Getting rid of clutter

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41 Things You Can Get Rid Of Today For A More Organized Home

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Comedian George Carlin once joked that “a house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”

All jokes aside, more than half of Americans are overwhelmed by clutter. The majority have no idea what to do with all that stuff, so they just let it build up, according to a survey done a few years ago by the National Association for Professional Organizers and Decluttr, an app that helps people sell their stuff.

As we move into spring cleaning season, we turned to professional organizers to find out exactly what household items we should be tossing and donating.

Here are common clutter culprits you can get rid of now.

1. Take-Out Items

Toss the plastic utensils and sauce packets that come with food deliveries and take-out, suggests Michelle Hale, organizer and co-founder of Henry & Higby, a professional organizing and styling company in New York City. Unless you frequently reuse them for to-go lunches, they’re just taking up space in your drawers.

Flickr | theimpulsivebuy

2. Cords and Chargers

Round up your cords and chargers and take note of which ones you actually use, suggests Hale. Get rid of the stray or frayed cords, and donate the older cords and chargers that may still be useful (if you can’t find a charity in your area that accepts electronics, consider listing these items on Craiglist or Facebook’s Marketplace for free—and watch them go!).

3. Spices

Look over the expiration dates on your spices in your pantry, Hale suggests. Dried herbs typically last for one to three years after you purchase them. The shelf life of ground spices is about two to three years, she says.

Flickr | markyweiss

4. Boxes

No need to keep boxes for appliances and electronics that are past their return dates for warranties, says Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Casual Uncluttering LLC, in Woodinville, Washington. She says people oftentimes will try to rationalize keeping boxes because they might move some day and the boxes will be useful.

“Boxes take up huge amounts of space and are prone to mold, mildew and horribly attractive to vermin,” Williams says. “You can always get another box.”

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5. Broken Items

Whether it’s an ornament or a necklace, don’t hold on to broken stuff thinking you’ll get around to fixing it or that you’ll turn it into art or because it “kind of still works,” advises Williams.

“Good intentions are wonderful, but if they aren’t turned into action, all you’ve got is a dusty, possibly hazardous, guilt-inducing thing taking up space and staring at you from the closet,” she says.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

6. Expired Makeup

Yes, makeup can be super-expensive, and your favorite lash-boosting mascara might get discontinued. But, Williams says, you need to toss expired makeup. Once it’s past its prime, it can cause allergic reactions and harbor bacteria. Eye makeup like mascaras and liquid eyeliners, for example, are only good for a maximum of six months, Williams says.

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7. Gifts You Never Liked

“I’ve noticed that it’s painful for my clients to donate things they received as gifts, even if they detest the items,” says Thalia Poulos, a San Diego-based professional organizer with Organized Beautifully. Really, though, those unwanted gifts are dust collectors and have no value, so they need to make their way to the donation bin.

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8. Old Magazines

Don’t hang on to bulky magazines unless the magazine itself is relevant because you were featured in it, or it commemorates an important event, says Jennifer Snyder, a Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Neat as a Pin Organizing Experts in Waco, Texas. If this is the case, she says, store it with personal sentimental items instead of in a stack of magazines where it’s likely to be forgotten.

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9. Wire Hangers

Go ahead and blame the dry cleaner for this one. Those wire hangers they send you home with can leave creases on the shoulders of shirts and sweaters, explains Carrie Peeples, a Georgia-based personal organizer with NeatSmart. Her suggestion: Keep a paper shopping bag in your closet, put those wire hangers in it and then return them during your next trip to the cleaners. She suggests using wooden or velvet hangers whenever possible to keep your clothes in tip-top shape.

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10. Plastic Garment Bags

Plastic garment bags are intended for you to get your clothes home without damage, and to protect from the elements. “Your clothes need to breathe, so throw away the plastic bags once you put your clothes in your closet,” Peeples says. “If you want to recycle the bags, you can tie a knot in the bottom and use it as a trash can liner.” The one exception? Hang on to a couple if you’re traveling and want to prevent wrinkling, Peeples says.

11. Plastic Cups

Peeples jokes that this falls into the category of “things that reproduce behind your back.” They come from parties, networking events, fast food restaurants, sporting events and, before you know it, they’re mounting a takeover in your cabinets.

The truth, though? “You’re not going to immortalize a special event by keeping a plastic cup.” Use them for storage in the garage, craft room, under the sink or in a playroom—then recycle the rest.

Steph Auteri

12. Shopping Bags

Whether it’s plastic, cloth or paper, your probably have more than enough shopping bags, says Peeples. Yes, plastic grocery bags can double as doggie poop bags, trash can liners or wet swimsuit holders, but Peeples suggests limiting your bags to a certain number. Cloth grocery bags are oftentimes given away as promotions or party memorabilia. Keep a few and donate others that are in good conditions. As for paper bags from boutiques, they can feel like a badge of honor, especially when the purchase was a treat, Peeples says. But again, just keep a few. The small ones can make brown bagging your lunch feel chic. If they’re plain and in good condition, re-purpose them as gift bags, she suggests.

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13. Estate Items

Many people have items from deceased family members and, oftentimes, hang onto them out of guilt, explains Ben Soreff, a professional organizer with Connecticut-based House to Home Organizing.

“If you love the piece, and it brings up fond memories, great,” he says. “But if that bookcase from your great uncle is only in your home because you feel bad and don’t know what to do with it, donate it so that someone can use it.”

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14. Exercise Equipment That’s Not Getting Used

Truth test: Does that treadmill seem to be more of a clothing rack than a piece of exercise equipment? Soreff notes that many people hold on to “aspirational” sporting or exercise equipment and truly believe they will do the activity in the future.

“If you are holding on to that exercise bike because you ‘should’ use it, try a trial membership at a gym instead,” he suggests.

