The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home
Everyone has a little ‘junk’ lying around the house. OK, some of us may have more than a little. Regardless of how much stuff we have, we can all benefit from getting rid of clutter and excess things we don’t need any more, or things we haven’t even seen in a while. The National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) conducted a poll that suggests nearly 65% of Americans feel their home is at least somewhat disorganized.
Clutter, however you define it, can be bad for your health. According to Psychology Today, people tend to feel like life is out of control when they surround themselves with more things than they can manage. The mess causes stress. If you’re not taking care of the clutter in your home, you may not be taking care of yourself either.
When is clutter a problem? For many people clutter can be an energy zapper or they waste inordinate amounts of time looking for things they can’t find. In extreme cases, people may suffer from obesity or depression when a life of consumption extends beyond ‘stuff.’ In hoarding situations, a house full of clutter can cause fire hazards and other health complications when mold and dust are present. But extreme cases are not common.
What is clutter? Clutter is anything you’re keeping around your house that doesn’t add value to your life. Decluttering is all about making room in your home for the things that matter.
Why should you declutter? Many people enjoy decluttering because it relieves stress by providing a sense of control and accomplishment. For others, getting rid of the junk frees up a little extra space in the house that wasn’t there before. Some people may just need to purge before they move to a new house. Whatever your reason for decluttering your home, this ridiculously thorough guide will help you through the process.
"With less clutter, there will be more room for you, your family, and your friends. You'll get to enjoy the freedom of all the space you've reclaimed. If you like to socialize, invite friends and family over more often. If you like your alone time, sit down and enjoy a good book or a favorite movie, rejoicing how easy it is to relax and stretch out while doing it." Rick Woods, author of Make Room for Clarity: Getting Rid of the Clutter that Gets in Your Way
Because our guide is ridiculously thorough, we’ve broken it up into three parts. The first part will explain how to declutter any space in your home, giving you the tools you’ll need to be successful at removing the clutter. Part two will walk through decluttering tips room-by-room. With these detailed instructions, clutter will no longer have a place to hide in any room in your home! And the third section will help you keep the clutter away in the future. We recommend bookmarking this page, since you may want to come back to it as you work through decluttering your house (or you can print this page, but we prefer to save trees).
BD Hint: Get rid of all your clutter fast by renting a dumpster. Call 877-209-8584
PART 1: How to Declutter Your Home
1. Set Goals
Before you get started, make a plan. No matter how many rooms or how much clutter you have to get through, starting with specific goals will help you create a plan that will reduce any frustration as you go. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started decluttering your home:
- Write down or make a map of all the rooms and ‘clutter hot-spots’ you want to tackle.
- Give each space a grade based on the severity of the clutter. For example, on a scale of 1 – 3 (3 being the most cluttered), a particularly messy room or closet would get a 3. This will help you prioritize your time.
- Do one room or one space at a time.
- Set completion dates for each phase of your cleanup. Be sure to pick dates that are attainable so you don’t get frustrated. If you make it into a declutter challenge for yourself, it may feel a bit more like a game!
- In addition to completion dates, you should plan time to work on specific areas when you expect decluttering those spaces to take longer than a few hours, such as a basement or a garage.
2. Create a Sorting System
As you go through the rooms and spaces in your house, you will need a system for sorting the items you find. You can create your own method, or you can use the popular Three-Box Method of sorting clutter. This method forces you to make a decision item by item, so you don’t end up with a bigger mess than the one you started with.
Gather three boxes or storage bins, label them as follows and follow our tips below:
The Three Box Method:
Empty after you complete a space. Items you keep should go in their newly designated home. Optimally these things should be stored neatly in a container or drawer. Label if desired.
Empty after you complete a space. Store any items you want to give away or sell outside your home – either put them in the vehicle you plan to transport them in or store them temporarily in a garage or on a patio.
Empty into storage containers after you complete a space. As you fill your containers, label them or drop an inventory sheet on top and neatly put them in your storage area.
You have a few options for disposing of items that make their way into the “Get Rid of It” box.
Recycle: Recyclable glass, plastics and paper can go straight into your recycling bin if you have curbside pickup. Otherwise put your recyclables in bags so you can transport the waste to the nearest recycling drop off location.
Many electronics can and should be recycled. With over 1,890 kiosks in 42 states, EcoATM recycling kiosks can turn your old electronics into cash. Check prices for your old devices and use the ecoATM locator to see if there is one near you.
