17 Simple Tips To Declutter Your Home

Simple Tips To Declutter Your Home

It seems like everybody nowadays wants to declutter. The very idea of pairing down to the absolute essentials sounds appealing to most. And for very good reason.

“We don’t need to increase our goods nearly as much as we need to scale down our wants. Not wanting something is as good as possessing it.” – Donald Horban

Decluttering is a key strategy to living a more simple life. Having and wanting less gives you mental clarity as well as the confidence to say no to mindless consumerism.

But whilst decluttering sounds easy in theory, many of us still struggle to implement it into our lives. It’s often pushed aside to the “I’ll do it later” list.

There are a couple reasons for this.

  1. You don’t believe in the value of decluttering
  2. You don’t know where to start

I’m going to assume that you already understand the value of decluttering but need some guidance to help you get started.

By the end of this post you’ll have an actionable checklist of things you can do to declutter your home.

Declutter tip number 1 – Repack a room

This is one of my all time favourite decluttering tips from the guys over at The Minimalists. The idea is simple. Pick a room in your house and pack everything in that room into boxes. Over the next month, only take items out of the box when you need to use them.

At the end of the month, you’ll have two piles. One pile for all of the things you actually used and a second pile of the things you didn’t use.

Now you can make some decisions about the pile of things you didn’t use and fast track the decision making process.

Declutter tip number 2 – Play with numbers

Depending on what motivates you, counting your items might be an effective decluttering strategy.

I personally think it’s powerful in some areas. A good example are clothes. It motivates me when I know that my goal is to have 3 high quality pants in my rotation.

Courtney Carver propelled the wardrobe capsule movement with her Project 333 program, where you pick 33 articles of clothing and accessories every 3 months.

Striving for 33 items of clothing sounds more appealing than simply saying you’re going to declutter your wardrobe.

Having said that, if you apply this method to all of your things, you risk competing against others for the sake of competing, rather than focusing on the benefits of simplicity.

Declutter tip number 3 – Make micro-lists

Dana Byers recommends creating list for each area in your home. I love this tip because the lists can be very specific. For example, instead of creating one long list of everything you need to declutter around the house, you could make a micro-list of how you’re going to declutter your kitchen cupboards.

When you break tasks into small chunks like this, you put yourself in a position for quick wins as it might only take you 30 minutes to declutter your kitchen cupboards.

Declutter tip number 4 – Set a timer

When decluttering you can get lost in the details and sometimes it’s better to make quick decisions to keep your momentum going.

Timing your task is a great way to get things moving along. It could also be a fun way to engage your family. You could set up a big countdown timer on your laptop and everyone has to scramble to clear the space in that time.

Ready set go!

Declutter tip - set a timer

Declutter tip number 5 – Organise a swap party

This tip is more for the ladies who have cupboards full of unused beauty products.

I know it’s frustrating. You bought these products with high hopes, only to find that it’s not for you. You hang onto these items thinking that you may change your mind. Guilt hangs over you as you convinced your husband or boyfriend that this face serum would change your life.

The reality is you’re never going to use these products again but you can’t bring yourself to throwing them out. After all, you’ve barely touched them!

What do you do? Host a swap party with your girlfriends. Just because the products didn’t work for you doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else.

Invite all of your girlfriends over for a swap party. Everyone brings along their unused beauty products to showcase and sample. By the end of it, you’ll hopefully have products that you’ll actually use, or a the very least, your unused products wouldn’t of gone to waste.

You can also do this with your clothes, shoes and accessories.

Declutter tip number 6 – Discard broken items

This is a simple tip and one that should go without saying. I wrote this tip for the handymen and the handywomen who have the skills to fix broken items around the house but never get around to doing it.

Personally I cannot relate as I’m a useless handyman. But I’ve observed the behaviour of people who possess this amazing talent to fix things.

It’s a mentality of “oh I can’t throw it out because I know I can fix it”. Meanwhile your broken belongings keep piling up.

Be real with yourself. Instead of putting these projects in the “I’ll do it later basket”, think about how life has been without this item. If it was really essential, you probably would’ve fixed it by now.

So let yourself off the hook and discard the broken items in your life and move on. Or if you really struggle to throw it out, take it to the tip. Someone else may use the parts for something they are creating. It could just be the missing piece in their puzzle.

Declutter tip number 7 – Donate books and magazines to hospital emergency rooms

Have you ever been to a hospital emergency room? Unfortunately, I’ve spent a bit of time in these rooms.

The selection of reading material is usually 5+ years out of date. It would’ve been nice to see some more relevant reading material to keep my mind busy whilst waiting in an emergency room. Or at least some more variety!

Donating your big pile of magazines from High School to a hospital may very well be the best way to get rid of them.

Declutter tip number 8 – Roll your t-shirts

Decluttering doesn’t always mean that you need to be discarding your belongings. Sometimes you just need to reorganise an area to create more physical and mental space.

A great example of this is in your closet, specifically your t-shirts and tank tops.