Flickr | normanack

15. Craft Supplies

Craft supplies are oftentimes tough to get rid of because you can’t stop imagining all the project possibilities. That and it’s hard to imagine who might want your crafty odds and ends, says Darla DeMorrow with HeartWork Organizing.

If you haven’t used them in a year, donate them, she suggests. Oftentimes a pre-school or crafting club might want them. Thrift stores can also take batches of craft supplies to sell as a lot, says DeMorrow, the author of “Organizing Your Home with SORT and Succeed.”

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

16. College Textbooks

You paid good money for those books, DeMorrow says, but are you ever going to review those algebra or accounting textbooks?

“Check online for textbook re-sale opportunities,” she suggests. If they can’t be sold, recycle them.

Flickr | LifeSupercharger

17. Every Printed Photo

“Because printed photos were expensive back in the day, we kept everything that got developed,” points out DeMorrow, who is a certified photo organizer. “Because your printed photo collection is chock full of duplicate prints and random beaches, toes and zoo animals, the average collection can painlessly be downsized by about 20 to 30 percent.”

18. Eyeglasses

Having a spare pair or two makes sense, DeMorrow says. But if you’ve got several extra pairs, it’s time to donate them. As an example, the Lions Club can take old prescription sunglasses and glasses and then refurbish them and send them overseas to help improve vision care for people in underdeveloped countries.

19. Clothes You’re Not Wearing

Many people think they need more closet space but, really, they just need fewer belongings, says Felice Cohen, an organizer and author of “90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…Or More).”

“We only wear a fraction of our clothes, so we must ask ourselves why aren’t we wearing items,” she says. Is it the fit? Comfort? We got it on sale and actually don’t like it? She suggests an annual closet purge when you take everything out of your closet and only put back what you love. Donate items that are in good shape.

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20. Tupperware Without Lids

Or lids without Tupperware. Take out all of your Tupperware and match it up, Cohen suggests. If it’s got a missing partner, set it aside. Then, look at the other places it could possibly be, like the dishwasher or a cabinet. Give yourself a week. If you can’t find its match, toss it.

Flickr | All Those Details

21. Old Paint Cans

People tend to think they need to save these cans of paint in case they need to do a touch-up on their walls, Cohen says. But after a year, the paint starts to change color. Instead, she suggests, write down the name of the paint color and brand and a mixing code if applicable.

Some places, like PaintCare, will recycle your leftover paint.

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22. Paper

Whether it’s monthly statements, kids’ artwork or daily mail, all that paper accumulates quickly, says Rachel Rosenthal, a Washington D.C.-area organizer with Rachel & Company.

“The good news is that you don’t need to hang on to much of it,” she says. “About 80 percent of what gets filed never gets looked at again.” Bank statements and pay stubs are good to hang on to for a year, but you don’t need to keep storing your taxes from 2000. Hang on to those returns for seven years from the filing date. Remember, manuals, contracts and credit card records are oftentimes available online, Rosenthal says.

Flickr | Dvortygirl

23. Toys With Missing Pieces

Whether it’s a puzzle with missing pieces or the back half of a spaceship, it’s time to get rid of those toys with missing pieces, says Amy Trager, a Chicago-area certified personal organizer.

“If it’s a favorite toy, then set it aside somewhere it won’t get lost in the shuffle of other toys while you wait awhile longer for the missing piece to surface,” she says. “If it’s been a year, time to move on.”

Flickr | AmberStrocel

24. Mysterious Objects

Simply put, if you don’t know what it is, you don’t need it, Trager says. “If it’s found in a shared space, though, ask the other people who use the space to look at the items before tossing them.”

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25. Old Calendars

You won’t need to use a 2017 calendar after the year ends, says Marty Basher, home organization expert for Modular Closets. We promise those cute puppies will star on future calendars and are just as cute.

Flickr | Dr Stephen Dann

26. Chipped Kitchenware

Get rid of those chipped plates, bowls and mugs, Basher says. They’re a safety hazard.

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27. Expired Or Unused Medication

Expired medication can pose a health hazard, Basher says. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has a tip sheet on how to safely dispose of medicine in the event you don’t have access to a medicine take-back event.

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28. Empty Medicine Bottles

These bottles are just taking up space, Basher says. But if it’s a prescription, be sure to black out your personal information.

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29. Missing Socks

Socks that are missing their match can be tossed, Basher says. A tip: Set up a bin for lone socks in your laundry room. If the matching sock doesn’t re-appear in a few cycles, it’s time to part with the lone sock.

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30. Old Receipts

Get rid of receipts for items you no longer own, or that have exceeded their return deadline, Basher says. One exception: Keep the receipts you need for deductions on your taxes.

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31. Holiday Cards

More will arrive next year. If there are some with special meaning, go ahead and keep them, Basher suggests. If you want to keep them but clear up the clutter from your wall or mantel, consider adding them to a photo album or scrapbook.

Flickr | slgckgc

32. Old Cell Phones

Donate your old cell phones, suggests Basher. Here are 10 places that will take old phones, even that first-generation iPhone or your old Razr.

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33. Uncomfortable Shoes

There’s no point in keeping shoes that consistently give your feet blisters, says Basher. If they’re in good shape, donate them; they might fit someone else better.

Flickr | Mr.TinDC

34. Old Cookbooks

Get rid of those cookbooks you’re no longer using, Basher suggests. “For example, donate ‘How to Cook Chicken’ if you’ve become vegan,” he says.

Flickr | shoutabyss

35. Overused Hair Ties

The bathroom can be a magnet for clutter. Get rid of those stretched out hair ties (they’re just waiting to break and free your ponytail at the most inconvenient time) and those bent bobby pins, suggests Merry Maids.