- Donate or Freecycle: You can rest easy knowing that something you no longer need is going to a good home. Clothes, shoes and other household items in good condition can be donated to a number of local charities. Or try posting to freecycle.org: You post what you want to get rid of and people come get it. Your trash is truly another man’s, or woman’s, treasure.
- Have a Garage Sale: If you’re up to the task, you may be able to make a little money off your clutter by having a garage sale. Check to see if your neighborhood or homeowner’s association has a designated garage sale date. Just make sure you begin your declutter process early enough so you can participate – you’ll get more foot traffic that way.
- Rent a Dumpster: This is an affordable, stress-free option, especially if you have a lot to get rid of or larger household items you’re throwing away. We happen to be able to help with this one – we’ll deliver the dumpster to your house, you fill it up and we haul it away. It’s that simple. Thought renting a dumpster is cheaper than you might expect, the cost may be more than you’re willing to spend. See if you have a neighbor or two who will split the dumpster rental with you to lower the cost. Just make sure everyone follows the terms and conditions.
3. Commit to Get Rid of the Junk
If you’ve got clutter, we’re certain you have some ‘junk’ you can toss. And while it may not be junk per se, it may no longer be useful. Making the decision to get rid of your old things may actually be the hardest part of decluttering. If you’re like most people, you have trouble getting rid of something that you spent your hard-earned money on, which you once used or loved. Many items you find will have more than just a monetary value –they will stir up memories and have sentimental value. These are real and valid feelings that make it challenging to part with our stuff.
"Getting rid of stuff is difficult for everyone, but especially for people who treasure the memories connected with the possessions. We have found that acknowledging the emotions that can arise in this process, and then accepting that we no longer need many of the objects our memories are connected with, can be very helpful. We have used the phrase “Keep the memories, get rid of the stuff!” so often that we consider it our mantra."Linda Hetzer and Janet Hulstrand, authors of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home and the blog Downsizing the Home: Lessons Learned.
Remember, you have options when it comes to getting rid of clutter, so you don’t have to feel guilty about putting everything in the trash. Mentally prepare yourself for decluttering and keep the following concepts in mind when you are struggling to part with something you haven’t used in a while.
The 80/20 Rule: When it comes to clothing, we generally only wear 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. This rule tends to hold true for other things as well, such as video games, computer parts, books, DVDs, toys and more. Your mission is to get rid of the things you don’t use 80% of the time.
Getting Over Sunk Costs. In the world of economics, costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered are referred to as sunk costs. As you go through the items in your house, most things should be considered sunk costs (except for rare situations where an item may have increased in value). Since you cannot get the money back that you spent on that item, you should only think about the value that thing can add to your life in the future. Understanding this concept of sunk costs can help you make more rational decisions about what to keep and what you should toss.
Here are more declutter tips to help you decide what to keep and what to throw away:
See if it works. If whatever treasure you found stashed away in your house doesn’t work, get rid of it. If you want to fix it, then fix it, but don’t let it sit in your house for another month collecting dust.
Think of the last time you used it. If you haven’t used something you come across in the last 6 months, you should probably get rid of it. If you pulled the item out and said, “I’ve been wondering where this was!” you should probably get rid of it. And if you didn’t even know you still had the item in question, you should definitely get rid of it –you didn’t miss it enough to warrant keeping it.
There’s a neat trick you can use with clothing, books and DVDs (pictured below). Over the course of the year, when you use or wear an item put it back facing the opposite direction of the others. This allows you to see what you’ve used and what you haven’t. If you haven’t used or worn something in a year, get rid of it.
Ask yourself if you love it. This may seem obvious, but sometimes we keep things we aren’t completely crazy about. Yes, sometimes we spend money on things we don’t love, and sometimes we don’t return them. But if you don’t love it, and you haven’t used it in more than 6 months, add it to the “Get Rid of It” bin.
Sleep on it. After you’ve made the decision to get rid of some of the clutter in your home, sleep on it. If there’s something you can’t live without, you’ll know in the morning. You can pull it out of the junk bin and put it away.
4. Start with Small Decluttering Projects That Feel Big
Before you commit to an entire room, start with a few small projects that will give you a sense of accomplishment when you’re done.
“If you are overwhelmed with your clutter and just don’t know where to start, start small. Tackle one drawer, one shelf, or one corner of your desk. Set a timer and work for 15 minutes and accomplish as much as you can. Taking baby steps can eventually lead to a big change in your clutter level.” Andi Willis, Professional Organizer and author of www.goodlifeorganizing.net
If you’re looking for inspiration to get you started, check out our drawer organization board on Pinterest. Many of these small, satisfying transformations only require a small investment of time!
