If you struggle with clutter, you might feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start. There's a lot of information out there about decluttering, but even if you're armed with tons of advice, the two biggest hurdles are 1) getting motivated to start, and 2) knowing where to start. In this post, I help you take baby steps toward decluttering your home.
After moving 7 times over the last 15 years, and living in several homes that lacked good storage, I've picked up quite a few tips.
I've also come to really value the sense of peace that comes from having a decluttered, organized space. I like to know where my things are, to know what I have, and to be able to access my belongings without digging through piles or bins or drawers.
Whether you've lived in a house for 25 years or 2 years, it's very easy to let stuff pile up. And while decluttering can be difficult to start, it's also hard to stop once you've started. I promise, once you've conquered just one of the items on this list, you'll itch to do more.
Tip #1: If you know you should get rid of something, but you just can't bring yourself to do it, put it into a bin in the garage or attic and label it something like: To get rid of...eventually. After some time has passed and you've taken more baby steps, you might be able to part with those things more easily. But for now, the focus is on making sure everything inside the main areas of your house is organized and easy to find.
Tip #2: Do not transfer! It defeats the purpose to move things from one junk drawer to another. When cleaning out an "odds and ends" area like a drawer or a cabinet, the items you find need to either be thrown away/donated, repurposed (more on that later) or put in a new, logical location. In other words, if you find a bunch of pens and paper clips in a junk drawer, put them with your office/school supplies. If you realize you don't have a designated space to store office/school supplies, create one.
5 Places to Start Decluttering Now:
1) Drawer (just start with one)
Do you have a drawer in your house that you hate to open? Maybe several? I'll admit I had quite a few, but there was one in particular that scared me. It was the drawer of a small bedside table in our guest room that I've had for 15+ years. I knew I'd occasionally tossed some things in that drawer over the years, but I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd opened it. I'm pretty sure it was two moves ago.
Well, I finally took the plunge and opened it, BBGB in hand.
I don't know what took me so long, because that thing was cleared out in under FIVE minutes! And in the process, I found some major treasures, including two hole punchers (I didn't even know I owned one!), some gift wrapping supplies, and a bunch of good pens.
Start with just one drawer. You may want to clear it out completely and leave it empty (as I did with mine) or purge it and then organize what remains. If your drawer is going to still contain quite a few items, like office supplies, kitchen gadgets, etc., consider buying a drawer organizer to keep things separate.
2) Linen closet
How many towels do you have? More than your family and a bunch of guests could ever possibly use at one time?
Your linen closet should only have the number of towels you could reasonably use on a regular basis, plus a few extras for guests. Figure out how many you actually need, and purge the others.
How many sets of sheets do you have? Did you buy new sheets for your bed because you hated your old ones, but then kept the old ones "just in case?" Unless you're planning on dressing up as a family of ghosts for Halloween, get rid of them!
(Repurposing idea: I do like to keep old towels on hand for spills/leaks, so I move old or stained towels into the cabinet where I keep my cleaning supplies.)
3) Medicine cabinet
There are a handful of medicines that my family uses on a regular basis. Then there are those random ones that we got for some weird ailment that will hopefully never come back again (I'll spare you the details).
Start by throwing away any old/expired medications. Then separate out the ones you use regularly (like prescriptions, ibuprofen, benadryl, pepto bismol, neosporin, cough medicine, etc.). Organize the "regulars" in such a way that they are accessible and easy to see.
For the others that you may only use once a year, or never, throw them away or put them in small, clear plastic container with a lid that you won't even need to open unless that weird ailment suddenly comes back.
I think most women would agree that make-up and toiletries are two of the biggest clutter-causers out there. Are you hanging onto that lipstick that you thought looked good for three minutes in Sephora and then you never wore again? Perfume that was a gift, but you don't really like? 10 half-empty tubes of hand lotion? 25 dried up bottles of nail polish? A drawer full of free samples and trial size items?
Go through your toiletries and set aside the ones that you actually use on a regular basis. Choose a drawer or an organizer to keep only those items in.
Then get honest with yourself about the rest. Are you really going to try that almond-milk honey nourishing mask you got as a "gift with purchase" three years ago? Think about what you will actually use in the future, and discard everything else.
(Repurposing idea: I did put some of my old make-up into a "play make-up kit" for my girls, which they were very, very excited about.)
5) Glasswear/mug cabinet
This area is similar to the linen closet in that we often hold onto extra glassware and mugs in the event that we have company. But if you find your cabinets too crowded with cups, mugs or glasses, then you need to relocate the "for company only" extras to a less prominent location to free up space. This could be a higher shelf, an unused cabinet in another room, or a box in an attic or garage. This will keep your main cabinets from being cluttered, and you will be able to easily access the extras if/when you need them.
I'd love to hear from you guys about your issues with clutter. What area(s) do you have the most clutter? What aspect of decluttering do you find the hardest?
Sunday 17th of June 2018
Great post. Only one thing. If you are ready to toss old prescription meds, it's best to take them to a pharmacy that can dispose of them instead of putting them into a landfill or flushing them into the water system.
You've inspired me to start decluttering again. And I loved some suggestions in the comments.
Tuesday 21st of June 2016
Loved your article,though I'm not a big hoader! Found your pointer useful!declutter frees your mind!
Saturday 11th of June 2016
I have a great idea for old sheets towels and blankets rugs. Take them to your local animal shelter, they use them in the beds for the dogs and cats! They really appreciate them!
Sunday 12th of June 2016
Thanks for the great suggestion, Debi!
Saturday 23rd of April 2016
THANJS! Great article! We can all benefit from your simple but useful ideas! Now....if we just put them into action????! One thing I have done with my toiletries that I no longer want or won't use is to make "goodie bags" (gallon ziplock) for the homeless I see wandering around and on street corners. I fill them with any of these items and add other useful toiletries such as Dollar Store items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, brushes, floss, mouthwash, small sizes of food i.e. applesauce, Vienna sausages, drink boxes/water and the most needed of all...... clean socks. When it rains they need dry socks to wear. Imagine waking around in the cold with continuous wet socks? They also get feet/toe nail fungus from not having clean dry socks????. In the winter I buy gloves, hats and scarves and add them to their bags. Again.....I get these from the Dollar Store. I then put all these articles in one or two ziplock bags, then put them in a sturdy plastic bag (not the flimsy ones from the grocery stores). They can reuse them to keep their prized possessions in. To top it off....I add a Bible verse. If you are not a person of faith....just a note of encouragement would mean so much to them! Let your imagination go wild and fill these bags with what you think would be useful. What a blessing to those who are less fortunate than we are!
Saturday 16th of April 2016
I cleaned out my linen closet and got rid of everything not in the best of shape. A friend of mine is a vet at the humane society, plus she owns her own horse. I was able to donate old sheets & pillowcases, bath towels, hand towels and face cloths as well as old sweat pants and sweat shirts/hoodies. She very happily loaded up her car with a hug and a big smile!
Saturday 16th of April 2016
That's awesome! There's nothing better than decluttering AND making great use of the things you're getting rid of.