Inside: Hate living in clutter but also don’t want to get rid of anything? Use this list of 20 easy things to declutter from your home to get started towards a clutter-free life, today.
It’s not even 8 o’clock and I’m already as stressed out as a Target employee on Black Friday
Squinting my eyes in an attempt to convince myself that I’m not, in fact, surrounded by the overflowing boxes, piles of paper, and musky laundry I managed to ignore yesterday.
It’s too late.
I already know the mess – the clutter – is there, waiting for me like a lioness waits to pounce on her prey.
My mind starts spinning, panic grips my body, and for a moment I entertain the idea of selling the house and everything in it.
On the outside, besides an extra dose of snippy-ness, you could never tell. But on the inside? I’m in the middle of an epic battle that happens every day. The clutter in our house makes me upset, steals my ability to focus, and leaves me feeling like a failure of a wife, mother, and homemaker.
Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, get a free decluttering checklist that includes 20 easy things to get rid of when you’re stumped.
I’ve Learned the Warning Signs
When I notice myself getting extra irritable mid-afternoon and I notice I can’t focus on one particular task but instead feel my mind start to reel, I do what I do best – I walk away and tell myself I’ll deal with the mess – the clutter – tomorrow.
The only problem is… tomorrow never comes.
Which means I’m left tapping my fingers on the countertop while steam pours out my ears and hot tears roll down my cheeks all because I don’t know how to get rid of the things that are stressing me out.
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But Here’s The Problem
The reason why I couldn’t get rid of the things that were stressing me out is because I didn’t know that the reason I was stressed out was because our house looked like it came straight off of the Hoarders TV show.
I didn’t know that statistically speaking, women feel more stressed, fatigued, and are more likely to be depressed when they view their homes as cluttered.
I didn’t know that clutter queued to my brain that my work was never done and there was always more to do.
So, instead of spending time getting rid of useless stuff we had been holding on to for years…
…I spent frequent afternoons scrounging our house for another box, container, or bag to fill with the
valuable junk clutter that scattered our house because I was too cheap to go out and buy proper storage containers and I was definitely too stingy to get rid of any of our junk.
(Or so I thought.)
After reading study after study, I finally got it.
I read about the disadvantages of clutter and how clutter can really damage our lives, I realized that was the reason why I was constantly stressed out, never felt like I could focus, and could never get anything done around our house.
“When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information.” – Unclutterer
The article goes on to compare clutter to a nagging toddler standing by your side repeating, “candy, candy, candy, candy, I want candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy, candy …”
Clutter distracts, steals our focus, and seriously suppresses one’s ability to focus, but that’s not all…
It’s How We Identify Ourselves
A recent study found that as humans, we have an attachment to our place – or, our home. But when the researchers really looked closely at the study they realized it wasn’t just an attachment to the home. Researchers found that…
People identify themselves with their possessions.
And maybe that’s the whole reason why it can be so difficult to declutter.
Because we feel akin to our belongings, like they’re something we relate to. Like they’re a part of who we are.
And to toss them in the trash or drop them at a donation center? That feels just wrong.
It All Comes Down to the Refrigerator
A UCLA study found that the more crowded a household refrigerator was often a sign of the amount of clutter in the main rooms of the house.
It goes on to say, “the refrigerator panel may function as a measuring stick for how intensively families are participating in consumer purchasing and how many household goods they retain over their lifetimes.”
“The typical Life at Home refrigerator front panel holds 52 objects[…] The most crowded refrigerator was covered with 166 different objects.” UCLA
If your fridge is cluttered, it’s almost always a tell-tale sign of how cluttered the other rooms of your house are, which makes the fridge the perfect place to start decluttering.
How to Declutter Your House – 20 Things to Get You Started
If after reading this list you still don’t know what to get rid of (or, maybe you know what but you don’t know how), start with your fridge.
After reading the “clutter study” from UCLA that revealed some household fridges harbor up to 166 different objects, I’m convinced it has got to be one of the best places to start decluttering.
Once you clear your fridge, move on to these 20 other items to get rid of.
1. The Medicine Cabinet
First, take everything in your medicine cabinet (or drawer, box, or container) out.
Next, start getting rid of stuff by throwing away any medications and vitamins that are expired.
