You’re going to change your life! You’re going to have a house that’s clean all the time! Nothing will change your motivation this time!
Until you look around…
You see a sea of clutter and you have no idea where to start.
As you try to figure out where to begin, you start feeling something different. Overwhelm. Exhaustion. Frustration. And eventually Defeat.
Maybe it would be easier to just sit back down and ignore the clutter.
But ignoring the problem isn’t going to bring about the change that you are so excited about.
So what should you do?
I’m going to give you five simple steps to take to get you started on your decluttering journey today.
(And if you prefer to watch your content, check out this video 🙂
5 Simple Steps to Start Decluttering
1) Write Down Your Why
It’s tempting to skip this step.
It can seem like a waste of time when you really should be decluttering.
But this is what will keep you motivated when the decluttering gets tough.
Ask yourself why you want to declutter.
Maybe the answer is something like “I am tired of the mess!” or “I’m sick of cleaning all the time!”
But now I want you to ask yourself why again. Why are you tired of the mess? Why are you sick of cleaning all the time?
The answer is probably be something like, “I want to have more time for myself, but I can’t because I’m always cleaning.” Or maybe “I don’t feel like I enjoy my family because I’m always cleaning up after them.”
Now think about how your life will change if you declutter your house.
This might be something like, “I’ll be able to spend the hour that I usually spend cleaning up every evening taking a bubble bath and reading a book.” or “I’ll spend that time that I usually spend picking up toys playing with my kids.”
Now combine your second and third answers to create your true why.
It may look something like this: “I want more time for myself but I can’t take time for me because I’m always cleaning. When I declutter my house, I will be able to read a book in the evenings instead of cleaning the house.”
2) Start With Your Pain Point
Decluttering can be overwhelming because we focus on the ultimate end goal of having a perfectly clean house.
But I don’t want you to think about the whole house. That will come later.
For now, write down the one part of your house that you would most like to transform.
This can be anything from “The kids’ toys” to “The Master Bedroom” to “The Clothes” to “The Living Room.”
Or it can be something very specific like the pantry, the coat closet, or the kids’ toys in the living room.
Now that you know what your pain point is, don’ t think about any other piece of the house that might need to be decluttered until you tackle this piece of the puzzle.
By focusing on one area, you are going to see results quickly.
3) Set Some Guidelines
Write down guidelines for items that will stay and what won’t.
For instance, if you are decluttering your clothes, you may decide that an item will go if it lands in any of these categories:
You haven’t worn it in 6 months.
You haven’t fit into it in over a year. (Unless you just had a baby) 🙂
You only bought it because it was on sale.
You only wear it when your laundry is piled up and you have nothing else to wear.
You liked it when you first bought it, but now you’ve changed your style.
It is too worn to wear and just sits in your closet.
You only wore it once or twice.
You don’t feel good when you wear it.
If you are decluttering toys, you may decide to get rid anything that lands in one of these categories.
Broken toys that aren’t easily fixed.
Toys that make too much noise.
Toys that your kids loved when they were little, but they haven’t played with in months or years.
Toys that your children never use.
Toys that you are only holding on to because someone you love gave it to you… even though your kids don’t play with them.
Toys that celebrate Disney’s (or some other creator’s) imagination instead of your child’s.
Toys that your child will only play with if they have no other option.
Toys that they only wanted because a friend had it.
Toys that don’t fit with your family’s values.
You get the idea!
Obviously, use whatever guidelines fit your family, these are just ideas to get you started!
4) Identify Trash First
No matter what category you are working on, the items that are too worn/used/old/broken for use are often the easiest to identify and part with.
While I agree with every other minimalist out there who says that it is best to think about what you are deciding to keep instead of what you are deciding to get rid of, grabbing everything that you have been meaning to throw away for a while and doing that first will give you a quick, easy win!
5) Stay Consistent
Get out your calendar and write down a start date. Set aside time to work on your project every day until it is finished. This may be one or two days for a small closet, or it may be a couple of weeks for a larger category like toys.
If you have limited time, commit to at least 15 minutes a day.
Set a timer every day and declutter all that you can during this time.
When you have finished each day, put your donate items in your vehicle, your trash items in the garbage, and put your keep items where you would like to store them from now on (not necessarily where they have always been.)
Each item you keep should have a home.
There you have it, that’s all it takes to get started!
Have you ever wondered why it feels like you are always cleaning?
No matter how much time and energy you put into making your house look nice, it is dirty again before you even turn around.
If that sounds familiar, then you *probably* have a clutter problem.
Clutter can creep slowly into our homes and into our lives. Usually, we don’t even know it is happening… until we are in way over our heads and have no idea how or why the mountains of stuff got into our house.
So what can you do about it?
Well, you have three choices:
One common choice is to ignore the clutter. Keep cleaning all around it and spending your days, weeks, and years, putting everything back in its place. For extra points, you can also welcome more clutter into your house with open arms by purchasing new things often and having mounds of presents at each birthday party, Christmas, and any holiday in between.
