Decluttering feels like it should be easy. Some people definitely find it easier than others. If you’re new to the whole subject of decluttering or want to know how and what to declutter, then check out this post – the complete guide on how to declutter your home. It will teach you the what, why and how of decluttering your home. It’s everything you need to get started so you can try it for yourself!
Why is decluttering so popular?
Firstly, let me ask you some questions.
What do you feel when you walk in through your front door? Are you pleased to be home or do you want to turn around and go straight back out?
Do you dread visitors dropping by unexpectedly because of the mess? Do you struggle to keep it clean and tidy? Are you always clearing up toys and other stuff throughout the day?
Your home should be a place where you and your family love to be – safe and secure, comfortable and relaxed. It should represent you and your personality and allow everyone in it to literally ‘feel at home’.
If you’re constantly picking up stuff and feel overwhelmed by the clutter, then your home is probably feeling more of a burden than a joy.
Are you able to do a quick pick-up a couple of times a day to keep the house looking and feeling good, or is it a constant battle all day long (which often doesn’t end until way after the kids are in bed).
Wouldn’t it be better to spend your time building that Lego with the kids, or relaxing with a book, than constantly stressing about the state of your home and what you need to do to it?
Scientific studies on the benefits of decluttering
Over the past few years there have been several studies around the impact of clutter on mental health and emotional well-being.
The consensus is that when an environment is cluttered, the chaos restricts focus and limits your brain’s ability to process information. Clutter has also been found to raise cortisol levels and leads to stress and depression.
By simplifying your life and decluttering your home, you can lessen the stress and make your life happier and more fulfilled.
If you do an internet search on the psychological effects of clutter, you’ll come up with lots of research and studies summising that less clutter = less stress.
So, what is decluttering?
In a nutshell, decluttering your home means removing all the stuff that your family don’t use, no longer need and get no enjoyment from.
When you declutter your home, you end up with less stuff generally.
It’s easier to keep tidy, clean and to look after. A constant battle to keep things organised becomes a quick 10 or 20 minutes every now and then.
You’re no longer dreading visitors dropping by unannounced. You can create some time for yourself to learn a new skill or take a long bath instead of tearing your hair out clearing up the toys and kitchen dishes that have built up throughout the day.
You can play with the kids and have fun, instead of worrying about the state of the house and the chores you must do.
How do I declutter?
So now you know the why and what of decluttering, let’s look at how you would start to declutter.
Some people find it easy to follow a set of instructions, be motivated and take action straightaway. Others find it very difficult. Some people embrace decluttering from the start. Others take time to warm up until they see the benefits. Some people have a lot of clutter to sort through. Others just need to make minor adjustments.
The challenges and opportunities of decluttering your home are different for everyone, depending on your starting point, motivation and end goal.
However, no matter what your level of expertise and skill in these areas, everybody works better when they at least know how they’re going to do something.
You need an action plan!
Most people choose a place to start (which we’ll cover a bit further on) and then carry on through their home, looking at every room, area and category/type of stuff in turn.
You’ll find some rooms and types of stuff are easier to declutter than others. So if you’re new to all this, or find decluttering really difficult, then I suggest you pick an easy place to start, such as the bathroom. Don’t launch straight into more difficult areas like the attic or garage or looking through a whole load of family heirlooms and old photos.
Usually, you’ll be sorting your stuff into three piles – the keep pile, the donate and/or recycle pile and the rubbish pile. It may be handy to have some bin bags to hand for the items you’re not keeping.
How do I decide what to keep and what to throw?
Decluttering usually involves you looking at all the items in a particular room or area and asking yourself three questions.
- Do you love it?
- Do you need it?
- Does it add value?
If the answer is yes to any of these questions, then keep it. If the answer is no to any of these questions, then get rid of it.
Be prepared to ask yourself these questions a lot and be ready for the answers. You may find that you’ve been holding on to things out of habit or hadn’t really realised they were there until you started looking at your stuff with fresh eyes.
What do I do with the stuff that I don’t want to keep?
This is an issue that comes up a lot. Once you’ve decluttered something, if you don’t think about what you’re going to do with the unwanted items beforehand, then it can cause a bottleneck and undo some of your good work.
You don’t want to have an uncluttered home only to have bin bags full of stuff sit in your garage indefinitely whilst you work out what to do with them.
What you do with your unwanted items is very much up to you and depends on your circumstances.
I feel that most things that are damaged, worn out or past their sell by date should really be thrown away in the rubbish. They’re not likely to be nice enough to give to someone else or donate to charity. If you can repair them, but still don’t want to keep them for yourself, then you might be able to give them away like this.
I personally don’t recommend holding on to your unwanted items just so that you can sell them for money. The problem with this approach is that if you hold onto the stuff until you’ve found a buyer, it could take a while.
What are you going to do with the items in the meantime? Are they just going to lie around the house getting in the way? What if you agree a price with the buyer but they never collect it, or you never find a buyer at all? Will you hold onto the items indefinitely in the hope that one day someone comes to buy them?
Waiting to sell your stuff to get rid of it does, of course, make you some money. If you desperately need the money, then do this of course. But, if you can possibly avoid it, I would. You risk slowing down or even stopping your decluttering progress otherwise.
