New to decluttering? Maybe you are struggling with how and when to let stuff go. If so, here are 11 simple decluttering rules to help you work through any space in your home…without losing your mind.
Are these hard and fast decluttering rules? No.
Think of these decluttering rules as a guide, a guide to decluttering your home when you feel lost and overwhelmed.
These rules are especially helpful if you are new to decluttering, and approaching your stuff in a new light can help ease any decision fatigue.
11 decluttering rules:
1 – Start with your stuff
If you follow no other decluttering rules, follow this one.
Start with your stuff.
It’s so easy when you are clearing out and cleaning up to be blind to your own clutter.
Go room by room, only clearing out your stuff. Once you are well-practiced at handling your own emotions with clutter, you will be better equipped to help your family.
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2 – Don’t try to do it all at once
Change is hard. Real change is often slow.
As you start your decluttering journey, you will feel inspired and energized.
Then, life happens. The emotions get messy. You start to feel tired and you have barely scratched a dent into your efforts.
Slow down. Your entire house doesn’t have to be decluttered in one day, one weekend, or even one year.
Clearing clutter happens in cycles, especially if you have a lot of it.
Give yourself grace and work slowly and with persistence. Your resilience will be what sees you through.
3 – Follow the container rule
The container rule is simple but effective.
- A drawer is a container.
- A shelf is a container.
- A closet is a container.
- A room is a container.
- Your home is a container.
If your stuff is overflowing from its container, you have too much.
It’s easy to set limits if you only fill your container and no more.
Here’s a real-life example of the container rule:
My kids store their stuffed animals in a large plastic container in their closets. They each have one. (They are still at the age where they play with them regularly.)
When a container is overflowing with dolls and stuffies (thank you birthdays and holidays), it’s time for them to decide what stays and what goes so the rest fit in their “container”.
Since they have a visual limit, it’s easy to see how much they can keep. It’s also an easy concept for the youngest minds to grasp.
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4 – Get rid of an item if you haven’t used it in the last six months
Use common sense here, but generally, if you haven’t used an item in 6 months, you can easily get rid of it.
Exceptions may be made for seasonal and holiday items. With those items, if you haven’t used them in a year, time to consider getting rid of them.
Be honest with yourself. It’s easy to make excuses about why you should hold on to something.
If there’s no way you will use the item soon or have no plans for it soon, you probably can live without it.
Related Post: Use It or Lose It: A Simple Decluttering Rule
5 – Ditch duplicates
Generally speaking, we only need one of most things. Duplicates take up space in our home and rarely serve a purpose.
Most of us don’t need multiple:
- sets of measuring spoons
- black boots
- comforters for one bed
- hair dryers
When you approach a new space for decluttering, group like items together. If you see duplicates, consider if you really need more than one.
6 – Don’t organize before decluttering
Organization is not decluttering.
You can move stuff around all day and put it into cute bins, but, when it’s all said and done, if you have too much stuff, your space will still look cluttered.
When new to decluttering, many of us make the mistake of buying a whole bunch of cute organizational bins and baskets, thinking that will fix the clutter problem.
In reality, the only way to declutter a space is to get rid of the excess.
7 – Let go of guilt
This decluttering rule is one I have to regularly come back to when clearing out clutter. Let go of the guilt associated with your excess stuff!
You may associate guilt for a variety of reasons with your stuff.
Guilt could be the result of:
- Money spent
- Items given to you by someone else
- Time wasted
- Environmental impact
Whatever your guilt, let it go.
The weight of your clutter is far heavier than the guilt in letting it go.
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8 – Commit to using or digitizing many of your memories
For the memorabilia you could probably let go:
It makes sense that our parents saw the need to save our report cards, art work, or photos from our childhood. They lived in a time before digital cameras and even digital scrapbooks.
As technology progresses, capturing our memories in digital photographs is super easy and eliminates the need to hold on to every single precious memory.
If you’ve never digitized a memory, I encourage you pick one category and try it out.
Take a picture of a few items you no longer want and put them in a digital scrapbook. You can even write up a story to go with the picture!
Once you have a collection of photos and stories, you can have your digital scrapbook printed.
I love using Shutterfly for easy-to-create digital scrapbooks.
For old memories you want to keep:
For old memorabilia you want to keep, try to find a way to use it.
Maybe you have an old quilt you could keep in the living room to wrap around your kiddos while watching TV.
Maybe you have an old tea pot you could use on the weekends for your morning tea.
Get creative. Don’t let your precious memories sit and collect dust. Find a way to use them in your daily life.
These old memories will form new memories, which will definitely make you smile.
Related Post: How To Sort Through Sentimental Clutter
9 – Every item must have a designated place
If you want to keep clutter away, this decluttering rule is essential.
Every single item in your home must have a designated place.
You don’t have to break out the label maker. I mean, you can, but that’s not what I mean here.
Simply put, things have to have a home or they will always clutter up a space because they are orphaned.
We don’t want orphaned items. Group like items together.
If you come home and start dumping items on the counter, immediately take note and find a place for those items. Usually, items end up in your dumping ground because they have no other assigned location.
10 – Immediately take away your clutter
Don’t give yourself a chance to change your mind if you made the decision to get rid of something.
Immediately put it in the trunk of your car and drop it off at a donation center.
Take the items you are giving to a specific person that same day/week.
Immediately list an item for sale and commit to significantly dropping the price or donating it if not sold after an allotted time.
My wardrobe recently changed, as I stopped working outside the home. I had a beautiful wardrobe of business casual and business professional clothes that I loved.
I painstakingly went through these clothes and made the decision to part with 95% of them (after two years of not wearing them).
Then, they sat in a box in my garage for another three months. At the end of three months, I had to see all those items again and it was like I had to make all those tough decluttering decisions all over again.
Don’t torture yourself. If you make the decision to let with an item, immediately get it out of your home.
Related Post: Strategies For Getting Rid of Your Stuff After Decluttering
11 – Don’t let clutter define you
You are not defined by your clutter. If you want to make a change, then do it for yourself.
You don’t have to keep things out of expectation or guilt.
You don’t have to hold on to things because “that’s how it’s always been.”
You are more than your stuff. Make a change for your self. You deserve to live your best life.
Decluttering rules for your sanity
These decluttering rules aren’t hard and fast rules, but they will help you maintain your sanity when going through all the emotions of decluttering.
Sometimes, when you are struggling, it’s nice to have a starting point. A place where you can think through the clutter without the biases of memories and emotions.
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This is the best and most empathetic list I have come across. I desire to declutter, but I often get overwhelmed or consumed by guilt. This list is a game changer for me, and I look forward to using it to help me declutter! Thank you!
Thank you so much for your kind words! Guilt was always big in our house when letting go and decluttering. It’s powerful! Good luck, and join us over in the Simple Happy Moms Facebook group for support. 🙂 https://www.facebook.com/groups/simplehappymoms/
A refreshing look at decluttering emotionally. Thanks.
Great advice I am trying to declutter at the moment and doing too much too quickly and not really getting anywhere so I will follow your rules and hopefully by the end of the month I will be a lot more organised
Thank you I have been doing this for 2 years so much at a time and then stop re group and try again got rid of a lot but you have given me a new perspective and am ready to try again at 90 years old the stamina is not what it used tp be and my husband is finally on board to do his stuff.
Thank you I have been doing this got rid of a lot but you have given me a new perspective and am ready to try again, at 80 years old the stamina is not what it used tp be and my husband is finally on board to do his stuff.