How to declutter your home when you feel stuck with the mess.
Do you ever feel stuck when it comes to decluttering your house? You know you have more stuff than you need, but you have no idea what you would get rid of.
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You have so much stuff… but that’s just it. It’s YOUR stuff. You don’t want to get rid of it.
But you know it’s time to declutter, because you’ve heard all the things about clutter. Like how clutter:
- Increases stress
- Overwhelms your brain and causes you to have trouble concentrating on one task
- Isolates you (you’re less likely to invite people over when your house is a mess)
- Decreases productivity
- And more
The effects of clutter are more than enough to convince you that it’s time to get rid of some of that stuff you’ve been holding on to so tightly.
But the very thought of decluttering overwhelms you. Where would you even start?
Where to start decluttering
So you know it’s time to declutter – but you don’t know where or how you’ll start. What may surprise you is that decluttering doesn’t start in the home…
It starts in the mind.
Just like clutter itself. Clutter doesn’t start in the home. It starts in your mind. It starts with you thinking you need to hold on to things just in case you may need them one day. It starts with you being okay with just one more thing coming into your house, because it’s really not that big of a deal… right?
The clutter in your house starts with the clutter in your mind.
Once you can address the clutter in your mind, you’ll be able to not only declutter your house, but to KEEP it decluttered.
How to declutter your home
See, anyone can declutter their house.
What makes the difference between someone who simply declutters, and someone who is choosing to live a simpler life, is their mindset.
If someone declutters their house but doesn’t declutter their mind, they will allow clutter to come right back into their home – so their houses will never be truly decluttered. The clutter will start piling up again just as fast as they got rid of it, and they’ll have to continually set days – even weeks – aside to spend decluttering their house time and time again.
So, unless you have weeks of spare time on your hands, I would suggest you start with the clutter in your mind before you tackle the clutter in your house.
Since clutter starts in the mind, it only makes sense to start your decluttering journey with your mind.
If you declutter your house, but not your mind, you’re only scratching the surface of your clutter problem.
It’s like you’re chopping weeds down, but you don’t know why they keep growing back again.
Whereas when you start with decluttering your mind, then move on to your house, you’ll be pulling the weeds out – root and all – so they have no chance of growing back.
How do you declutter your mind?
When it comes to clearing the mental clutter from your mind, you need to start by deciding you want to live a simpler life. You need to realize that you don’t need a bunch of stuff to be happy. You don’t need duplicates, you don’t need unnecessary items that just take up space, and you don’t need a bunch of knick-knacks to feel fulfilled.
In fact, all that stuff is very likely making you feel unfulfilled. You’re more likely to feel fulfilled and satisfied with your life when you have less stuff, and thousands of families can back that up with proof. Marie Kondo will tell you all about this, here.
After you’ve realized that you really don’t need all your stuff to be happy, you need to make the decision to be intentional with what you allow into your house.
If you’re serious about decluttering, and staying decluttered, you aren’t going to be able to let just anything and everything into your house anymore.
Be intentional with what you let into your house.
Before something comes into your home, ask yourself why it’s coming in. Is it something you’re going to use often? Do you already have something else that can do the same job? Do you need it? And, do you have room for it?
Answer these questions honestly, and if it’s not going to get used very often, you have something else that can do the same job as it, you don’t really need it, or you just don’t have space for it, it probably shouldn’t come into your house.
Or, if it is something you need but you don’t have space for it, you may have to get rid of something else first, to make space for whatever it is you’re bringing in.
The biggest parts of decluttering your mind is first, realizing that you don’t need everything you’re currently holding on to, and second, being intentional with what you allow into your house after you declutter.
(However, if you do think that you need everything you own, I would strongly urge you to get one of these before moving on.)
Now we’ll move on to the physical end of things where you’ll learn how to declutter your home when you feel stuck and overwhelmed. Remember – clutter starts in the mind, so if you skipped over the mental clutter portion of this post I would really suggest you go back and read through it so you can ensure your house will STAY decluttered after you spend all this time decluttering.
