Having a lot of stuff doesn’t necessarily mean you have to declutter, but it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. If you have quite a bit of stuff just lying around and not being used for any particular purpose, it might be time to reevaluate your things and sort out what’s worth keeping.
We know decluttering is hard, but you can’t fall into that mindset.
Please don’t give up before we’ve even started; let us help!
In this guide, we break down actionable steps you can take right now to declutter your home. We layout an achievable time frame you can follow, plus some great tips to make decluttering a cinch.
This ultimate guide to decluttering will help get your home in tip-top shape!
In the Mood to Declutter? Read This Before You Begin
Decluttering is a word with a lot of weight behind it. HGTV and TLC experts make it look easy. They swoop in, turn your life around and, poof, all the unnecessary items you’ve collected are gone.
But this is real life; this is your stuff. We’re not counseling gurus and decluttering connoisseurs, but we can help you out!
These pre-decluttering tips can help get you started on organizing the best plan to declutter:
- Keep your goals in mind: Don’t focus on how much stuff you have. If you keep the reason why you’re doing this at the forefront of your mind, you’re sure to succeed in no time. In any case, it’s typical to feel overwhelmed by such a large project. Take a chunk at a time.
- Don’t declutter someone else’s stuff: Your kids, spouse, or siblings should each take the time to do their decluttering process. Teaching your kids to declutter can help you in the future! Guiding your kids on what to store, sell or donate can help them improve skills necessary to minimize clutter in their own life, contributing toward an overall cleaner home.
- Identify clutter hotspots: Clutter hotspots include garages, cupboards, pantries, and kitchen/dresser drawers. Countertops are also notoriously popular when it comes to collecting clutter. Check the one(s) nearest any of your home entrances.
- Create a checklist: Make a list of where to start. Please think of the most problematic areas and list them at the top, with the least at the bottom. Beginning with a minor task first can help you keep and maintain a productive decluttering stride.
- Take a break! Yes, it’s okay. Decluttering is exhausting, both mentally and physically, and it definitely won’t be completed in one day. Give yourself some time to breathe, a little boost, and get back at it again!
Get into The Mindset for Decluttering
During decluttering, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. Take a step back and remember why you’re doing this.
Keep your goals in mind while you’re decluttering. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, remember your goals:
- Start small and work your way up
- Don’t rush
- Take a break now and then to evaluate your progress
You may even have to extend your decluttering process, and that’s okay!
Once you’ve set your mind on decluttering, keeping your goals in mind and staying focused is vital to achieving your goal (not just in decluttering — in life too!)
Try Decluttering For 10 Minutes at A Time!
As the ancient Chinese proverb states, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So, if you’re having trouble focusing and getting started, try cleaning for ten consecutive minutes.
If you can power through 10 minutes without giving up, you’re in the right mindset!
We found a handy little 10-minute decluttering exercise called the Trash Bag Tango featured in Oprah magazine.
The article suggests getting two trash bags to start:
- One for trash
- One for donations, sales, gifts, etc.
Then, set a timer and walk around your house for 10 minutes, finding things to throw away, donate, sell, or gift.
The magazine suggests doing the Trash Bag Tango as exercise once per day for two weeks, but this would be a good primer before taking on a large-scale decluttering project over the weekend.
Not only will you get a little bit of a head start, but you’ll start to recognize what to toss and what to keep — essential to know.
Handling the Guilt
We will inevitably find something of sentimental value from a loved one while we’re decluttering.
As you’re going through boxes, you may come across a sentimental item or two.
Though it doesn’t have any monetary value, it was necessary to hold onto it at one point and time.
Don’t feel guilty. Instead, take a mental snapshot, appreciate the positive feelings the item(s) gave you and need to let it go so that you can move forward with a clear heart and mind.
Prepping for Decluttering
Don’t forget to stop and buy the items you need before you become too involved in decluttering. There’s nothing worse than stopping your project to go shopping for extra organizational items.
Here’s a shopping list to help you get started:
- Garbage bags
- Garbage can
- Boxes/containers if necessary
- Markers or labels
- Cleaning supplies, such as gloves, wipes, dusters, disinfectant
- Ladder/stepping stools
- Laundry detergent to wash dirty clothes/cleaning cloths
Be sure you take the time to condense and reuse any boxes you already have before buying more.