The second option is to complain about the clutter. Let everyone within earshot know that you are tired of it and want there to be a change. You can get extra credit by planning to declutter and telling everyone you are going to do it, but never actually getting rid of more than a garbage bag full of things here and there.
The last option is to kick the clutter to the curb! This is the path less traveled because, well, it takes some hard work. But let me tell you, it is worth every minute.
Every day new research is showing how clutter affects not only our time and money, but also our mental and emotional well-being… especially for women.
Want to have a clean house all the time without spending every spare moment cleaning? Declutter it.
Your house will instantly feel much cleaner and lighter, I promise.
It can be hard to declutter when you are overwhelmed by the mess. But that is just when you need to do it most.
In this post I’ll tell you:
How to know if you need to Declutter.
How I Got Started with Decluttering.
10 Steps to Start Decluttering TODAY!
And if you prefer to watch instead of read, here is the video that goes with this post:
So how do you know for sure if you need to declutter your house?
6 Signs That You Need to Declutter
1. It takes hours to clean… And It’s dirty again before you even turn around.
2. Thinking about cleaning your house stresses you out.
3. Your feel stressed instead of relaxed in your own home.
4. It seems like you are cleaning all the time… but no one would know that if they came for a visit.
5. Everywhere you look you see things. Toys, trinkets, collectibles, or anything else that has congregated in your house.
6. The thought of having a clean house all the time sounds magical to you, but it doesn’t seem possible for at least another 10 years.
I needed to go back to what I had intuitively done as a child.
I needed to set limits on the amount and type of things that I would allow to take up residence in my house.
So let’s get into the 10 simple steps that you can take to get your sanity back!
10 Steps to Get Started Decluttering
1) Decide Why You Want to Declutter
Your ‘Why’ can be anything. But it needs to be something.
Decluttering just for the sake of decluttering will only lead to more decluttering down the road.
In order to truly get a handle on the clutter, you also must curb your purchasing habits. And if you don’t know why you want to have a clutter-free home, you will simply continue the same maddening cycle of purchasing and decluttering.
You may just want to declutter for the simple reason of having an easy to clean house. Or you may also want to declutter because of something more philosophical: like a desire to reduce your carbon footprint.
I have two reasons that I want simplicity in my home:
First, the amount of time I spend cleaning my decluttered home is greatly reduced. This gives me more time for the important things in life. Like spending quality time enjoying my family, instead of just cleaning up after them.
The second reason that I choose to live minimally, is that I want my children to have a simple childhood.
I want them to appreciate and take care of what they have.
I want them to have toys that bring them joy and encourage imagination. (See my Intentional Gift Idea Post for clutter-free toy recommendations.)
And I want them to havememories of playing at the park, going on hikes, building blanket forts, and laughing until their sides hurt.
I don’t want them wasting their childhood fighting over an endless pile of toys or worrying about which toys belong to which child.
Whatever your reason for decluttering, take a couple of minutes and write it down. If you grab my Streamline Your Home Quick-Start Guide, there is a page where you can do this, or you can grab the nearest notebook and jot it down.
That way, when you are up to your elbows in the process and you are wishing that you had just let it be, you can easily reference the reason you are decluttering and remind yourself why you want to stick with it!
Trust me, it’s worth it!
2) Pick a Method
When looking at how you want to declutter your home, you should choose what will work best for your personality.
There is no wrong method to use, as long as you pick something that you can stick with until your task is completed.
I personally combined three of the methods when I decluttered and it worked well for my personality.
Don’t spend too much time deciding which method to use, just go with your gut!
Here is a quick rundown of the different ways to declutter your house:
Option 1: Slow and Steady
If you don’t have a lot of time to commit to decluttering, this method is for you.
If you choose this method, you are going to carve out a small amount of time every day (or every week if you are really short on time.)
Look at your daily schedule and decide when you will have your 15-minute decluttering session.
Every day, set a timer for 15-30 minutes and tackle whatever you can in that time. Keep going back to the same area session after session until you feel like your space is clear and comfortable. Then move on to your next area, or room, or category.
This is a great way to declutter without losing steam.
Just be sure that you have the dedication to stick with it for a while since this method will take you the longest.
Treat you decluttering time like it is an important appointment that you can’t miss.
(If this method sounds like it would work well for you, check out Simply Streamlined! We use this method in the program to completely streamline your home in just 15 minutes a day!)
Option 2: Speed Decluttering
This method is for all of the overachievers out there. You know who you are. While most of your friends spend their weekends relaxing, you are checking things off your list.
If you want to do a speed declutter, set aside a week or a weekend to tackle this project.
I recommend setting a timer for each section of the house so you don’t get stuck in one area too long… but you probably already knew that didn’t you?