Then, sort through the remaining medications and throw out any that are no longer needed. Maybe you have some medication from six months ago when you had an illness, but you didn’t end up using it all – go ahead and get rid of all those.
Since the medicine cabinet isn’t out in the open and doesn’t get used all the time, it’s an easy place to become messy without you even noticing.
Once you’ve got the medications decluttered, you can use a basket organizer to keep the cabinet organized and the meds easy to get at.
2. CDs, DVDs, and VHSs
VHSs… do those even exist anymore?!
They do, and if you dig deep enough, you may even find a few mixed in with your movie collection.
Stocking up on movies used to be practical, but now with access to just about any movie online through Netflix and Amazon Prime movies, it just doesn’t make sense to keep 400 DVDs stored away in your home.
Get rid of any movies you can’t see your family watching again or movies that you can easily watch online.
It’s a-okay to keep a few movies, if you have the room to store them, but try to wean the pile down considerably. Once you’ve weeded through the pile, try to organize the movies you’ll be keeping neatly in a bin. If you have some DVDs or CDs missing cases, use this to keep them organized.
Clothing is one of the easiest – and hardest – things to declutter.
You know you don’t need all the clothes you have, but you don’t want to get rid of anything “just in case”.
But I’m here to tell you: you do not need all the clothes you own.
Research shows that we only wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time. In other words, we regularly wear less than one-quarter of the clothes in our closets.
To put this into even simpler terms, say you had 100 articles of clothes neatly hanging in your closet.
You could get rid of 80 articles of those clothes without even noticing they’re gone.
That just goes to show how much useless stuff we’re holding on to… “just in case.”
To test this theory out, try taking all the hangers in your closet with clothes on them and turn them around so they are hanging the wrong way.
Then, as you wear an article of clothing, turn the hanger back the right way.
After 6 months… see how many articles of clothing are left hanging the wrong way.
You can do this with folded clothes, as well. All you’d have to do is fold them a bit different than normal, or store them in a different part of your closet, then put each article back how they normally are or where they normally go after being worn.
4. Recipes and Cookbooks
When was the last time you picked up a cookbook to find a meal to make for dinner?
For me, it was months ago. I’ve ditched (almost) all of my recipe books, except for this one, that I use all the time, and now just use my homemade recipe binder that’s filled with recipes I know my family loves.
In this day and age, Pinterest and the internet are taking over cookbooks by offering endless meal ideas and recipes… for free.
The web is great for finding new recipes to experience with, but if you have secret recipes that have been passed down through the generations, you definitely won’t want to give those up.
In that case, you can use a recipe box or a simple binder to keep your recipes organized.
You could also go through the cookbooks that you don’t use often, write down, or photocopy, any recipes you liked or want to try out of the book, and then donate the cookbook – because there’s no point in letting a book that you use one recipe out of take up so much valuable real estate in your house.
5. Socks Missing Their Mate
If you’re holding on to a container of mismatched socks in hopes that their mate will show up… it’s time to get rid of them.
I love the satisfying feeling of getting rid of our mismatched socks because not only does it free up space and give me the delightful feeling of decluttering, but it also gives me an excuse to buy a new set of socks. (These are my obsession.)
6. Pens That No Longer Work
For years I was a pen collector…
- free pens from fairs
- cute pens I saw somewhere online
- pens I thought would be neat but decide I don’t like after one use
The problem with all these pens was that I was collecting them faster than the ones we had at home were dying out, and there’s really only so many pens one household needs.
I eventually learned that clutter is a common cause for anxiety, added stress, and feeling fatigued… which made me realize it was time to ditch my pen addiction and put on a new mentality – only keeping the necessities.
It’s not easy and I’m not all the way there, but I’m happier and so much less stressed… and it all started with getting rid of my pen collection. (Who would have thought…)
Just like with your wardrobe, you likely have your “good pairs” of shoes and then you have the shoes you haven’t worn in three years, but you keep just in case you get the knack to wear them.
Here’s the thing… if you haven’t worn them in 3 years, you aren’t going to miss them when they’re gone.
You’re just not.
Now, I’m not suggesting you get rid of your two good pairs of shoes, but I am suggesting you pile all the pairs of shoes you own in a giant heap in the middle of the floor and sort them into two piles.
The “I wear these often” pile and the “I haven’t worn these in 6+ months” pile.
