How to declutter home quickly?

How to Declutter Your Home in a Weekend Without Spending a Dime

When your home is a cluttered wreck, it can be hard to summon the motivation to tackle the chores you’ve been putting off and to toss or organize your scattered possessions. To make matters worse, you’re crunched for time and it’s tough to get anything done around the house, no matter how hard you try.

I never seem to have enough time, so I completely understand your frustration. But sooner or later — maybe after you trip on an errant toy or lose an important file — you’ll hit your breaking point. When you’ve had enough, it’s time to do something about it.

A possible solution: Find a sitter, cancel your plans for the weekend, and get to work. I gave it a shot and I was rather pleased with the results. Here are some tips to help you clear the haze.

1. Work Strategically

If you finally muster up the courage to get your home in order, avoid stepping foot into the front door and tackling the first project you can get your hands on. This is a recipe for disaster, and you’ll be tempted to throw in the towel shortly after you’ve started.

Instead, take a moment to map out a plan of action. Here’s a sample schedule for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home:

  • Friday evening: living room, kitchen, hall closet (if applicable)
  • Saturday: bedrooms No. 1 and No. 2 (including closets), guest bathroom
  • Sunday: master bedroom (including closet), master bathroom

Once you’ve figured out which areas of the house you plan to work on each day, take things a step further by including actual objectives, or detailed notes of what needs to be done in each area and how you will accomplish the particular tasks. For example, if you plan to start in the kitchen, your list may look like this:

  • Discard expired items from the pantry and neatly organize what remains on the shelves
  • Empty out the kitchen cabinets and only place the items of value back inside
  • Clear off the countertops
  • Sanitize the appliances (interior and exterior) and other surfaces in the kitchen
  • Mop and shine the floors

2. Purge Away

I hate to break it to you, but unless you have a magical, infinite attic, you’ll need to throw some things away to get rid of the clutter inside your home — even some things that are near and dear to your heart. It’s hard to do, even with items that have no sentimental value — no one wants to discard something they spent hard-earned money on.

But you have gather yourself (and your emotions) to give the situation some thought. How serious are you about tidying things up, and how did your home get this way in the first place? The answer might be rather simple: There are too many items and not enough space.

At least, that was my problem. I used to commit several hours a week to cleaning, only to encounter mess after mess a few days later. And then it hit me: The execution of chores wasn’t the problem, the clutter was.

Fed up with the constant messes in the home no matter how often we cleaned, we decided to embark on a “purging journey” and it was more difficult than we initially envisioned. While I’m definitely not a hoarder, I found myself getting agitated over the volume of items we needed to purge to clear up space.

Quite frankly, I’d forgotten for quite some time that they even existed, but I wasn’t ready to part ways with them. And for some strange reason, I feared I would suddenly find a need for them shortly after they were gone. Nevertheless, I stayed on pace and even sold a few things to ease the separation anxiety.

Wondering how to determine which items you should part ways with? Ask yourself these questions to make the call:

  • Have you used the item in the past year?
  • If so, will you have a need for it in the near future?
  • If not, will you ever use it?
  • Does it possess some sort of sentimental value?
  • Will you lose sleep at night once it’s gone?

If the answer is no, toss it, sell it, or donate it. If you purge enough stuff, you can hold a yard sale the following weekend. The extra cash will ease the sting of tossing so much stuff.

3. Neatly Organize Everything Else

Done purging? Now it’s time for the (not-so) fun part: organizing what remains. But this time around, you won’t be spending loads of cash on plastic storage containers and stylish space maker tools. Instead, you’ll be working with what you already have lying around the house. Here are a few options:

Baskets

After years of spending countless hours searching for important items, such as keys cell phones and wallets, that seemed to vanish into a dark hole each night, I’d had enough. The only solution was labeled baskets, which we still find quite useful. They also make great organizers for toiletries under bathroom cabinets; I know I’m not the only one who’s spent more than a couple of seconds searching for a particular fragrance, shampoo, or lotion.

Drawer Dividers

These are perfect for those drawers full of miscellaneous items or kitchen utensils. If you don’t have any dividers on hand, you can easily make your own using pieces of a cardboard box.

Shoeboxes

Planning to store some items on the closet shelves? Shoeboxes, both cardboard and plastic, work like a charm, especially for accessories if you don’t have a jewelry box on hand. I also use them for arts and crafts supplies that my children use throughout the week for school projects and homework.

Bookshelves

I’m an avid reader, so the bookshelf in the office definitely serves its purpose. But I also use it to store my children’s electronics and trophies that won’t fit into their bedroom. And occasionally, a few of my project files find their way on the middle shelf for easier access.

New Stash

Unfortunately, there may be a few (or many) useful items that remain with nowhere to go. Instead of spending time agonizing over their final resting place, find an empty, discrete area to store them until a later date.

4. Don’t Forget the Chores

After all the rearranging and foot traffic throughout the home, some tidying up will be necessary (or you could do it as you complete each room).

In my home, the living room floor is usually the first area to suffer because of all the foot traffic it gets each day. And it doesn’t help that we spend a bulk of our time as a family in the space. To properly clean the wood, I use a special solution that leaves the floor shining and looking brand new. But if I only clean the floor and ignore the other messes, something definitely looks a little off.

So, I always make sure to place the children’s toys (and whatever else they’ve managed to bring into the living room) back where they belong, dust the television stand, clean the baseboards, and vacuum the furniture padding to give the space a finished look.

And I can’t forget about my children’s bedroom. They enjoy spending time together playing with their toys, which makes mommy happy, so I try my best to keep up the space as best as I can. But there have been several occasions where I spent hours cleaning, organizing, and purging excess items, only to end up burying my face in my hand shortly afterward.

