For most people, clutter in the home is not a deliberate achievement but rather an accidental outcome of living in an affluent society. If we live our lives in the same location for many years and buy a few items every now and again, eventually we end up with a tidal wave of stuff that accumulates over the years. Unfortunately, these items do not wander off on their own. They were obtained with some goal in mind and they often remain even if that goal changes or vanishes. The only way to clear them out of your life is to have a new goal in mind– that the time has come to declutter your home.
With that thought in mind, here are 20 ways in which you can win the war against clutter.
1. Take Your Time
First off, it is important to understand that you can’t clear out your entire home in an afternoon. This is going to take time and diligence. You have to stick to your resolution and not allow yourself to be distracted by the other demands in your life.
2. Start With a Small Room
Select one room to work on, preferably a small, easy one that won’t discourage you from the task ahead. It is also best if it is a room that is not likely to clutter back up again while you go after the other spaces in your house. A guest bedroom is a nice place to start. You can clear it out easily and this will encourage you to tackle the rest of the house. If you begin with a problem area, you might give up in despair before you start having a visible impact.
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3. Take out Trash
Whatever space you start with, take out the obvious trash first. Empty the wastebaskets. Throw out the magazines with a 19__ in the date. Remove the items that obviously do not belong in that room. Once you have done this, you can go on to the more editorial aspects of decluttering the remaining stuff in that room.
4. Figure out what MUST Stay
After the initial clutter removal phases has been done, sketch out in your own mind the items that absolutely MUST stay in that room. With the real trash removed and a list of must-haves mentally prepared, you can now take a hard look at everything that is in the middle between those two polar opposites. Of course these are all items that you would like to keep but that is how you got this clutter problem in the first place. Some of it, at least, has to go. One way of winnowing it down is to set a quota. Tell yourself that you will keep half of the things on this list and the other half needs to be going bye-bye.
Finally, walk through the rest of the house and decide if there is anything stored elsewhere that really belongs in that just-decluttered room. If there is, now is the time to move it in. Make sure that you delete something else from that room to “pay” for your additions. Once you are finished with a room, close the door and sternly tell yourself that nothing else is migrating back in there until the entire home is finished.
Move on to the next space. It is best to pick a room that is filled with a different kind of clutter so that you do not get burnt out on making the same agonizing decisions over and over again. Give yourself something fresh and different to agonize over.
5. Remove Things That Make You Sad
Speaking of agonizing, there are a number of rules that will help you get over this particularly grim aspect of decluttering. One important one is to get rid of things that make you sad or unhappy, whether they are valuable or not. More often than not, these are items that are packed away in dark corners anyhow. They are there for a reason– because you don’t want to be reminded of whatever memory they might evoke. So set yourself free. You may regret it for a moment but ultimately you will be much better off both mentally and clutter-wise.
6. Remove anything “Paper”
Paper is not your friend anymore. Of course there are personal communications, memories, and important documents that you need to hang onto. Almost everything else can go. Owner’s manuals can always be found online. Old magazines are never re-read. Take them with you on your next trip to the dentist and surreptitiously put them back in circulation. Be honest with yourself. There are books that you will never finish, books that you will never start, and books you are never going to revisit.
Conversely, paper is also your friend when it comes to deciding how much glassware and china you need to keep in your home. Keep enough for your normal lifestyle and an occasional small dinner party. For huge functions, you can rent china or pick up those festive holiday paper plates and matching napkins.
If you’re interested in going completely paper-less, let Abby Lawson show you how!
7. Remove Old Kitchen Gadgetry
Quite apart from dinnerware, kitchens are notorious repositories of clutter. It gets so bad that old kitchen clutter often migrates into dead storage to make room for even more amazing kitchen gadgetry that you will also never use more than once.
This is not to say that kitchen innovations are all bad. Some of them are amazing time savers, but you need to view them as replacements rather than an add-on to the list of kitchen appliances. I recently bought an instant pot and I love it because it replaced my crock pots and rice cookers.
8. Throw Away Expired Foods
What about all those canned goods lurking at the back of your cabinets? Are you saving that canned spinach for some special occasion? Is there anybody in your family who even knows what hominy is (southerners excepted)?
9. Surplus Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning supplies are another place where clutter stacks up. You may have bought eight different brands of household cleaners because they were on sale. Yet this is about seven too many. The good news is that you can burn up the excess ones since you are busy cleaning the whole house anyhow. Use up the products you don’t intend to buy again and save your favorite for when normal life returns to the homestead.