Then, after you’ve sorted into your two piles, go through the “I haven’t worn these in 6+ months” pile and challenge yourself to get rid of at least one, two, three, or four pairs of shoes.
Start there, and if you feel like you can keep going, get rid of even more.
8. Baskets, Bins, and Containers
If your house looks like it could be an advertisement for The Container Store… it’s time to get rid of some containers.
“But all my baskets and containers are full of stuff”
If that’s the case, sort through the stuff and get rid of as much of it as possible so that you can come up with at least a few containers to declutter from your house today.
(The bonus is, the more stuff you get rid of, the fewer containers you will need. So keep getting rid of stuff until you have some containers and baskets to get rid of, too.)
9. Junk Mail, Old Receipts, Unneeded Documents
Ah, paper clutter.
Purses, desks, nightside tables… these are all pristine locations for papers to pile up until they topple over and sprinkle themselves all over the room.
Go through your receipts and find ones that you no longer need. Toss them.
The same goes for junk mail. There’s a reason it’s called junk mail. Just get rid of it all now – you definitely won’t miss it when it’s gone.
It’s recommended to keep important documents for 7 years.
Paper clutter is something I’ve struggled and struggled with to keep organized. I think the problem is that this is the “filing cabinet” (if you could call it that) we used and it had barely enough space to store my Starbucks receipts (I mean… what?), never mind 7 years of important documents.
For the important documents, I recommend using this kind of filing system and to keep them organized by year so that you can easily see which papers are ready to be cleaned out.
10. Greeting Cards
I don’t know what it is with ladies and their addiction with greeting cards. I’m not judging. I’m one of you, too.
I’m just pointing out: How many times have you walked into a single male’s house and saw 10+ greeting cards neatly lined up on the mantel?
But us women? We use greeting cards to decorate our house like they’re the greatest gift to mankind.
And you bet your bottom dollar we’d never dare throw one in the trash.
If we did? We might as well call whoever got us the card and tell them our friendship is over. They no longer mean squat to us.
…or is that just me?
Maybe this is because studies show that men just aren’t affected by clutter the way that women are, or maybe it’s because men don’t have issues getting rid of stuff like we do.
“Fathers in their home tours would walk in the same rooms their wives had come through and often made no mention whatsoever of the messiness and were unaffected psychologically,” – UCLA
Either way, keeping greeting cards around for a couple of weeks after the holiday, birthday, event, etc. is acceptable.
Any longer than that and it turns into a clutter problem.
>> Do you have a hard time getting rid clutter? This eBook has helped many women declutter their homes with easy checklists and decluttering hints to turn them into decluttering hereos.
11. Duplicate Appliances
Duplicate appliances you’re storing “just in case” the one you’re using now breaks are a waste of space.
If you have 3 extra coffee makers in the storage room just waiting for the day when your current coffee maker breaks is just suffocating you and cluttering your house.
You can expect a good quality coffee maker to last around 5 years, which means all those duplicates will be taking up space, collecting dust, and causing you to be stressed for five years.
It’s just not worth it.
12. Your Fridge
We mentioned earlier that a typical fridge has 55 items on it, with some fridges having up to 166 items and objects on it.
Getting rid of old magnets, old lists, crinkled photos, and miscellaneous notes from 6 months ago is the perfect place to start.
(While you’re at it, take some time to clear out the inside of your fridge.)
13. The Junk Drawer
Crammed. Cluttered. Chaos.
We all have one – a junk drawer.
It’s where we stuff “important” phone messages (and then forget about for the next 2 months), the keys, and your son’s school project that he’s definitely too late to hand in now.
The best way to declutter the junk drawer is to take everything out of the drawer, pile it on a countertop or even the floor and sort.
While you sort, throw everything that’s broken (or old notes, and useless items) into the trash.
Next, of the stuff that’s still in working order, sort it into two piles: keep, and donate.
Then, place the donate pile into a bag or box to be brought to a donation center. The “keep” pile then gets put, neatly, back into the drawer.
But, chances are it won’t be more than a week before that drawer is back to what it truly is – a junk drawer.
Grab one of these and stick it in the drawer and see that everything that goes into that drawer has a designated spot. It’s no longer the “junk drawer”. Now, it’s the miscellaneous drawer.
Chances are, you’re never going to need all 258 of your mugs at one time.