You see, my children get a kick out of making huge messes. For starters, they take all of the toy bins, neatly aligned against the bedroom and closet wall, and dump them out. Then they proceed to empty out the drawers underneath the bed, and finish up by digging through their dresser like madmen in search of last year’s Halloween costumes so they can pretend to be superheroes. And all of this is clearly audible from my bedroom.

What’s even funnier is that when I ask them to clean up their mess, it becomes clear that our perspectives on cleaning vary drastically. They think shoving everything that’s out of place into the closet and forcing the door shut is a job well done, but I beg to differ. I guess it’s the effort that counts; after all, they’re only 7 and 3 years old. So, imagine what would happen if I used their system for organizing things to keep the room intact!

5. Recruit Family and Friends

Do you have supportive friends or family nearby? Call them up, mention your plans, and ask if they’d be willing to assist. Even if it’s in the form of entertaining the kids for a few hours, which you’ll need if you have little ones, a little help can go a long way.

Since I have a slight obsession with keeping things organized around the house (when time permits), it’s not unusual for a family member or friend to give me a call and request input on how they should arrange things in their home. And in some cases, they throw in the towel and request that I come over, take a look, and help them get started. Either way, they accomplish the task at hand more quickly and are always willing to lend a helping hand in return if I need assistance.

Another tip: If a group of you will be hard at work for an entire day or weekend, why not add a little fun to the mix by blasting your favorite tunes and ordering pizza and drinks to complete the party?

6. Consistency is Key

Have you finally crossed off all the items on your to-do list? Take a second to pat yourself on the back, and then think of all the ways you can keep things organized moving forward. You now have a clean slate to start from, and you want to keep it that way. Here are a few tips:

Offer Yourself Incentives

On occasion, we all need a little push to get us motivated to complete a task. Clearing clutter shouldn’t be an exception to the rule. Anytime I’m in need of a little pick-me-up to get moving, I resort to edible incentives, such as a night out for dinner at my favorite restaurant, as a source of motivation.

Revisit Problematic Areas at Least Once Per Week

Some areas are more prone to getting cluttered than others. In my home, the office is a problem; with projects come paper, most of which ends up in the strangest places after a few weeks have passed. Keep on top of these problem areas so they don’t become insurmountable.

Minimize Paper Documents

To prevent the problem mentioned above, I try to work with electronic documents or spiral notebooks as often as possible. Mail also has the potential to be problematic in our household, so I promptly shred any items we don’t need.

Another issue: documents from school. Between both children, the correspondence quickly begins to add up and get lost in a pile if we don’t make note of what is being communicated as soon as the documents arrive.

Stop Shopping!

If you don’t need it, don’t buy it (at least until you learn to keep the messes to a minimum). And if you think you need it, take a moment to assess its functionality and whether it will best suit your needs.

During the period in my life where I was extremely irresponsible with my finances, any item in a store that tickled my fancy came home, whether I purchased it with cash or credit. At the time, I was living in an extremely tiny apartment with limited closet space, so the more I purchased, the more crowded things were. At one point, there were piles of clothes with tags on the closet floor because I had nowhere else for them to go. Long story short, I didn’t necessarily need any of these things, and what a headache it was to clear the clutter once I finally realized I had let my spending habits get out of control.

Routine Purging Sessions

As time progresses and you notice some items are still kicking around even though they no longer serve a purpose, sell, donate, recycle, or dispose of them promptly. This should be done on a monthly basis to prevent clutter from resurfacing.

Instead of doing it in a single day, I allocate one day per room. When I consistently follow that pattern, the purging sessions usually don’t take more than 30 minutes, and I feel a lot better knowing that I was able to be proactive by keeping the home clean.

And remember, a few problematic areas may still exist after your weekend cleaning session. But you took initiative to get a handle on the problem and reclaim your home, and that’s what counts.

How To Declutter Your Home Fast

A Mess Free Life may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page.

It’s spring time and so it’s the perfect time to declutter your home.

For most of us we have too much stuff. Clutter fills our homes from attic to basement and closets are so jammed packed we can barely close the door.

I’m a firm believer in having only beautiful things in my home and that provide me with joy and happiness. I learned and embraced this concept after reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Mari Kondo.

I mean what’s the point of just trashing all your possessions if you find yourself longing for something you discarded that you really loved. So, the best way to decide what you love and what brings you joy is to hold each object in your hand and ask the questions, ‘Does this item bring me joy?’ Then and only then can you know for sure if you should toss or keep. To me, this is at the heart of learning how to declutter your home.

Although I personally love this method, I know that many people feel that other questions must be asked before discarding an item and so I’m going to ask you to challenge yourself and ask some basic questions as you ponder what to toss, what to donate and what to sell.

Keep in mind that after each of these questions you’ll then ask yourself if the item sparks joy (per the Kon Mari Method). In all cases, if the answer is ‘no’ you’ll dispose of it.

The reason you’ll ask the second question is that we only want to keep those things in our home that we love, and that provides us with a beautiful environment. If the item does neither of those things for you, you should toss it.

The reality is once you start the process to declutter your home you’ll begin to feel better – almost lighter and your home will look better too.

Before you begin, grab two garbage bags. One for things you’ll toss and one for things you’ll donate. Don’t worry about how you’ll deep clean and reorganize your space. That will happen after you’ve completed the process of deciding what is being discarded. If you stop and start cleaning and organizing you’ll lose the momentum of decluttering your home and the project will be derailed. When at all possible you should declutter your home in one fell swoop so you can enjoy the benefit of a space that has been fully decluttered.

