Whether you’re rightsizing into a new home in Southern Indiana or just trying to simplify your life for the new year, figuring out how to declutter your home is a big job. According to TheSpruce.com guest Home Organization Blogger, Elizabeth Larkin, the best way to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed is to do it in stages. Make a “declutter your home checklist” to prioritize clutter areas. Focus on one room, or even one zone within a room (e.g., kitchen cabinets), at a time. And complete each job fully before moving on to the next space.
Before you start to declutter your home, have containers (we recommend laundry baskets) defined for the following purposes to sort items:
- Put away: Items that have crept out of their designated storage spaces
- Fix/mend: Items that need something before they’re put away, such as a shirt with a missing button
- Recycle: Items that can be recycled
- Trash: Items to throw away in the household trash
- Donate: Unwanted items that are still in good condition and can be donated to a charitable organization or another person. If you plan to give away certain items to friends and family, it can be helpful to start bins for each person to fill as you declutter.
- Consign: Remember that items in good condition can be donated or sold. Besides a donation bin, you also might want to start a collection of items to sell in a garage sale or take to a local consignment store.
Creating a Decluttering Timeline
If you don’t have a lot of stuff, it might be possible to declutter your house in one day or on a weekend. Or you might want to create a longer timeline to declutter your house in 30 days, for example. You can also plan a decluttering schedule just for the weekends you have in a month if you wish.
Keep your goals realistic and attainable, so you can declutter your home without feeling overwhelmed. Break down the spaces you need to declutter, estimating how long each will take. And then organize that into your overall timeline. Give yourself some buffer time in case something doesn’t go according to plan.
What you should not do when decluttering is pull out all of your stuff without a plan for how you’re going to sort it. If you do that, you’ll likely just waste time wading through all of your disorganized items. In addition, it’s often best to clean first before you declutter, so your everyday items are tidy and out of the way.
Consider starting in a room or space with only a small amount of clutter. That way, you can get it done quickly and feel like you’re making progress on your overall decluttering timeline, which should in turn motivate you to keep going.
Start with your medicine cabinet. Take everything out, and discard outdated medications, makeup, and skincare products. Put everything you’re keeping immediately back into the cabinet, storing the items you use most often at eye level.
Next, move onto any cabinet drawers. Remove everything, and do a quick evaluation of what you’re keeping and what you’re tossing. Put the items you’re going to keep back into their drawers, with the items you use most often in the top drawers.
Now, do the same routine with your shower/tub. Finally, pull everything out from below your bathroom sink, and declutter the items there.
Lastly, everything that did not have a home can be quickly sorted into the five bins you have staged for the purpose.
First, make your bed. It’s hard to feel any progress decluttering a bedroom while an unmade bed stares you in the face.
Start with your nightstands. Remove anything on them that doesn’t belong there, and put it in your put-away bin. This may include books you’ve already finished reading, pens and paper, and mail. Throw out or recycle anything that you no longer use, such as empty tissue boxes, pens that have gone dry, or chargers that no longer work.
Do the same with the tops of your dressers, chests, and/or bureaus. Pay careful attention to any clothing that is strewn about. Anything that needs folding or hanging goes into the put-away bin. If you’re afraid it may wrinkle further, you can lay clothes on your bed.
Go through each bureau, drawer by drawer. Take everything out. Pull out anything that is no longer worn, and put it in your donation bin. Fold and store the clothing you’re keeping.
If you keep a desk or vanity table in your bedroom, tackle that next. Resist the urge to shove things back into drawers; instead, put them in your put-away bin. Toss or recycle any garbage or anything you haven’t used in more than six months.
Return items to their proper places. Fold or hang and store any clothing. If you’re now eyeing your closet, we’ll tackle that next.
Closet and Clothing
OK, deep breath. It’s time to declutter your closet. The easiest way to tackle a closet is to first declutter your clothing by type. That means start with shoes, then boots, then dresses, then denim, etc.
It’s much easier to decide to toss or keep a pair of jeans if you’re looking at your entire jeans collection at once. So start pulling out different types of clothing, and decide what you’ll toss and keep.
Once you’ve gone through each type of clothing, you will have four piles to deal with:
- Put away anything that was simply in the wrong spot. Example: If you had a pair of socks in your closet, put them in your dresser.
- Put any dirty laundry into the hamper, or bring it to the laundry room.
- Anything that needs to be repaired should go to the tailor or dry cleaner.
- To get rid of clothes, take them to a donation center or consignment store.
The Entryway, Mudroom, and Foyer
You may not have a traditional mudroom or foyer, but you definitely have an entryway. No matter how small it is, the best way to make an entryway most functional is to declutter it regularly.
Start with any desk, console, or side tables you have in your entry. Go through each drawer, removing the contents, and make a quick decision to toss or keep each item. Go over the tops of each desk or console as well. Do you have a space for your keys and other important items? Make sure everything is accessible and not too crowded. This will make it easier to leave the house with what you need each morning.
The hall closet should be decluttered like any other closet: Start with shoes and boots, then jackets, followed by accessories.
The entry is another area that picks up a lot of clutter from other rooms. Spend time putting away things from other rooms that have made their way to the entry.
Keeping your kitchen clutter-free can be a challenge because so many different activities occur there—cooking, eating, and socializing. As a result, the kitchen has many different types of items stored in it. You can choose to declutter your kitchen by focusing on one category of item at a time (cutting boards, glassware, utensils, or bakeware, for example) or going by zone through each part of the kitchen.
The first step is to completely empty each space, assess each item, and put everything back where it belongs. Start with your powerhouse storage spaces first, such as the pantry and upper cabinets. Then move onto the lower cabinets, drawers, and the space under the kitchen sink.
Finally, concentrate on your countertops. Move as many items as possible off of the countertops and into storage spaces. Keep only what you use every single day on the countertops.
Finally, take your put-away bin, and return anything that doesn’t belong in the kitchen to its rightful storage space elsewhere in the house.
The Living Room
The living room is one of the hardest rooms in your home to keep neat on a daily basis. That’s because it gets a lot of use, and living rooms don’t usually offer a lot of storage features. You may have some bookcases and a TV console, but they don’t hide much. The key is to:
- Decide on permanent storage spaces for commonly used items, such as remote controls, magazines, and books.
- Declutter this space regularly.
Start with bookcases, console, and side tables. Then move on to your coffee table and entertainment center. Empty them, assess the items they store, and then return them to their proper storage spaces. Put books away; reduce paper clutter, such as mail; return remote controls to their proper places; fold blankets; etc.
Move on to electronics. Remove everything that is not connected to your television or home theater system. Are you using it? Does it work? Store items such as chargers and gaming equipment where you use them.
Finally, tackle the toys. Assess every toy for wear and tear. Does it still function? Do your kids still play with it? Recycle or store each toy.
Grab your put-away bin, and return everything that belongs in another room to its proper storage space.
Where to Dispose of Clutter
For the items you aren’t keeping when you declutter your home, you have some options regarding how to dispose of them. This is where it can be extremely helpful if you’ve already sorted appropriate items into consign, recycle, trash, and donate bins.
Make sure you are aware of your local recycling guidelines, as certain items, such as electronics, often can’t go in the regular recycling. Keep a separate bin for those items to bring them to an appropriate recycling center. Moreover, if you know you’ll be undertaking a major decluttering project, you might want to rent a dumpster in advance for unusable items that must be thrown away.
For more of Elizabeth’s helpful tips for how you can be clutter free in 2023, visit TheSpruce.com.
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