Clutter is a common problem amongst most households, including mine. To be honest, my mom can be categorized as a hoarder and I can be categorized as a shop-a-holic. My mom keeps absolutely everything and she needs none of it. Most of the things that she keeps on hand can easily be thrown out without her ever looking for it or even knowing that it was thrown out.
Living in a cluttered environment doesn’t have to look like an episode of Hoarders. It can simply mean that you just have too many things around that you don’t use or an attic/basement full of things you’ve had for years and haven’t gone through. In our case, we have a very clean home (ahem – most of the time) but our garage is full of boxes we haven’t gone through or even unpacked and we have a storage unit of clutter that we need to get rid of.
Decluttering your house, storage unit, attic, room, etc… relieves stress because it gives you a sense of accomplishment and freedom. Getting rid of the clutter will make your home look better overall, it will let you breathe easy knowing that you have more room in your house and can even bring in some extra money if you decide to have a yard sale.
Let’s go through some steps that can help you begin to declutter.
Set a schedule & goals
Before you start decluttering it’s important to set a schedule and goals. Rome wasn’t built in a day and your years of clutter won’t be able to disappear in a day. Really decluttering your house is a process and it’s a process that should be done room-by-room one day at a time.
- Create a list of all of the rooms in your house
- While thinking about the potential amount of clutter in each room, give yourself a time limit per room. If you know you have more clutter in the spare bedroom, give yourself two hours in that room versus your bedroom that might not have that much clutter.
- Set goals for each room — what do you hope to get out of decluttering that room? To clean out that closet and make a little extra money? To donate items to Goodwill? To have a sense of freedom by getting rid of the clutter?
Make sure that you don’t spend more than 2 hours in each room. After two hours you’ll get tired, overwhelmed, sidetracked and you’ll just be done. You want to make sure that when you get into a room you get right to the task of decluttering.
Get all of your supplies together
When decluttering a room you should have three boxes and one big construction sized garbage bag for the trash. Label each box:
Make sure your boxes are big enough for you to contain all of the items in. I purchased large moving boxes from Home Depot and went about my decluttering and categorizing that way. The boxes were definitely big enough to hold all of the items and I made sure I bought enough for each room. (These boxes are also super cheap.) If you don’t want to go out and buy a box you can always use boxes that you have in your garage.
Grab a buddy to declutter with
This can be a friend, parent, child, sibling, etc… Of course, you can declutter by yourself but I highly suggest getting a “decluttering buddy” to help you. Having a buddy will make the process less lonely, more fun and your buddy will be able to keep you accountable and nudge you if you get off track. It can be a task to declutter sentimental items without reminiscing how you obtained that item or some memories that the item has behind it. Your buddy can shake you back into reality and help you to get back on track with decluttering.
Start the decluttering process
I always suggest starting with the easiest room first to get you used to the process. Decluttering can be a very difficult thing to do and you need to get into the pattern of knowing what to keep, what to sell, what to donate and what to throw out.
When you’re decluttering it’s important to ask yourself the following questions:
It can be hard to get rid of items that might hold special meaning to you but sometimes it’s better to let go. When I was decluttering it was hard to get rid of my prom dress. I didn’t even enjoy my prom but it held special meaning for me because it was something I wore and felt good in for my prom. After thinking about it for a few minutes I realized that I would never wear the dress again, I’d never fit into the dress again and I shouldn’t hold onto it. It was a hard decision to donate it, but I did.
Hold the item in your hand for 2-4 seconds only. The longer you hold an item in your hands the harder it will be to part with the item. Don’t think about any memories that the item might bring to you but ask yourself, “Does this item bring me joy?” (Courtesy of Marie Kondo’s book.)
Decluttering clothes and electronics are probably the two easiest things to do. With your clothing ask yourself:
- Have I worn this in the past 2 months?
- Will I wear this in the next two months?
- Does this item fit me?
- Will this item fit me anytime soon?
If the answer is no, put that item in the donate or sell box.
With electronics, if the item doesn’t work it immediately goes in the garbage. If it does work:
- Have I used this in the past 2 months?
- Do I have something that I currently use that serves the same purpose?
If you haven’t used it in the past two months and you have something else that serves the same purpose, sell or donate.
What to definitely get rid of
I guarantee you have some old magazines sitting around. These should definitely go in the garbage because they don’t serve you a purpose and there’s absolutely no reason you should keep them around.
Old receipts, bills or children’s documents
If these receipts are older than 90 days throw them away! Most return policies have a maximum of 90 days after purchase and chances are you won’t need these receipts. If there is a receipt that you need for tax purposes I suggest to take a photo of the receipt and upload it to Evernote or purchase a receipt scanner to scan them into a file. I suggest that you do the same with any old bills.
We all want to keep every single piece of artwork and schoolwork that our children do. Hell, my mom has artwork and test papers from when I was in grade school. However, we can’t keep them all because they will just clutter up our lives. I realized this once my kids hit school age and brought different papers home that they did in school. I keep these items by taking photos or scanning the artwork into a file that I will keep forever but I just can’t keep the physical pieces. This will definitely be hard for you but once you realize that you’re still going to keep the memories, it will become easier for you.
Old junk mail
Do I need to say more? Throw this away! When we were moving back in December I found an entire box of old junk mail in my basement. Why in the world do I need to keep a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon that expired in September 2017?? Why do I need an advertisement from a chiropractor when I don’t go to chiropractors? THROW THEM ALL AWAY! In fact, do one better and throw the junk mail away the second it comes into your house.
Broken items and worn out clothing
If something is broken or a piece of clothing is too worn to sell or donate, throw it away. Keeping it around will just clutter up your house. Broken or worn items serve absolutely no purpose and need to go in the garbage.
Expired makeup, medications or body care products
Throw. Them. Away. Makeup and body care products will have a little symbol of a container and next to it will say how long the product is good for. If an item says 12mo I will probably keep it for a maximum of 16 months. I would never go past 4 months after the expiration.
Medication is only good for 1-2 years after the expiration date. The expiration date doesn’t mean that the item must be disposed of before or on that date, it’s just the date up until the manufacturer can guarantee the particular medication. Most medications decrease in potency slowly from the expiration date until 1-2 years afterward. If it’s a prescription antibiotic that you have around for some reason, throw it out if it’s not being used for the original reason it was prescribed. I never keep antibiotics after I’m done using them because I will never again take that medication and if I need it in the future, my doctor will prescribe it again.
Keep your home decluttered
Congrats! Now you have a decluttered home and hopefully were able to donate and sell some items that you decided to get rid of. Once your home is completely decluttered be very mindful of what you bring into your home. I follow the 1 in-1 out rule. If I bring anything into my home, something else goes right out. Once I declutter a room I’m afraid of undoing all of my hard work by cluttering it up all over again.
Have fun decluttering!