5. Clear off Flat Surfaces
Counter tops, shelves and other flat surfaces are clutter-magnets. Mail, bills, magazines, small appliances, and tchotchkes are just some of the items that tend to consume flat surfaces in the home. But is that really the best place for them? The answer is usually no.
If you need to keep a few things on the counter tops, that’s OK, but make it a goal to free your flat surfaces of most clutter. Make space in drawers or add small boxes or bins to your shelves for paper items. Only keep frequently-used, essential small appliances on kitchen countertops –the rest should be put away or donated if you never really use them.
6. Keep Like Things Together
Categorizing things as you go through them is imperative to organizing your home. In fact, keeping like things together forces you to organize your home. And it will make your life easier! Store like items close to where you will use them and you’ll not only know where they are when you need them, but you’ll reduce some of the little frustrations in your daily life.
“Create Homes – When things have no place to go, they start to gather in piles. Establishing a place to put your things helps reduce clutter. Make sure that what you keep is 'home worthy.' Is it useful? Do you love it? Does it fit? Do you need so many? Is it time to let go? Ask the questions before putting things away." Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® and author of The Other Side of Organized and owner of www.ohsoorganized.com
The next section of our guide will take you through decluttering your house room-by-room. While this is generally a good way to approach decluttering, CPO Liz Jenkins of A Fresh Space recommends first tackling categories of like things that may have spread to multiple rooms in your house.
“Sometimes it is better to take on a category instead of a room. Items that are similar often end up in different spaces. For example, if you have books in every room, it may make more sense to gather up ALL the books, group them my subject or genre, then make decisions about which to keep. You may not realize you have four copies of the same thing if they are in different rooms.” Liz Jenkins, CPO and owner of A Fresh Space, LLC
BD Hint: For a stress-free cleanout, get easy waste removal with a dumpster rental.
PART 2: Room-by-Room Declutter Tips
Now that you have the tools you need to tackle any decluttering project in your home, you are ready for our ridiculously thorough, room-by-room decluttering tips. Decluttering room-by-room is the most efficient way to declutter and organize your home. And you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each room!
Use your plan that you created as a guide and click the images below to get declutter tips for each room in your house.
Declutter Your Bedrooms
Bedrooms often become dumping grounds for stuff that doesn’t have a home in your house. When you think about it, you don’t really need more than a bed, a nightstand or two, storage for clothes, shoes and, perhaps a home for jewelry and makeup.
“The master bedroom is, in my opinion, the most important room in the house to keep decluttered and organized. After all, we don’t just clean it for guests, we clean it for our own quality of life. We deserve a place to come to at the end of a long day that is a sanctuary, where we can truly relax. It is almost impossible to feel peaceful in a cluttered and chaotic environment. We also start our days in this room when we wake up. Help yourself ease into the day surrounded by order and beauty. If you are married, this is the room where the marriage relationship is nurtured. If you have children, this is the room that is the example to your children of how a bedroom should be maintained. Don’t be one of those parents who tells your children to go clean their room when your room is a mess! My most important advice about your master bedroom, is to look at it differently. Treat the room with respect and get the clutter out!” Mary Johanson, Professional Organizer and author of www.maryorganizes.com
Follow the tips below to declutter messy bedrooms – we’ll address decluttering closets in another section since they also tend to be clutter hot-spots requiring special attention!
Start with the drawers in the bedroom
Take everything out of the drawers and ask yourself the following questions about each item:
- Does it belong in the bedroom?
- Have you used it in the last year?
Did you answer, “No,” to either of those questions? If so, then put it the item your “Get Rid of It” bin or move it to the room in which it belongs.
When you are ready to place items back into the drawers try adding dividers or small containers so you can store like things together. Now, you don’t have to go to the store to buy something. You can use small gift boxes, shoe boxes, cereal boxes or repurpose plastic containers to hold the items in the drawer. Get creative – perhaps you won’t have to send as many things to the landfill at the end of the day!
Keep flat surfaces in the bedroom clear
Or at least keep them almost clear. Moderation is key here. It’s ok to have a few decorations, a lamp or pictures on your dresser or nightstand tops, but try to limit each surface in the bedroom to less than 5 things. When you have fewer things cluttering the flat surfaces in your bedroom, the space will feel more calming and peaceful.