Make It Happen!
Commit to your decluttering process by creating a simple list:
- Block time out on the calendar. Pick the day and let others know you will not be available.
- Take a before photo. The photo will come in handy later.
- Start early in the morning. Work for no more than two hours and eliminate distractions, such as phones and television. Build-in breaks to keep yourself from getting exhausted too soon, too quick.
- Work category by category to avoid getting overwhelmed. Start with something accessible and actionable, such as your clothing or books.
- Gather all the items in one place. That includes every piece of clothing. Yes, especially from over ten years ago.
Pitfalls & Mistakes to Avoid
Set yourself up for success during your decluttering job by avoiding these three mistakes:
- Don’t start with mementos. Starting with items near and dear to your heart may seem simple, but you can easily get stuck reminiscing instead of cleaning. Put this off until the end.
- Don’t call out other people for their “junk.” Are you and your roommates or family members decluttering together? Support each other and avoid unproductive words to keep the workflow goin’.
- Don’t give out hand-me-downs. This is a decluttering project, so you want to ensure you’re donating/selling as much as possible.
Done right, decluttering helps people healthily process their past and look toward a decluttered future.
How To Decide What Not To Keep
If you’re familiar with Marie Kondo, then you’ve heard her mantra: “Does it spark joy?”
Well, it certainly has in the past but, what if everything sparks joy?
Answer the tough questions. What do you want to keep? Will it be helpful within the next month?
Repeat these questions, one category at a time and ensure you take breaks in-between categories.
Get Your Family Involved With Decluttering (And What To Say To Those Who Won’t Get On Board)
If you and your family have committed to tackling this project together, that’s great!
This task is no walk in the park, and a few extra hands can get this process moving along effortlessly.
If they’re feeling a tad apprehensive, play to their strengths and divide the tasks accordingly.
- Jordan Marks, co-founder and owner of It’s Organized, says a five-year-old can test the pens and toss the ones that have dried up, for example.
- If one person is more likely to reminisce all day long instead of decluttering, maybe give them a task that doesn’t involve a trip down memory lane.
- It can be incredibly stressful for children to see what their parents discard so, be sure to do so when the kids aren’t around to avoid inadvertently hurting their feelings.
- Discuss the reason behind decluttering and try to keep the process upbeat, and take plenty of breaks.
Learn How & Why Clutter Builds Up Around Your House
We all have our blind spots. Perhaps you have an area unofficially designated as a “catch-all” for your clutter. One blogger and author refers to this as the “invisible corner.”
Don’t let your “invisible corner” become worse! Instead, develop and maintain new habits to prevent clutter buildup, such as:
- Flat surface clutter rule: For example, if random objects that don’t belong in the kitchen tend to congregate on your kitchen counter, make a point to get those cleared off right away.
- Clutter attracts clutter: Let’s face it, we all have a messy pile where we say, “Well, what’s one more thing?” Get out of that mindset and clear that mess straight away to avoid getting overwhelmed.
- Put a time limit on items: Many professional organizers recommend using 6 to 12 months as a timeline. If you haven’t found practical uses by then, sell, donate or give the item away.
Let It Go!
Just like Frozen’s iconic Disney princess, Elsa, “Let it go” should be your mantra throughout this entire process.
Take back your space by:
- Confining knick-knacks to one space.
- For every new item you obtain, choose another to remove and keep the clutter to a minimum.
- If you can’t discard an item, challenge your thinking. Consider why you have that item in the first place and determine if you need it.
Go Minimal (And Stay Clutter-Free)
Congratulations! We’re at the halfway point!
Though decluttering your home or office helps at a surface level, it is time well spent nonetheless, says Joshua Becker from Becoming Minimalist.
Here’s how to take this concept a step further and embrace minimalism:
- Challenge yourself to discover how little you need.
- Pick one item — just one! — from a collection and preserve it with other souvenirs.
- Stop purchasing too many knick-knacks that you don’t genuinely need.
Declutter Your Way to Profit: Host A Garage Sale
Pre-tip: It’s all right if you don’t have the time or energy to engage in the process of holding a garage or yard sale.
