HOW TO DECLUTTER YOUR HOME AND LIFE
Clearing clutter is often the first step to creating a simpler life, with more time, more ease and less stress. Decluttering isn’t always easy but this guide provides some helpful tips on how to declutter your home and life and make space for what matters most to you.
A HELPFUL GUIDE TO DECLUTTERING
Decluttering your home and life creates space, time and freedom. In today’s busy world, it seems more and more of us are looking for ways to ease the load, reduce our stress, make life easier and pull back from the chasing, doing and achieving.
Decluttering is becoming increasingly popular. Clearing clutter makes us feel good and it’s often the first step to a simpler life. Yet, decluttering isn’t always easy.
For me, it was definitely a case of trial and error, a few false starts and lots of detours along the way!
I thought it might be helpful to create this beginner’s guide on how to declutter your home and life. I hope it breaks down the what, why and how of decluttering. I also hope this guide makes it easier for you to try clearing your clutter for yourself (without making the same mistakes I made!) and overcome some common decluttering problems.
I’ve included plenty of links to further reading which you can explore if you’d like to read more on a particular topic.
I’ll also be updating this guide regularly so make sure you check back every now and then for any new information.
WHY I BEGAN DECLUTTERING
My own decluttering journey started out when I spent a weekend decluttering my clothes.
I’d had enough of not being able to find anything to wear, throwing on clothes that I didn’t really feel good in as I ran out of time to get dressed in the busy mornings. I was frustrated that juggling family and work left me little time to make myself look good and more importantly, feel good, each morning.
I was stressed out and worn out. Of course, it wasn’t really just about my clothes, but life in general. The frustration I was feeling was just an outward sign of an underlying problem. Things needed to change!
Decluttering my wardrobe bought about instant benefits. I could choose my clothes quicker, knowing that whatever I pulled from my closet was something I’d like to wear and feel good wearing. Not only was it quicker, it was easier, more enjoyable and much less frustrating!
I loved the impact of this small decluttering project so, over time, I carried on decluttering the rest of my home – the bathroom, kitchen, living room, bedrooms, toys and so on.
Little by little, I began to notice some big differences, not just in my home, but in other areas of my life too.
Owning less stuff created more time, space and energy for other things that I wanted to do instead and a better life for myself and my family.
Decluttering was the first, vital step. If you’d like to explore decluttering for yourself, I hope the ideas and tips that follow will help guide you through the decluttering process in a way that feels right for you.
WHAT WE’LL COVER
To help you find the information you need, here’s a list of topics we’ll cover in this decluttering guide…
- What is decluttering? Keeping what’s important and letting go of the rest
- What are the benefits of decluttering? More space, calm and clarity
- How do you start decluttering? Little tips to make decluttering easier
- What to do before decluttering? How to plan and prepare
- How do you know what to declutter? Ask yourself some simple questions
- How to declutter when you don’t have time? Tips to declutter quickly and easily
- How to declutter when you feel stuck? Getting past the overwhelm
- How to overcome decluttering problems? Solutions to common problems
- How to decide what to do with the stuff you’ve decluttered? Plan the options ahead
- Why decluttering doesn’t have to be perfect? Progress not perfection
- How to declutter the rest of your life? Living a clutter-free life
- How to stay clutter-free? Keeping the clutter away for good
- Free decluttering challenges. To keep you motivated and on focus
- Resources for decluttering. Resources to help you declutter your home and life
1. WHAT IS DECLUTTERING?
Decluttering is the act of getting rid of stuff, the excess, the things that you no longer need, want, appreciate or serve a purpose to you in some way.
It could be decluttering your home to remove the extra stuff that takes up your physical space. Or it could be decluttering your mind to give you mental clarity and focus. Maybe you could declutter your schedule to create some extra free time or declutter your finances to streamline what goes out of your bank account each month.
Decluttering is a way of simplifying your home, time and life by keeping what’s important and getting rid of or letting go of the rest.
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”Leo Babauta
2. WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF DECLUTTERING?
There are so many benefits of decluttering your home and life. Perhaps this is why it’s become increasingly popular over the past few years as many of us search for ways to reduce the stress and overwhelm of busy modern life.
Decluttering our homes, for example, creates space and calm. We have less stuff to look after and more free time for other things. With more space and more time comes less stress, more ease and more freedom for the things that we most value.
