Declutter Your Home in 5 No-Nonsense Steps
You’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. You know you’d feel better if you weren’t drowning in stuff. There are too many toys, not enough clear counter space, and you are constantly kicking things. You’re ready and motivated for change. Pursuing minimalism could be just the thing you need! Making the choice to declutter your home allows you to make physical and emotional space. Eliminating excess provides breathing room in our homes and opens up space in our lives to pursue that which we are most passionate about.
But how do you get started? If you want to minimize your possessions, but feel overwhelmed with where to begin, use this guide to walk you through the process. Learn to declutter your home, room by room, and finally achieve the home of your dreams.
1. Set your intentions
Determine your why
If you don’t know why you want something, you’ll quit when obstacles come your way. Spend some time thinking about your motivation- why do you want to declutter your home? Write down what you are after- how your home will feel, what each space will look like when it’s decluttered, what lifestyle benefits this decision will bring your way. Be as specific as possible and envision what you want. When decluttering feels overwhelming or the decision fatigue gets to you, spend time meditating on this list and let it encourage you to carry on.
Choose one room at a time
Choose a specific space to start when you declutter your home. If you try to do every room all at once, you will become overwhelmed and it will feel like you aren’t making any headway. By sticking to one space and minimizing it until completion, you are more easily able to see progress. Plus, once the room is finished being decluttered, you have a gorgeous space you can breathe in when you declutter and wreck another area of your house (because, let’s face it, decluttering can make a space look worse before it looks better).
Create a vision for the room
What purpose(s) does this room need to serve?
- Only keep items in the room that align with the purpose of the room. Things that don’t align to these purposes are not necessary in the room and will contribute to clutter.
- Be careful not to give a room too many purposes- a room with too many purposes ends up not serving any of them well & constantly clutters back up! If a room must have several purposes, consider making zones or areas within the room for the specific tasks that must go on there.
- Envision what you want the room to feel like when it is finished. Having a goal in mind will keep you motivated as the decision fatigue sets in later.
Consider furniture pieces and placement
- What furniture do you need in the space to fulfill the room’s purpose(s)?
- What furniture supports the final feel of the room you are going for?
- Remove or rearrange furniture so that only pieces that support your vision remain in the room.
2. Remove everything from its place so that you can see each item you own in the space.
- I’m a big fan of emptying a room before decluttering, but if that’s not feasible for you for some reason, move all items out of their current place and put them in a common area (on the bed in a bedroom, on the counters in the kitchen, etc.)
- Keep a trash bag handy to toss garbage and other low hanging decluttering fruit
- Organize like items together. This will save you time in the next step. Don’t overthink the organizing- big, general categories are totally fine (clothes, shoes, toys, hygiene products, books, etc)
3. Touch & make a decision on each item
Since we organized by categories as we pulled all items out in step #2, start with a category and process it completely before moving on to the next category of items. As you pick up each item, ask yourself these questions:
Does this item support the new vision and purpose for the room?
Is it useful?
Is it beautiful? Does it bring you joy?
If the answer is no, remove it from the space. If the answer is yes, determine if you want to keep it in your new room.
Remove all of the NO items from the room. Set them outside the space in bins, boxes, or bags. Keep them categorized to make it easier to sort through them later, but don’t worry about making decisions about anything just yet!
Remember, a room only has so much real estate, so fill it with things worthy of the space. Too much stuff clutters your view so that you cannot appreciate anything. Better to have fewer items and be able to truly appreciate them in the space.
4. Reorganize your space with the kept items
Now that you have only items that serve the purpose & vision of the room left in the room, it becomes much easier to reorganize and find a home for everything. Giving each item a home is critical. If you don’t know where something belongs, you won’t ever be able to put it away. Clutter breeds clutter, so placing everything in a specific spot is critical for long term organization. If you cannot find a home that makes sense for the item, reconsider if it truly fits the purpose of the room.
Place items at the point of use whenever possible
Group like things together
Use small boxes, bins, or bowls to help keep small items contained and organized
Place something pretty (flowers, picture frame, etc) where clutter usually piles to break the habit
Add hooks and shelves to take advantage of vertical space
As you go through this process, know you are free to remove additional items from the room if you can’t find a home for them or need to reevaluate their purpose.
5. Process the decluttered items
Now that you have settled all items inside your new room, it’s time to figure out what to do with all the stuff you removed. Create three areas for processing items: Donate, Trash/Recycle, and Rehome. These areas can boxes, bags, bins, or general piles in the hallway or area outside the room you are working in.
As you pick up and touch each item, use these questions to help guide your decision making:
Would this item serve a better purpose somewhere else in my house? Is so, give it a new home in the room it best fits (Rehome)
Would this item benefit someone else more? If so, donate it to a person or organization (Donate)
Has this outlasted its usefulness? (Trash/Recycle)
Work your way through each decluttered item and place it in the determined category. After you have gone through this process for every item, move the rehouse items to their new homes. Gather up the donations and arrange for a drop off as quickly as possible (so you won’t be tempted to bring anything back into your decluttered space!). Put recycling or trash in their respective cans.
What happens when I get stuck?
If you cannot decide which of the three places to put a certain item, move it to an “undecided” area. Do you best to limit the amount of stuff that you place in this area, as you will still have to declutter it at a later time. But, it keeps the momentum going because you don’t get stuck trying to process something that feels complex. This happens a lot for sentimental items or items you spent a lot of money on.
After you process the items that were rehomed, donated, and discarded, go back and take another pass through the “undecided” area. Often times it becomes easier to make decisions about these items after you have decluttered a lot of things. Every item processed hones your decision-making skills and makes the next decision a bit easier.
If you find more to donate, discard, or rehome, great! If there are still items that you cannot figure out, give yourself permission to keep a tote or box of undecided items.
The container principle is a great way to give yourself the freedom to keep some sentimental stuff without keeping evvvveeerrrryyyything. As you move through this process in each room and make more decluttering decisions, add and take away from this container.
Why process decluttered items last?
Waiting until the last stage to process items when you declutter your home isn’t the typical advice, but I see a value in saving this step for last for several reasons:
- A lot of people get stuck here in the decluttering process, experiencing paralysis by analysis. If decision-making halts your forward progress, you’ll stop here, never fully decluttering your room or the rest of your home.
- Research shows us that people place a higher value on things just for the simple fact that they own them (known as the endowment effect). This behavioral principle skews what items are “worth” to us, making it difficult to part with the item.
- If someone isn’t sure they need something, they tend to keep it “just in case” (I have been super guilty of this in the past!). As a result of fear of needing something, or fear of regretting giving an item up, people tend to keep more things than they truly need. In turn, they don’t really get the feeling they were after. Their spaces aren’t as simplified as they had hoped and they find themselves repeating the entire process months or years down the road.
By processing all the removed items AFTER putting the room back together, you are much less likely to keep adding stuff back into the space. The room is minimized, looks beautiful, and feels more peaceful. At this point, it would detract from your space and undo some of your accomplishments to add items back into the room. It’s a strong deterrent.
Declutter Your Home in 5 Steps- the Cheat Sheet!
- Set your intentions- determine your why, choose a space, and create a vision for the room
- Removing everything from its place so you can see each item in the room
- Touch and make decisions on every individual item
- Reorganize your room with kept items
- Process the decluttered items
Let’s Get Started!
What space has been dragging you down and killing your mojo? It’s time to stop letting stuff stress you out and ruin your mood. Today is the day you make a change. Follow these 5 no-nonsense steps to declutter your home and take back your space!