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36. Beat-Up Towels And Linens

If you’re hanging on to worn, fraying bedsheets or towels, chances are they’re just taking up space in your linen closet. Consider cutting them up to use as cleaning rags and otherwise, give them the heave-ho.

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37. Old Phone Books

Unless you use them as a booster seat for visiting grandchildren or plan to try one of these 17 clever uses for old yellow pages, it’s time to let go of those old phone books.

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38. Unusable Bows And Wrapping Paper

Hanging onto old bows is a great money-saver, especially come holiday season when you have lots of gifts to wrap. If you find yourself passing over the same flattened, damaged bows every time it’s time to wrap a gift, that means its time to let it go. The same goes for creased and crinkled wrapping and tissue paper.

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39. Expired Or Unused Toiletries

Many bathrooms have stray skincare samples lurking in their depths. If the product samples are fairly new, treat yourself tonight and give them a try. Otherwise, toss ’em!

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40. Frozen Food

Frozen food can easily be left to languish in the back of your freezer. Use this guide to determine how long common foods can last in the freezer, and get rid of anything that’s past its prime.

41. Kitchen Items You Never Use

If you look through your kitchen to find a fondue pot you last used a decade ago or a quesadilla maker that never even made it out of the packaging, it’s time to say goodbye. Chances are you won’t miss the kitchen gadgets you rarely use, but it’s likely you will notice and enjoy the newfound space that giving them the heave-ho creates.

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Doesn’t this list get you psyched to clean house?

Finders, Keepers…Hoarders, Weepers

What would your house look like if you never got rid of anything? Michelle Herman found out the hard way. But with the help of 360 garbage bags, one gigantic Dumpster, and tons of emotional fortitude, she finally reclaimed her home. I’d like to say it was the mice that pushed me over the edge. It should have been the mice. But I ignored the evidence of their presence just as I ignored the towers of books and papers, the mountains of stuff everywhere.
Housekeeping has never been high on my priority list. By last spring, though, it had been years since I’d so much as glanced that far down the list. Even with the things a person needs to do to keep her family alive and non-naked, I was cutting corners, stopping on my way home from teaching a class to buy more underwear for all of us because that was easier than doing laundry. I had given up keeping house altogether.
Okay, not altogether. I was still making a token effort at tidying—stacking my daughter’s schoolwork, my students’ papers, my own manuscripts, books, magazines, newspapers, and junk mail, and throwing small items (a watch with a broken strap, a stray battery or key) into one big bowl or basket or another. But the stacks were turning into heaps, the bowls and baskets had begun to multiply, and by last spring, every surface in the house seemed to be covered. The top of the upright piano was piled with leaning towers of sheet music, and next to the towers was a jumble of things I had set down “just for now.” To eat dinner, we had to shove aside stacks of papers to make room for plates and elbows on the table. And in my study—once a sacrosanct place, a writer’s haven—I had to pick my way through shopping bags that bulged with my 13-year-old daughter’s outgrown clothes and multiple baskets of laundry I had managed to wash and dry but not put in drawers. In the closet, there were cardboard boxes full of memorabilia, manuscripts, letters, and Grace’s baby things, her schoolwork, artwork, and picture books.
And the closet was just for the things that had to stay clean and dry. Everything else we were saving was in the basement—a room I did my best to avoid. I didn’t go down there unless I had to—and when I did, I kept my eyes trained straight ahead. I walked right by my husband’s bed from before he moved in with me, and the two sets of rusting darkroom equipment and sagging cardboard boxes full of bottles of seeping darkroom chemicals. I didn’t even glance at my daughter’s disassembled crib and changing table and high chair, every bike she’d ever owned, two car seats and two booster seats, the plastic potty, the playpen, three broken vacuum cleaners, the motorcycle helmet, the space heater, and two window fans. I ignored the half dozen battered suitcases, some with broken zippers. The old tent. The four glass aquarium tanks. The grass skirt on a hanger, dangling from a pipe. The two shopping bags full of empty baby food jars in which once upon a time I had frozen my breast milk. I could go on, but I’m running out of space.

  1. Newspapers: Newspapers more than two days old should be recycled. Unless there’s a mention of your child or an article you absolutely need, toss any old newspapers. If you do want to keep an article, clip it and file it appropriately.
  2. Pens with no ink: If a pen isn’t working, you don’t need it.
  3. Power cords you can no longer use: If you’re really not sure if you can throw it out, create a storage bin and label it “cords.” But in most cases, old power cords can’t be used in newer devices.
  4. Magazines more than two months old: Magazines are tricky because they often contain recipes or articles you’re hoping to read. If you’re serious about a recipe or article, clip it and store it properly. Everything else should be recycled.
  5. Expired coupons: These are useless; simply recycle them.
  6. Old cell phones: There’s no good reason to keep these, as they are likely outdated and just taking up space. Old cell phones can be donated to organizations like Cell Phones for Soldiers, which uses the proceeds from donated cell phones to send prepaid international calling cards to troops.
  7. Last year’s calendar: People hang onto these with the intention of transferring important dates from one year to the next. You have until January 31 of the new year to complete that task, but if you take longer than that, recycle it.
  8. Greeting cards: Some greeting cards have sentimental value, with a heartfelt message handwritten inside. Most, however, are generic “happy birthday” cards that lose their significance minutes after they’re read. Why save them?
  9. Receipts: Some receipts should be saved, especially if they represent tax-deductible purchases or items you need to try on. Otherwise, they should be pitched. Alternatively, get out ahead of clutter by opting for digital receipts whenever possible.
  10. Old crafting supplies: Unless you’re an avid crafter, you are likely the proud owner of a dried out bottle of glue, various spools of ribbon and other miscellaneous items that are now useless or unlikely to be used. Get rid of the things that no longer work as expected, and donate other items to an elementary school art teacher or local YMCA.