Let’s start by looking at the questions you’ll ask yourself so you can start making decisions about what to keep and what to toss.

Table of Contents

1. Have I used this in the last year?

We have the best of intentions. We hit the store see something that catches our eye and decide to purchase it. The problem is most of what we buy we never actually use, or we use once and never touch it again.

Pick up the item and ask yourself if you’ve used it in the last year. If the answer is yes, then ask yourself if the item sparks joy?

If no, toss. If yes, keep.

2. If I were shopping right now, would I buy this?

We have many things in our homes that we bought on a whim or a prayer. We also have gifts that were given to us that we probably don’t even like. If you would never buy this today or want it as a gift, then your answer is clear.

3. Is the only thing that’s keeping me from disposing of this item is I don’t want to waste money?

Boy, I get this! In my hay day of overindulging, I bought so many items of clothing that my closets and drawers were overflowing. Of course, there was no possible way I could wear it all, and so when I was faced with purging my clothes, I felt an immediate sense of guilt for all the money I had wasted.

Holding onto clothing or other possessions because you feel it’s wasteful to toss them provided a constant reminder of your past. It’s best to let go of these items once and for all. They provided a valuable lesson for you and hopefully moving forward you’ve learned a great deal about how to spend your money more wisely.

Only keep what brings you joy and let go of the rest.

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4. Am I holding on to this for sentimental reasons?

I wrote an entire article on this very subject, and there are some great articles on the internet like Nobody Wants Your Parents Stuff that speaks directly about the problem with inherited items.

When I was faced with this dilemma, although difficult, I kept only those items that brought back wonderful and joyful memories and things I absolutely wanted to keep. Everything else was sold at the yard sale or donated to charity. It was hard to see those things go, but I knew they didn’t bring me joy and would only overwhelm me to have to keep them.

Here are some additional resources to help you with decluttering and cleaning your space!

10 Tasks To A Clean and Clutter-Free Morning

How To Part with Sentimental Items and Honor The Memories

3 Unexpected Lessons I Learned From The Kon Mari Method

5. Do I have a similar item that serves the same purpose?

We love duplicates. Most of us have three staplers, five measuring cups, three hammers and many other duplicates in our home. If you find yourself with duplicates, pick the item in the best condition if it serves a specific purpose and sell or donate the rest.

Of course, a hammer may not bring you joy, but you’ll probably need on occasion. The question becomes do you need three?

6. Do I have a realistic plan to use this?

How many times have you saved and stored something because ‘someday I may use it?’ Well, what often happens is someday never comes, and you’re left with an item that doesn’t spark joy but instead takes up space and leaves you’re living space jammed.

If someday is in the equation and you don’t have a realistic plan to use the item, get rid of it.

7. Does it fit me or my living space?

Our living space is sacred. We want only those items that are beautiful and bring us joy. If an item does not meet that criteria its time to part with it.

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8. Am I holding on to the broken item to fix in the future?

Anything that is broken should be tossed particularly if has been broken for longer than two weeks. Anything after that time frame will more than likely NEVER be repaired and is just cluttering up your home. This goes for broken toys, games with missing pieces, and puzzles.

We need to start looking at our houses like the safe sanctuaries they were meant to be. The world is full of chaos. The last thing we want to replicate is the chaos of the outside world in our homes.

Take the time this weekend, pick a room and start to declutter your home. My suggestion: start in the bedroom so you can create an oasis you deserve. In the end, the peace and tranquility you’ll feel once you’ve rid yourself of the excess and clutter will be worth the effort.

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Declutter Your Life is a month-long initiative to help you manage stress and boost your health by learning the principles of banishing clutter and restoring a sense of order to your world.

Bills and junk mail are piling up on your kitchen counter, dirty clothes are spilling out of the hamper onto your bedroom floor, and let’s not even talk about the state of your spare room right now. At some point or another, this has likely been your home. (If not, kudos.) And even if you don’t realize it, the disarray can mess with your mental health.

“If our home, car, and office space feel hunky and disorganized, we tend to feel overwhelmed as if we don’t even know where to start,” says Sherry Benton, PhD, a psychologist who serves as founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect. “Every task, from eating breakfast to driving to work can feel complicated by the mess we are contending with.” The opposite is true, too: “When our space feels put together and tranquil, we feel more tranquil,” she says.

Research backs this up. A 2009 study in The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that women who described their homes as cluttered and stressful were more depressed than those who described them as restorative spaces. This isn’t surprising, considering plenty of studies have linked a tidier home to healthier habits—like exercising and making smart snack choices—which can really pay off for your overall health and outlook.

The problem, Benton points out, is that the relationship between your mind and your living space is often circular. “When someone is anxious, depressed, or has some sort of ADD, it can be difficult to focus on organizing one’s space.” In fact, hoarding is often a symptom of mental illness, such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (Are you depressed or just bummed out? Take this quiz to find out.)

10 silent signals you’re way too stressed out:

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But for the average person, how much mess is mood-wrecking? That all depends on your personal comfort level. “Many people have areas they really want to have organized and other areas where this is less of a concern,” says Benton. “For example, I really like having my spice rack in alphabetical order, which drove my husband nuts for years. I rarely even think about organization (or lack thereof) in the garage, but he’s very particular about it.”

Take note of the clutter zones that heighten your stress or hinder your daily routine, brush up on these five no-fail decluttering strategies from a professional organizer, and schedule some time to start tidying. We know the task seems daunting, so we found inspiring transformations of six spots throughout the house that will show you exactly what to do.