Use storage bins for kids’ toys, seasonal items or things you use infrequently
Let’s face it, not everything can be tucked away behind a closed door - closets are valuable real estate in a house, so some items like kids’ toys or seasonal clothing/bedding need to go somewhere else.
Kids’ toys can live in baskets, toy chests or even shelves in a bedroom. If you find yourself running out of space for toys, it’s probably time to donate those toys that were a hit for a few weeks but no longer get much attention.
Seasonal clothing, bedding or decorations can be easily stored in plastic or cloth bins that fit under the bed or in a closet. Space-saver bags or even comforter bags are also an option if you’re looking to get bulky items into a smaller space.
Decluttering Your Closets
The phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” dates back to the time of King David, somewhere around 1000 BC, though those were not his exact words. King David said, “I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind.” There are also versions of this phrase in many different languages. Clearly the concept that people, as well as things, can be easily forgotten when they’re not in view is centuries old. So it should be of no surprise that we are prone to stuffing or leaving things we don’t want to deal with in closets.
I have some good news: decluttering closets is therapeutic. The process of going through clothes, shoes and other long-forgotten belongings will help you cleanse your house and your mind of any emotional baggage that may be connected to these items. Be sure you keep your 3 bins nearby for this task and follow our closet declutter advice below:
Start from the Bottom of the Closet and Work Your Way Up
Your instinct will be to start from the top with the things that are hanging, but cleaning up and cleaning out the mess at the bottom of the closet is the better way to go. Not only will you free up space in which to work, but you will feel like you’re half-way done in no time!
Get Rid of Clothes and Shoes
In case you glossed over the section earlier in the guide where I discussed the 80/20 rule, I’ll reiterate. We typically wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time, which means you should have a significant amount of clothing you can purge. Ask yourself these questions about each item if you’re having trouble deciding which items you should pitch:
- Does it fit?
- Is it damaged? (stained, torn, faded)
- Has it been worn in the past year?
If you answered, “No,” to any of those questions, I strongly urge you to add the item to your “Get Rid of It” bin. If you have something that is sentimental or seasonal that you don’t wear often, put it in your storage bin and free up some space in your closet. The same goes for shoes.
Since I’m sure you will keep at least a few things that you probably should get rid of, even after this exercise (I know I did), try the “backwards hanger” trick over the course of the next year to weed out any more items that can free up space in your closet. Start the year with the hangers tips all facing the front of the closet (backwards). After you wear something, put it back in the closet with the hanger facing the back. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to easily identify the clothes that just aren’t worth keeping anymore.
Clean Up Closet Shelves
Remove everything from your closet shelves, wipe down the shelves and then get rid of anything that isn’t adding value to your life. Avoid stacking clothing on shelves and storing stuff on shelves that can get buried under hanging clothes. Aside from items you store in containers, you should be able to see everything in your closet without moving too much. Boxes and bins are recommended for storing smaller items on your closet shelves.
If you are decluttering a closet that you don’t use to store clothing, it can be really tempting to stack everything in there like a beautiful game of Tetris. Don’t do it. Consider adding more shelving above things that you may keep at the bottom, like a vacuum cleaner or storage bins. You can also add hooks inside the door for brooms, mops and dustpans.
Cleaning up your closets is guaranteed to improve your quality of life! Seriously, it’s the little things. You’ll save time when you no longer have to look and search for items you ‘could have sworn were in there.’ You’ll make room for new belongings that bring you more joy. And you won’t risk something falling on you the next time you open a closet door.
“Go vertical. Take advantage of any extra vertical space you might have, such as the back of the door, a small section of wall, or the extra vertical space above your top shelf. Use hooks to hang robes, jewelry, and scarves. Over the door organizers aren’t just for shoes. They also make excellent storage spots for scarves, belts and socks. Install another shelf at the top of your closet for storing mementoes and out of season clothing.” Andi Willis, Professional Organizer and author of www.goodlifeorganizing.net
Decluttering Your Home Office or Workspace
Does your home office or workspace look like it was hit by a tornado? Have no fear; our tips will help with the disaster cleanup. And as an added bonus, decluttering and cleaning up this space can actually make you more productive!
Go through paper items
For most people, office clutter consists of piles of bills, important documents, semi-important documents, receipts and other pieces of paper you ‘intended’ to get to. When cleaning up an office or work space, it’s best to start with the papers. Cleaning up the paper mess is likely to be half the battle!