Planning one can be quite the undertaking, and we have a few steps to help you get started:
- Pick a date and begin setup in advance. Check with your community to see if there are neighborhood-wide garage sale days, attracting more customers.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Section out spaces each day or week to accomplish things easier and faster.
- Plan a sale once or twice a year. A clean home is a happy home! Plus, you’ll feel much better helping your community.
- Don’t buy plastic tubs yet. As you clear clutter from the house, you may find extra containers you weren’t aware of, saving you a few extra dollars that could’ve gone toward containers.
- Color code the items you’re selling. Purchase a packet of colorful stickers to help keep you organized when you’re pricing your items later.
- Reuse your shopping bags. Do you have leftover shopping bags from past grocery trips? Hand them out to your customers for ease and convenience. This doubles as a way to clear out unneeded bags as well!
- Advertise! In the digital era, Facebook and other social media platforms are your friends! Reach out to your friends, family and local Facebook communities to display your pictures, signs and more!
Here are just a few local Facebook groups that are perfect for that:
- New Orleans/Westbank Garage Sales
- Baton Rouge Online Garage Sale
- Mississippi Gulf Coast Garage Sale
- Northshore Garage Sale
Don’t forget to include outdoor advertisements by purchasing brightly colored posterboards at any nearby market or dollar store. Ensure your sign has a font large enough to be seen at a car’s distance.
Place important details on the board, including:
- Begin and end times and dates of the sale
- Location of the sale
- Large arrows indicating the site of the garage sale
If you don’t take the time to advertise properly, all your garage-sale plans and decluttering efforts will have been for naught.
Once your sale concludes, donate any leftover items to a local charitable organization or center of your choice.
BEFORE YOU DONATE
Remember: before you donate, you should ensure your items are not dirty, broken or “questionable” in quality or nature.
Check with the item’s manufacturer to make sure the item wasn’t recalled. If that’s the case, please contact the manufacturer and return the item.
If you’re looking to get rid of unused or old electronics, make sure the place you want to donate to accepts electronics. If not, electronic stores like Best Buy take recycled electronics.
You can also use Call2Recycle to help you find drop-off locations for items like batteries or old cellphones in your area as well!
PLACES TO DROP OFF
Remember, always follow each establishment’s criteria and donation guidelines before donating items.
Use the locator feature by clicking the links below to find a list of nationally recognized places that generally accept donations:
If you’re looking to make more of an impact on your community, use the Great Nonprofits locator tool to find local nonprofits and charities that accept donations in your area as well!
DONATE TO YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL
From elementary to college, all schools love donations! New or unopened office supplies are best, and individual schoolteachers accept miscellaneous items, including:
- Arts & crafts supplies
- Pencils, pens, and notebooks
The younger kids in elementary specifically appreciate any donations in the form of gently used or new winter clothing, school clothing, backpacks, shoes and more.
HELP OUT LOCAL RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS
A charitable spirit is a human trait and nondiscriminatory. Reach out to your local mosques, synagogues, churches, temples and any other religious establishments. They’re a hub of any community and are in tune with what the community needs.
Another hub is a community center! They have athletic activities and amenities like indoor and outdoor courts, free educational and art courses and many other goodwill services for the community. They’re often an excellent center for outreach, so look for yours and ask about what you can donate to help!
Though it goes without saying, we’ll mention it anyway:
PLEASE DO NOT DONATE USED OR FOOD ITEMS THAT ARE ABOUT TO EXPIRE.
If you’re looking to declutter your pantry and give back, that’s wonderful, but do so not at the cost of someone’s health.
Keep Clutter from Returning Using One Simple Trick
Expert organizers advise you to have a donation box in your house at all times. That way, if you’re going about your life and realize you don’t need an item, you can put it in the donation box.
When the box is full of donations, please take it to your local charity!
Make Decluttering A Way of Life
Now that you’ve:
- Processed your past
- Cleaned your closets
- Filed or thrown away your paperwork
- Hosted a garage sale
- Delivered your items to charity
What do you do next? Celebrate!
- Take an after photo. Remember the before photo we took at the beginning? Both of these photos can serve as a powerful reminder of how freeing and clean the space can feel. You’ll also be encouraged to keep your clutter from piling up in the future.
If any of these tips and tricks helped you out, we’d love to hear about it!