Laundry room

Kristen Erickson

You don’t want to spend tons of time in the laundry room, which is precisely why you should take some time to declutter it. Sorting your cleaning products and designating bins for each clothing color or washing category will help you get in and out of there more quickly. Even if you’re dealing with a laundry closet rather than a whole room, this makeover by blogger Kristen Erickson proves it’s possible to make the most of the space you have.

For less than $100, Erickson freshened up her laundry closet’s walls and installed a hanging rod and a more functional shelving unit from Pottery Barn, which she found on Craigslist for just $50. (A hanging organizer that comes with baskets, like this one from Walmart, would also work well.) Here are three ideas to steal:

  1. Hide clutter. Erickson found baskets at Target for $5 each that fit perfectly into her shelving unit (here’s a 4-piece set of similar shelf baskets for $28 on amazon.com), and she neatly stashes dryer sheets and extra toilet paper in them.
  2. Put essentials within reach. And consider storing liquids like laundry detergent and softener in clear beverage dispensers (like this one, $20, target.com) to keep tabs on exactly how much you have left.
  3. Add the right color. Painting your laundry room a soothing hue, like soft green or eggshell, can help you relax while doing chores. A Minnesota State University study found that subjects in red rooms felt more stressed than those in green or white rooms.

MORE: 7 Simple Changes To Your Home That Fight Depression

Kitchen

NEAT Method

More specifically, the pantry. With limited space, it’s easy to cram cans and packaged items in wherever they fit, but giving your shelves a sense of order can help you choose healthier foods to eat and make meal prep less stressful. (Trying to lose weight? Here’s how to organize your kitchen for success.)

Consider the amazing overhaul shown above. “The biggest issue with this pantry before it was organized is that its deep shelves make it easy for items to hide in the way back until far beyond their expiration date,” says Marissa Hagmeyer, professional organizer and CMO of NEAT Method. To make things easier to locate, NEAT Method created categories based off foods the client typically has. “Labeling is a must so that you can easily maintain the system that NEAT puts in place, and to save you time when putting away the groceries and making dinner,” she says. If you don’t want to hire a professional, keep these tips from Hagmeyer in mind:

  1. Categorize. Come up with groupings that suit your stock, but avoid making them so narrow that they exclude new purchases. For instance, a “grains” category is more all-encompassing than just “rice.”
  2. Buy organizing tools. Storage baskets and canisters “will help you contain your items and keep them fresh longer,” Hagmeyer says. Airtight canisters, like the ones in this 4-piece OXO set ($22, target.com), are great for storing dry goods like flour and sugar. (These 11 products can also help keep your kitchen and pantry clutter-free.)
  3. Maintain. Purge expired items regularly, and always put things away in their assigned categories.

Bathroom

Rebecca Huff

This room is tricky. Chances are, you’re dealing with a slew of products, sometimes for multiple family members, yet only so much space to store everything. Strategically tidying your bathroom shelves, drawers, and under-the-sink storage can help you corral all of these items in a way that’s convenient for everyone. And it shouldn’t take you all day to do so: Rebecca Huff, a.k.a. That Organic Mom, organized her master bathroom above in just two hours (see pics of her full decluttering here.) Here’s how she did it:

  1. Remove, sort, replace. Go through all your health and beauty products and keep only what you use. “I had three sets of makeup brushes even though I only used the same few brushes while other ones never got used,” Huff writes. (Here’s exactly how to organize your medicine cabinet—and what to toss.)
  2. Get thrifty. Huff uses a hanging shoe organizer on the bathroom door to store hair styling tools and products. “This door stays open most of the time, so it really is out of sight until I need it,” she writes.
  3. Buy more baskets. It’s Huff’s favorite way to give her bathroom shelves a minimalist look while still having her products close at hand. (Digging the ones you see above? Nab a similar set at Walmart.com for $30.)

Bedroom

Unclutter It/Bridget Stralko

Plenty of sleep is critical for maintaining good health—without enough, studies show you’re actually more likely to develop depression and anxiety, as well as heart disease and diabetes. And a closet that’s close to bursting probably isn’t giving you the peaceful vibes you need to snooze soundly. (This is what the perfect bedroom for a great night’s sleep looks like.) To control the chaos in this client’s bedroom (without getting rid of any clothes!) professional organizer Bridget Stralko of Unclutter It used the simplest of tactics:

  1. Add a shelf. An extra row of vertical storage moved homeless items up and out of the way.
  2. Stow away by season. Stralko stashed off-season shoes in a plastic bin to keep them off the floor. No room in the closet? These genius shoe bins with wheels ($23, thecontainerstore.com) slide neatly under your bed.
  3. File fold. This folding method, popularized by The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, allows you to fit more clothes into drawers using less space. (Here’s how this method helped one writer declutter her wardrobe and save money.)

Storage space

NEAT Method

Does the before picture look familiar? “A lot of times spare rooms are the ones that we rarely step foot in, so it is easy to let those become your dumping ground,” says Hagmeyer. “Even though the clutter is often behind a closed door, it still weighs on us because we know it needs to get dealt with eventually.”

To motivate yourself to deal with the clutter now, imagine how you could better use that spare room. For instance, NEAT Method helped this particular clutter-bug turn her storage area into a craft space. Perhaps you’ve always intended to use yours as a home office, playroom, or workout area. Here’s how to make that happen:

  1. Start from scratch. “You should start by taking everything out and purging as you go,” says Hagmeyer. This could take you all day (or more) but will save you time in the long run.
  2. Use vertical space. The floor-to-ceiling shelving unit in this craft room turned an entire wall into a sorting hub. Hanging scissors and other tools keeps them visible, so they’re easy to locate.
  3. Sort and label. Just like in the pantry, categorizing items in the spare room according to your needs takes your storage from chaotic to functional. Make your life easier and buy a good labeler (like this one for $35, amazon.com).

