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Get Rid of Clutter and Organize Your Home

Simple Home Decluttering Ideas

Everyone has junk drawers, basement storage tubs and attics filled with things we don’t want anymore. Sometimes it’s easier to hide it and forget it rather than sort it all out. But what happens when clutter starts to spill over into your living space?

Thankfully, you won’t need to cancel your weekend plans for a marathon decluttering session. Just follow this expert advice from professional organizers and you’ll be on your way to clutter-free living in no time. 

First Of All, What Is Clutter?

Clutter can be anything in your home that doesn’t serve a purpose or takes up too much space. In this post, we’ll be talking about physical items that create an untidy and disorganized appearance. This includes anything from items you no longer need or objects that keep you from making the most of the room in your home. 

Common Types of Clutter You Might Have

Sentimental Items: Little-used gifts or souvenirs of happy memories can easily become sentimental clutter as time goes by. 

Bargain Deals: If you can’t resist a good sale, you’re not alone. But bargain basement and flea market finds can also end up cluttering your home. 

Aspirational Objects: This includes everything you hope to need in the future, but haven’t yet. These are items that you keep not because you’re using them, but because you like what they imply about you. A good example would be workout equipment like weights or a yoga mat: while you might aspire to eventually use them – their current purpose is to let people know you’re health conscious.

Broken Things: Anything from chipped dinnerware you don’t want to use as a place setting to appliances, tools and toys. If it’s broken and can’t be fixed, it should be tossed.

Paper and Junk Mail:  This is the easiest to get rid of, but it can come back just as quick. Magazines, newspapers and junk mail should be recycled or thrown in the trash. 

“One of the most common types of clutter is paper and mail. Paper clutter accumulates because people don’t realize that they don’t have to keep much of it around. For instance, unless you are tracking your expenses for business purposes, you don’t need to keep receipts beyond the return period of the item you purchased. I always recommend that my clients keep a recycle bin by the mailbox so they can toss junk mail before it has time to accumulate on their countertops.”
Sarah Giller Nelson | Owner of Less is More Organizing Services

How to Declutter Your House

Step 1: Collect Some Helpful Supplies

It’s important to gather supplies beforehand so you don’t have to interrupt your work. Here’s what you’ll need to sort and get rid of clutter:

  • Three boxes or bins for identifying items to keep, donate or store.
  • Garbage bags for anything that should be tossed.
  • A box for recyclable items.
  • Sticky notes and a pen to label anything that belongs to someone else - include a deadline for when they need to pick it up.
  • A roll off dumpster is often necessary for especially large decluttering projects in a garage or attic.

Step 2: Decide Where to Start

You may be tempted to start decluttering in whichever room you are reading this, but it’s better to create a careful plan of attack. Depending on what motivates you, pick a small room to clear out and build momentum, or tackle your largest room first to get the biggest hurdle out of the way. The key is to choose a strategy and stick to it. 

Once you’ve got a starting point, begin to get rid of clutter in the room by moving in a “left to right” pattern. Jumping from one area of the room to another can leave your room messy even after hours of work, but sticking to one direction will make the process much quicker.

Step 3: Sort and Organize Everything

Once you have your supplies on-hand and have chosen your first room, sort through the clutter and determine what should go where – even if that means in the trash. 

“Ask yourself: Do I need it? Do I use it? Do I love it? Only keep things in your home that you can answer yes for at least one of these questions.”
Sarah Buckwalter | Founder of Organizing Boston

To get the most accurate idea of what you own, group like items together. After you’ve grouped everything, you can easily spot what you have too much of and decide to either donate or toss them. If you have a few random items with no counterparts, consider whether you actually need them in your space at all. 

Don't Head Straight for the Trash Bin

Donating items instead of tossing them in the trash can make it easier to let go of clutter because you know you’re doing a good deed. Here are a few donation resources to look into, but keep in mind you may have organizations or schools in your area that can take certain items.

Donation Resources
Clothing Furniture Toys Office Supplies

What’s left in your “keep” box will need to be re-organized to prevent clutter from piling up again. Keep everything accessible: if you can’t find it, you’re more likely to abandon the system and purchase duplicate items.

Step 4: Adopt a Decluttering Method that Works for You

Getting rid of clutter is only half the battle. Simple rules will help you stay organized for the long haul. One of the most popular is the “One In, One Out Rule.”

“The one in, one out rule is a fantastic way to keep clutter at bay. If you are looking to get rid of excess, for every one thing you bring in, donate or toss two things. Keeping a donation bag in your closet will make this process easier.”
Sarah Giller Nelson | Owner of Less is More Organizing Services

Other decluttering rules exist, and some depend on the space or items you tend to collect. For example, to declutter a closet, the Oprah Winfrey Closet Hanger Experiment recommends that after you wash your clothes, place the hangers facing the opposite direction. After six months, see what you still haven’t worn and add it to your donation pile.  

Tips to Get Rid of Clutter for Good

Once you’ve completely decluttered, commit to not collecting and storing miscellaneous items. If you know you collect a particular type of clutter, it may make it easier to tackle. Here are a few tips to help banish clutter for good:

  1. Don't purchase anything just because it's "on sale." If candles are buy three get one free, but you only need two - stick to your list.
  2. Stop junk mail from ever reaching your mailbox. There are separate lists for general mailers and credit card solicitations, but it's possible to remove yourself from both. 
  3. Go paperless. Call your bank, insurance company and utility providers to switch to online billing. 
  4. Learn how to say no to gifts if you really don't need them.
  5. Get rid of duplicate items. "If you get a replacement for something, get rid of the old item immediately," explains Sarah Buckwalter from Organizing Boston. 

Now put your game face on, grab your supplies and go get rid of the clutter in your home. 

Ready to organize the rest of your house? Read our series How to Organize Your House Room by Room for tips covering the kitchen, closet, garage and basement.