(Decluttering can be a long, difficult process, so you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re doing it right the first time.)
How to declutter your home when you feel stuck
If you’re wondering “How do I start decluttering?” or, “How to start decluttering when overwhelmed?”, you’re in the right place. Here we’ll go over the exact steps you should take to declutter your home and life.
1. Start with the supplies
The good news is that you could pretty well start decluttering today without ever having to go to the store to buy supplies. However, there are a couple things that you might want to have on hand to make your life easier as you declutter.
It’s not a lot, and you may even have them all at home already:
- Garbage bags – you’ll want these hefty garbage bags so they don’t break as you load them up with heavy items.
- Boxes – nothing fancy, just a plain cardboard box to put everything you’re donating into.
- Timer – this is completely optional but can be helpful if you are going to be decluttering in spurts.
Many people believe that they have to go out and buy a bunch of baskets before they start decluttering to organize all their stuff. But, organizing first then decluttering is the WRONG WAY of doing things. Why would you want to waste time organizing things you’re going to be getting rid of?
The right way to declutter and organize your house is to declutter first, THEN organize. After you’ve decluttered and gotten rid of a bunch of your stuff, you will then go out and buy a couple baskets to organize your house with – but that’s later on, don’t worry about it right now.
2. Focus on a room a day or use the timer method
You’ll find the best success with decluttering when you focus on one specific area at a time before moving on to the next. If you jump from area to area, you’ll find yourself getting distracted and you’ll end up keeping far more things than you should.
So, before you jump in and start, you’ll want to decide which method of decluttering you’re going to use – will you focus on finishing a room or area a day, or will you do it in shorter spurts using a timer?
If you’re going to be doing a room a day, you’ll want to decide which room or area of the house you’ll be starting in and about how much time you think it will take you to complete that one room. You may have to split areas that are particularly cluttered up into two or three different days.
If you will be using the timer method, all you have to do is pick a room or area to start in, and decide how much time you want to work on decluttering every day.
Maybe you only have 15 minutes to spend decluttering, or maybe you find yourself getting distracted and bored after an hour. It doesn’t matter how much or how little time you do, just do what works best for you. Don’t declutter for so long that you end up not doing a good job, but do declutter long enough that you can actually start to see a difference in the room after the first day.
If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start decluttering, I always recommend starting in the room or area that bothers you the most.
Everyone has a specific place in their home that irritates them every time they walk past it and it’s messy. What’s your place? Find the place that bugs you the most and start there. (My places are the coffee table, kitchen counter/table, and entryway.)
Remember – don’t move on to another area until the one you’re in is completely finished being decluttered.
3. Throw trash away
Now that you have your decluttering supplies and you’ve chosen a starting point, you’re going to go into the room/area you’re starting with and throw any obvious trash away.
Don’t go looking for the garbage – all you’re doing right now is throwing away anything that you can see is obvious garbage.
If there’s a broken blender sitting in plain sight, put it in the trash bag. If there are papers scattered around that you no longer need, get rid of them.
The point of getting rid of obvious trash before you start decluttering is to help make the whole process of decluttering just a bit less overwhelming. You will come across more garbage once you actually start sorting through your belongings, but for now, getting rid of any garbage that is in plain sight will make your job just a bit easier.
4. Place everything into the middle of the room
Now that the obvious garbage is gone, it’s time to take everything (yes – I mean EVERYTHING) that’s in the room and put it all into a pile on the floor in the middle of the room.
Big items. Small items. ALL items.
Here is where this decluttering method differs from the rest. Usually, people will tell you to sort through your items where they are in hopes that it will be less work.
While it’s true that it might be less work, since you don’t have to pile everything in the middle of the room and put stuff that you’re keeping back in its place, it’s not as effective as this method.
If you leave things where they are while decluttering, it’s a lot easier to convince yourself to keep more stuff than you need.