Office

Melissa George

Now that your spare room is office-ready, check out how Melissa George of Polished Habitat decluttered her desktop. Science says a messy workspace can be distracting, so keeping your workspace tidy may boost your productivity—and ease your to-do list anxiety. Begin by clearing everything off your desk: “I do a way better job weeding out unnecessary items if I start each organizing project as a blank slate instead of trying to rearrange things,” George notes. Then try these organizing hacks:

  1. Create a system. Do this based on what you have to file away. For instance, George uses wire files to categorize notebooks, catalogs, and current magazines. “Now when new magazines come, I can put them right in the file, and they won’t get lost around the house,” she writes.
  2. Corral odds and ends. A cheery turquoise box now stores George’s pens, Post-Its, and other miscellaneous office supplies, so they’re not scattered across her desk.
  3. Make it your style. George ordered customized binders with gold dots and made her own clay bowls to store loose paperclips and binder clips. “Considering that I spend hours a day at my desk, I wanted it to be a pretty spot that made me smile. And now it does!” (See more detailed pics of her desk decluttering here).

zen habits : breathe

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” – Albert Einstein

By Leo Babauta

I’ve written a lot about simplicity and decluttering (I can’t help it — I’m passionate about it!) and I’ve noticed that a lot of readers share my ideal of having an uncluttered home or workplace, but don’t know where to start.

When your home is filled with clutter, trying to tackle a mountain of stuff can be quite overwhelming.

So here’s my advice: start with just five minutes. Baby steps are important. Sure, five minutes won’t barely make a dent in your mountain, but it’s a start. Celebrate when you’ve made that start!

Then take another five minutes tomorrow. And another the next day. Before you know it, you’ll have cleared a whole closet or a room and then half your house and then … who knows? Maybe before long your house will be even more uncluttered than mine. We’ll have a challenge!

For those who are overwhelmed by their clutter, here are some great ways to get started, five minutes at a time.

