When you know these 2 basics, it’s not hard to make a real difference in your home. Following an easy step-by-step process will build a healthy habit and get you moving toward your goal of a tidier, less-stressful house for yourself and your family.
1. Trust the process
You’re probably feeling a little overwhelmed, or doubtful, or frustrated right now. Otherwise you wouldn’t be reading about how to start decluttering.
Before anything else, I want to encourage you that you’re on the right track.
You’re not alone. Many, many people have found themselves in the same situation and also found their way out of it.
So can you. And you will, if you follow the basics and stick with it.
Don’t think too far ahead or let negative thoughts distract you. Just follow the steps.
Your main goal right now is to develop a good decluttering habit. As you do, your results will speak for themselves.
2. Pick a target
Where to start decluttering is one of the most common questions people ask. And it does matter how you go about deciding what to declutter next.
Not that there’s a right or wrong, but choosing your projects wisely has real benefits. You’ll see progress faster and be much more likely to stay motivated.
When you’re starting, it’s a good idea to focus on your home’s hot spots, those places where daily clutter seems to naturally collect. This will give you some relief as your daily life will get a little easier and less messy.
Working room-by-room, finishing one before moving on to another, is the best way to approach the rest of your clutter.
See Where to start decluttering below for more details.
3. Declutter in small increments
With most new activities, it pays to start slow and small, then build up over time as we develop our skills. Decluttering is no different.
A small increment can be different things.
It can be a set number of items. For example, you may challenge yourself to declutter 10 items today.
Or it can be a length of time. You might give yourself 15 minutes (or 10 or even 5) to declutter and then stop.
It’s fine to mix and match.
Taking this approach will greatly increase your chances of success, because:
- You’ll find it easier to get yourself started when you know it won’t take too long
- You’ll be able to finish your task in one go, which is a feel-good motivator
- You’ll see how simply you can fit it into your schedule, which is going to be key to your long-term success
4. Focus on visible clutter first
This will make the biggest, fastest impact on your home.
And it will make an immediate improvement in your daily life.
So before you dig into drawers or cabinets, work on the flat surface first. For example, if you’re working your way around the kitchen, do the countertops first. Or if you’re working on a bedroom dresser, do the dresser top first.
Having a space clear of visible clutter will also make it easier when you do deeper decluttering and need to empty items into the room.
5. Do some every day
It’s oh so simple to say, but not always easy to accomplish.
But do at least one small increment of decluttering every day. Some days you’ll feel like more, which is fine.
Whatever you need to do to stay consistent, do it.
One of the best ways to keep on track is to make it a regular daily household task. Fitting it into your schedule the same time every day can help, too.
6. Pick up where you left off
It’s *important* to stay focused.
This means picking up where you left off the last time until a hotspot or a room is finished.
Doing a little decluttering here and there throughout your home as the mood strikes will leave you feeling like you’re not making progress.
Where to start decluttering
It makes sense this is just about the first question that comes to mind when we decide to declutter.
Of all the clutter in our whole house, where should we focus?
Well there are lots of different opinions about exactly where to begin. And I believe there are some good reasons for all of them.
But I’m not going to tell you what room to start with.
I’m going to give you some guidelines so you know how to pick one for yourself.
In the end it doesn’t matter where you start but that you started
What makes a good place to start?
I don’t think that where you start has the power of total success or failure.
But I do think it will greatly affect your progress and motivation.
So here are things to look for as you choose where to put your efforts.
- Consider what will have the biggest impact. We get so used to living around our clutter, that we forget we’re doing it. Take a step back and think about what would make your daily life easier. It could be having a clean, decluttered car that you’re not embarrassed for people to get into. Or an empty kitchen counter where you can make dinner without first clearing a space. Or removing the pile of shoes in your entryway that you need to walk around every day.
- Pick a small, defined space. Remember what we discussed about starting small? For example, say you want to start with your bedroom. Well maybe you’ll begin with your dresser. And you’re going to declutter the flat surface first, then work on drawer by drawer. Keep working one small area at a time.
If you’re not sure what to tackle first, select something from this list.
- Mail pile
- Outside of refrigerator
- Any floor (yes, they need to be decluttered, too)
- Seating area like a sofa
- One section of kitchen counter
- Dining room table
- Coffee and end tables
- Car interior
- Items hanging in the entryway
- Bathroom counter
- Shower/tub area
- Family bulletin board
TIPS for success
There’s no need for you to reinvent the wheel, so here are some tried-and-true tips that have helped many people conquer their clutter.
- Create an out-of-the-way staging area to collect items you’ve decluttered until they can be removed from the house. Once an item is put here it doesn’t come back into your home! Then schedule regular trips to get these items to their new destination.
- Get your family on board and involved with decluttering. But if they’re not convinced yet, be sure not to declutter their things for them.
- Start with low-hanging fruit. In other words, items that are easy to decide what to do with. There’s no need to jump right into dealing with highly emotionally-charged items.
- Don’t stress over where you donate your items. Find a good charity, or person in need, and just do it. But don’t wait to find the perfect one every time. You’ll learn about more options as your decluttering continues.
Decluttering can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Start small, go step-by-step, be consistent, and follow some easy guidelines. That’s it. Your confidence and skills will build as you go!