There are other benefits of a decluttered home including it functioning better, it’s easier to find and put away things and it often encourages us to take pride in and look after our homes better.
Decluttering is the first step that many people take when simplifying their lives. It’s the way that most of us can see and feel the quickest and biggest difference and it’s the springboard to a life that’s fuller in every way (just without so much stuff!).
An interesting way to consider the benefits of decluttering is to consider the messages your stuff sends out. Every item in your home contributes to, as Fumio Sasaki calls it, your Silent To Do List.
Decluttering is also better than organising. Although it helps to organise what you have left, decluttering first will mean you have less to organise in the first place! Learn more about why you should declutter instead of organise!
“Once we let go of the things that don’t matter, we discover all the things that really do.”Joshua Becker
Suggested reading: If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of decluttering and what you’ll gain by living with less, here are some helpful articles…
- The benefits of decluttering your home and life
- 20 reasons to own less stuff – don’t just declutter, de-own instead
- 10 reasons to declutter your home
- The cost of clutter: What is your clutter costing you?
3. HOW DO YOU START DECLUTTERING?
Decluttering isn’t always easy. There are so many reasons why we get attached to our stuff or have too much of it and sometimes it’s difficult to know where or how to start clearing it.
If this feels familiar to you, take heart as you’re definitely not alone and there are some helpful tips and strategies to make it easier to get started.
Deciding where to start decluttering or which room to declutter first is an important one, especially if you think you’re going to find it difficult. Ideally, you want to start decluttering in an easy place, such as the bathroom, with as few items as possible to hold you up so you can practice decluttering and build confidence and momentum.
If decluttering feels scary or overwhelming, don’t tackle difficult places with lots of stuff such as the attic or garage or where you’ll be sifting through items with emotional attachment such as old photos. Leave these places until you’ve practiced decluttering!
Here are 20 easy ways to declutter your home to help you get started.
Suggested reading: Here are some articles to help you work out where to start decluttering…
- Where to start decluttering – 6 tips to help you get started
- How to declutter the bathroom – a great place to start and practice your decluttering skills!
- 14 tiny decluttering projects – very small projects for some quick wins
- Decluttering in midlife – how to make midlife decluttering easier
4. WHAT TO DO BEFORE DECLUTTERING
One way to make decluttering easier is to plan and prepare before you even start decluttering. This could be choosing where you’re going to declutter, making sure you have decluttering supplies to hand, or even how you’re going to make decluttering fun and more light-hearted.
For most of us, decluttering isn’t a do-it-once-and-you’re-done kind of project. Clearing clutter and staying clutter-free requires maintenance so it’s helpful to make decluttering as fun and easy as you can wherever possible.
Suggested reading: Here are some articles to help you know what to do before decluttering…
- 11 simple things to do before you start decluttering
- How to make decluttering fun
- How to get into the decluttering mindset
- Decluttering anxiety: Why decluttering makes us feel anxious
5. HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DECLUTTER?
Decluttering is not a precise science and working out what’s clutter and what’s not can take practice and more than a little self-reflection.
For decluttering to be sustainable and beneficial over the longer term, it helps to approach the decluttering process by asking the right decluttering questions. Decluttering is about working out what’s important to you and adds value to your life in some way. It’s not just about getting rid of things for the sake of it.
Understanding why you want to do something is key to making change and making those changes stick. We can all embark on a new project but keeping it up when the enthusiasm wains or we hit an obstacle is much more difficult.
Decluttering is no different. Taking time to reflect on WHY you want to declutter, your decluttering goals and HOW you want things to be different, will help you understand WHAT to declutter. It will also keep you motivated and focused to keep on going.
Here are some examples of decluttering goals to give you some ideas:
- You love arts and crafts but can never find space to work on your project and your materials are all in a jumble so you can’t find what you need or know what you have. Here are some tips on how to declutter art and craft supplies for creativity and joy.
- You want a more relaxing evening routine and to declutter your bedroom to create a better environment to soothe your mind and get better sleep. Here are some tips on how to declutter your bedroom and why it matters.
- You need to downsize and need to declutter before moving so you have less stuff to move, store and look after in your new home.
- You work from home and need to organise your home office space so you’re more productive and efficient.
- You want to declutter your kitchen counters and make it easier and quicker to clean, prepare and cook food in.
“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.”Peter Walsh
It might be helpful to look at the different types of clutter in your home and life so that you can have in mind how to declutter them.
- What is clutter – the different types of clutter and 7 ways to think about your stuff
- How to decide what to declutter
- Decluttering questions – to help you declutter more effectively
6. HOW TO DECLUTTER WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE TIME
Decluttering can take a lot of time if you want it to. For many of us though, setting aside large chunks of time to declutter an entire home might seem a little overwhelming or unrealistic if you have a busy life or you’re not enjoying the process!
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a clutter-free home! It’s about finding (and making use of) little windows of time and having a plan or project that you can get stuck into whenever you have a moment.
- Quick decluttering projects for your home
- How to declutter when you don’t have time to declutter
- How to declutter fast
7. HOW TO DECLUTTER WHEN YOU FEEL STUCK
Decluttering can bring about some fantastic benefits but reaching that point can be tough. It’s very common to lose motivation after the initial burst of enthusiasm, be unsure what step to take next or simply feel a little overwhelmed. Decluttering some items is more difficult than others so here are some tips for decluttering sentimental items or your child’s artwork for example.
If you have a lot of stuff, here are some helpful decluttering tips for hoarders.
Sometimes we get so far with our decluttering and then hit a brick wall. Nothing we do seems to clear the clutter totally. It may be that you’ve got stuck in a decluttering rut, or you haven’t identified things in your home that still make your home look cluttered. Some examples of this could be too many pieces of art on your walls, conflicting patterns and colours or oversized furniture that’s too much or too big for your home.
If you’re struggling, take a break but don’t give up. Just remember that it’s not a race and taking your time to let the changes happen and take effect isn’t such a bad thing. It takes time for clutter to build up so it’s only natural for it to take a little while to clear. Be kind on yourself and remember you’re doing this to make a better life for yourself, even if it seems difficult in the beginning.
- How to declutter when you feel overwhelmed
- How to find simplicity in life (5 powerful tips to clear clutter and live intentionally)
8. HOW TO OVERCOME DECLUTTERING PROBLEMS
What happens if you want to declutter your stuff but your spouse or partner aren’t on board with the idea? I know how this feels because my husband is a hoarder and wasn’t too keen on my clearing out our stuff. Here are some tips I learned on how to declutter when your spouse doesn’t want to.
Maybe you struggle with keeping things ‘just in case’ you need them? We struggled with this too!
What about if you declutter and make a mistake? Read these tips to avoid making common decluttering mistakes.
Clutter isn’t just the obvious stuff that trips us up or blocks our movement from room to room. Don’t forget to check for hidden clutter in drawers, on top of wardrobes and under the bed.
Sometimes we don’t even realise how cluttered our home has become. We get used to seeing piles of paperwork and stuff on the counters and fail to notice them any longer. We work around our clutter and gradually our workable, moveable space shrinks as the mountains of clutter build. This is clutter-blindness.
Decluttering also presents challenges at different ages and stages of life. Perhaps we have the pressures of midlife or you need some extra decluttering tips for seniors if mobility and health problems are a concern. Even getting kids and teenagers to declutter and keep their rooms clean and tidy can be difficult!
9. HOW TO DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH THE STUFF YOU’VE DECLUTTERED
This is also a very common problem. Sometimes we can feel guilty for getting rid of something, wasteful for the money we spent on it, unsure how to donate an item that we’d received as a gift or passed down from an elderly relative.
Deciding what to do with the stuff you’ve decluttered is best done before you’ve even started decluttering. This way you won’t end up with bags full of unwanted items cluttering up your living space. You could donate, recycle, sell or pass on your unwanted items depending on what they are and what condition they’re in.
10. WHY DECLUTTERING DOESN’T HAVE TO BE PERFECT
I sometimes receive questions from readers about how many of each item to keep. Or, what happens if they don’t declutter enough stuff? As I mentioned earlier, decluttering isn’t an exact science and although there are many tips and strategies you can use to help you declutter more effectively, none will help you declutter perfectly – because that’s impossible!
Decluttering doesn’t have to be perfect. Just one less item in your home is one less item to clean and tidy away. You can declutter your home as many times as you’d like until you feel it’s just about right for you.
There’s no need to find the perfect strategy, the perfect decluttering checklist or the perfect number of bags to keep. Do your research then just make a start. Declutter how and when works best for you.
Decluttering progress not perfection – why decluttering doesn’t have to be perfect
11. HOW TO DECLUTTER THE REST OF YOUR LIFE
Clutter has been shown to increase stress levels and reduce focus and concentration. Clearing that clutter therefore brings our stress levels down, creates a little calm and clarity. This doesn’t just apply to your home, but decluttering other areas of your life can have the same benefits just in a different way.
“Clutter is not just physical stuff, it’s old ideas, toxic relationships and bad habits.”Eleanor Brown
You can create a clutter-free life asking yourself the same questions about what’s adding value to your life and dealing with the stuff that’s just clutter and empty padding. You’ll get some wonderful benefits in other ways.
Suggested reading: Here are some other articles to help you declutter different areas of your life…
- 10 things to declutter that aren’t things
- How to declutter your mind
- Decluttering as self-care
- How to get rid of digital clutter
- How to declutter your schedule
- 35 journal prompts for decluttering your home and life with clarity and ease
- 32 practical ways to declutter your life
12. HOW TO STAY CLUTTER-FREE?
Decluttering isn’t a once-and-you’re-done kind of project. Of course you can declutter a room or area and tick it off your list, but I bet it won’t be long before the clutter builds up again!
We can get stuck in a clutter cycle where we declutter but the clutter comes back. So, we declutter again and the clutter builds up. Getting stuck in this perpetual clutter cycle is frustrating and demoralising.
Staying clutter-free for the long-term is more of a challenge. Clutter tries to invade our homes daily. Think of the junk mail through your letter box, emails in your inbox, even the packaging on your food.
This is where it’s helpful to create some gentle and consistent habits, routines and strategies to keep that clutter away.
I also like to do a regular reset of my home every evening to put my home to bed like I would myself. This is a great way to remove the clutter of the day and get your home ready for tomorrow.
From then on, it’s a question of maintaining a clutter-free home without being hyper-vigilant for clutter. After all, a decluttered home and life should actually help you stop thinking about clutter rather than over-thinking it. You might find this article interesting on whether you can declutter too much and what happens when decluttering goes too far.
- 20 daily habits for a clutter-free home
- Clutter hotspots and how to deal with them
- Clutter blindness and how to overcome it
- Clutter creep – what it is and how to prevent it
13. FREE DECLUTTERING CHALLENGES
You might be happy going room to room with a bin bag or box. Yet, for many of us, decluttering is easier when you have a list or action plan.
Try these free challenges to help motivate and focus you (they come with free printables you can download too!):
- How to declutter your home in 30 days
- 100 things to get rid of today to declutter your home
- 365 ways to declutter your home in 365 days
14. RESOURCES FOR DECLUTTERING
If you’d like to explore what decluttering your home and life could mean for you, here are some resources which you might find helpful:
- Simplify Your Home – An easy-access downloadable PDF-format course, workbook and decluttering checklists to help you declutter and run your home on auto-pilot so you can get on with the rest of life. The decluttering checklists are printable and will keep you focused and on track as you declutter each room and area of your home.
- Declutter Starter Kit: A workbook and guide packed with projects and tips to help you start decluttering your home and life – and keep that clutter away!
- 100 Things to Get Rid of Today: A free worksheet with an easy list of 100 things to get rid of today. It’s split into ten sections around your home for some quick results. (Read this post for more information.)
- Wardrobe Declutter Checklist: A free printable to help you declutter your clothes and make your wardrobe work for you and your life, without stress or hassle!
- Decluttering Action Plan: A clear decluttering action plan to help you decide WHAT to declutter, WHEN to do it and HOW. Simple steps for quick, easy decluttering!
I hope this information has been helpful to you. For more articles on decluttering, hop over to the declutter archives.
If you have any questions, please drop me an email at he[email protected] and I’d be happy to help!
YOUR NEXT STEP…
If you’d like to try decluttering for yourself, I’ve put together a free guide and workbook to help you get started. We explore ways you can declutter your own home, solutions to common problems, and how decluttering is just the first step to a simpler life for you.
Pop your details in the box below to get started…
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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!