If you struggle with clutter, the thought of doing a major decluttering might seem overwhelming. There’s a lot of information out there about decluttering and organizing, 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.
I don’t claim to be a decluttering expert, but 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.
I should point out that I genuinely like getting rid of things. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to sweep through the house with my BBGB (big black garbage bag), and fill it with things we no longer want or need. That said, I know not everyone shares this trait, so I’m going to be taking things slowly and gently with y’all.
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. I compare it to getting in shape or losing weight — it’s tough when you first start out, but once you begin seeing results, you’re that much more motivated to keep on doing what you’re doing. Right?
Likewise, the satisfaction you’ll feel when you look at your newly decluttered areas (even if it’s just one) will give you incentive to do more. Before you know it, you’ll be a certified decluttering BBGB-toting maniac like me.
Here are a few tips I want to share before I get to my list:
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
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.
(Repurposing idea: You could potentially use unwanted mugs or glasses to hold flowers, pencils or to paint/decorate if you’re crafty. But be honest…if you have zero intention of doing those things, they must go!)
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?