Decluttering. A pretty major buzzword, and maybe never more so than the beginning of the a new year.
This is it! Your year to get organized! To liberate yourself from the mountains of stuff! To break free from the baggage! You, too, can have a closet that looks like this!
Wait, no, you probably can’t. Because if you can afford that closet you can hire someone to do this for you. That’s the problem with most of these decluttering articles. Sure, there is great stuff in there if you can afford to spend $1700 on fancy baskets and have closets the size of an apartment. But let’s get real, shall we?
Organizing is for everybody. It’s for those who shop at Pottery Barn and those who would rather spend time in an actual barn. It’s for those who love all things home design and those who would sooner get a root canal than do housekeeping. It’s for those just starting out and still holding on to that collection of bears your boyfriend gave you in high school and those who cannot even remember back to their days in high school.
This is for you. For you real people (fake people need not apply). For you I humbly offer this, utterly practical, non-gimmicky guide to decluttering for real people.
But first, indulge me for just a moment more why I tell you how I became passionate about this topic and why I believe others should be, too. You can skip this, but you shouldn’t, because it makes a really good point and may even give you all the feels about this subject.
A number of years ago I knew a man that owned an estate auction business. He had a huge warehouse filled with just about everything you can imagine. Household trinkets, furniture, a slot machine, a ridiculous number of samurai swords, old love letters, and on and on. As I understood it, the business functioned by purchasing estates once families removed whatever was apportioned out after the demise of a loved one. If they won the bid on an estate they would pull a large truck up to the house and proceed to empty it of all its contents. They then took the truck or trucks back the warehouse, backed up next to large construction dumpsters, and began the sorting process.
Into the dumpster went anything judged to have no retail value. Items once considered sentimental were either labeled with a price tag or dumped into the trash.
Watching the process had a big impact on me, and I decided then and there to pair down my material possessions. I went home and filled six large garbage bags with stuff, then donated it all to Goodwill.
It has been over a decade since then, and in that time I have moved several times. Each of those moves has given me the opportunity to do a large scale purge of all of our possessions. But there are also things I do on a regular basis to keep our home from amassing too much stuff.
Ready? Here we go.
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
10 Utterly Practical, Non-Gimmicky Steps to Decluttering Your Home
1. Keep a box for donation items.
There is some system out there that involves four boxes with different purposes for each. Skip all that, just keep one box somewhere like your garage, for items that come up from time to time. Then haul it off to the nearest donation center the moment it fills up. Simple, right? We do this so often my 2 and 3 year old kids can tell you that when we don’t use things we give them away so other people can. It’s the circle of life, people.
And for the love of Pete, don’t dig back through that box.
2. Say no to storage units.
America has more storage units than it does McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks combined. And, apparently, 65% of those who rent storage units have a garage (Huffington Post). According to Slate, 1 in every 11 households also own a storage unit, or what they cleverly call “the catacombs of consumerism.” Guys, this is a problem.
Get rid of it. Stop paying to store things that are not giving you enough happiness to even inhabit the same space you do. Ask yourself why it is you cannot let it go. At what point do your possessions start to possess you rather than the other way around? Chances are you are paying anywhere from $40 to $100 or more for a storage unit. Imagine what you could do with that money instead. Imagine the trip you could go on and the memories you could make as a trade off for the stuff you are paying to store.
3. One victory will lead to another, so start somewhere. Anywhere.
When I’m feeling overwhelmed I like to break myself out of the rut by accomplishing one small task. That task help me get a footing for the next task, and before long I’m on my way, knocking that list out of the park. It usually takes only that one task to replace feelings of frustration, anxiety, or whatever and turn them around. Decluttering can feel like a large task, but one basket cleaned out, one drawer organized, can be the start to something beautiful. Start small and let it catch on.
4. It starts and ends with closets.
There is an episode of Friends where Chandler breaks into Monica’s secret closet and found that though she was a total neat-freak, she was harboring a complete mess.
Whether you are normally pretty neat or not, closets are the repository of clutter. You know what doesn’t exist? Clean closets in messy homes. There’s a reason for that.
One of the easiest places to start is the coat or hall closet. Usually these are pretty small, and hold a lot of crap. Start by going through and tossing a few things. There is always something you can toss. Now organize that closet. Have a little fun. Add some wallpaper or a shelf or baskets or whatever tickles your fancy.
This is our hall closet. It’s tiny. But I ripped everything out and raised the shelf so I could add two layers of hooks for coats. A couple baskets down low provide storage for little people hats and other accessories. My toddlers can hang up their own coats, and sometimes they even really do it. I love this silly little closet, and it was the starting point to redoing every single closet in my house. Start small. It has an impact.
5. Do your cleaning the day before the garbage is picked up.
I like to go through my garage and do some freshening up on Mondays. It’s a great start the week and it is all hauled away the next day with the recycling and trash pick up. Make the day before trash day your designated decluttering day, and make a commitment to tackle some small thing. Freshen up a drawer or something small. And remember, if “designated decluttering day” becomes a thing you heard it here first.
6. Make it stylish.
7. Use Baskets.
8. Collections are for teenagers and Jay Leno.
9. Do a before and after.
10. Label everything.
This goes along with using baskets to categorize everything. Labeling says “this item has a place, it belongs here.” You know what won’t belong there? A lot of stuff. Back to the garage for my example, because this is one place where I use labeling a lot.
Labeling also tells you where everything needs to go back to, and since the designated space is only so big it forces choices as to what can be added. After all, part of decluttering is not adding to the problem, right?
Now, I want to add that these 10 decluttering ideas left out one area. Digital files can also get out of hand. Not too long ago I shared my ideas for organizing photos. I won’t recount that here, but you can check that post out here if you like.
There you have it, 10 totally practical ways to declutter your home and your life. Nothing to memorize, no systems to follow. Pick a place to start and give it a try. I sincerely hope this is helpful. It is something I feel very passionate about and that I really try to live. I feel more in control and at peace in my home when it is a clean place, and by that I am not talking about the floors always being swept or the laundry done. I view home as a refuge from the world, and not allowing material things to overwhelm it is a big part of making it a place of peace and joy.
Here is a free printable to help get you started. Just click here to download.