By simply rolling your shirts, you can save significant space in your closet. Marie Kondo, author of the Life-Changing Art of Tidying Up brought this folding technique to the mainstream. Check out the video below to see how it’s done.

Declutter tip number 9 – Cut down your towel rotation

I used to own 5 towels. I’m not sure why. I guess that’s what my mum bought me.

But since becoming a minimalist, I’ve happily lived with just two towels in my rotation. That way, when I need to wash my towel, I have a spare to use when it’s drying.

I’m not sure why I would need more than two. Ladies might argue that they need an extra towel to dry their hair. In any case, if you have more than three towels (including one for the beach), you have an opportunity declutter.

The great thing about this tip is that your discarded towels can become really useful in other areas. For one, you could use them as rags to use around the house.

Personally, one of my favourites is to donate your towels to an animal shelter. They could always do with towels to help support the volume of animals they’re caring for.

Declutter tip number 10 – Organise before you buy

Before you race off and buy a bunch of storage boxes and hangers to help you declutter, take your time to organise first.

You might realise through the organisation process that you don’t need any more storage facilities.

I think sometimes we get excited about what our environment will look like once we’ve pared down.

Decluttering is not about design. It’s about living intentionally. Only treat yourself with a trip to Kiki K once you’ve done the hard work.

Declutter tip number 11 – Be realistic in your vision

Following on from the previous tip, try to be realistic with your vision. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to beautiful minimalist houses on social media and home decor magazines.

I get it. Minimalism is a sexy topic at the moment. And of course it’s ok to want to have an aesthetically pleasing house. You just need to be careful that you set realistic expectations for yourself.

Your home may not look a certain way because of the way it’s built, be it the materials for the flooring or the colour of your walls.

Again, the purpose of decluttering is to create physical and mental clarity. Find beauty in the process.

Declutter tip - be realistic with your vision

Declutter tip number 12 – The four box method

The four box method is a great decluttering tip that is tried and tested.

The idea is to have four boxes all with different purposes:

  1. A box used to throw out things
  2. A box used to keep things
  3. A box used to donate things
  4. A box used to store things*

*Even though your goal is to declutter, there may be some things that are essential but are not needed on a day-to-day basis. A prime example of this is Christmas Decorations or old photo albums that have sentimental value.

Declutter tip number 13 – Designate a spot for incoming paper

Leo Babauta said it best;

Papers often account for a lot of our clutter. This is because we put them in different spots — on the counter, on the table, on our desk, in a drawer, on top of our dresser, in our car. No wonder we can’t find anything! Designate an in-box tray or spot in your home (or at your office, for that matter) and don’t put down papers anywhere but that spot. Got mail? Put it in the inbox. Got school papers? Put it in the inbox. Receipts, warranties, manuals, notices, flyers? In the inbox! This one little change can really transform your paperwork.

Declutter tip number 14 – Scan your paperwork

Following on from tip 13, you could take things a step further and opt for a 100% paperless workflow. If you setup your system correctly, you can quickly scan important documents using your smart phone, store them on your computer or on the cloud, then recycle all physical paperwork.

This is how we manage our paperwork.

Declutter tip number 15 – Sort by categories, not by room

One of the biggest objections to decluttering is time. And it’s completely understandable. It’s a daunting task to declutter your whole house.

That’s why it’s best to break the project down into chunks.

Typical decluttering advice will tell you to focus on one room at a time. However depending on the room, you risk not completing the job within the allocated time. This sense of defeat can be enough to completely put you off from trying again.

Another way to approach decluttering is to focus on categories instead of rooms.

So rather than focusing on the kitchen, have a goal of clearing the draws.

Instead of focusing on clearing your bedroom, focus on clearing just your shoes.

Dealing with categories enables you to get quick wins. Furthermore, it groups like items together, making it easier to decide whether you can store, donate, keep or discard (refer to tip 12).

Declutter tip - Sort by categories, not by room

Declutter tip number 16 – Define your why statement

Making any significant change in your life comes from your own intrinsic motivation. Decluttering is no different.

Decluttering at first can be mentally exhausting. It does however become easier, dare I say pleasurable, when you know why you’re doing it.

Here are some questions to help you define why you want to declutter:

  • What is truly important in life?
  • What kind of person do I want to become?
  • How would I feel if I had less decisions to make?

Using these questions, write down a couple sentences about the benefits of decluttering and how it could impact your life.

It also helps to establish some ground rules for yourself to help reduce decision fatigue.

The question I always ask myself when deciding on whether to buy or discard an item is, “Is this absolutely 100% essential to my life?”

Declutter tip number 17 – Chronicle your journey

The fear of failing in front of others is an extremely strong motivator.

We see this a lot in the fitness industry, as people chronicle their weight loss journey and progress on social media.

You can apply the same method to decluttering. Embark on a 30 day decluttering challenge and post your progress pictures online for your friends and family to see.

Your community could be the very thing you need to keep you going when you’re not feeling motivated.