We hang onto far more objects than we need, and, instead of motivating us, they become talismans of guilt and shame.

“You hold onto things based on hope,” she says. You hope to lose weight, catch up on reading, finish that abandoned project. But when you don’t, it’s hard not to feel like a jerk about it. “How much stuff do you really need to represent that thing?” says Saruwatari. “How many items do you need to hold onto before it starts controlling your life?”

Photo: Flickr user Kim Love

We also hold onto stuff with the rationalization that we might need it one day. It’s easy enough to hide the things you don’t use or need in the back of a closet or cabinet. But after a while, all those things pile up and you cannot ignore them. “If you put it into a closet and shut the door, you are still carrying that with you,” says Saruwatari. “It’s important to get to the root cause of that one item and not just shove it under the rug.”

Go One Item At A Time

Saruwatari’s approach to organizing shares some similarities with Marie Kondo’s beloved KonMari Method. Saruwatari, who also of Japanese descent, focuses on simplicity and keeping only the items that bring something positive into your life. Getting started with organizing means picking up one object and taking it one object at a time.

Saruwatari urges her clients to look at every item they own through what she calls a fourfold lens of “truth, love, meaning, purpose.” Hokey as this seems on the surface, it’s grounded in concrete questions: Do you honestly need this item? Do you love it? Does it have some sort of significance in your life? Does it serve a purpose?

If the answer to all of these questions is “no,” it’s time to get rid of that thing and move onto the next one. “When you start consciously going through your stuff, knowing there’s an emotional connection, you’re going to feel better,” says Saruwatari. “Pick up one item at a time. Don’t say, ‘I don’t want to deal with this right now.’”

Let Your Goals Shape Your Organizing

Organizing your physical space around the goals you want to achieve will naturally start to declutter your space. “What do you want to create in your life?” says Saruwatari. Think of a goal you want to achieve and come up with three action steps you can take to get closer to that goal.

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Ready to learn what NOT to do when it comes to getting rid of clutter? These 10 mistakes are more common than you think, and being aware of them will make all the difference next time you declutter any part of your home…

This blog has LOTS of articles about decluttering. There’s a 30 day free challenge, and also Clutter:Sorted!, which goes into huge detail and helps you to declutter your home and life step by step.

It’s a BIG topic when it comes to organising your home.

BUT…

…when it comes to talking about decluttering, it’s always the ‘what TO do’ that we are told about. So today I wanted to address that with this post all about what NOT to do.

You see – even if you do everything right, you may still be doing a few of the wrong as well, which can really hurt your decluttering efforts.

If you know the pitfalls then you’re likely to stop them before they stop you!

So, next time you’re getting rid of clutter in your own home – think about these 10 things and make sure they aren’t being done – and I know that it will make all the difference to how successful you are….

#1 – NOT HAVING A PLAN

When you start decluttering it’s really tempting to go in all guns blazing with bin bags – filling them asap and feeling great.

But what you’re often doing here is just getting rid of the obvious rubbish, and things that are still clutter (items that are in the wrong place in your home) are left where they are. You then wonder why the house STILL doesn’t work for you, and why there is still ‘stuff’ everywhere…

If you take some time up front to make a plan of where things need to go in your home, you’re going to be so much better off – because you will be able to more easily decide what to do with everything. You can find out how I plan my house HERE which I hope helps!

#2 – MOVING FROM ROOM TO ROOM

It’s very common to be sidetracked when decluttering.

Imagine the scene – you start getting rid of clutter in your lounge and you come across a jumper that needs to be put away in your wardrobe. You walk upstairs and come across one of your kids toys on the landing – so you head to their room. In their room there is a glass that needs to go downstairs in the kitchen….

On and on you go – until you’ve run out of time and realised that your lounge STILL needs decluttering…

Frustrating beyond belief!

So – the trick is to have a basket by the door of whatever room your are focusing on, and just adding items to this basket that need to go elsewhere in the house.

ONLY take these items to the correct room at the END of your decluttering time – and that way you’ll be so much more focused.

#3 – BUYING ORGANISING PRODUCTS FIRST

I LOVE the organising part of things, when I can make it all look great with pretty baskets/boxes etc…

But this ISN’T what you do when you declutter….

Decluttering is simply getting through all your items and working out what you do and don’t need any longer.

Organising is the next step – where you can see what you have, and decide on the best way to keep it.

Don’t buy organising items before you declutter because chances are you’re adding to the clutter. You don’t know what you’ll need to store, and where…

#4 – THINKING IT WILL TAKE VERY LITTLE TIME

You have created your home over many years – so it makes sense that decluttering it will take time as well (it’s a bit like losing weight where you have taken years to get to the weight you are – so you can’t expect a quick fix overnight).

If you know that things take time to do properly, you’ll get less overwhelmed by the process and let it happen.

#5 – HAVING A ‘MAYBE’ PILE

ooooh – isn’t it tempting to not be sure about whether you want to keep something or not.

Surely it can wait until another day…?

Well, my friend, it can’t.

The truth is – clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions (can’t remember who said that but it’s SO true!). You have clutter in your home because you haven’t decided on where it needs to go.

Time to get brave and say YES or NO instead of MAYBE – and I promise you’ll enjoy the process much more!

#6 – DECLUTTERING OTHER PEOPLES STUFF

Never.

Never.

Never declutter anyone else’s stuff.

Got it?

Ask any professional organiser and they will tell you exactly the same.

The reason is two-fold: –

  1. You don’t know what is clutter and what isn’t, because you are not invested in the item(s)
  2. You will make that person angry/upset

It’s just simply not worth it – however tempting it is.

