Where do you start when overwhelmed by decluttering? Believe it or not, there’s a bit of an order or steps you should take when decluttering your home.
Will the clutter police show up if you declutter out of order? Nope. However, you may create yourself unnecessary heartache, messes, or even give up before you even start.
Sometimes, we need to level up our decluttering. Start easy, work into a few harder areas, and then tackle the really difficult clutter that gives us pause.
Here are the steps you should take when decluttering your home or any new space:
Step 1: Get Rid of the Zero-Thought Clutter
When you are just getting started with decluttering, you need to start easy…stupid easy.
There’s no reason to get frustrated or overwhelmed with getting rid of your clutter before you even get started.
Here are a few types of easy trash (recycle) clutter you can get rid of today that require little thought:
- Paper Waste: Junk mail, old newspapers, magazines, and unnecessary documents.
- Expired Food: Food items that have gone bad or reached their expiration date.
- Broken Items: Items that are broken beyond repair and can’t be used anymore.
- Obsolete Electronics: Old gadgets, cables, and electronics that are no longer functional.
- Expired Medications: Medicines that have passed their expiration date and need to be disposed of properly.
- Old Cosmetics: Old makeup and beauty products that are no longer used or have expired.
- Clothing and Textiles: Damaged or outgrown clothing, worn-out linens, and fabric scraps.
- Packaging Materials: Cardboard boxes, Styrofoam, and excessive packaging from deliveries.
- Bottles, Cans, and Single-Use Containers: Empty containers that need to be recycled.
- Household Hazardous Waste: Batteries, chemicals, paints, and other items that require special disposal.
- E-waste: Old phones, laptops, and electronics that are no longer functional.
- Unused Toys: Toys that are broken or no longer of interest to children.
- Expired Cleaning Products: Cleaning supplies that have expired or are no longer effective.
Remember, proper disposal methods and recycling practices are crucial to minimize the impact of trash clutter on the environment.
This is the easy stuff…the low-hanging fruit of your clutter.
Step 2: Declutter Your Own Stuff
It’s soooooo easy to see other people’s clutter, especially when they are completely clutter-blind. I swear, my kids’ messes are way more visible than my own.
When decluttering though, if you want to save yourself some heartache, start with your own clutter first. Always.
Before you tell me you don’t have any clutter and it all belongs to your spouse, kids, or roommate, take a moment and look around. Like really look around.
I’ve been there. Rage cleaning and trying to put a house in order of other people’s messes, completely overlooking my own. I was just better at keeping my messes a little more “tidy”, but I had my own clutter too.
I always recommend to my clients to start with their stuff first. If you do this, several things will happen.
First, you are setting a great example of how to declutter. You become practiced in the emotions of decluttering, and this practice will better enable you to help your family down the road.
Next, you are setting an example your family members may just start to envy. Living in a chaos-free environment is enticing.
Finally, you are showing your family that you are willing to let go of your own excess, which often means experiencing the same heartache of saying good-bye to once-loved items.
Here are some areas you can declutter first that don’t involve your family’s things:
- Clothing: Outgrown, damaged, or unworn clothing items.
- Shoes: Old or uncomfortable shoes that you no longer wear.
- Accessories: Unused jewelry, belts, scarves, and hats.
- Cosmetics: Expired or unused makeup and skincare products.
- Toiletries: Half-empty bottles of toiletries or duplicates.
- Personal Papers: Unnecessary receipts, outdated documents, and paperwork. Check your purse, the car, your bookbag, or your work bag too!
- Books: Books you’ve already read or no longer have an interest in.
- Electronics: Old gadgets, cables, and chargers you no longer use.
- Stationery: Excess or unused pens, planners, notebooks, and office supplies.
- Fitness Equipment: Exercise gear that you don’t use or need.
- Hobby Supplies: Materials for hobbies you’ve lost interest in.
- Closet Clutter: Random items that have found their way into your closet.
Decluttering personal items can help create a more organized and enjoyable living space while freeing up mental and physical space for yourself. Plus, you haven’t angered any family members yet. WIN!
Step 3: Declutter Any Shared Spaces
Once you are FINALLY done decluttering your own stuff, then it’s time to level up and move on to the shared spaces. These are the spaces that won’t aggravate your family too badly, and they will still make a really big difference in your progress.
Here are a few shared spaces you can declutter at this level:
- Living Room/Family Room: Remove excess decorations, old magazines, and unused furniture. Tidy up the entertainment center, declutter gaming consoles, and organize media.
- Kitchen: Organize and declutter cabinets, pantry, fridge, and utensil drawers.