If something is very valuable, then you definitely may want to consider selling it. However, make sure you find a good place to store the item(s) in the meantime, so you won’t forget about it and it won’t get damaged. Set a reminder on your phone to do something else with it if you haven’t found a buyer within a set period of time.
I’m reluctant to pass on my unwanted stuff to friends who often feel obliged to say yes. I don’t want the clutter in my home, but I also don’t want to just clutter up theirs!
Recycling and donating to charity are my favourite options. This way I’m giving to a good cause of my choice and it helps others. Someone out there needs or wants exactly what I’m throwing out, so it’s put to good use and I don’t feel guilty about letting the item go.
Do what you feel is right and appropriate for your unwanted items. Be aware of the potential pitfalls of passing on or selling your items but if this is for you, then go for it!
Why should I declutter rather than organise?
You may be wondering why I’m encouraging you to declutter instead of asking you to just tidy up and get organised?
Organisation is vital. I’m not for a moment suggesting that you won’t benefit from getting a bit more organised with your stuff.
But, just organising your belongings will still mean that you have to spend time looking after them – moving, tidying, cleaning and storing them.
You will still have the same number of possessions and probably even more storage space to look after as well. If you organise your stuff, the chances are that you’ll have got more shelves, tables, cupboards and boxes to put it all in. That means more dusting and cleaning at the very least.
You’re also more likely to get stressed when your lovely new storage solutions aren’t doing the job you intended for them. Will they magically mean that your kids or partner know to put stuff away in them? Will it mean they take care of the stuff any better? Will it encourage you to be neater and tidier if basically you’re not a neat and tidy person? Probably not!
In my experience it will just cause you more stress and frustration because the storage and organisation you’ve spent time, energy and (maybe) money putting in place, isn’t working. You might well have done nothing in the first place.
But, what happens when you declutter? Well, of course it helps if you organise your stuff after you’ve decluttered. You might even need some storage options if you haven’t got any already. However…
You will have so much less stuff to keep clean and tidy!
By decluttering you’re getting rid of anything you no longer want or doesn’t serve some kind of purpose, so you’re going to have less stuff in the house to take up your time.
Even if you have a bad day, and nothing gets picked up, tidied away or cleaned up, it won’t be such a problem because there’s less stuff.
It will take you far less time to do a quick tour of the house returning everything to its proper home because you have less stuff in the first place!
Housework will be easier because there’s less stuff to clean!
Hopefully you can see the vital difference between decluttering and organising.
Decluttering means you have less stuff. If you only organise what you have (rather than decluttering first) it means you have the same amount of stuff to look after but you also have to spend even more time making sure it stays organised as well.
That’s why I encourage you to declutter rather than just organise!
Where do I start to declutter?
The best and easiest place to start is probably the bathroom. It’s a relatively small space with a finite amount of storage. You tend to know what you use and what you don’t and it’s unlikely that there’ll be any sentimental items for you to spend ages deliberating over.
As for me, I started with my own clothes. At the time, the house was fully occupied with loads of kids and noise in every room, so I was ‘hiding’ in my bedroom! I was feeling down about myself, had very little confidence in how I looked and hated the process of choosing what to wear and getting dressed in the mornings.
I knew I wanted to declutter but wasn’t quite sure where to start. My wardrobe was of no importance to anyone else but me, so I plunged straight in. I threw out what I didn’t wear and organised what was left. I felt so much better, more confident and positive and getting dressed was a pleasure not a pain because I’d only kept clothes that I loved and felt comfortable in.
If you’re stuck and don’t know where to start, then think about the different areas of your home. Is there a particular area or group of items that causes you the most stress or pain? Or is there a room that is mostly your domain and isn’t going to affect anyone else if you practice your decluttering skills in there.
You want to choose the path of least resistance when you’re starting out.
You don’t want to have to answer loads of questions or justify yourself. Not because you don’t have the answers, but because you want to avoid getting side-tracked or put off too easily.
Choose an area where there are few emotional attachments and not too many items. Somewhere you can see and feel results fast. This will keep you encouraged and motivated to carry on to other areas and rooms in the house.
Keeping it up
I’m afraid that decluttering your home is not something you do just once. It requires maintenance!
Every day you’ll be faced with a new clutter challenge.
Think about when the kids come back from school. You’ll have to empty out their school bags and pockets and, if your kids are like mine, there will probably be a random assortment of artwork, notes, letters from school, random bits of paper and collections of twigs, stones and other stuff.
When you get post in the morning, you’ll have to sort through the letters and work out what to do with each one, otherwise the piles will build up.
You have a busy family who probably do lots of different things and have varied interests. You can’t completely stop the influx of stuff even if you try really hard.
The only thing you can do is learn how to maintain your home and routinely guard against the build-up of clutter. Even hard-core declutterers have to do this! This is called maintenance mode.
What if I’m the only one in my family who wants to declutter?
You can read more about this in one of my popular posts – What to do if you’re the only Minimalist in the house.
Common decluttering problems and their solutions
If you get stuck or have some questions about decluttering, check out my post on How to declutter your home – common problems and FAQs.
Want to know more about decluttering?
Are you intrigued or inspired to give decluttering a go? The benefits are massive if you can put in a little bit of effort to begin with.
Take my free 1 week declutter challenge – Declutter in Progress
A great place to start is with my 1 week declutter challenge. It’s completely free and will take you through decluttering four main areas/rooms in your home where you’ll see the biggest impact in the shortest amount of time.