The answer? Get them involved. You can declutter together – and if they won’t declutter then just do what’s yours and hopefully they will see the benefits and join you after a while…

#7 – KEEPING ITEMS YOU’VE SORTED TO GET RID OF FOR TOO LONG

You’ve done well.

You’ve decluttered an area, and have bags of items to take to the rubbish tip, charity shop, friends etc….

Get them there ASAP. Do not pass go, do not collect £200… (#lovemonopoly!)

It’s all too tempting to go through those bags after a few days and just take a couple of things back… – and things start getting cluttered again.

You’ve made the decision – so finish it by getting it out of the house right NOW.

#8 – KEEPING THINGS ‘JUST IN CASE’

There will always be a reason to keep that weird and wonderful item that you haven’t used for years – because ‘WHAT IF YOU NEED IT NEXT WEEK?!’

Keeping things just in case is a huge downfall of successful decluttering – but you can stop this by asking a couple of things: –

  1. What’s the worst that would happen if I got rid of this right now?
  2. Could I borrow/rent this item if I need it in the future?
  3. Is the space used to store this item really worth keeping it?

Be realistic. If you really needed it then it would be a simple “YES’, but if you are wavering then chances are that it’s something you feel you SHOULD keep rather than something you really need to keep.

#9 – ONLY GETTING RID OF RUBBISH

My definition of decluttering is “anything that doesn’t belong in the space it’s in – whether because you don’t need it at all any longer, or it belongs in a different space”.

As such, clutter isn’t just rubbish.

It can be that jumper lying on the lounge floor that needs taking back to the bedroom. It can be that book you borrowed from a friend and have been meaning to give back. It is ANYTHING that is in the wrong place.

Don’t just get the rubbish out – if you properly declutter then you’ll naturally tidy your home and everything will be in the right space…

#10 – GETTING OVERWHELMED

Wanting to tackle your whole home?

Great! – but it’s important not to get overwhelmed at the thought.

After all, taking each and every item in your home and making a decision about it is a HUGE task. Things will get messier before they get better, and it’s very physical work.

Allow yourself to understand that this will take some time, and you CAN take it step by step. Give yourself small tasks each day/week (do a drawer at a time rather than an entire room), and reward yourself for a job well done – and you’ll get there without that dreaded overwhelm setting in.

So – there you have it – 10 decluttering mistakes to avoid…

If you’ve tried decluttering before and failed, then it may well have been because of one of these reasons.

Next time, you’ll be SO much more prepared – and I’m sure it will go really really well!

… If you want to get started, why not try the free 30 day challenge? It will get you into the habit of decluttering before you know it!

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How to Declutter Fast: 15 ways to get rid of clutter quickly

Today’s post is all about how to declutter fast!

If you want to get rid of the clutter quickly, these 15 decluttering tips are just what you need. Learn how to make the most of your decluttering time and efforts so you can clear the clutter quickly and start enjoying a clutter-free home!

When you decide you want to declutter your home, it’s common to want to get it over with as quickly and as easily as possible.

Decluttering your home takes time. It likely took years to accumulate all the stuff currently in your home. Most of us can’t expect to declutter it all in one day!

However, there are things you can do to speed up the decluttering process significantly and learn how to get rid of clutter fast.

If you want to learn how to declutter fast, check out these 15 decluttering tips to clear the clutter quickly!

1. Increase the frequency and intensity of your decluttering sessions

The first step in learning how to declutter fast is figuring out when you’ll declutter.

I often talk about consistency over intensity when you’re decluttering. Reminding you that even 10 minutes a day of decluttering will add up over time. But if your focus is on decluttering fast, you’ll need to prioritize both consistency and intensity.

Consistency

In order to declutter quickly, plan to declutter as frequently as possible. Prioritize decluttering now so you can get rid of clutter fast and give yourself more time, energy and freedom later.

Schedule your decluttering sessions and stick to them. Treat them like any other appointment and hold yourself accountable to make sure you get frequent decluttering sessions in.

Intensity

Decluttering quickly also requires working for longer chunks of time. Find some time in your schedule that will allow you to declutter for an hour or two at a time if you want to speed up the decluttering process. Repeat these longer decluttering sessions as frequently as you can.

In addition to your longer decluttering sessions, it’s also a great idea to try to do at least some decluttering every day. Even if you can only find 10 minutes to declutter some days, those minutes will add up over time. And the combination of intensity and consistency will be key to decluttering quickly.

2. Set decluttering goals

Setting decluttering goals is a great way to help you learn how to declutter fast. It’s a lot easier to push yourself when you have a specific goal you want to reach.

Some examples of decluttering goals you can set are:

  • how frequently you want to declutter
  • when you want to complete certain rooms or spaces by
  • how much you want to get rid of or how little you want to keep, etc.

Be as specific as possible when setting your decluttering goals. Give yourself tangible benchmarks to meet along with deadlines to complete them by if it will help motivate you.

Try using the SMART goal setting system. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound.

3. Take action!

Reading and learning about decluttering is great. Making a decluttering plan is also great and a valuable part of the decluttering process to prepare and motivate you. But the key to decluttering fast is taking action and getting started!

When you’re taking on a big project, like decluttering, getting started can often be the hardest part. Once you take the first step and get started, it’s usually easier to keep going.

The benefits of decluttering are definitely worth the time and effort to clear the clutter, but you have to put the work in up front to be able to start experiencing the benefits.

4. Declutter as you go about your day

If you want to learn how to declutter fast, work on making decluttering something you do automatically throughout your day.

Always keep a critical eye out for anything you see that you no longer use, need, love or want and can get rid of.

Getting in the habit of doing this will make it easy to declutter as you go about your day, with very little extra time or effort required. And the results of this constant, automatic decluttering will add up over time.

For example, as you’re getting ready in the morning, look for any products you know you don’t use, need or like and get rid of them right then.