Sort papers into three piles: File, To-do, and Trash. Once you have everything sorted, throw the trash pile in the trash or shred the papers, file the papers you need to keep and put your to-do pile in a basket or special file so you can address it when you’ve cleaned up your office space.
Here are some other tips for sorting through paper office clutter:
- Scan important documents and receipts to make a digital record, then shred and throw away the paper if you don’t need a physical copy lying around.
- Older paper files, such as taxes can be stored in a plastic bin and kept in your basement, garage or another space for things you don’t need to access often.
- Designate a space for important mail or paper documents that you need to act on soon, or for future incoming paper documents – this way you’ll have a place to put them when you get them.
- When you’re filing paperwork, don’t forget the most important file: the circular file.
Clear off your desk
Challenge yourself to remove most items from your office desk, aside from your computer, a lamp and a few other essentials. Only keep items on your desk that you use frequently. Whenever possible you should store office supplies in drawers – table top organizers can easily get messy. A few knickknacks are OK, but don’t overdo it!
Clean out and organize drawers
Do your office drawers look like piles of junk when you open them up? We have 3 simple steps to help you make sense of your office supplies:
- Take everything out of the office drawers.
- Get rid of the excess. If you have more than you actually need in the next year, then get rid of it. If you haven’t used it in 6 months, you should probably get rid of it.
- Organize like-things together and avoid a lot of free-floating objects in a drawer when you put your office supplies back in. There are drawer organizers you can purchase or you can use small boxes or containers you already have.
Tame Your Cords
Wrangling in your chords, while not necessarily clutter, will certainly help you achieve the clean, crisp look you will want to have in every room of your house. A simple search online will present a myriad of cord management products made for tying up and taming chords. You can also use a few of these clever cord hacks:
- Label cords with washi tape, so it’s easier to tell what chord goes with each device
- Hold cords that are frequently unplugged up on your desk with binder clips
- Use twist-ties or rubber bands to tie up excess cables – it’s not fancy, but it’s effective!
“Use portable file bins for archived papers such as old taxes or mortgage documents so you don't take up valuable real estate right at your desk. Also, Velcro strips are great for tying up cords and cables around your home and office. Label the cords based on use, group like with like, and store in labeled bins for easy access.” Liz Jenkins, CPO and owner of A Fresh Space, LLC
Decluttering Your Kitchen
You probably use your kitchen more than any other room in the house, and, if you cook even semi-regularly, you likely have a lot of stuff in it. Utensils, cookware, small appliances, food, spices, and more likely leave little space in your kitchen cabinets and drawers, and even on kitchen counter tops. We want to help you take back your kitchen from clutter! Our kitchen declutter tips will make this space more enjoyable and hopefully make cooking less stressful.
Start by Decluttering Kitchen Countertops
Kitchen counters are clutter-magnets in most homes, so this is a great first step for anyone looking to declutter their kitchens. This small, 2-step project will look and feel big when you are done!
Step number one: Clear everything off your kitchen counters except 3-5 essential items (such as a coffee maker or knife block). You can put the counter clutter on the kitchen table or on the floor, but get the stuff off the counter.
Step number two: Put away or find another home for everything you cleared off the counter. If you’re left with a lot of papers or junk mail, trash them or move items that need to be addressed to your office or workspace.
This is a project that only takes a few minutes, unless you have piles of things in your kitchen, in which case you may need an hour. Either way, it will feel like a NEW kitchen when you are done!
Divide the Kitchen into Zones
We recommend attacking one section of your kitchen at a time to avoid a potentially bigger mess. Assigning zones can also help you improve the organization of your kitchen things.
- Identify space near the stove for cooking utensils, pots, and pans. These items should be conveniently located near where you cook.
- Unless you bake every day, store your baking supplies away in a cabinet or on a shelf – if you have a mixer on your countertop try to corral your baking supplies near it.
- Storage bags, cling wrap, aluminum foil and similar items should get their own zone, as well as cleaning supplies.
Purge and Rehome
As you start to go through each zone in your kitchen, consider throwing away or donating any items you come across that haven’t been touched in a year. When you decide to keep an item you use infrequently, you may want to put it away in storage in another part of your home, especially if you’re low on real estate in your kitchen. And be sure to move anything you come across that belongs in another zone to its new home.
Small Appliances: If you use that food dehydrator or deep fryer maybe once a year, you should put it in your “Get Rid of It” bin. Inventory all of the small appliances you have and only keep what you really use. Appliances that do multiple things tend to be keepers.
