How To Declutter Your Home In A Few Easy Steps

by Team Scary Mommy
Originally Published: 
clean desk with clock and plant
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Whether you’ve lived in your home for one year or 30 years, chances are your space could be decluttered. Here’s the thing about clutter: accumulating it is so easy, especially if you have kids, but getting rid of it is so hard. If you’re someone who is intimidated by the whole process and don’t know where to start, it’s actually more straightforward than you probably think. And the best part is, you don’t even need to set aside a whole day to declutter — if you have a spare 10 minutes you can make a decent dent in your coffee table, if nothing else. Here’s how to declutter your home, even those pesky kid’s toys.

Use the Basket System

As you’re going through your stuff, get five baskets (or bags, boxes, containers, etc) and label them: put away, recycle, fix/mend, trash, and donate. This way you can literally just toss your stuff or those unused toys in the category where it belongs and start making a difference in your home even after just a few minutes. It may be easiest to go room-by-room using this system, so all the bathroom stuff doesn’t get mixed up with the kitchen things, and so on.

Start with Short Bursts

No one wants to set aside their whole Saturday to declutter their house (except maybe Monica Gellar). Instead, start decluttering in short bursts. That could be on commercial breaks that run during your favorite TV show, or even while something is cooking in the microwave. Seriously, any time spent decluttering is better than no time. If you need help using a timer, try the Pomodoro method, in which you work without distraction for 25 minutes before taking a short break. After several such intervals, you can take a longer break. It truly works!

Don’t get too eager and start all the rooms at once, break it down by rooms and then further by sections. Take it on one closet at a time, one drawer at a time, and before you know it, you will have done the whole drawer chest, the whole closet, and finally the whole room. Obviously if you’re decluttering to move or sell your home you need to speed the process up a bit, but the methodology should still be the same. A steady pace will help you declutter without overwhelming you, and that’s ultimately the goal.

You can further break this down by categories within categories. If you’re organizing clothes, for example, you can start just with coats and outerwear, move on to sweaters, then long sleeve shirts, then dresses, etc. This will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and definitely less stressed than if you did the Marie Kondo move of putting every single item of clothing in the house in one big heap. That kind of mountain clothes in the middle of your living room can be overwhelming.

Identify Clutter “Hot Spots”

We all have certain parts of our house that are prone to clutter. Do a quick walk-through of your home and consciously take note of these places. Cough, playroom, cough, teen’s bedroom, cough. Moving forward, you can try to avoid dropping stuff here when you don’t know what to do with it. It’ll also give you a place to start if you only have a few minutes to declutter at a time. If you’re decluttering an older child or teen’s rooms, get them involved and put that organization bug in them early.

Get Rid of One Item Each Day

It doesn’t seem like a lot, but if you part with one thing every day — whether you’re donating it, giving it away to a friend or family member, or throwing it away — at the end of the year, you’ll have 365 fewer objects around your house. That can make a big difference!

Use the 80/20 Rule

At some point, someone figured out that we only wear 80 percent of our clothing 20 percent of the time — and the same likely goes for the rest of your stuff in your house. Keep this in mind as you’re going through your stuff. If it’s not something you really need or don’t use often, seriously consider getting rid of it.

You can also make a rule, that if you haven’t worn it in a year, you will toss or donate. This, of course, doesn’t apply to dress clothes or your beloved collection of scarfs or spring coats. But be strict with yourself and don’t hoard.

Phone a Friend

Sometimes it’s hard for us to see our own clutter. If that’s the case, you can always ask a friend or family member to come over and point out the places that could use a good clean-out. Chances are they’ll be able to spot it right away and make us actually think about whether we really use or need something.

Take Before & After Photos of An Area

Want motivation to keep decluttering? Take a photo of one of the areas prone to clutter in your home — like part of a kitchen counter, for example. Then, after you manage to clean off one small space, take another photo of the section. Compare the two photos. The “after” photo looks much better, right? The next time that clutter hot spot gets all junked up, pull up these before and after photos to remind yourself of how nice it is to have that space cleaned.

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