When you’re doing the laundry, look for clothes that are worn out, no longer fit, you don’t like, etc. and get rid of them rather than putting them away. You can do the same thing with cooking utensils as you cook.

This is an especially effective strategy when you’re tidying up the house. Always look for things you can declutter instead of putting away.

Make sure you have an ongoing decluttering box handy somewhere in the house. Whenever you come across something you don’t use, need or like, add it to the decluttering box. When the box gets full, drop it off at the donation center and start again!

5. Be ruthless

Being in the right mindset is really important if you want to get rid of clutter quickly. If you try hard enough you can probably come up with a reason to keep almost anything.

Keep reminding yourself of your decluttering goals. Your goal isn’t to think of every possible way you might be able to use something. Instead, it’s to clear the clutter quickly!

Be as ruthless as possible with your decluttering decisions. The more you get rid of during each decluttering session, the quicker you’ll clear the clutter now rather than having to go back and do more decluttering later.

Use your decluttering time well by being as ruthless and efficient as possible. Making your decluttering time count is key to learning how to declutter fast.

6. Focus on high impact spaces

If your time is limited and you want to declutter fast, work on decluttering the spaces that will have the biggest impact on your home and your life once they’re clutter-free.

Usually, this means tackling the high-use, high-traffic spaces in your home. For example, maybe the kitchen, the entryway, the laundry room, etc.

Focus on decluttering the spaces that will significantly make life easier once you declutter them if your focus is on how to declutter fast.

7. Work quickly and efficiently from start to finish

Using a good decluttering system will be very important if you want to clear the clutter quickly.

Quickly and ruthlessly make decluttering decisions, sorting items into 1 of 4 categories:

  1. Garbage/recycle
  2. Donate/sell
  3. Keep
  4. Put away

Then, at the end of your decluttering session, make sure you finish dealing with these items before you’re done.

Throw away the garbage and put the recyclables in your recycling bin.

Put donation items in the trunk of your car (with a plan about when you’ll drop them off) or in your decluttering “holding zone” (again, with a plan about when you’ll take them to the donation center).

Put items you’re selling in your decluttering holding zone, with a deadline for when you’ll get them listed for sale and how long you’ll wait before donating unsold items.

Anything you’re keeping in the space should be put away. Make sure each item has a specific home to keep it so it won’t end up as clutter later.

Then finally, put any items that you’re keeping but belong elsewhere in the house away where they belong.

8. Stay on task

If you want to declutter quickly, staying on task during your decluttering sessions is important.

Don’t let yourself get distracted cleaning, organizing or putting things away in other rooms. Use your decluttering time for clearing the clutter if you want to declutter fast.

Keep a box with you for things you come across that belong in other rooms and need to be put away. Nothing sidetracks your decluttering progress more than seeing something that belongs in another room, taking it to put it away, then getting distracted in that room, etc.

A box to gather items that belong elsewhere lets you avoid spending your whole decluttering session moving stuff around your home, instead of actually decluttering!

9. Recruit help

Making decluttering a team effort is a great way to make the decluttering process go faster. Recruit family members, or even friends, to help you. If it’s in your budget, hiring a professional organizer to help can be a great way to declutter quickly.

You can even get family members more excited to help by making decluttering a challenge. For example, set a timer for 20 minutes and whoever finds the fewest number of items to get rid of has to do the dishes. Adding some friendly competition and a bit of urgency can really help if you want to declutter quickly!

10. Walk away

If something is really hard to declutter and slowing down your progress, walk away from that particular decluttering task and work on something else for a while.

For example, if you’re really struggling to sort through your sentimental items or your kid’s baby clothes, don’t let your entire decluttering session get derailed. Move on to something else and come back to whatever is slowing you down later.

Use your decluttering time wisely if your goal is to learn how to declutter fast. Know when to walk away and work on something else if decluttering in a certain area is slowing you down.

Another great way to deal with things that are slowing you down is to use a “maybe box”. A maybe box is like a decluttering safety net, allowing you to make more ruthless decluttering decisions without the fear of regretting your decisions.

Here’s how it works: if you’re struggling to make a decluttering decision about something, put it in a box out of sight and put a reminder in your phone to come back to it in 1 to 3 (or more) months.

If you haven’t needed (or even thought about!) the item in that time, maybe it’s not as important to you as you thought. Often some time and space away from our “stuff” give us a better perspective about what we really need and value.

11. Don’t underestimate the impact of “easy decluttering projects”

As you’re learning how to declutter fast, don’t forget about easier decluttering projects that can help you build decluttering confidence, momentum and motivation.

Decluttering is something you get better at, and gets easier, the more you do it. Working on some easier decluttering projects lets you build your “decluttering muscles” so by the time you get to the harder stuff, decluttering will be quicker and easier.

My favourite easy decluttering projects are:

  • A whole house clutter sweep: quickly walk around your house looking for anything you see you don’t use, need or love and can get rid of. Start with the easiest stuff like garbage, broken items, things you don’t even like, etc. to make it even easier.
  • Clear surface clutter from key surfaces: clearing the surfaces in your home will have a big impact on the look and feel of the space, and is a great way to declutter quickly.
  • Declutter somewhere easy: working on an easier space to declutter let’s you make progress more quickly and easily. The bathroom, pantry, coat closet, etc. are great places to tackle because the decluttering decisions are often easier in these spaces.

Come back to these 3 easy decluttering projects any time you need to make some quick decluttering progress or get your momentum going again.

12. Get things out of the house quickly

A very important part of learning how to declutter fast is making sure the items you’re getting rid of are actually leaving your house!

Plan and schedule when to get the things you’re decluttering out of your house. Don’t let clutter you’re getting rid of sit too long. Not only will it continue being clutter in your space, but even worse, there’s a good chance it’ll slowly get spread back out over the house undoing all of your hard work!