It’s a lot easier to see a vase on the shelf and think to yourself “that looks good there – even though I have a dozen more in the cupboard – and it doesn’t look like clutter. I’ll keep it”. Whereas when you take that vase out of its home and put it in a pile in the middle of the room, it doesn’t look quite as good, and you’ll be able to see it for what it really is.
So, even though it’s a lot of work, taking everything out of its place and putting it on the floor in a big pile is a vital step to really decluttering your items.
5. Sort through item by item and make quick decisions
I know, I know. You’re thinking I’m nuts – it’ll take you DAYS to go through everything you own one at a time. Your house will never be decluttered at this pace.
The key here is to make split decisions. Don’t look at something and linger, trying to decide what to do with it for five minutes. You want to pick an item up and make a decision in NO more than 15 seconds.
If you find you’re having a hard time with this, set a timer for the first few times to help you get a feel for how long 15 seconds is.
So, even though you’re going through each item one by one, you’re making a decision whether you’re keeping it or getting rid of it in less than 15 seconds – and most times you’ll find you know the answer as soon as you pick it up and won’t need the whole 15 seconds.
Remember – don’t linger!
6. Ask yourself these questions
If the 15 seconds is up and you still don’t know what you are going to do with a certain item, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself about the item.
- Do I use it often?
- Do I have something else that can serve the same purpose as it?
- If I lost it, would I go out and buy it again right away?
- Does it have a home?
If you don’t use it often, or you have something else that can do the same thing it does, or you wouldn’t go out and buy it again right away if you lose it or it broke, or it doesn’t have somewhere to live in your house, you likely don’t need it anymore.
It’s important to remember that just because something was once useful, doesn’t mean it still is.
As we go through the seasons of our lives, we use some things while other things that we once used we no longer need.
Don’t feel bad about getting rid of something that you used to use often but don’t anymore.
7. Be honest with yourself
It’s easy to tell yourself that you do need something just because you want to keep it – when you really don’t need or use it at all.
I know it can be scary to get rid of your belongings, whether you’re getting rid of over half your stuff or just a handful of things. Either way, it’s not easy to say goodbye to things that you’ve been holding on to for years – even if you don’t use them.
But keep reminding yourself that you’ll be happier and healthier once all this clutter is gone. You’re working your way towards a new way of life, and I know change isn’t easy, but it will be worth it once you’re there – it’s just getting there that’s hard.
If you find you aren’t able to be honest with yourself and you’re keeping more things than you should be, you can invite a close friend or family member over – someone you trust – and ask them to help you. Ask them to question why you’re keeping something and have them help you make a decision.
8. Get rid of duplicates
One question I hear a lot of is “how do I get rid of clutter in my house?”. People have been struggling with clutter for years upon years, and while some people are okay living in a cluttered house, others are realizing it’s time for them to make a change.
But one of the hardest parts of decluttering is knowing where to start. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering “where do I start decluttering my house?”, one of the easiest places to start is by getting rid of duplicates.
If you absolutely can’t get yourself to get rid of anything by using the other methods, a safe route to go is to donate duplicate items. Look in your storage room at everything you have. You may be surprised to find you are storing an extra coffee maker, dozens of extra mugs and cups, a second mop, and more.
You can safely start by getting rid of the duplicate item (or the one you are using, in the case that you like the duplicate more). Starting with duplicates will help you see that decluttering doesn’t have to be that hard. It IS possible, it’s just getting started that’s hard.
After you’ve gone ahead and decluttered your duplicate items, you can then move on to different rooms and areas in your house and start decluttering all your belongings.
9. Use the one-touch rule
I love using this rule when I’m decluttering. All it means is you touch an item ONCE before it either goes in the donation box or where it belongs in your house.
As you’re sorting through your belongings, you should never pick something up and think “I’ll come back to this later”. You should touch each item in your house only once throughout the WHOLE decluttering process.
(And yes – this means you aren’t allowed to dig through your donation box to find something to take out because you changed your mind.)