“Many of us have waffle irons, crock pots, egg slicers, choppers, food processors, and so many more small appliances and gadgets that take up space. And yet, rather than pulling out and dirtying the chopper with a dozen parts to clean, we grab our simple knife when we need to cut up an onion. Consider getting rid of many of the “convenience” items that you rarely use as you streamline your kitchen.” Davonne Parks, author of Chaos to Clutter-Free and www.davonneparks.com
Plastic Storage Containers: If you’re hoarding enough plastic storage containers to open your own take-out restaurant, it’s time to purge. Start with the lids – there always seem to be fewer lids than bottoms in my house. Match each lid up to a bottom. If you have any stragglers you can get rid of them. You can keep some spare containers to accommodate occasions when you may need more plastic storage containers, but you should consider keeping them in the basement or somewhere outside the kitchen.
Pots & Pans: Chances are you only have so many burners on your stove that you can use at once, so you may not truly need all of the pots and pans and cookie sheets and whatever else you have. Unless it serves a special purpose, and you use it frequently, duplicate pots and pans should get donated. When was the last time you used your wok?
We know it can be tough to part with a lot of the items in your kitchen, but simple is simply better when you’re trying to limit the chaos in this high-traffic space. If you’re unsure about getting rid of some of your kitchen tools, try storing them away in a box and see if you really need them over the course of the next year. If not, take that box straight to Goodwill!
Decluttering Your Bathrooms
We’ll cut straight to the chase with bathrooms. Decluttering a bathroom mainly requires purging and organizing the items that consume your counter tops, shelves and drawers. You will probably be surprised not only by what you have but how much you have of some items as you go through everything.
Follow this simple 4-step process for decluttering your bathrooms:
- Pull all of your stuff out of the bathroom closets and drawers. Some experts recommend decluttering multiple bathrooms at once so you really get an idea of how much excess you have – you may have enough soap to last you for a year and a half and not even know it. However you decide to do it, clear off countertops, empty drawers and completely clean out linen closets in or near your bathrooms.
- Put like things together. This is an important organization best practice. Make piles for medicine, towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies, makeup etc… so you can see exactly what you have cluttering up your bathroom.
- Throw away or plan to donate the excess. Often times we have multiple bottles or boxes of half-used stuff in our bathrooms. For multiples of the same thing, combine them and clear out some empty bottles or packaging. In the case where you are holding onto something that only has a little left, give yourself a month to use it – if you don’t use it throw it away. Do you have more towels than you will use in a month? You may want to donate excess towels to a local animal shelter. And if you are holding on to something (a gift perhaps) that you never really liked, you should pull the trigger and get rid of it.
- Put your bathroom back together, but keep it organized. Dividers, drawer organizers, small boxes and baskets are essential for bathroom organization. With a lot of small items floating around in your bathroom, you don’t want to have to dig through a drawer to find that one thing you need, especially when you are getting ready in the morning. You don’t have to go out and spend money on drawer organizers either. Look for small boxes or plastic containers around the house that you can repurpose into drawer organizers.
Similar to other spaces in your house, your goal is to remove as many items from bathroom countertops as possible. If you have items you use daily, organize them neatly on a tray, or put them in an easily accessible drawer or on a shelf.
Decluttering Your Laundry Room
Everyone’s laundry room is different so our advice for decluttering your laundry room is less specific. Some people have their washing machine and dryer in an unfinished basement, some people have them in a mudroom off of their garage and a lucky few have their washer and dryer on the second story, closest to where all the clothes generally live. All of these different laundry room setups create many more possible scenarios for laundry room clutter, which makes it a little challenging to offer specific advice.
No matter what clutter plagues your laundry room and what other uses your laundry area has, follow these laundry room declutter guidelines:
- Get rid of what you don’t need in your laundry room.
- Organize what you keep with baskets, well-labeled bins and sturdy shelving.
- Keep clothes off the laundry room floor.
- Try storing detergent and fabric softener in glass jars or beverage dispensers to improve the aesthetic when this space is highly visible or in a high-traffic part of your home.
- And avoid storing items on top of the washing machine and dryer – remember the declutter mantra: “Keep flat surfaces clean.”
If you have questions about how to better remove clutter from your laundry room, or a particular challenge in this space, drop us a note in the comments and we’ll help you out!