Plan ahead for what you’ll do with stuff you’re getting rid of. Then schedule regular times to get it out of the house.

Decluttering isn’t done until the stuff has actually left your house. A holding zone is important so you have a place to put things you’re getting rid of as you’re decluttering, but don’t let things pile up and sit in your holding zone too long.

13. Consider donating instead of selling

If your goal is decluttering fast, consider donating most of the items you’re getting rid of instead of selling them. Donating items lets you get rid of the clutter quickly and easily.

Selling things takes a lot of time and effort. Time and effort you could be using to do more decluttering.

Be very selective about what you try to sell, maybe only selling bigger, higher ticket items. Ask yourself if the value of the item is worth the time and effort to sell it.

Give yourself deadlines to get items listed for sale, along with a time limit for how long you’ll let items sit unsold before donating them.

14. Stop the inflow of new “stuff”

No matter how much you declutter, if you keep bringing more stuff in, you won’t see much progress, let alone declutter fast.

First, be a fierce gatekeeper about what you allow into your house, to begin with. Try to stop things you know you won’t use, need or like from coming into your home at all.

Then, focus on being more intentional with your shopping habits to slow the inflow of new stuff. Try a shopping ban, where you challenge yourself to go a certain period of time without buying anything new aside from essentials like groceries and gas.

Or try using the “one in, one out” rule, so every time you bring something new into your house, you get rid of something in its place.

15. Give yourself some grace

As I said before, your home didn’t get filled with stuff and clutter overnight, so it will probably take some time to get rid of the clutter in it as well.

Do the best you can, push yourself and be as ruthless as possible. But be kind to yourself along the way too. Remember that any time you declutter something, you are making progress. Small steps toward your decluttering goals still count!

How to declutter fast!

I hope these tips will help you if you want to learn how to declutter fast. Getting rid of the clutter quickly is definitely do-able if you’re ready to go all-in and begin enjoying the benefits of a clutter-free home sooner!

How to Get Rid of Clutter Fast

Why Does Clutter Build Up?

The more we buy, the more we build clutter. When we buy a new printer because our old one ran out of toner, we just toss the old one on the floor. Our robotic arm prototype is leaning against the filing cabinet. Last season’s designer hot pants are draped over the flip-chart-size post-it pad we use for notes during our off-site. And that takeout container of leftover meatloaf will make a great snack tonight as we watch the latest episode of Nasal Fluids Explained.

The reason clutter builds up is because it takes effort to put stuff away. First, you have to turn your head and look at the clutter. Then you need to think about what it is. Then, you actually have to pick it up and walk all the way to where it goes to put it away. You’ll potentially have to do an entire trip for every item!

You could clean up one item at a time, but that would be like eating Oreo ice cream cake one spoonful at a time. Perfectly reasonable, but time-consuming and ultimately, not nearly as satisfying as trying to down the entire sheet cake using a canister of pressurized air and a funnel.

What you should do to get rid of clutter fast is this: Start by grabbing an empty box, or if you’re at home, a laundry basket. Make sure it’s big enough to hold a bunch of stuff.

By making two simple passes around your space with an empty box, you’ll be able to clean up your clutter fast.

Now do a complete circuit of your home or office. When you see something out of place, pick it up and put it in the basket. Your half-eaten meatloaf doesn’t belong on the floor, so into the basket it goes. Your robotic arm prototype? The robot should have that, not you. It goes into the basket, too. When you’ve completed the two circuits of the clutter-filled room, it’s time to take your basket and visit all of the other places you go during the day.

When you move to a new place, take anything out of the basket that belongs there and put it away. When you get to the office fridge, in goes the meatloaf. As you pass the Robot Army Holding Area, the robotic arm goes right onto the spare parts shelf. As you put stuff away, you should also pick up any clutter from the new rooms that doesn’t belong there.

How to Get Rid of Even More Clutter

I’m sure you instantly see the flaw in the scheme. What if you start in your office, drop off the robotic arm in the Holding Area, and discover that Melvin’s TPS report is sitting in the Holding Area. It belongs in the office, but you’ve already been through the office.

To catch these stragglers, do a second circuit. Since you picked up everything that was out of place the first time around, the second circuit, if you need one, will simply be putting away whatever’s left over. Voila! Everything has now been put away.

Multitask While Putting Away Clutter

I normally frown on multitasking, but I smile super big at putting things away. I smile so big that this time, I’ll let you multitask. As you’re making your rounds, grab a music player and headphones, put on an audiobook about optimizing supply chain management through the value-added processes integral to your industry’s ongoing paradigm shifts, and get brilliant. You’ll organize your space and you’ll organize your mind. Soon, you’ll be so smart you’ll be promoted to your boss’s job, invent a transporter (like the one on Star Trek), and become the human being single-handedly responsible for Humanity taking over the galaxy. And all because you got rid of clutter fast by making two simple passes around your space with an empty box.

See these episodes for more specific get-rid-of-clutter tips to:

— organize your wardrobe

— keep your desk spotless

— clean your apartment in a hurry

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!

Clutter image from

Even if you’re good at clearing the clutter out of your home, the sentimental stuff is always the hardest to shift: what do you do with those daubings your now 15-year-old did aged three, or all the Mother’s Day cards you’ve ever received, or those boxes of bits and pieces retrieved from your parents’ home after their deaths?

The big fear we all have, says clutter-clearing guru Marie Kondo, is that if we throw away these objects we’ll somehow be losing the precious memories and legacy that goes with them. Not so, says the Japanese bestselling author: truly precious memories will never vanish even if you discard things associated with them.

Here she reveals the secrets to dealing effectively with the heartstring-tugging detritus of family life: the stuff we can’t bear to part with, but which we know we can’t keep stashing away.