  1. Designate a spot for incoming papers. Papers often account for a lot of our clutter. This is because we put them in different spots — on the counter, on the table, on our desk, in a drawer, on top of our dresser, in our car. No wonder we can’t find anything! Designate an in-box tray or spot in your home (or at your office, for that matter) and don’t put down papers anywhere but that spot. Got mail? Put it in the inbox. Got school papers? Put it in the inbox. Receipts, warranties, manuals, notices, flyers? In the inbox! This one little change can really transform your paperwork.
  2. Start clearing a starting zone. What you want to do is clear one area. This is your no-clutter zone. It can be a counter, or your kitchen table, or the three-foot perimeter around your couch. Wherever you start, make a rule: nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything must be put away. Once you have that clutter-free zone, keep it that way! Now, each day, slowly expand your no-clutter zone until it envelopes the whole house! Unfortunately, the neighbors don’t seem to like it when you try to expand the no-clutter zone to their house, and start hauling away their unused exercise equipment and torn underwear when they’re not at home. Some people don’t appreciate simplicity, I guess.
  3. Clear off a counter. You want to get your house so that all flat spaces are clear of clutter. Maybe they have a toaster on them, maybe a decorative candle, but not a lot of clutter. So start with one counter. Clear off everything possible, except maybe one or two essential things. Have a blender you haven’t used since jazzercise was all the rage? Put it in the cupboard! Clear off all papers and all the other junk you’ve been tossing on the counter too.
  4. Pick a shelf. Now that you’ve done a counter, try a shelf. It doesn’t matter what shelf. Could be a shelf in a closet, or on a bookshelf. Don’t tackle the whole bookshelf — just one shelf. Clear all non-essential things and leave it looking neat and clutter-free.
  5. Schedule a decluttering weekend. Maybe you don’t feel like doing a huge decluttering session right now. But if you take the time to schedule it for later this month, you can clear your schedule, and if you have a family, get them involved too. The more hands pitching in, the better. Get boxes and trash bags ready, and plan a trip to a charity to drop off donated items. You might not get the entire house decluttered during the weekend, but you’ll probably make great progress.
  6. Pick up 5 things, and find places for them. These should be things that you actually use, but that you just seem to put anywhere, because they don’t have good places. If you don’t know exactly where things belong, you have to designate a good spot. Take a minute to think it through — where would be a good spot? Then always put those things in those spots when you’re done using them. Do this for everything in your home, a few things at a time.
  7. Spend a few minutes visualizing the room. When I’m decluttering, I like to take a moment to take a look at a room, and think about how I want it to look. What are the most essential pieces of furniture? What doesn’t belong in the room but has just gravitated there? What is on the floor (hint: only furniture and rugs belong there) and what is on the other flat surfaces? Once I’ve visualized how the room will look uncluttered, and figured out what is essential, I get rid of the rest.
  8. Create a “maybe” box. Sometimes when you’re going through a pile of stuff, you know exactly what to keep (the stuff you love and use) and what to trash or donate. But then there’s the stuff you don’t use, but think you might want it or need it someday. You can’t bear to get rid of that stuff! So create a “maybe” box, and put this stuff there. Then store the box somewhere hidden, out of the way. Put a note on your calendar six months from now to look in the box. Then pull it out, six months later, and see if it’s anything you really needed. Usually, you can just dump the whole box, because you never needed that stuff.
  9. Put a load in your car for charity. If you’ve decluttered a bunch of stuff, you might have a “to donate” pile that’s just taking up space in a corner of your room. Take a few minutes to box it up and put it in your trunk. Then tomorrow, drop it off.
  10. Create a 30-day list. The problem with decluttering is that we can declutter our butts off (don’t actually try that — it’s painful) but it just comes back because we buy more stuff. So fight that tendency by nipping it in the bud: don’t buy the stuff in the first place. Take a minute to create a 30-day list, and every time you want to buy something that’s not absolutely necessary (and no, that new Macbook Air isn’t absolutely necessary), put it on the list with the date it was added to the list. Make a rule never to buy anything (except necessities) unless they’ve been on the list for 30 days. Often you’ll lose the urge to buy the stuff and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and clutter.
  11. Teach your kids where things belong. This only applies to the parents among us, of course, but if you teach your kids where things go, and start teaching them the habit of putting them there, you’ll go a long way to keeping your house uncluttered. Of course, they won’t learn the habit overnight, so you’ll have to be very very patient with them and just keep teaching them until they’ve got it. And better yet, set the example for them and get into the habit yourself.
  12. Set up some simple folders. Sometimes our papers pile up high because we don’t have good places to put them. Create some simple folders with labels for your major bills and similar paperwork. Put them in one spot. Your system doesn’t have to be complete, but keep some extra folders and labels in case you need to quickly create a new file.
  13. Learn to file quickly. Once you’ve created your simple filing system, you just need to learn to use it regularly. Take a handful of papers from your pile, or your inbox, and go through them one at a time, starting from the top paper and working down. Make quick decisions: trash them, file them immediately, or make a note of the action required and put them in an “action” file. Don’t put anything back on the pile, and don’t put them anywhere but in a folder (and no cheating “to be filed” folders!) or in the trash/recycling bin.
  14. Pull out some clothes you don’t wear. As you’re getting ready for work, and going through your closet for something to wear, spend a few minutes pulling out ones you haven’t worn in a few months. If they’re seasonal clothes, store them in a box. Get rid of the rest. Do this a little at a time until your closet (and then your drawers) only contains stuff you actually wear.
  15. Clear out your medicine cabinet. If you don’t have one spot for medicines, create one now. Go through everything for the outdated medicines, the stuff you’ll never use again, the dirty-looking bandages, the creams that you’ve found you’re allergic to, the ointments that never had an effect on your energy or your eye wrinkles. Simplify to the essential.
  16. Pull everything out of a drawer. Just take the drawer out and empty it on a table. Then sort the drawer into three piles: 1) stuff that really should go in the drawer; 2) stuff that belongs elsewhere; 3) stuff to get rid of. Clean the drawer out nice, then put the stuff in the first pile back neatly and orderly. Deal with the other piles immediately!
  17. Learn to love the uncluttered look. Once you’ve gotten an area decluttered, you should take the time to enjoy that look. It’s a lovely look. Make that your standard! Learn to hate clutter! Then catch clutter and kill it wherever it crops up.
  18. Have a conversation with your SO or roommate. Sometimes the problem isn’t just with us, it’s with the person or people we live with. An uncluttered home is the result of a shared philosophy of simplicity of all the people living in the house. If you take a few minutes to explain that you really want to have an uncluttered house, and that you could use their help, you can go a long way to getting to that point. Try to be persuasive and encouraging rather than nagging and negative. Read more about living with a pack rat.

“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.” – Donald Horban

Ready to Learn How to Declutter? First, Remain Calm!

Even though your time is limited, that doesn’t mean you should go into panic mode, rushing into decluttering all the rooms at once in the name of getting the project finished fast. In fact, most pro organizers agree that this is the worst mistake you could make. Without a focused strategy, you’ll only accomplish little in each room.

The easiest way to go about this is with a list-based plan.

Simply list all the rooms in your home or apartment in order of messiness. In a smaller space? Divide your place into “zones.” Plan to start with the least-cluttered room or zone first, or, from the tiniest room to the biggest room.

Don’t go to stock up on bins, boxes, and other organizing supplies just yet. Marie Kondo and other professional organizers recommend that you hold off on buying organizers until after you’ve decluttered your space.

Here are the items you need at a minimum:

  • Rolls of large heavy-duty garbage bags for household trash and also for donations.
  • 2 large bins or boxes each marked “keep” and “donate,” for sorting potential donations.
  • A dust mask (especially helpful for closets and dealing with lots of clothes).

Got a family? Assign each a plastic bin in a bright color. As you clean, their misplaced item goes in the bin. Not necessary but helpful: A bunch of podcasts to listen to while you clean. If you want to stay on the theme of organizing, download The Minimalists Podcast or Organizing Mindfully podcast.

For a much more entertaining distraction, load up on episodes of interview-based podcasts like How To Be Amazing With Michael Ian Black and NPR’s Bullseye With Jesse Thorn.

A crucial part of planning is knowing where you can bring donations of the (many) things you’ll realize you no longer need.

The Thrift Shopper has a search engine that lists all the thrift stores by zip code in your area. Look to goodwill.org or salvationarmy.org to locate a thrift shop nearby, and see what they do and don’t accept. For instance, some places won’t accept old tube-style televisions, VHS tapes, or records.

The hardest part of decluttering is getting started.

This is why we’re fans of the “timer trick.” It’s a favorite method for productivity and organization bloggers because it gives you a structured chunk of time to focus solely on cleaning. Just set a timer for 15 minutes, and devote the time to one step of the cleaning process. After all, anyone can do anything for 15 minutes, right? Repeat until your house is clutter-free.

