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Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in too much stuff? Or maybe most of your home looks picture-perfect but you’d die if anyone went into your spare bedroom because of all the junk you’ve crammed in there. Many of us have too much stuff and the solution isn’t a bigger house or an extra storage unit. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed with all the stuff in your house or if your home rarely looks tidy, then you need to declutter.
As much as you’d like to skip the decluttering process, you cannot organize clutter. I repeat you cannot organize clutter. Trust me, I’ve made the mistake of trying. I ended up frustrated my organization wasn’t sticking and I wasted time and money on unneeded organizational products.
How to Declutter
For me, the declutter definition is more than just removing items from a space. I like to think of the decluttering process as a path forward to creating the life you really want to lead. By getting rid of stuff you are letting go of the past, making room for the stuff that is really important in your life and focusing on what you really need right now and in the near future.
So if I’ve convinced you that you need to declutter, then let’s move on to the best ways to declutter your home.
Make a Decluttering Plan
Like many things in life, having a plan will make the process less overwhelming and keep you accountable. There are different ways to approach decluttering (listed below). So spend a little bit of time figuring which technique will work best for your situation, break it down into smaller steps if need be and then create a schedule around it.
Sign up for the Decluttering Quick Start Guide, including easy to follow decluttering decision tree, how to find time to declutter and 15-minute decluttering challenges.
decluttering Room by Room
Go through each room in the house and go through every item in each room. This is my current preferred method because you really break it down into more manageable pieces, especially if you can only work in short bursts. I find this method to be less overwhelming for people who struggle with decluttering because it’s so easy to break it down into really small areas, like one shelf or drawer at a time.
decluttering By Categories
This method was made famous by Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She teaches to pull all like items together, no matter what room they are in. For example, pull all of your clothes into one area – even if that means they are in two closets, three dressers, and six storage bins – and go through it all at once. This can be especially good if you have like items spread throughout different rooms in your house. Sometimes you may not realize how much of that type of stuff you have until you see it all together.
While it’s great that you can break down by category, it can also be overwhelming depending on how much stuff you have in that category. You might not be able to get through all of those items at one time. And since you’re pulling it out, that may mean leaving piles around for days (or weeks) until you have time to go through it all.
So you want to declutter your home in a day? It may or may not be realistic. It will depend on:
- How much stuff you have
- How quickly you can make decisions (sentimental stuff usually takes the longest)
- How long it’s been since you decluttered, how thoroughly you decluttered and how much you’ve accumulated since
- If you can really dedicate a whole day, with minimal interruptions
Don’t be discouraged if you can’t declutter in a day. It took you longer than a day to acquire all that stuff so it will more than likely take more than a day to declutter. Go at a pace that works for your schedule. Sometimes slow and steady wins the race.
declutter the area with the Biggest Impact First
You can’t change everything overnight so choose a room or category that will have the biggest impact. Are you eating on the sofa because the kitchen table is covered in piles? Do you trip over shoes and bookbags in your mudroom? Identify the area that is driving you craziest and start there.
Focus on only one room or category at a time and go through everything in the room/category. If focusing on an entire room/category is overwhelming, break it down into different sections to tackle over time. The progress you’ll see will motivate you to continue.
No matter what method you chose to declutter, it’s so helpful to make a detailed list of each space you need to tackle. Then block time on your calendar daily or weekly.
Clear the Clutter
You are probably familiar with having boxes or bags labeled for trash, donate, sell and keep but unsure of what stays and what goes. If you answer no to the following questions, then it is time to let it go. Be really honest with yourself when you answer each question. Keep the answers straightforward and don’t try to qualify or rationalize the answers. For example, I don’t need it now but I may in the future -if you don’t know for sure that you need it in the future, then let it go.
- Do I need it?
- Have I used it in the last year?
- Would I buy it again if I was in a store right now?
- Do I really, truly love it?
Beware of duplicate items. Really think about if you need or use multiples of the same product. A common misconception is that more items will make your life easier but really it can make it harder to stay organized and can create more work in the long run as you try to clean, maintain and store the extra items.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t have duplicates. I happen to have a couple of sets of measuring cups and spoons. Even though I don’t like to cook, I do cook a lot and I love to bake so I find myself needing a couple of sets of each frequently enough to warrant keeping them all.
If you’re really struggling to let stuff go, check out my post, Decluttering paralysis: Strategies when you’re struggling to declutter.
Overcoming Declutter Overwhelm
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and can’t seem to get past it, try recruiting a spouse, friend or family member to be your support system. This person should be able to hold you accountable for setting aside time for the project as well as challenging you to honestly answer the clutter clearing questions.
My husband is chronically disorganized and has a super hard time letting go of stuff, which is not always easy since I’m the exact opposite. And while I’d love to step in and declutter his areas, he’s worried that I’ll get rid of stuff he really wants or needs. He recognizes the stress and chaos the disorganization causes but he’s so overwhelmed that he’s paralyzed to act. What has worked best for us is to have me in the room for support and gentle (or sometimes not so gentle) prodding. Once he gets going then he can keep going with a little intervention from me.
So if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed by all the stuff in your house, start making a decluttering plan targeting the area that will make the biggest impact first. Then honestly answer the clutter clearing questions while being mindful of the need for duplicate items. And finally bring in a friend or family member to hold you accountable, if need be.
More decluttering advice
Still struggling with decluttering? Check out Decluttering Paralysis.
Do you how to get rid of all the decluttered items, read How to Get Rid of Stuff.
What do you find is the hardest part of decluttering? I’d love to hear from you. Comment below.