1. Focus not on what to chuck, but on what to keep

When we have a clearout, most of us tend to focus on what we’re going to throw away. Kondo’s approach is the opposite: she says we should concentrate instead on what we’re going to keep. The reason is simple: there are so many items of sentimental value, from our own lives and from our children’s lives and from our parents’/grandparents’ lives that it’s too overwhelming a task to think about what to jettison.

2. Ask yourself of each object: does it spark joy in my heart?

This is the central message of Kondo’s creed: the litmus test to whether to keep it or not is to ask yourself, does this object (whatever it is) spark joy in my heart? To work this out, you have to touch the object, and see what response that elicits inside you.

“Hold each item in your hands, as close to your heart as possible,” she says. “And then, pay close attention to how your body responds. When something sparks joy, you should feel a little thrill running through your body, as if your body is somehow slowly rising up to meet the item, embracing it even.”

Any such object has a place in your life, says Kondo. And once you are convinced of the spark of joy, you should be able to hold on to an item with confidence. You don’t need to make excuses for keeping it any more: you’ve proved to yourself that it’s important to you. But most objects in your life will not spark this joy – and these are the ones you should part with, again with confidence because you know they don’t mean enough to hold on to.

3. Make sure you’re properly committed to having a tidy-out

It’s crucial, says Kondo, that you don’t begin to declutter until you’re properly committed to it.

“Unless you are truly committed, you will most likely become discouraged or distracted before finishing your tidying journey,” she says.

What’s more, sentimental items are in fact the last sort of clutter that you should clear out: Kondo recommends that you “train your tidying muscles by tidying in a specific order, and begin with the categories of items that are typically easier than sentimental items”. You must tidy, she says, by category, not by location or room. “Your tidying should be in this order: clothing, books, papers, komono (miscellany) and then – and only then – will you be ready for your sentimental items.”

4. Never leave stuff in boxes at your parents’ home, or send it to them

One thing you should never do, says Kondo, is send boxes of sentimental items to your parents’ home – and nor should you ignore items that languish there long after you’ve moved out. Why not? Because, quite simply, you’re cluttering up your parents’ lives – and that’s unfair. Having tons of your stuff around your parents’ home makes it much more difficult for them to put their own house in order; something many people have a desire to do as they get older. And what’s more, says Kondo, boxes sent home are never actually opened.

5. Make a plan for taking care of the precious early items from your children’s lives

That first babygrow; the artwork he brought home from his first term at nursery; the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards she made you when she was in primary school. These are the easy items to decide about. The trick, says Kondo, is not merely to keep them, but to display them in some way that they will bring you pleasure as you go about your daily life – and they will bring pleasure to others who visit your home, too. Baby clothes, she says, can be displayed as art, hung in a frame or displayed in a creative way. “If you bundle them into a drawer thinking, ‘maybe some day I’ll return to them,’ then I doubt they spark joy in you, and they are taking energy away from other items that do spark joy for you,” she says.

If your instinct is that you want to keep more of your children’s artworks than is viable, you can always take photos of it before you throw it away. Another tactic is to decide on how many items you will keep, and stick to that number. And of course, the ideal thing to do with your children’s art is to put it on show: hang it on the wall, frame pieces you hope will last for a while, share it with visitors. And when the time comes to discard it, says Kondo, you should thank it for helping your child to grow, and let it go without guilt.

6. Say farewell to precious items that belonged to your dead parents or grandparents

If an item no longer sparks joy, but it has a sentimental attachment connected to it, you should always bid it farewell in a way that respects what it has meant to someone in your family in the past. If it’s an item that you know was important and meaningful to a parent or grandparent, now dead, or if it represents them to you, Kondo says you should thank it for the service it has done and the role it has played in your family’s life. “Giving sincere thanks to an item will significantly reduce or even eliminate any guilt you may feel when you decide that you will no longer have it in your home,” she says. “I understand that for some people it may seem strange to thank items, but if you try it you’ll be surprised by its effectiveness. Keeping an item beyond the time it sparks joy for you will only diminish the care and appreciation you have for the other items in your life.”

7. Tidy photographs together as a family

Tidying your family’s photos should be the final stage in your journey to clear the sentimental clutter in your home, says Kondo. She recommends that you collect all the photos you have around the house: remove them from their albums. Next, lay all the photos on the floor according to the year or period in which they were taken. The trick with photos is to be ready to let go of any that are similar, or are of scenes you don’t really remember. If you have several photos from the same day, choose only the best one. The basic approach to negatives, says Kondo, is simple: get rid of them all. Another good rule of thumb is: only hang on to pictures in which you, or the person you care about in them, is looking good.

With digital data the same principles apply: choose what you want to keep, not what you want to discard – you’ll never finish the job, says Kondo, if you try to decide which ones to erase when there are so many possibilities. She suggests you start by making a new folder in your computer, and then move all the images you choose to keep into this folder.

Sorting out photos is, Kondo believes, probably the happiest tidying job ever – especially if you do it altogether as a family, inter-generationally if possible. Laughing and talking together about your memories will make it fun – and seeing images of your family across many years, and perhaps across generations, will help you make sense of your story, as well as bringing a note of acknowledgement about what each generation has done for the next, all the special days, the ordinary days, the big occasions: the births, and the people who have died, and the different places where you all lived and holidayed. And what it gives is what all clutter-clearing should give: the chance to relive wonderful memories and to respect and honour your family history, while putting your life into order so you can fill the present with the things that matter, and that bring you happiness in the moment.

• Spark Joy by Marie Kondo is published by Vermilion, £10.99. To order a copy for £9.34, go to bookshop.theguardian.com or call the Guardian Bookshop on 0330 333 6846. Free UK p&p over £10, online orders only. Phone orders min. p&p of £1.99.