It seems like everybody nowadays wants to declutter. The very idea of pairing down to the absolute essentials sounds appealing to most. And for a 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 for 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 while 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 of reasons for this.
- You don’t believe in the value of decluttering
- You don’t know where to start
I’m going to assume that you already understand the importance 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 is clothes. It motivates me when I know that my goal is to have three high-quality pants in my rotation, choose a personal uniform.
Courtney Carver propelled the wardrobe capsule movement with her Project 333 program, where you pick 33 articles of clothing and accessories every three months.
Striving for 33 items of clothing sounds more appealing than merely 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 minimalism.
Declutter tip number 3 – Make micro-lists
Dana Byers recommends creating a list for each area in your home. I love this tip because the lists can be precise.
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 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 use, or at the very least, your unused products wouldn’t have 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 fantastic 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 were 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 struggle to throw it out, take it to the tip.
Someone else may use the parts for something they’re 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 while 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 merely 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 five 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 (and men with long hair) 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 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.
Note: Maša and I both of two towels each as well as various hand and face towels. So we have a nice rotation for when we need to wash our towels together.
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.
Read more: The Curse of The Minimalist Aesthetic
Declutter tip number 12 – The four-box method
The four-box method is an excellent decluttering tip that is tried and tested.
The idea is to have four boxes all with different purposes:
- A box used to throw out things
- A box used to keep things
- A box used to donate things
- A box used to store things*
*Even though your goal is to declutter, there may be some things that are essential but aren’t 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 set up your system correctly, you can quickly scan important documents using your smartphone, store them on your computer or 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 put you off from trying again completely.
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 removing 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 number 16 – Define your why statement
Making any significant change in your life comes from your 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 fewer decisions to make?
Using these questions, write down a couple of 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 100% essential to my life?”
Declutter tip number 17 – Chronicle your journey
The fear of failing in front of others is a powerful 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:
- Repack a room
- Play with numbers
- Make micro-lists
- Set a timer
- Organise a swap party
- Discard broken items
- Donate books and magazines to hospital emergency rooms
- Roll your t-shirts
- Cut down your towel rotation
- Organise before you buy
- Be realistic in your vision
- The four-box method
- Designate a spot for incoming paper
- Scan your paperwork
- Sort by categories, not by room
- Define your why statement
- Chronicle your journey
What about you? What is your number one decluttering tip? Share your tip in the comments below.