Decluttering Your Family Room or Living Room
There is one thing that everyone intends to do in their family room or living room: Relax. It can be difficult to really relax and unwind when this space is cluttered with toys, books, wires, blankets, magazines and more. Nothing feels as good as a sitting down to enjoy family, friends or entertainment in a clean and organized room. If you’re in need of a family room or living room refresh, follow these tips to curb the clutter so you can truly relax at home.
Remove Clutter That Doesn’t Belong
A lot of things tend to end up in this frequently used space in your home. Start by removing any items that have lost their way and belong in another room. Look for toys that belong in your kids’ rooms, mail or magazines that belong in the office and glasses or dishware that may not have made it back to the kitchen yet.
Add More Storage
You may find yourself with an overabundance of blankets, toys, videos games and more that DO belong in this space. Here are some simple storage solutions to help you turn items that feel like clutter into part of the room.
- Add baskets to hold frequently used toys and blankets.
- Add shelving for video games, DVDs and other media that is prone to sitting out in the open.
- Look for furniture/storage combos such as storage ottomans and trunks to store anything you don’t want out in the open. There are even some couches and loungers that double as storage.
- Add other furniture that doubles as storage space such as a credenza below the TV or a behind-the-couch chest.
It is possible you simply have too many things in your family room or living room, which is making it feel cluttered and overcrowded. Try pruning back the pillows, hanging pictures and adding floating shelves to the walls to remove pictures or collectables that are crowding your table tops.
Donate or Sell
Be sure to address your books, CDs, DVDs and other entertainment by donating or selling anything that is no longer a staple in your collection. If you can convert your music and movies to digital format, you can free up a lot of valuable real estate in your family room without having to part with something you would otherwise keep. Get rid of any broken or unused toys, tchotchkes, remote controls and anything else that has lost its usefulness.
Wrangle the Wires
A mess of wires from your entertainment center is an eyesore that adds visual clutter in your family room or living room. There are countless products these days to help you tie up and hide your cables, but here are a few other tips for cord management:
- Use cords and cables that aren’t excessively long – you don’t want to have to tie up 20 ft. of coaxial cable!
- Choose furniture that will cover up the cords if you don’t want to go to the trouble of feeding them into the wall (though you may be surprised at how simple that can be in some cases).
- Store your mess of cords in a container that matches your room décor.
- You may also be able to conceal some cords around your room with an area rug. There’s no getting rid of the cords in most cases, so we’re OK with hiding them in clever ways!
After you finish decluttering your family room and/or living room, be sure to let us know how it feels to sit down in your new Zen den after a long day!
Decluttering Your Basement or Attic
Clutter can live forever when it is banished to a basement or attic. Again, the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” comes to mind as we easily forget about the things we have stored in these spaces. You probably have possessions you haven’t seen in years...decades, even. If you’re holding on to items because you think you might use it later, it’s time to get real about clutter. Yeah, you might use it one day, but if you haven’t used it in the last 5 years or more, I’d wager the odds of you putting these long forgotten items to use are slim to none.
You should put aside a good chunk of time for addressing basement or attic clutter – these typically aren’t 15 minute or hour-long projects. You may want to enlist some friends to help if you have a lot to carry or move up or down stairs. And if you have furniture or large items that can’t be donated, call us to rent a dumpster before you get started.
We break down basement & attic decluttering in 6 manageable steps to help you avoid getting overwhelmed:
- Divide your basement or attic in to zones. It is important to work in one area of your attic or basement at a time. Start with a set of shelves, a stack of boxes, seasonal decorations or old kids’ clothes and toys.
- Take everything out of the zone. If you’re tackling shelves, clear the shelves. If you’re working through boxes or bins, empty the bins. Don’t move onto another zone until you completely finish the current zone.
- Sort everything into 2 bins. Since you’re working on a space that is generally used for storage, you can remove one of the bins and just focus on keeping or getting rid of the items you find. If you find things you intend to fix, you may want to create a separate pile for items that can be fixed affordably, but give yourself a deadline for fixing them. If you don’t get them fixed by the deadline, donate the items or throw them away.
- Move the items you are not keeping outside the house. Before you start putting away the things you are keeping, move the things you’ve chosen to part with outside of the house. Put them directly into the trash or dumpster if you are throwing them away. If you are donating or selling them, you should put the items in the vehicle you will use to drop them off, or keep them on a porch or in your garage until they can be picked up.
- Keep like things together. It doesn’t hurt to mention this again. It will greatly improve your ability to find and access items when you do need them later. Do you have more ornaments than you can fit on a tree? Try sorting the ornaments by color. Next year when you go to decorate the tree you won’t have to move as many boxes!
- Label Boxes and Bins. As you put everything back that you are keeping into boxes and bins, be sure to clearly label the contents. If you don’t want to write directly on the bin, you can tape a paper list to the front of it so you have a visible inventory of what’s inside. Or you can use a label maker to add semi-permanent, removable labels. If you use clear bins you can more easily see what is inside.
Decluttering Your Garage
Garages allow things like old sporting equipment, tools that have been long-forgotten, old kids’ toys, half-complete DIY projects, rusty car parts, storage boxes, and more to hang around like a bad cold. This is another challenging space to declutter – challenging, but not impossible! From my experience, this is where most of the items that make you think you might use or need one day end up. I’ve got news for you: If you haven’t used it in the past 5 years, the chances are high you will never use or need it.
The following pointers will help you declutter your garage so you can actually use it for parking a car or two. We recommend planning this project for a weekend with good weather so you can pull EVERYTHING out and sort through it before putting anything back in.
Tips for Decluttering Your Garage
- Take everything out. There may be a few extreme cases where this isn’t possible, but you will have the most success if you start by completely clearing out your garage space.
- Sort through your finds, putting like things together. This is the most important step as you work to free up some space in your garage. Put all of the tools together, the sporting equipment together, the gardening tools, the hardware etc...But don’t put them back in the garage yet.
- Purge. If you have duplicates that you don’t expect to use in the next 5 years, get rid of them! If you are holding on to worn or damaged anything, you should probably say goodbye to it too. That one tool, that did only one thing that one time – sell it or give it to a friend.
- Organize. After you have sorted through all of the items in your garage and decided on the things you are going to keep, you need to plan how you intend to store everything to maximize your space. This may require purchasing more storage bins, a tool cabinet or pegboard. You may also need to install some sturdy shelving. When possible, try to create storage space in your garage that is up and off the ground to maximize space. Be sure to clearly label everything to identify the contents, so you can find things easily later.
- Rent extra storage space. If, by the time you get through decluttering your garage, you still have a lot of items you want to keep, but don’t have the space for, consider moving some things to a local storage unit to free up space around your house.
PART 3: Prevent Clutter from Returning
Trust me, after you spend the time removing clutter from your house, it will be easy to let it back in due to all the excess room!
“Make a commitment to yourself that once an area is decluttered, it will no longer become storage space for stuff you don’t know where to put. For example, after you clean out the entry closet, you can’t come across a broken item in the entertainment center and move it to the entry closet—that’s not decluttering; that’s simply rearranging junk!” Davonne Parks, author of Chaos to Clutter-Free and www.davonneparks.com
Prevent the clutter in your home from returning in the future with these 4 simple tips:
- Don’t allow potential clutter into the house in the first place: Before you purchase or acquire anything new, ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” and “Where will I keep it?” If you don’t have an immediate answer to those two questions, don’t bring it home.
- Declutter a little each day: Deal with mail, clothes, toys and other common clutter a little each day. Set aside 20 minutes a day and you’ll avoid having to find hours to clean up messes in the future. If you build this time into your daily routine, you are likely to have greater success. If daily isn’t doable, plan a weekly declutter sweep and be sure to give yourself enough time.
- Use the one in, one out rule: Whenever you bring something new home, you have to throw out or donate something else. You can even implement this room-by-room – it will make you think about where you will keep this new thing.
- Don’t buy. Rent or borrow: If you need something only once in a blue moon, consider renting or borrowing it. When it comes to books and video, the library is a great resource, or you can opt for digital versions, which take up far less space!
“Be okay with imperfection. Don’t let perfect become the enemy of better. The first time you go through your home, you won’t remove all the clutter. But you will make progress. In just a few short weeks (or even days), you will begin to feel different about your home. You will enjoy it more—as if a burden has been lifted from your shoulders. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better. And that’s the best any of us can hope for in this life.” Joshua Becker, Best-Selling Author of Simplify and Founder of Becoming Minimalist
BD Hint: If clutter makes a comeback, call Budget Dumpster
for affordable junk removal 877-209-8584
SHARE YOUR SUCCESS
If you make it through decluttering your whole home or even smaller declutter projects, we would love to hear from you!
Please send us pictures and stories from your ridiculously thorough decluttering experience so we can share your success with others! If you have any extra tips, you can share those with us, too. Please email your photos and stories to us at [email protected] or share your pictures on social media with the hashtag #declutterati.