Source: (Chastity Cortijo / Unsplash)

Start Decluttering in the Bathroom

Kicking off your decluttering bonanza in the bathroom is highly recommended. Why? Because it’s usually the smallest room of the house and therefore easiest to clean. From here, start with what organizing blogger Dana K. White of A Slob Comes Clean calls “Easy Stuff”: Things within the room that belong somewhere else.

From here:

  • Pick up clothes. Chances are, you or someone you love has a tendency to miss the hamper. Fill a laundry basket with these orphaned items, then return them to their proper room.
  • Move on to the vanity/sink area. Throw out any and all expired items (make-up, hair products, and other toiletries) away, because suddenly deciding to use a tube of moisturizer from 5 years ago can only end in heartache.
    • Special note: You’re likely to find expired medicine, which has its own protocol. The FDA says to first see if your community has a “drug take-back” program specifically for expired medications. If not, throwing medication in the trash is your next best bet. The exception is for medication that indicates it should be flushed if not used by the person to which is was prescribed. Here’s the list of those medications.
  • Declutter the shower/bathtub area. Move toiletries to the cabinets, or toss empty bottles into the recycling bin. Fold towels and place on hooks or towel bars.
  • Clean it out. You know what to do: Spray shower/bath with cleaning product, clean mirror, clean vanity, clean floor, and most importantly, clean the toilet.

Decluttering Tips for the Bedroom

Like the bathroom, you’ll be surprised to find that much of what’s cluttering up your bedroom is “Easy Stuff.” Think: Books on your nightstand, rogue tissues, clothes that should be in your closet, and any random towels that were carelessly tossed aside during your harried morning routine.

Start with the bed — and bed-adjacent areas. Make the bed so you have a clear surface to rest laundry baskets, etc. Clear off the nightstand, clear the space next to the bed, then go underneath the bed. Most of this will be the aforementioned “Easy Stuff.”

Don’t Dwell on Clothes:

Though your closet is here, that’s a separate zone to tackle next. Toss clothes in laundry baskets, or fold and put back in bureau.

Collect and toss “floordrobe” clothes into laundry baskets. Though your closet is in this room, that’s a separate zone to tackle next. Instead, round up all the clothes that are on the floor and place in a laundry basket.

Sort Through Photos and Decor

A lot of tchotchkes (souvenirs, photos, frames, etc) end up in the bedroom, covering bureaus and nightstands. This makes the room feel more cluttered than decorated, meaning you can likely donate anything you don’t have a strong attachment to.

Clean the Bedroom from Top to Bottom

Finish with dusting surfaces and blinds, cleaning windows, vacuuming, and laundry.

Do a Load of Laundry

Chances are, the “floordrobe” clothes are more casual items that can be washed together. Otherwise, take a few extra minutes to separate lights from darks, then launder accordingly.

Source: (Roberto Nickson / Unsplash)

Next on the Declutter Checklist: The Closet

Most of us have more clothes than we can manage, making it the top source of clutter. The main challenge here is getting rid of old, outdated stuff.

Donate all clothes that don’t fit and freebies you’ve never worn. Again, start with the easy decisions, like those promotional tees from events and jeans that haven’t fit since college.

Off to the donation bin they go. (Using one of the big garbage bags is highly recommended, because it’s likely that you’ll fill it with ease.) Work fast, spending no more than 3 seconds deciding on whether or not to keep a garment.

Be picky about sentimental items. You can easily lose a whole day in a nostalgia wormhole about a shirt you haven’t seen since middle school, or the random vintage cocktail dress you bought during a road trip with friends (and have never worn), the hand-me-down from your sister, or, worse, your ex’s jacket that you never were able to part with.

Professional organizer Andrew Mellen recommends paying close attention to these moments — namely, “the story you tell yourself” when you’re assessing whether or not to keep an item.

“The story you may be telling yourself about it being cool or how exciting the hunt to find it was and what a treasure you picked up for a song or how much fun you had when you were drinking cocktails with your friends are all good stories,” he says. “They just might not need to be stories you’re still telling yourself.”

In other words, you might be holding on to an item for fear of losing a memory. It’s time to let go and trust yourself to remember the good (or forget the bad). To curb the odds of getting off-track, first loosely categorize clothing by type, tossing t-shirts/tops in one pile, bottoms/jeans in another, and so on. Then, take 15 minutes per pile to make your decisions.

Maximize space with storage. This is one place where you might need to pick up storage for at the end of your cleaning day. Open bins (preferably covered in a nice fabric) can go on the top rack of your closet to house t-shirts, workout gear, and infrequently-used accessories. You might want to pick up a low rack for shoes, or even a large basket (better for sandals, sneakers, and other casual shoes).

Once you purchase these items, budget 15 minutes to fold roll and “file” items for the bins, and then 15 minutes to arrange shoes on the rack.

The Best Way to Declutter the Living Room and Dining RoomBills, magazines, coats that don’t fit in the closet–the living room and dining room are both areas ripe for attracting clutter.

  • Start with trash/recycling. Old magazines get tossed in the recycling bin, random bills get tossed in a “to shred” pile. If you have a lot of either of these categories, take 15 minutes to find all the magazines/catalogs, 15 minutes for bills and other to-shred items, then 15 minutes for trash.
  • Use the bin method. Using the color-coded bins for family members you picked up earlier, do a sweep of the living room area, placing misplaced items in the bin of their rightful owner. Budget a time window of 15 minutes per family member.
  • Handle sentimental items with care. From that vase given to you as a wedding gift to the heirloom soup tureen handed down to you from Great Aunt Gertie, the living room and dining room might have its fair share of sentimental clutter. Unfortunately, letting go of these never-used space-hogging items isn’t easy.
  • Once you start thinking about the history behind the item, your guilt can lead to hours of indecision. Designer Heather Higgins of Higgins Design Studio suggests balancing the personal with the pragmatic.