10. Half-Empty Toiletries
The next most obvious place for clutter to pile up is in the bathroom. Squeeze all those half-empty bottles of shampoo and conditioner into single containers and use them up. Or else you can throw them out if you don’t like them at all. Which begs the question of why they are still there in the first place. Old makeup is the worst, since it can pose an actual health risk due to it having years of bacteria growing inside it while it sits in the warm, moist, and dark drawer of a bathroom.
11. Extra Clothes & Shoes
It’s hard to think of your clothes as being clutter but this can be the case. Pick outfits you haven’t worn for a while and decide if you would be willing to put it on right now and go to the supermarket. There are three possible choices: maybe, probably not, and definitely not. All of those responses mean that they need to take their chances at the next garage sale or Goodwill. Maybe it’s also time to look into having a minimalist wardrobe.
12. Old Sporting Goods
Sporting goods are a prime offender in the clutter accumulation sweepstakes. Seriously, when was the last time you played badminton or croquet? Perhaps you have some weights or a treadmill in the garage. Take the challenge to either get back to working out today or getting rid of this stuff tomorrow.
13. Clean Out Utility Drawers
Your utility drawers are crammed with stuff that has no utility at all. A lot of that space is taken up with spare parts for appliances that wore out and got thrown away years ago. How many Chinese flashlights with dead batteries do you really need in case of emergency? Is that pack of half-burnt birthday candles ever going to be blown out again? Being environmentally aware is one thing but hoarding stuff you will never ever use again is going one step beyond.
Removing clutter from your life is not just about toys, clothes, and household appliances. There is also a need to examine the possibilities which obtain when you free up storage space by removing all this excess material from your life. If you have less stuff to store, you are also going to have less use for all the storage systems you invested in.
14. Rooms Overstuffed With Furniture
It is also time to look at whether your rooms have become overstuffed with furniture. Often times you start with a house full of your own chosen furniture and then you add to that with items you obtain via inheritance, impulse purchase, or even planned redecoration projects that never happened. Or maybe they did and now you have your old furniture stacked out in the shed.
15. Excess Outdoor Items
Clutter is not just an indoor phenomenon either. Decks, patios, and side yards often attract a lot of excess items that are there simply because there is no room to stack them anywhere else. Items such as doghouses for pets you no longer have or tricycles for your grown children can vie for space with all of the leaky garden hoses and dead lawnmowers you accumulate over the years. Broken yard and garden tools that you have already replaced are also easy candidates for elimination.
16. Clean Out Your Car
Don’t forget about your vehicles either. Not only do they attract extra items just like the rest of your home does, but they can even themselves be clutter. Maybe there is a classic project car in your garage that is never going to be finished. Perhaps it will, but you have acquired several “parts” cars for it as well. Now is the time to get the parts you need off those vehicles and get them out of there.
17. Declutter With Others
This brings up an important point. Namely, that decluttering is not just for one partner or the other. Everyone needs to participate and everyone needs to have some input in the process at least insofar as the big decisions are made. You wouldn’t like it if someone mistakenly threw out something you cherish, so make sure you don’t do the same thing to someone else.
18. Check with Relatives
Checking with other relatives can also be a good thing to do. They may want, or need, something that you can’t wait to get rid of. You may not understand why but they want it all the same. If they can put it to good use, send it off to clutter up a new place with your best wishes attached.
19. Revisit All the Rooms
Finally, once you have gone through all of your spaces in succession, it is time to revisit them all. The very act of eliminating unwelcome items will certainly change your outlook during the process. Things that you couldn’t bear to part with in the earlier phases may now seem highly disposable. Your standard of what constitutes necessities and what comprises junk will have been altered.
Overall, there are only a few major things to keep in mind once you opt to start rationalizing your surroundings. The first one is to not stop once you get started. The second is to invert your thinking. Rather than looking for an excuse to get rid of various items, you should explore reasons why they need to stay. You must justify retention, not elimination, if you are truly going to make a dent in a lifetime of accumulated stuff.
20. Have a Garage Sale
There are also many pleasures which will accrue from an effort to declutter your home. One or more garage sales should yield a nice little bonus, financially speaking. Doing a curb alert for the stuff that doesn’t sell can really make some less fortunate person’s day.
Your home will now be much quicker and easier to clean. It will be a lot simpler to find things now that they are not buried under a mountain of irrelevant distractions. You will have liberated the space and created the opportunity to pursue the things you really want to do in your home. Relapses may possibly happen but now you know how to deal with them.
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Anything else I should add to the list? Share your thoughts on how you declutter your home by commenting below!