If you feel like the clutter in your home is weighing you down, you’re not wrong. There is research to indicate that decluttering reduces stress and is good for your well-being.
In this post, we’ll give you information and tips to help you clean out and organize your space for a better frame of mind.
And, keep in mind that reducing clutter and keeping it that way is good for the environment, too. Recycle and reuse wherever and whatever you can.
- Clutter Causes Stress
- What are the Benefits of Decluttering?
- The Dictionary Definition of Declutter
- How to Get Started with Decluttering
- Tips for Decluttering
- Decluttering a Bedroom (An Example)
- What to Do with Your Discards
- How to Make Decluttering Last
- 1. If You Buy One Thing, Give Up One Thing
- 2. Don’t Be Afraid to Use the “Good” Things
- 3. Get a Declutter “Buddy”
- 4. Give Each Possession a Home
- 5. Let Go of Saving Things for “Someday”
- 6. Deal with Things Right Away
- 7. Don’t Let Possessions Define You
- 8. Do a Daily “Mini Declutter”
- 9. Make Your Bed Each Day
- 10. Learn to Be Present and Stay Out of the Past
Clutter Causes Stress
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is research indicating that decluttering is as good for your psychological health as it is for the appearance of your physical space.
In fact, people who have cluttered and disorganized homes actually show more of the stress hormone cortisol. And, people with clutter-free, organized homes experienced less sad feelings.
Having too many possessions can even interfere with enjoying the benefits of a quality sleep experience, which can snowball into other physical and mental concerns.
Those are the negatives to living with clutter, so let’s see what the upside to decluttering is.
What are the Benefits of Decluttering?
You shouldn’t put off doing that cleanout of your home, because according to Psychology Today, decluttering can give you a greater sense of confidence and accomplishment.
Getting organized is also known to reduce stress and improve relationships among people who share a space. It also gets you in motion, which can transfer to other tasks you’ve been putting off.
And, you might just find that physical activity gives you a mental break from other forms of work. It’s a change of pace that provides welcome results.
Now we’ve established the value of decluttering, what exactly does it mean to declutter?
The Dictionary Definition of Declutter
According to Marriam-Webster, declutter means removing clutter from a specific room or space. It appears to have a concrete meaning, referring to physical objects.
And, while that is part of what decluttering entails, it can also refer to intangible things like using a mindfulness activity to clear your mental clutter or reducing a schedule to free up time.
It isn’t just about physical objects. But that’s a topic for another post.
How to Get Started with Decluttering
Use these 4 steps to get started with your decluttering:
1. Decide What You Need to Declutter
Before you start filling trash bags and tossing out your possessions, take some time to decide what needs to be decluttered, and why.
You might rush to start cleaning out your bedroom closet but then discover that it’s not really a priority. What you really need is to start in the basement to free up space for exercising.
It’s important to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and what your priorities are because decluttering is a process that takes place over time. You may need to clean out your closet, but it might not be the first job to focus on.
2. Make a Plan for Tackling the Job
After you’ve decided where you want to start decluttering, it’s a good idea to make a plan for how you’ll proceed. Think about what you’ll need for your task, and how you’ll tackle the job.
For example, if you decide to declutter the bedroom, you’ll want to form a strategy for which areas to start with. Then gather up any cleaning materials you’ll need.
3. Block Out Time to Complete the Task
Armed with a plan, the next thing to do is find a block of time to get the job done, or at least make a good start on it.
If you’re going to tackle the bedroom mentioned above, you might want to set aside a weekend or part of it. Be realistic about what you’re taking on, and if it gets frustrating, split it into several sessions.
However, if you break a job into sessions, make sure to finish it before you move on to the next room or area.
4. Determine the Next Step for Decluttering
Decluttering is a process and part of developing a more minimalist lifestyle. If that’s what you’re going for, you won’t stop after one job or limit your efforts to one aspect of your life.
After you finish with the bedroom, decide what the next priority is. It might be the garage, the living room, or the kids’ toy room.