“There is a sense of loss in letting go of memory-filled belongings,” she says. “We all need to incorporate elements into our home that represent our past, present and what we anticipate to be our future life. In order to do this successfully, the right mindset is crucial. We need a clear understanding of our real personal needs and priorities, in addition to a well-edited list of things we cannot live without.”

If you find yourself stuck, pick up an under-the-bed storage box and temporarily house these sentimental odds-and-ends until there’s a little more time to go through everything.

To break this down into more manageable chunks of time, take 15 minutes to find all sentimental items (place them all on a clean surface, like a table), 15 minutes to decide what stays and what gets donated, then 15 minutes to store or put away the remainder.

Tidy up the bookcases. This one’s relatively easy, involving little more than straightening rows and returning books to their shelves. If you have time, take 15 minutes to “weed” the old, outdated books off your shelf and into a donation bag.

Source: (Aaron Huber / Unsplash)

How to Declutter the Kitchen

It’s a daily disaster zone — one minute it’s clean, the next the counters are barely visible. How does this happen? No one knows. Since it’s a daily struggle, it’s best to leave this room towards the end.

  • Toss the inedibles. Start with the fridge/freezer; then move on to cabinets and pantry, throwing out anything gross or mysterious. Spend a maximum of 15 minutes per shelf (including time spent for cleaning any old spills).
  • Fill a donate box. Marie Kondo recommends going through each drawer and cabinet and tossing any infrequently-used cooking tool, pot, pan, dish, or glass into one of your donation boxes. Skip this if you’re short on time and put it on your to-do list for later.
  • Clear the counters. This will generally mean trash and misplaced items, but it also means that tin of coffee (back to the pantry) and even appliances. Becoming Minimalist explains it this way: Your toaster is, at most, used for 5 minutes a day, so it’s really taking up valuable counter space the rest of the 23 hours, 55 minutes. Then, clear off the last surface of the room: The refrigerator door. Take 15 minutes per section of countertop, then 15 minutes to remove everything on the refrigerator door and give it a once-over with the spray cleaner of your choice.

Declutter Office Space, the Entryway, and Hallway

These spaces have one thing in common: paper clutter. There shouldn’t be piles of unsorted papers in the first place, says Mellen. Pick up a pile and get ruthless. “W2s are not the same as old greeting cards. Keep the returns, toss the W2s.

Greeting cards with nothing more than a scribble in them have done their job — someone was thinking of you at a particular time and let you know it,” he says. “If they haven’t written anything significant, the moment has passed and you can let go.” Sorting through the mess can take a considerable amount of time, so if you’re stuck here, place the cards or puzzling paperwork in a folder (or attractive storage boxes if you have a lot more) and hide it away for another day.

Congrats! You Just Learned How to Declutter Your Home Fast

Within the span of 2-3 days, you’ve organized your home before the big open house. All you need to do now is take your donations to the thrift store, do a little cleaning of any dirty spots, vacuum, and get ready for the offers to roll right in.

Article Image Source: (NeONBRAND / Unsplash)

Is it fair to say the majority of us spend our days rushing around, struggling to get everything on our to-do lists done and at the same time attempting to be healthy, mindful and stressfree?

We overwhelm ourselves with unachievable lists and then feel guilty when we can’t complete them.

When it comes to decluttering your home it’s usually seen as a task that we need to put many hours or days aside for. Your precious spare time spent surrounded by clutter and chaos only to get bored or bogged down and give up after five hours of sorting?

I’m telling you this is not the way if you are, like most of the nation time poor and living a fast-paced and full life.

MORE: 8 RULES FOR DITCHING SENTIMENTAL CLUTTER

Cleansing our homes of unwanted and unused ‘stuff’ is a vital part of keeping control of your life, creating headspace and maintaining a positive wellbeing.

The saying I use is ‘It starts at home’ because I believe if your home is in order (I’m not talking minimalistic) but to a friendly level of organisation, then your mind WILL function better.

There are studies which show the impact clutter has not only on our productivity but the obvious negative effect on our stress and anxiety levels too.

I believe that you are more likely to go running if your work out drawer is tidy, more likely to stick to that healthy new start if you have decluttered your kitchen and more likely to complete a list of things you need to get done if your surroundings have a level of calm.

So, the steps to gaining control back of your home:

MORE: 14 THINGS IN YOUR KITCHEN TO GET RID OF NOW

1. Stop seeing this job as one giant task.

You do not have to get all of this done in one day – infact you are more likely to stop and give up or even not start at all because you have built it up in your head.

2. Realise that by doing 20-30 minute spurts of work will mean you are more likely to continue the good work.

Little and often each day is enough to make a big difference in a matter of weeks.

3. Only start a job you can complete.

DO not overwhelm yourself.

4. It takes longer than you think to PROPERLY declutter and organise a room.

That’s why starting small in a cupboard or drawer is the way forward if like many you lead a hectic life.

5. Start with your sock drawer

Waking up in the morning to a fresh clean start gives you a buzz even if you think it’s unimportant. It spurs you on to start the next task.

(Picture’s Getty)

Vicky Silverthorn’s book Start With The Sock Drawer (And The Rest Will Follow) is out now published by Little Brown.

MORE: 10 TIPS TO STORING CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS