15 Decluttering Tips

Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions.

Barbara Hemphill

We all strive to be better. Every day. I’ve never met a person who said he didn’t want to improve and be better than the day before. If you want to improve your health, career, relationships, and life overall, the best way to start is to clear your mind. And when your mind is clear, the clutter around your life will start to stress and annoy you. Clutter is a physical manifestation of what is going on in our minds. Therefore, a clear mind = a clear life

Once your life is clear of clutter, and the space you live in is organized, you will immediately feel the positive benefits of it. The uncluttered space will be perfect to welcome the best version of yourself – more efficient, more organized, and healthier. After all, how can you improve if your closet is overflowing, your kitchen sink is filled with dirty dishes, and your bed is unmade the whole day?

15 Decluttering Tips

Learning how to declutter your home (and your life) doesn’t have to be difficult and here are some tips to help you with that.

1. Start Small

Start with just 5 minutes. Put on a stopwatch, go around your home and declutter everything you see that is not adding any value. Celebrate when you finish. Surely, 5 minutes won’t make a dent in your mountain of stuff (remember: the average households contain 300,000 items), but it’s a start. Take another 5 minutes tomorrow, and another 5 minutes the day after. After a week, you will begin to see the positive benefits of less stuff around your house.

2. Don’t Organize

I know organizing your stuff sounds better (and it’s certainly easier) than getting rid of them. But organizing won’t make a difference. The stuff will still be there, and your mind will know it. Remember: the easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it.

3. Have Rules

  • 90/90 Rule – if you haven’t used something in the last 90 days, and you won’t use it in the next 90 days, get rid of it. You can have a 30, 60, or 120 days rule. Whatever you choose, be honest with yourself and do it in a way that serves your life best. 
  • One-In-One-Out Rule – to keep your stuff level from rising, every time a new item comes into your house, a similar item must leave. For example: for every new T-shirt that comes in, an old one goes out; new pants in, old pants out, new pair of shoes in, old pair out. You can also rebalance if you have too many T-shirts and not enough pants, so if you buy new pants, you can get rid of one T-shirt. 
  • Just in Case Rule or 20/20 Rule – declutter everything you have Just in Case some hypothetical future happens and we need some of our stuff. If you can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from your current location, get rid of it immediately. 

4. Get Rid of One Thing Per Day

In a year, you would declutter 365 things. If you increase this to 2 things per day, you would get rid of 730 things you no longer need. Now imagine what would happen if you decide to remove 3, 4, or more items per day. Soon your life and your mind will be free of distractions.

5. Four Box Method

Get 4 boxes and label them: trash, donate/sell, keep/storage, relocate/other room. Then take them with you to all rooms in your home and place each item in one of the following boxes. 

Trash Box – anything you don’t want or need, but it’s not worth donating or selling goes in this box. (damaged and broken items, stained clothes, shoes with holes in them, and so on)

Donate/Sell Box – here is your chance to be generous. Think about your things, and if you don’t use them, donate them to someone who can get better usage out of them. You can also sell your things and use that money for something you want, like debt reduction, dream vacation, etc. 

Keep/Storage Box – this box should be the smallest. Put inside all the items you still intend to use but don’t need on a daily or weekly basis. This might include seasonal décor, seasonal clothing, sport or hobby equipment, etc. Put the box in the attic or garage for the right season to come. 

Relocate/Other Room Box – everything that is not in its designated space goes in this box. Papers to file on the kitchen counter table? Nope. They’re going in this box. Pens and pencils in the living room? Nope. They are going in the box. At the end of decluttering session, put everything in its designated space.

6. Declutter by Area

Choose a room, shelf, or drawer. Put on the music, prepare a bottle of water, and declutter this small area in one go. Looking at this one small area that is clean will nudge you to declutter the rest of your home.

7. Would You Buy It Again?

Ask yourself: “Would I buy this again?” If your answer is YES, keep it, but if you say MAYBE or NO, then you know what to do. The question will help you declutter your home of all the things that no more feel like ‘you’.

8. If It's Covered in Dust, It's Time to Go

If something is covered in dust, that means that we don’t use it anymore. The thicker the layer of dust, the more important it is to get rid of the item. Sometimes it’s a knick-knack you bought in the spur of the moment, other times a souvenir you bought on your last trip. But be honest with yourself, if you really cherish the item you would take care of it, and thus dust wouldn’t be on it.

9. Digitize

Digitize all important documents and pictures, whether you plan to keep them or not. Imagine that something bad happens and everything is lost in a fire or flood. When you digitize your important papers, documents, and pictures, all your important things will be stored safely on your phone or in the Cloud. That way you can also let go of many papers and documents cluttering your filing cabinets.

10. Pretend You’re Moving

This one is a more mental exercise. Pretend you’re moving and pack everything you have. Then slowly unpack only the things you really need. Another option is to mentally scan everything and ask yourself if you would bring it with you to a new place. If the answer is No, you know what to do 😊

11. Toss Expired Products

Tell me honestly, when was the last time you checked the expiration date on a bottle of sunscreen? Exactly. Throw away all expired items, and items you don’t like. Set a reminder and repeat the process in a few months. You wouldn’t eat something expired, then don’t put it on your largest organ either.

12. Make it Guest-Friendly

Do you need to clean at the last moment when your friends come to visit? Remove everything you wouldn’t have if they were in your home. And then keep it that way. No more stressful moments when someone comes unannounced. Keep your house clean for yourself, not only for guests.

13. Take Before and After Photos

Before decluttering take a photo of the area you intend to tidy. Then do the process with all the above steps, and after you finish, take another photo. Compare the two photos and choose which one you like more. Then keep it that way.

14. Have A Decluttering Party

Invite a friend or family member, put up a good playlist, order a pizza, and tackle the task of decluttering together. A fresh pair of eyes and no emotional detachment from things can bring you a fresh perspective when you try to keep a particular item.

15. Have A Landing Station

Have a landing station for every single item entering your home. Toss the keys, sunglasses, and loose change on a pretty ceramic tray at the entrance. Put your wallet in your bedroom drawer. Mail and papers in the filing cabinet. Cosmetics in the bathroom cabinet, etc. When you know where something is going, there are no more lost items, and your home will look clean at all times.

One bonus tip: Keep A Permanent Donation Box

Have a permanent donation box somewhere in your home where you can see it daily. As soon as the box is full, take it to the car so you can donate it to your local charity next time you’re running errands. 


No matter which decluttering tip you choose, whether it’s one of the above, or one you’ve heard from a friend or read somewhere else, the goal is to start. Your home is not a storage unit. Keeping something because you might need it someday is like paying rent to a storage company. Think twice before you buy something new and don’t think at all if you want to get rid of something. Just go with your guts.

If your stuff isn't serving you, it won't be serving you any better packed away in a box somewhere.

Melissa Camara Wilkins

Have any valuable tips to declutter your home and your life? Share them with our audience in the comments below.

 

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3 Responses

  1. I would like to have my house de-cluttered, and that is why I’ve decided to start looking for a storage unit where the items will be placed. Thank you for sharing here as well the importance of boxing the products. I also agree with you that it will be smarter to donate some of the unnecessary things.

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