Pro Tip: If you want to minimize distractions, see if the kids can stay at Grandma’s house for a few days!
You will most likely need a few of these sessions to completely declutter your home, but this is a great way to get started and make a lot of progress right away.
If you want to Completely Declutter your home in 8 Weeks or Less, check out my program Cluttered to Calm!
Option 3: Room by Room
I love this method for decluttering because, well, I love making lists. And checking things off my lists makes me happy.
This method is great for list-makers because it breaks your house down into tiny little manageable chunks. (And each chunk is an item on your checklist for you to check off!)
For my fellow list makers out there, here’s how you do this method:
Grab a notebook or your phone and write down every room and closet and area in your house that needs to be decluttered. (Or you can grab my Cluttered to Calm Checklist or Spreadsheet if you don’t want to slow down long enough to make your own comprehensive checklist!)
For example, I would write down:
Under Ross’s Sink
Under Kassy’s Sink
I like to be specific so that I feel like I accomplished something even if I didn’t get my entire room done. (Maybe that’s cheating, but it worked for me!)
I found decluttering category by category especially useful for my clothing. When I fold my clothes and organize my dresser the way that Marie Kondo recommends, it is much tidier and I know exactly which clothes are clean in my drawer.
I found it difficult to grasp the folding technique from her books, but I found these YouTube videos helpful.
Marie Kondo recommends starting with decluttering Clothing, then minimizing Books, then simplifying Papers, then downsizing what she calls “Komono” or “everything else”, before decluttering any sentimental items.
According to her book, the category of Komono includes kitchen supplies, bathroom products, toys, and anything else that does not correspond to one of the other categories.
When I tried my hand at the KonMari method, I needed additional categories that made sense for me. I added in a category for my kitchen, my bathrooms, my garage, and my children’s toys.
Pro Tip: If you choose this method, I suggest adding as many categories as makes sense for your home.
3) Give Yourself a Deadline
Most people are naturally procrastinators. Parkinson’s Law states that “work expands to fit in the time we give it.”
Essentially that means if you give yourself a year to declutter your house, it will probably take a year.
To avoid having the decluttering process take an eternity, give yourself a deadline and be punctual with it.
Since you might be anywhere on the spectrum from “I just want to get the toys organized” to “I’m so sick of clutter that everything in my entire house needs to go!”, and you may have a lot of time or no time at all to declutter in, I can’t give you an exact amount of time that this should take for you.
To make this decision, look at the amount of things you will need to go through, the size of your house, and how much time you can dedicate to the process on a weekly basis.
If you are ready to dive in and get the Decluttering done once and for all, check out Cluttered to Calm if you want it done in 8 weeks or less, and Simply Streamlined if you can only dedicate 15 minutes a day!)
4) Write Down Your Plan
You can also just grab that notebook you used above and answer the following questions:
1. What is your overall goal with decluttering?
2. What order do you want to tackle your clutter in?
3. What method would you like to use to declutter?
4. How will you sell items that are still in good shape?
5. Where will you donate items that you can’t sell?
6. How will you know when your decluttering process is complete?
5) Choose a Start Date
Set aside a day, an afternoon, or 15 minutes.
Don’t worry if you have to keep coming back to an area (or a drawer!) for a few days.
Choose a date and time that isn’t too far in the future. Starting while your motivation is strong will help keep the process going until you have completed your goal.
Pretend that the decluttering time on your calendar is an important business meeting that you can’t reschedule or book over.
Then stick with it!
6) Get a Babysitter
If you have young kids and are pretty sure that they will slow you down, see if a friend or grandparent would watch your kids for your first decluttering session (especially if you are tackling a large area!)
The more that you declutter, the more you will get used to getting rid of things and the more you will be able to downsize with distractions.
But at first, it’s nice to be able to focus!
7) Get Three Containers
On your start date, get three receptacles.
One is for things you want to keep. One is for things that you don’t want to keep, but are in good enough condition for you to sell or donate. And the last one is for trash.
After each decluttering session, throw the trash away, put the donate container into your vehicle, and list any items you are going to sell.
8) Find a Home for Everything that Stays
After each decluttering session (and before you start the next one) find a permanent home for each item that you decided to keep.
Just because something has always been stored in a certain location doesn’t mean that it is the best place to keep it.
Marie Kondo advocates for storing things in the place that you use them most, and I love this idea.
9) Remember That it Takes Time
No matter your intentions and/or the method you use, decluttering takes time. Even if you decide to do speed decluttering, it will take a lot of work.
Sometimes in the middle of the process, it might feel like things are getting worse before they get better.
Stick with it. I know it is hard, but you can do hard things!
I promise that you will thank yourself when you have finished.
10) Just Start!
The only mistake you can make when you begin to declutter is putting it off.
Throw out the idea of perfection and go for it!
Even doing one 15-minute decluttering sweep through your house will make you feel lighter and happier.