So, as you’re sorting through your items remember that you only want to touch each item once. Pick the item up, make a decision, and put it where it belongs.
If you’re getting rid of the item, put it into the donation box. If you’re keeping the item, put it away right away where it belongs in your house.
10. Don’t overdo it
It can be easy to get into the mindset of not stopping until your house is completely decluttered. While that kind of motivation is great, what isn’t great is running out of fumes but forcing yourself to keep going because you need to get it done. Yesterday.
When you declutter for too long at a time, quite often you’ll end up keeping more items than you should be and skipping over certain areas of your house that you deem “pretty clutter-free already”.
It’s best to declutter the right way the first time, rather than doing a half-hearted job and having to declutter again in a couple of months.
Decluttering is a big enough task that you’re going to want to do one big declutter ONCE, and never again (although you will likely have to do some small clutter-clean ups throughout the years).
So, as soon as you start to feel yourself getting bored of decluttering or you can tell you’re not making clear decisions anymore about what to keep and what to get rid of, it’s time to stop.
Call it a day and come back tomorrow so you can be sure you’re decluttering the RIGHT way.
11. Use one box
Decluttering methods are a controversial topic. There are so many different ways to declutter, and each person believes that “their way” is “the way”.
There’s the three box decluttering method, there’s the four box decluttering method, and there’s the one box decluttering method (and I’m sure there’s more that I’m missing!).
Three box decluttering method:
With this method, you have three different boxes. One is for items you will keep, one is for items you will donate/sell, and one is for items you will throw away.
While this method isn’t awful, the problem many people run into with it is by the time they’re done decluttering, they still have an entire box of their belongings that they now have to put away in their house (from the “keep” box). And when you’ve finished decluttering, after spending days doing it, the last thing you want to do is more. So, the box of your belongings will often get left where it is until you slowly unpack it over the next month or so.
Four box decluttering method:
With the four box method, you have a box for items you will keep, one for items you will donate/sell, one for items you will throw away, and one for items you are undecided on (and put into storage).
My issue with this method is that if you have an “undecided” box, it’s REALLY easy to be undecided on a lot of your items, ones that you know you don’t need but don’t want to get rid of.
This box will often end up getting filled fuller than the donate/sell box, and you’ll end up just moving your clutter around your house and putting it into your storage room without getting rid of very much of it.
One box method:
This is my decluttering method of choice. After trying a bunch of different decluttering methods, I have found the most success in the one-box method.
To declutter with the one-box method all you need is a plain box (I highly suggest one like this so you aren’t attached to it) and a couple garbage bags (hefty ones so your belongings don’t break through it).
With the one box method you are either packing your items into the donation box, and the items that you keep you put away where they belong RIGHT AWAY (no putting them in a box to deal with later). You will also put any broken items or garbage that you find along the way into the garbage bag.
Another thing that sets the one-box method apart from the rest is that the things you’re getting rid of you’re donating. While some people think it’s a great idea to sell their clutter, it will likely take months to sell all the things you’ve decided to get rid of, which means you will still be storing that clutter in your house for months to come – and now the box is sitting there just begging you to dig through it and decide to keep some of the items that you already decided to get rid of.
When you donate your items, you are able to get rid of them as soon as you’re done decluttering, helping you create an uncluttered, organized home sooner rather than later.
If you don’t think the one box method will work for you, you can definitely give the other methods a try, but I would strongly suggest you work with the one box method as it is the most effective way to get rid of clutter fast.
How to KEEP your home decluttered
So you’ve spent days (weeks? months?) decluttering your house and now it’s time to make sure that clutter doesn’t slowly creep its way back in.
As long as you dealt with your mental clutter before attacking your physical clutter, clutter shouldn’t easily find its way back into your house.
But there’s always a chance of a slip-up – so here are some things you can do to ensure you keep your beautifully decluttered house clutter-free.