Or, when you finish with the physical decluttering, you might want to examine your daily routines to see if there’s room for downtime and mental health activities.
Next, some general tips to get you started with clearing out the clutter. In other sections below, we provide more in-depth details.
Tips for Decluttering
Use the following 4 tips to tailor the decluttering process to your circumstances:
1. Make a Pile for Sorting Later
If you feel unsure about a lot of the items you own, make a pile to sort through later. It’s okay to store some things in a box or container so that you don’t regret getting rid of them in haste.
2. Decide on Compromises and Enlist Help
Decluttering if you share your home with others may involve making some compromises on what to do with various possessions. As the saying goes, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”
It’s also a great time to get the family involved and share the task. And, if you have kids, it’s a great teaching opportunity to instill the habit of being organized and caring for possessions.
3. Don’t Rush the Process
Go at your own pace for your clearing out process. If it suits you better to do it all in one go, carry on. But if you prefer to do it in bite-size chunks, set up a schedule, and spread it out.
Keep in mind that one of the advantages of going full steam is you keep the momentum going, although it still doesn’t mean rushing or making hasty decisions.
4. Look at Your Space with “Visitor Eyes”
One way to decide where to start and what to declutter is to look at your space with “visitor’s eyes.”
Pretend you’re someone entering your home for the first time. What would you notice? We tend to become blind to the things we see each day.
As you can see, the definition of decluttering is going to be a personal thing. It needs to work for you in your circumstances and to your benefit. It should never be a one-size-fits-all solution for different people.
Next, to get you started, we’ll provide an example of what it can look like to declutter and clean out a particular room.
Decluttering a Bedroom (An Example)
We’ll use a bedroom as an example of a space that needs decluttering. It’s always a good place to start because many people tend to just close the door and try to forget about it.
Here are 12 steps to declutter a bedroom and tackle the job head-on. In no time, you’ll have a bedroom that invites relaxation and sleep.
And, the beauty is, you can apply these steps to any room or space you need to get under control. In a later section, we’ll talk about how to keep it that way.
12 Steps to Declutter a Bedroom
Roll up your sleeves and get your bedroom in shape with these steps to declutter and organize your bedroom space:
1. Make a Plan for Decluttering the Bedroom
Before you dive in, it’s a good idea to make a plan for what you want to accomplish in the bedroom. This will help you feel less overwhelmed and more focused.
You can, and should, adjust your plan as you go. You’ll check some items off quickly and find new ones as you go along.
Items on your list could include things like:
- Cleaning out the obvious trash
- Remove all items that don’t belong
- Cleaning out and organizing drawers
- Cleaning out and organizing the closet
- Removing all unnecessary items from surfaces
- Dusting all surfaces and washing windows and mirrors
- Cleaning and washing the floor and walls
- Organizing and storing possessions
- Sorting clothing to keep or discard
These are just examples. Adjust the list to suit your task. And, don’t forget to pause and give yourself a pat on the back as you complete each task.
2. Save the Tedious Sorting Jobs Until Last
Don’t bog yourself down with the tedious sorting jobs right off the bat. That approach will just squash your momentum and destroy your focus.
If there are stacks of paperwork and night table drawers to go through, put them aside for later. Get some of the easier jobs out of the way to give yourself a sense of accomplishment.
3. Start with the Obvious Garbage
A great place to start is to arm yourself with a garbage bag or bin and throw out everything that is obviously headed for the dumpster. It will help you see what you’re dealing with more clearly.
If there are things you’re not sure about, put them in the sorting pile to tackle later. But don’t waffle too much. You’ll need to get a bit ruthless with some things to make headway.
4. Take Out Everything that Doesn’t Belong
This step is similar to removing all the garbage. Go through the room and remove any items that do not normally belong in the bedroom.
Dishes go in the kitchen, towels in the bathroom or laundry, and some of your outerwear can go back to the hall closet. Again, if you aren’t sure, put it in the “sort later” pile.