Start decluttering today

Phew. There’s quite a bit going on! Here’s a summary of the tips below:

  1. Repack a room
  2. Play with numbers
  3. Make micro-lists
  4. Set a timer
  5. Organise a swap party
  6. Discard broken items
  7. Donate books and magazines to hospital emergency rooms
  8. Roll your t-shirts
  9. Cut down your towel rotation
  10. Organise before you buy
  11. Be realistic in your vision
  12. The four box method
  13. Designate a spot for incoming paper
  14. Scan your paperwork
  15. Sort by categories, not by room
  16. Define your why statement
  17. Chronicle your journey

What about you? What is your number one decluttering tip? Share your tip in the comments below.

7 comments… add one
  • Karin 01/09/2016 Reply

    I’m not sure whether it strictly qualifies as a decluttering tip, but my strategy is just … don’t acquire stuff! Use what you already have, wear what you already own, throw things out as they wear out or break, and be very, very conscious not to buy or replace anything unless you truly need the item. It works for me 😉 Thanks for your excellent blog.

    • Hey Karin, of course this classifies as a tip – and a very important one at that! Taking a preventative approach is the most sustainable strategy for simple living. Thanks for sharing.

  • Summer Edwards 03/09/2016 Reply

    I have found my decluttering methods to be quite different to the advice I read on most minimalist blogs. I prefer to take things slowly, and consider each item and my attachment to it. I prefer to do things slowly, mindfully and sustainably. I helps that I have always been frugal, and not someone who has considered shopping a pastime, so my decluttering process is less overwhelming. Still, like everyone, my house still contained things that we don’t need and use. An old piemaker that belonged to a housemate (and since I have Coeliacs, I don’t really make pies)- things like this are easy to donate.

    But other things I prefer not to get rid of immediately. My collection of yarns and fabrics, many many books that I want to read but haven’t done so. These things take more consideration. I take note of them, and why I haven’t used them yet. Book inn particualr, Istill actually want to read. So I’ve been workign through my collection, and carefully considering whether I will use them again once they’ve been read. My textile collection- I am only doing crafts and mending projects that use what I already own, so I can pare it back. This method is slow, but it is mindful, and it ensures that next time I walk passed a book store or yarn shop, I will think carefully before buying anything new.

    For me, I also won’t get rid of my broken things. I have a pile of mending that I do when I watch a movie with my husband. I have old coloured stockings that I am making into sustainable Christmas decorations. Although there are times in my life where these piles don’t get attended to, there are also times when I make great progress. Sustainablility it just so important to me, that I would rather these things take up a bit of space in my home. But by being mindful of them, I can ensure that I also make the space in my life to take care of them.

    I fear that too many people are approaching minimalism as a fad. Of course, I am not saying that this is the case with your guys (I think your work is great!). But I’ve taken part in a few minimalist communities online and I’ve seen too many people just trashing bags and bags of stuff, without any thought to the waste that they are creating, and without any mindfulness of the desires that were fuelling them when they overconsumed. A little bit more mindfulness, and a slower path would many to get a better handle on this. The world doesn’t need more decluttering. It needs more people who realise that buying stuff isn’t the answer to happiness.

    But if you do have unwanted stuff, I highly recommend looking up your local Buy Nothing Group on facebook. There you can find a community who will happliy use the things you no longer need. It might take you longer to declutter this way, but it will do some for your community and the world.

  • Marie 09/09/2016 Reply

    We also have just 2 towels on rotation (each). I also have 2 sets of sheets on rotation. However, I don’t get the rolled t-shirt thing – surely that just results in wrinkled t-shirts? I’m happy to just fold mine in half and stack them (it’s not like I have many so it’s easy to see which one I want). I also hang my jeans/trousers (we Australians rarely fold our jeans, seems to be a North American thing?). We have a 3 box system going – a box to donate, a box to trash and a “not sure” box which we’ll go through in a year or so and re-assess.

  • Rhea Morales 12/09/2016 Reply

    I agree that rolling t-shirts wrinkles them. It’s faster to dry them on a hanger, then hang them in the closet when dry. I find some items I like to wear are hard to find, so I’m fine with stockpiling them, sometimes frugality and convenience come before another’s definition of minimalism. We keep enough towels to make a full wash load, as a smaller number would be wasteful to wash. Since becoming vegan, in a rural area (Happy Cow doesn’t really help), having more food in my kitchen to prepare helps me to more easily stay vegan. I have a 1232 square foot home, paid off years ago from frugal living, so I have learned what level of discarding things is just right. If you give too much away to the charity, friends, or the landfill, you are back into stores to replace it.

  • Andrea 19/10/2016 Reply

    Always enjoy reading your interesting blog. Regarding tip 9: one thing has been on my mind, and I agree with what Rhea said about having only 2 towels, which makes for a wasteful wash. So my honest question is how do you do laundry having only 2 towels?

    • Hi Andrea, I can definitely understand why you would be asking this question. To give you some more context, there are two people in our household, so if both use two towels we can wash them together. Additionally, we use hand towels in our bathroom as well as face towels. So when you factor that in, we can easily perform at small to medium load of washing on rotation. This ensures we always have a set of towels available but nothing more than what we need. Hope this clears some things up.

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