- Ask yourself three questions. Before you bring anything new into your house – big or small – whether you’re shopping or get given it for free, ask yourself these three questions: 1) Do I NEED it? 2) Do I have something else that serves the same purpose as it? 3) Do I have room for it? If you don’t need it, have something else that does the same thing, or simply don’t have room for it in your house, DON’T GET IT. It’s as simple as that.
- Be intentional. Going along with the last point, always be intentional with what you allow into your house. Don’t let things that you don’t need clutter up your home. Make sure there’s a valid reason why you’re bringing something in – and if there isn’t, don’t be afraid to turn it down.
- Don’t window shop. Window shopping is bad for your home AND bad for your wallet. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’re just going to browse the stores but you aren’t actually going to get anything. But once you’re there and you see something that’s “perfect” it can become pretty hard to turn down. And before you know it you’re bringing picture frames, decor pillows (I love love LOVE these ones) and more into your home.
- Use baskets to keep clutter at bay. Baskets (these ones in particular) work great for keeping things in your house looking organized. If you find there’s a particular area in your home that often gets cluttered (the entryway shelf?), keep a basket there to keep everything in one area.
- Keep flat surfaces clutter-free. Flat surfaces are often a culprit of clutter. These surfaces often include the coffee table, kitchen table, kitchen and bathroom counters, and shelves/benches. Flat surfaces attract clutter, so you’ll have to be intentional with keeping them clear.
- Use the one in, one out rule. Anytime you bring something new into your house, take something old out. It’s the most effective when you do this with like items. For example: if you get a new t-shirt, donate one of your old t-shirts. If you get new toys for the kids, donate some of their old toys.
How do I organize my home after the clutter is gone?
If you’re wondering “how do I clear my clutter and get organized?”, the first step is just that – clearing your clutter. So go ahead and use the decluttering guide above to clear the clutter in your home. Then, here are a few tips on how you can organize your home after you’ve decluttered.
- Organize vertically. There are a lot of different ways that you can organize your house vertically, but my favorites are: use THIS to keep your spices off the counter and out of the way – but easily accessible. You can also use this over the door storage unit to store small items.
- Use miscellaneous baskets. You can organize miscellaneous items around your house with these particular baskets. Doing this will help keep the clutter at bay, and any out-of-place items can be put into the baskets, then at the end of the day you can take the basket and put everything back where it belongs. This is one of my absolute favorite organizing tricks.
- Use clear plastic containers to organize in cupboards. If your cupboards are a mess, using plastic containers to keep small items together works well. I use this kind of container to keep my measuring spoons and cups all together, and another one to keep my loose spice bags from becoming a mess in the cupboards. I also organize loose tea bags and k-cups with these.
- Get matching food storage containers. Cupboards and drawers that harbor food storage containers and known to be big messes. Go through all your containers and get rid of any that don’t have lids or are warped and yellowed. Then grab yourself a set of these. With all matching containers, you’ll be able to keep your storage container drawer/cupboard organized and they also allow you to see what food you put inside them since they’re a clear container.
The hardest part of decluttering is knowing where to start, and then actually starting. To recap, here are the exact steps you can take when you don’t know how to declutter your home and you’re overwhelmed by the mess:
- Gather your supplies (a box and a hefty bag)
- Focus on one room/area at a time (for a certain amount of time. Use this magnetic timer to give yourself time limits)
- Get rid of the trash
- Put all your belongings into the middle of the room
- Sort through each item individually and make a decision in less than 15 seconds (again, using this)
- Ask yourself questions about any items you don’t know if you should keep or get rid of
- Don’t lie to yourself
- Start by getting rid of duplicates if you don’t know where to start
- Use the “one touch” rule
- Take a break when you lose momentum
- Choose your decluttering method
Do you struggle with a cluttered home? Are you a hoarder who struggles with clutter, or are you someone who is trying to help a hoarder declutter? Find the best decluttering tips for hoarders, here.
Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have some decluttering tips and tricks up your sleeve? Feel free to share them with everyone below.
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