5. Clear all the Surfaces
It’s going to be easier to work if you clear off all the surfaces. Your pile for sorting later shouldn’t be on a dresser or on the bed. Put it outside the door or in another room.
And, if you’re looking to adopt a minimalist lifestyle or décor, you’ll want to get used to keeping tabletops and furniture surfaces free of clutter.
6. Give Everything in the Bedroom a Good Cleaning
Once you have the basic clearing out of the room done and the surfaces are nice and bare, give everything a good cleaning.
Wash or change the bedding, dust off and wipe down all the surfaces, vacuum or clean the floors, and polish up light fixtures and mirrors.
7. Sort the Pile You Put Aside for Later
With the bedroom looking emptier and the cleaning accomplished, it’s time to tackle the sorting pile. You may need to get tough here.
Go through everything and try to be honest. Do you need it? Do you use it? Is it necessary, or is it just taking up space?
Throw away, donate, or sell everything you don’t intend to keep. Where possible, give it a new life to keep it out of the landfill and be eco-friendlier.
8. Get a System for Paperwork
Bedrooms, and in particular night table drawers, are notorious for becoming the dumping ground for paperwork. You must get a system in place for bills, receipts, and other bits of important paper.
A paperwork storage box or file system works well to keep things organized. You can store it out of sight on a closet shelf.
9. Add Shelves and Hooks for Storage
With limited space in a small bedroom, storage is often an issue. Using shelves and hooks can help with keeping your things organized.
Use over-the-door hooks for hanging things or add some to the walls of the closet. Put extra shelving in the closet or on the walls for books, shoes, or items you want to display.
Get creative and find those areas where you can make simple modifications.
10. Use Furniture with Storage
In a small bedroom, furniture that has plenty of drawers and storage is going to making decluttering and staying organized so much easier.
Tall dressers with lots of drawers take up less floor space, and some beds have drawers that are built-in. If buying new pieces is not in the budget, there are often great deals at secondhand stores and discount shops.
11. Use the Space Under the Bed
Don’t use the space under the bed for dirty clothes and pizza crusts. It’s often overlooked as a convenient place to put containers and boxes. You can even buy rolling platforms that go under the bed for items like shoes.
And, as mentioned above, many bed styles have drawers built right in to make better use of all that open space where the dust bunnies like to frolic.
12. Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle
When you step back to admire your well-done job, consider adopting a minimalist lifestyle where this is the norm for how you live your daily life.
Being more minimal saves money, sharpens focus, and increases productivity. It’s worth considering so you can hold on to that feeling of having just what you need to flourish in your own life, plus helping the planet to do the same.
The next section will help you figure out what to do with your discards.
What to Do with Your Discards
Depending on your situation, you may have a large pile of things you don’t want to keep. Besides throwing away the obvious garbage, there are ways to give the cast-offs new life:
- Donate them to a secondhand store.
- Donate them directly to a charity.
- Put a notice on social media for friends and family who might be able to use them.
- Put them up for sale, or if you have enough things to make it worthwhile, organize a garage sale.
- Check with local schools or daycare centers that might be able to repurpose them.
There are plenty of ways to avoid tossing perfectly good items in the trash. You could even consider a family or neighborhood swap.
Next, we’ll look at how to make your hard work last.
How to Make Decluttering Last
You put in the time and effort to declutter your home, and now the next challenge crops up:
How to keep it that way.
All too often, people get motivated to clean house and get their belongings in order, only to fall back into old habits.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. The real trick is to permanently change how you view your possessions in the first place. It’s all about having a more efficient mindset.
And remember, it doesn’t mean your home should appear sterile and not lived in. Instead, your goal is to prevent the clutter from taking over and making you feel powerless.
Use these 10 ways to make your decluttering last:
1. If You Buy One Thing, Give Up One Thing
Make it a rule to buy items you want only if you’re willing to part with something. It will ensure you avoid the sneaky buildup that undoes every well-intentioned consumer.
So, outside of essentials like groceries, nothing comes in unless something goes out. It works particularly well with things like clothing that have a tendency to be more “wants” than “needs.”
2. Don’t Be Afraid to Use the “Good” Things
Do you have closets and drawers full of the “good stuff” for those special occasions? Do those opportunities come around very often?
Well, you need to start appreciating yourself enough to use the good bedsheets, dishes, and candles when it feels right for you. Don’t be afraid to pamper yourself.
3. Get a Declutter “Buddy”
If you struggle to take control of your belongings, get someone to be your “declutter buddy.” They can help you with the initial tasks, but also remind you to maintain your new lifestyle.
Everything is easier when you have someone to bounce ideas off and discuss how you feel. Keep in mind, it needs to be someone who will gently kick your butt, but also make you feel good about what you’re doing.
4. Give Each Possession a Home
You’ll have a fighting chance with your organizing if you give everything a home. When belongings are assigned to a specific place, they stand a better chance of staying there.
If necessary, use labels for hooks, baskets, drawers, and cupboards to make sure items go back to their proper home.
This idea works well when you share the home with others, and it can be an excellent learning opportunity for children.
It’s a great idea to have children and teens do the organizing in their rooms and make the labels. There’s nothing like ownership to reinforce positive behaviors.
5. Let Go of Saving Things for “Someday”
Just like the “good” dishes, most homes have piles of things stuffed away “just in case.” But does the day for using it ever come?
In many cases, the bags of twist ties, paper towel tubes, glass jars, and old blankets sit for years, without having any purpose, except to take up space.
Look at it this way, you’ll never save everything you need, for every purpose, to solve every problem you may ever encounter.
6. Deal with Things Right Away
Paper clutter, like piles of unopened mail, might indicate you’re avoiding things you should be dealing with. This type of clutter can be avoided if you deal with things when they show up.
It helps to have a filing system for organizing your paperwork. Don’t stuff it in drawers. Get a file cabinet or accordion file to put papers in by subject. It makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.
This point is particularly applicable for people who have a home office or who work from home. Don’t let papers pile up on the desk and drown your focus. Deal with each item as soon as you can, then file it.
7. Don’t Let Possessions Define You
For some people, what they own defines who they believe they are. In their mind, it creates a false persona that they’re trying to project to the world. This type of thinking can lead to all kinds of problems.
You’re not defined by how many pairs of shoes you own, or the size of your television, or by having the latest electronic gadget.
If this is happening, it’s time to recognize your natural value as a human being that is not defined by anything external. Don’t give possessions that power.
8. Do a Daily “Mini Declutter”
After you’ve completed a good decluttering of your home, keep it that way by doing daily “mini” decluttering.
In the evening, or whenever suits your schedule, take a few minutes to put things back in the home assigned for them.
Pay attention to high-traffic areas like the living room. It will keep up the momentum and sharpen your decluttering mindset.
This is also a great bedtime routine to develop with children. And, they’re never too young to start this practice, even if they just help you do it for their room.
9. Make Your Bed Each Day
You may have heard that a common habit of successful people is making the bed every morning. It’s not a myth, and it’s a good idea.
When you make a point of making the bed early in the day, it sets the tone for the rest of the day. It puts you in the frame of mind to get things accomplished and keep your space organized.
Even if you don’t feel like it, take a few minutes after you get up to make the bed and tidy your bedroom. Make sure to put dirty clothes in the hamper, too.
10. Learn to Be Present and Stay Out of the Past
This tip is the clincher for making your decluttering habits last. When you master the ability to be present in every moment, you’ll make conscious decisions about your belongings and home.
It’s worth your while to develop a consistent mindfulness practice. You’ll find you no longer need possessions to define your value, and you’ll have a better focus to keep your space orderly.
Remember, orderly doesn’t mean unlived in. With greater consciousness, you’ll grasp the natural ebb and flow of living in your space, yet caring for it regularly, so it doesn’t take over your life.
As you can see, decluttering is a process and a mindset that develops into a way of life to create space for peace and joy.