Decluttering your mugs gives you permission to get rid of the ones you don’t really love… you know, the ones you always push out of the way to reach your favorite one (or the ones that get pushed to the back of the cupboard and haven’t been pulled out in years).
Download: Room-by-Room Decluttering Checklist
15. Home Decor
Whatever season it is right now, go find any decorations that are for this season that aren’t up in your house and put them in a bag to donate.
If you don’t love them enough to have them up in your house, they’ll spend the rest of their life living in storage.
Next, go through all the rest of your decorations and donate the ones you don’t absolutely love – the ones that never make it up into your house.
16. Your Workspace
Whether your workspace is at home or outside the home…
Whether it’s a desk or a change table…
…keep it clutter free.
“When your environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brain’s ability to process information.” – Unclutterer
Trying to work at a cluttered workspace is next to impossible – all the stuff surrounding you is competing for your attention.
You can’t finish that project because the notes scattered on your desk reminded you that you still haven’t returned Sally’s call or replied to your boss’s email.
You struggle to remember what you were headed to do as you get up from playing with your toddler on the floor and the piles of laundry catch your attention.
Clutter distracts and is a thief of focus.
Books that haven’t been read in years can go. Books that you read once and have no interest in reading again, gone.
Some people don’t like to get rid of any books – but I’m here to tell you that it’s okay. Sure, if you think you’ll re-read the book, keep it. But if it’s just taking up space, get rid of it. (You can always find books for free at the library.)
Take the FREE Challenge…
Sign up for the free 5-Word Organization Challenge to organize every space in your home, starting now.
18. Your To-Do List
Research shows you’re 42% more likely to get things done when you write them down, which is good news for all our list people out there.
But research also shows that 89% of people fail to accomplish the tasks on their to-do list every day.
Tomorrow, leave the never-ending to-do list at the door and create a minimalist list. A list with the absolute necessities, none of that “filler” stuff to make you look like you’re being productive (just in case you didn’t already know – busy does not equal productive).
19. Rags, Towels, Bedding
Chances are, if you were to go through your linen closet, you would find at least a dozen towels, rags, and bedsheets that are worn, stained, and definitely wouldn’t be the kind of bedding or towels you’d let a guest use.
Throw out (or cut up and turn into cleaning rags to replace some olds rags) old towels, rags, and bedsheets, then donate any of the ones that are still in good condition but you don’t use often enough.
You only really need about 2 sets of sheets per bed in your house.
For towels, hand towels, and face cloths, 2 per family member will be enough – but keep a couple extras for when guests come over.
20. The Recycling
We saved the easiest decluttering task for last.
Go ahead and pack all that recycling that’s taking over…
- your mudroom
- your garage
- or, under the kitchen sink
…and bring it to a bottle depot. Not only will you be clearing out some clutter, but you’ll also come out with some spare change.
Now, when I see clutter piling up yet again in our house and feel my mind start spinning, I know why it happens, which enables me to breathe.
And then breathe again.
Doing this helps me stop panic from gripping my body and clears my head. It allows me to make a plan to attack this clutter by starting with one small thing, and then another…
…and then another.
Talking about starting small:
Download Your Free Printable: Your Quick-Start to Decluttering
To get started decluttering your house right now, you can get my free 20 Things in 20 Minutes decluttering checklist, which includes an exclusive list of 20 easy items to get rid of from your home when you can’t seem to get yourself to get rid of anything. Here’s how to get it:
- Download the checklist. As a bonus for joining my newsletter, you’ll get the checklist! You can click here to download and subscribe.
- Print the list. While normal printer paper does work, cardstock works the best as it’s stiffer and will yield a more sturdy checklist that won’t easily bend or break. Don’t skip this step – remember, you’re 42% more likely to achieve your goals when you write them down.
- Use it. Any time you start to feel overwhelmed by the thought of decluttering, refer back to the checklist to find something to get rid of instantly.
Here’s a sneak peek of your 20 Things in 20 Minutes Declutterathon:
What to Declutter From Your House… Your Turn
Do you have some easy things to declutter from your house? Feel free to share your best decluttering tips in a comment below!
Your Next Steps…
Once you’ve decluttered, it’s time to organize: How to be Crazy Organized With 21 Expert Organizing Tips
Once you’ve organized, it’s time to clean: How to Clean Your House in 4 Quick Steps