskets or bins, or simply some folders and labels, to help you organize your stuff.
Be willing to look at your spaces with a fresh eye and store things in more efficient and beautiful ways.
Furniture and decorative accessories can often double as storage space and provide clutter control. Do you have a large armoire or cabinet with some empty space in it? You could use it to store extra pillows and blankets or even clothing.
In my office, a dresser not only displays art & photos but doubles as storage space for paper, envelopes, note cards, and office supplies.
At this point, you might want to visit someplace like The Container Store for creative storage ideas. Target also has aisles and aisles dedicated to simple and beautiful storage solutions for your kitchen, bath, closets, office, and garage.
Something I use throughout our home are clear stacking plastic boxes with lids which I use to corral and organize random things. I have boxes for batteries, my glue gun and sticks, party supplies, art supplies, small tools, photos, etc.
I simply label the front of each box and stack them on closet shelves for fast and easy access.
Here are a few of my favorite containers and tools for efficient storage and organization in the home and kitchen:
6. Rethink how you use your spaces
I’ve found that by using the spaces in our home wisely I can increase our storage space and decrease clutter. Thinking “outside the box” can result in solutions that are both creative and beautiful.
Shelves (same) Shelves (similar) // Marble Board // Faucet // Blue/White Canister // Brass Cabinet Pulls // Sink
Cutting Board // Bamboo Shades // Pitcher // White Canisters (similar) // Blue Bowls // Copper Mugs
One storage solution that’s currently popular is to replace upper kitchen cabinets with open shelving. Since everyone can see what you display, this is an easy way to ensure that what you have is both useful and beautiful.
7. Start using a household journal
I love my journals! I keep a food journal, a prayer journal, a gratitude journal, and a garden journal. Another journal I recently added to my collection is a household journal.
Similar to a garden journal, a household journal keeps information you want to remember from year-to-year: paint colors, product sources, maintenance records, renovation expenses, and a place to record what you’re storing and where it’s located.
For example, I’ve started keeping a record of the holiday decorations I buy after Christmas, so I won’t buy the same thing the following holiday season (which used to happen a lot!).
8. Declutter your life
Once you get organized around the house, you’ll probably feel the urge to start organizing your days more efficiently, too. I hate to admit it, but lately I’ve been really inconsistent when it comes to time management.
Routine and structure is something I crave, but when your job has no routine, you have to create that structure yourself. Unfortunately, I’ve just been winging it– which means I haven’t been getting as much done as I’d like to.
Just this week, though, I’ve resumed the habit of making a daily plan, as suggested in my current book of choice on how to accomplish more by doing less.
Planning my mornings and days ensures I know what I’m working toward, so I don’t wake up trying to figure out what I’m supposed to do next. And, after just a few days, I’m feeling less stressed, more focused, and more clear-headed.
So here’s to better routines in 2020, and as I settle into them I hope to write more about it here.
9. Keep the good feelings going
I’ve found that once I really get into this process I want to keep going and organize everything. Also, the more spaces I clear out, the better I get at deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.
So, while I’m still motivated, I try to think of more things to go through such as old photos, books, jewelry or paperwork. (See my list above for more ideas.) Sometimes I’ll go through a cabinet, closet or space a second time and find even more things to donate or throw away!
Once you’ve decluttered an area, make sure to take some time to enjoy it. You might even want to take a photo so you’ll remember how good it looks.
Decluttering isn’t just about getting rid of excess stuff, it’s about letting go of the old and embracing the new. It’s about opening yourself up to new possibilities and keeping up with who you’ve become, so don’t hold back!
P.S. For more tips on how to declutter your home and simplify your life, check out these posts:
*Quote by William Morris
Meet the Author
Hi,i'm Ebru. I'm sharing ideas and inspiration for effortless home decorating, kitchen design, organizing, entertaining, and decorating tips