How to Declutter Your Home in 5 Easy Steps
I’ve been on a massive decluttering and organizing spree lately. With three kids, I feel like I’m so busy keeping up with daily cleaning, and staying on top of their clothes and toys, that finding time to declutter and organize other areas of our home just doesn’t happen like it used to. It feels SO good to tackle areas that were long overdue.
Some people dread the process of decluttering, while others love it. I’m the latter. With young kids, many of the daily household cleaning tasks feel like an exercise in futility. Decluttering and organizing is the opposite. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from emptying unnecessary clutter from a space, and creating an organized system in its place.
Clutter makes me feel stressed and anxious. Although I’ve gotten better since having kids (because my standards have dropped significantly!), I can’t truly relax in a messy, cluttered space. Simplifying and getting rid of unnecessary stuff feels like releasing a huge weight from my shoulders.
That said, the process of decluttering can be overwhelming – especially when it’s been a while since it was last done! However, if you break it down into a few simple steps it becomes a much less daunting process. Here’s how to declutter your home in 5 easy steps.
STEP 1: Take everything out
Step one in any decluttering process – take EVERYTHING out. Empty the closet, the drawer, the pantry, whatever area it is you’re organizing.
Gather like items from all over the house. If you’re tackling books, gather up all of the books. Same thing with office supplies, linens, power cords, and anything else that might be stashed in multiple places throughout the house. It’s got to get worse before it gets better!
STEP 2: Deep clean the space
Now that everything’s out, take advantage and give the area a good cleaning. Vacuum the carpet and crumbs, wipe down shelves and baseboards, and give yourself a clean slate to work with.
STEP 3: Sort into piles – keep, toss, donate (and/or sell), relocate
This is the most time-consuming part of the process, and the part where the tough decisions need to be made. Make yourself four piles: keep, toss, donate, and relocate. Then, be ruthless. Get rid of the following:
- Anything that’s broken, missing parts or worn out beyond repair. Is it fixable? If so, why haven’t you fixed it? If it’s been broken for more than a couple of months and you haven’t fixed it, you’re never going to – let it go.
- Any unnecessary duplicates. How many tape measures do you need? Staplers? Pens? Vases? We end up accumulating so many unnecessary duplicates. Instead of storing the item for years untouched, donate it to somebody who can use it.
- Anything that’s outgrown by every member of your family. My guess is that if you have kids, you have plenty of items that fall in this category. Clothes that are too small for everyone, toys that are no longer played with, plastic dishes, sippy cups, bottles, sports gear – kids grow incredibly quickly, and they grow out of things overnight. Once everyone in your family has outgrown an item, it’s time to pass it on (yes, you can hold on to a few sentimental favourites – just make sure the sentimental items don’t take over!).
- Anything you don’t use or love. This is where it gets trickier, but it doesn’t have to if you keep two simple questions in mind. Pick up each item individually and ask yourself, “Do I use this item? Do I love it?” If it’s not useful, or you don’t love it, why do you want to keep it?
In my experience there are three reasons why I hold onto things unnecessarily: (1) because I might use it in the future, (2) because it cost a lot, and (3) because it was a gift, and I feel bad getting rid of it. Let’s address each of those in turn.
Related: 191+ Things to Throw Away
1. I might use it in the future
I often run into this roadblock with sporting equipment, decor items, craft supplies, and special occasion clothing. To get past it, ask yourself some tough questions:
- Have you used it in the past year?
- Does it fit your current lifestyle?
- If it came back into style, or you decided to take up the hobby again, would you even want to use it or wear it?
- Could you buy the item again if you wanted or needed it in the future?
Chances are, once you run through these questions you’ll have convinced yourself to get rid of it. If not, circle back to the two key questions, and make sure you answer honestly: Do you use it? Do you love it?
2. I spent a lot of money on this
This was a big struggle for me, until I changed the way I look at these items. The money has already been spent. At this point, you can’t change that. In fact, you’re more likely to recoup some of the money spent on the item if you try to resell it now, while the item is relatively current, versus letting it languish in your home for an additional 10 years.
3. It was a gift
This was one of my biggest takeaways from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. I always wrestled with guilt when getting rid of something that somebody had given me. Marie Kondo’s book helped me change my mindset by emphasizing that the purpose of a gift is to be received. If it no longer “sparks joy”, as she would say, you can get rid of it without guilt.
The giver of the gift gave it to you to use and enjoy. They did not give you a gift with the intent of making you feel guilty (at least I hope they didn’t!). If you’ve used the item or enjoyed the item, or even if you decided that it’s not useful for you or it’s not your style, let it go, without feeling guilty.
Once you’ve worked your way through this process, you should be left with a (hopefully much-smaller) pile of things to keep. This brings us to our next step in the process.
STEP 4: Group like items together
Remember back in Step 1 when we gathered like items from all over the house? This is why. While you will likely need to have things like pens stashed in multiple locations, it makes no sense to have something like extension cords tucked away in various spots throughout the house. Now that you’ve finished the decluttering steps, begin the organizing process by grouping like items together.
STEP 5: Keep it simple
Once you’ve pared down your items, and grouped like items together, you can begin putting them away. Think about how you use the space and the items, and organize them in a way that makes sense to you. Keep frequently used items readily accessible, and make sure that the systems you create are usable and realistic for the rest of your family.
Don’t get too hung up on perfection. Pinterest is great for organizing inspiration, but your space doesn’t have to be Pinterest-perfect to work for you. Matching storage bins and perfectly coordinated labels are not a necessity for an organized space. I’ve shared a couple of our spaces in this post. Are they Pinterest-perfect? Definitely not! But they work for us, and that’s what matters.
On the subject of storage bins, don’t buy any before you get to this stage. Too often, we try to organize our space to fit the storage bins, rather than selecting bins to fit our items and our space. Try to repurpose what you have before purchasing new items. If and when you do need to purchase storage bins, do so armed with measurements and an accurate idea of what you need to complete your space.
Decluttering can be overwhelming, but breaking it down into these simple steps makes the task much less daunting. If you find yourself intimidated by the process, remind yourself of the end goal – an uncluttered, organized space, less stress, and room to breathe!