- Dining Area: Clear off the dining table and declutter shelves or sideboards.
- Bathroom: Dispose of expired products, declutter countertops, and organize storage.
- Entryway/Hallway: Remove shoes, coats, and items that don’t belong there.
- Home Office: Organize paperwork, declutter desk, and tidy up shelves.
- Laundry Room: Dispose of empty containers, organize supplies, and declutter surfaces.
- Guest Room: Clear out unused items, organize closets, and clean surfaces.
- Outdoor Areas: Remove broken or unused items from the backyard or balcony.
- Garage: Declutter tools, sports equipment, and clear out unused items. (Word of caution: If the garage isn’t your workspace, save this area for when you are helping out your family! I “helped” my husband declutter his tools once. It probably set me back six months in getting him on board with decluttering!)
- Shared Storage Spaces: Organize communal closets, cabinets, and storage rooms.
- Bookshelves: Sort through books and remove those you no longer need. Remove any knick-knacks that make the space look cluttered.
- Pet Areas: Declutter pet supplies and organize pet-related items.
Decluttering shared spaces can create a more harmonious and organized environment for everyone in the household, even if your family isn’t quite on board with your decluttering efforts just yet.
Step 4: Help Your Family Declutter Their Excess
Now that you’ve decluttered a big chunk of the home, it’s time to HELP your family start to declutter their excess.
I say “help” because if you do it for them or force them into decluttering, you could be setting yourself up for failure and aggravation.
For almost a year, my side of the bedroom and closet was completely clutter-free, while my husband’s closet was packed to the brim and full of excess items. It was so hard for me to ignore it, but he simply wasn’t ready to go through his things.
As my intense decluttering efforts continued, something happened though. My husband and my kids started to enjoy the new, clutter-free spaces. We had SPACE! It was wonderful, and it was inspiring.
One day, long after I had given up on my husband going through some old t-shirts he was saving, I came home to him pulling old clothes out and putting them into a pile to give away. I was blown away!
My kids have had similar experiences. In the beginning, they fought me on decluttering. To make it easier on them, we started small….really small. “Let’s find one toy to give away to another child.” OK, easy enough.
Now, years later, they BRING ME toys and clothes they no longer want. It didn’t happen overnight. It took years of practice and learning the benefits of living with less.
Give your family time and share with them your own experiences of going through your own stuff while also showing them the value of clutter-free living in your shared spaces.
Here are ways you can support your family’s decluttering efforts:
- Set a Schedule: Create a decluttering schedule that designates specific times or days for each family member to tackle their spaces. Knowing in advance helps your family mentally prepare.
- Provide Guidance and Encouragement: Offer guidance on effective decluttering techniques that you have learned through your own experiences. Encourage family members to start small and take breaks as needed to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
- Sort and Categorize: Help family members sort items into categories like keep, donate, sell, and discard.
- Be a Second Pair of Eyes: Offer an objective perspective and help family members decide what to keep and what to let go.
- Work Together: Make decluttering a family activity by working on spaces together, providing motivation and support.
- Offer Storage Solutions: Suggest storage solutions that can help keep items organized and easily accessible.
- Celebrate Progress: Celebrate each family member’s decluttering accomplishments to keep them motivated.
Remember that each family member has their own pace and preferences, so it’s important to be supportive and respectful of their decluttering journey.
Step 5: Declutter the Hard Stuff
If you start with this step, you are setting yourself up for frustration and the possibility of quitting before you ever get started.
Tough clutter includes sentimental items, “just-in-case items”, expensive items you struggle to let go of, and so forth.
Decluttering takes practice, and it can often include learning how to process some really tough emotions. Give yourself grace, and don’t start with the hard stuff.
There’s also trauma often related to our clutter. If you’ve ever experienced financial hardship, it can be hard to let go of items you might need one day. This is why so many of our grandparents struggled with hoarding things. You just never know when you might need it!
It’s important to approach decluttering with empathy for yourself and to prioritize what truly adds value to your life at present.
Declutter to Reclaim Your Home
In your journey to declutter, remember that it’s not just about tidying physical spaces but about reclaiming a sense of control and tranquility in your life.
As you embark on this path, be patient with yourself, celebrate each small victory, and recognize that letting go of the unnecessary can open doors to new opportunities and experiences.
Whether it’s simplifying your living environment, rekindling cherished memories, or making room for personal growth, the steps to declutter can pave the way for a more intentional and fulfilling life.
So, take a deep breath, start small, and relish in the gradual transformation that decluttering can bring. Your space and your mind will undoubtedly thank you for the newfound clarity and space to thrive.