how to start decluttering

How to Start Decluttering Your Home: A Complete Step by Step Guide to Less Mess

Have you been staring at the pile of laundry that has become more of a decorative piece in your room and wondered, is this the way my home is supposed to be forever? Learn how to start decluttering and stop letting the challenge of clutter define the look of your home.

Keep reading for a simple stepwise approach for decluttering your home room by room. Use these actionable decluttering tips to turn your home from chaotic to peaceful one room at a time.

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how to start decluttering

What is clutter and why is it a problem?

Clutter can be defined as the mindless accumulation of material (or non material) items in our homes, minds, and hearts. It can be subjective, for example my home could be considered lived in to my family, but to a true minimalist, it may seem cluttered.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll define clutter as the mess that affects your life adversely. These adverse effects include:

  • Personal health issues
  • Mental health issues
  • Time management issues
  • Strained relationships
  • Decreased productivity
  • Financial issues

If clutter even minorly affects your life then it may be time to do something to mitigate the issue and minimize the amount of unnecessary items you are holding on to.

Where to begin when decluttering

When you make the decision to start decluttering your home, you have to begin asking yourself a few key questions. This is especially important if you do not live alone. Understanding and recognizing what you can and can not control will help stave off some of the frustration that can come when everyone is not quite ready or willing to declutter in your household. Some questions you may want to consider are:

Where is the clutter? This could be that you have a couple of junk spaces in your home, or maybe the entire home is the junk space. Taking account of all the places that are cluttered will help you when we get to the preparation phase of decluttering your home.

What is the clutter? This questions takes into consideration what type of clutter you have. Maybe it’s a clothing and accessory obsession. Maybe its old mail. Whatever the clutter looks like having an understanding of what your challenge with clutter is helps you when it is time to sort, declutter, and organize.

Who causes the clutter? It is important to take time to answer this question. This one allows you to assess not only where the source of the clutter is but also make sure that everyone is on board and committed to getting control of the clutter and maintaining the clutter free home once you’ve gotten organized.

How to prepare to declutter your home

Once you have determined the what, why, and where of your clutter, the next step in how to start decluttering is to prepare. This requires 3 key elements: Supplies, Commitment, and prioritizing.

Decluttering supply list

Having everything you need to declutter on hand before you begin decluttering helps the process run smoother and minimizes you having to stop to get supplies in the middle of active decluttering. Some items you want to have on hand when decluttering are:

  • Trash bags and/or boxes
  • Markers and labels
  • Clear, stackable storage bins
  • Various sizes of zip bags
  • Shredder
  • Small trash can for every room
  • Organizers for magazines and files
  • File cabinet (if needed)
  • Shelving units for garage, basement, attic
  • Bookshelves or bookcases
  • Cannisters
  • Over-the-door hooks for towels, coats, or whatever
  • Mail organizer
  • Drawer and shelf organizers
  • Caddies for shower and cleaning products
  • If you’ll be cleaning as you go (recommended), buy all cleaning products and supplies
  • Label or set up bags or boxes for: Donate – Trash – Recycle – Pass On – Handle

You may also want to consider some of the items you may need to organize what you keep. I recommend waiting for this however until after the decluttering has begun. You may find that somethings you think you will keep do not end up making the cut once you get started.

Commitment from family members

Prayerfully you and your spouse are on the same page on the road to decluttering. Before the process starts, however, it is important to have a conversation where you both discuss your vision and goals for your home post decluttering. It is better to get a firm understanding of each other’s idea of what a clutter free home looks like to find common ground and compromise before starting.

Discussing your values is also important. Because clutter isn’t just an issue of too much stuff but also a mindset, understanding the principles of decluttering can help get everyone on the same page.

If you have children, preparing them for the decluttering process before hand is also important. Having a conversation with the children about why you are decluttering and giving them a good understanding of the difference between needs and wants can you avoid some of the meltdowns that can come from your little ones.

Prioritize your rooms

The last step before starting to declutter is to prioritize where to start and the order of decluttering. This may vary person to person. This could be the place that seems the worst, or the place where you spend the most time. Whatever it is, write if down on a list. Make notes of the order you want to tackle your decluttering and organizing room by room.

Begin decluttering: Actionable steps to decluttering your home today

Its easy to begin to feel overwhelmed when you decide to take on the task of decluttering and organizing your home. The easiest way to avoid the mountain of clutter you are facing and avoid the frustration that comes with avoidance of the clutter is to break up the mess. Instead of considering your entire home, try to take small steps towards decluttering. When you take small steps to declutter and organize your home, you can conquer the task much more easily.

To do this tackle only one room at a time. This will make your task appear much less daunting. Avoid moving on to the next room until you have completed the last one.

How to start decluttering your home room by room

  1. Choose your starting point. Whether you select a room that you can tackle in a day, or the most challenging one in the house, choose your room and start early.  Move on to step two.
  2. Sort the clutter. Go through every item in the room and sort into 4 categories: Throw away items, Donation/Sell items, Items that are in the correct room, and Items in the wrong room. This is the sorting principle that you will use in every area of the house. I find this to be the easiest decluttering and organizing method, however, there are several methods to choose from. If this one doesn’t serve you well, I recommend you find one that does.
  3. Get rid of the trash from the room. Simply taking all the “throw away” stuff out of the room is going to make an exceptionally large dent. Keep in mind that personal paperwork should be shredded rather than simply put into the garbage.
  4. Remove donation/sell items. Anything that you intend to sell, give away or donate should come out next. Designate a space in your home to store these items for now until you are ready to take one large donation. If this seems like another junk spot, you can make small donations throughout the decluttering process.
  5. Sort the “belongs elsewhere” section. Do not simply move these items into another room; otherwise these will need to be sorted again. Create a box or container for each room for which you have items. Make sure that you want to keep them so that you can transfer them into the right room without having to sort them again later.
  6. Organize what’s left. Now that you’ve removed large chunks of “stuff” from your room, you can organize everything that remains. When you are only working with the things that are supposed to be in the room, decluttering and organizing becomes much simpler.
  7. Repeat this process. Continue steps 1-6 in each room until the entire house is finished. When you handle one room at a time, the process is much simpler and less stressful.

Maintain your clutter free home

Once you have finished organizing your house, take a few minutes each day to ensure everything you’ve used during the day is back in place so you can continue to enjoy your “new” clutter-free home. If, however, you are anything like me, remaining clutter free doesn’t come naturally. Learning how to start decluttering is as much about the follow up care as it is about the actual process of decluttering.

For those of us who are not organized by nature, working on a few organizational skills can help maintain all the work you put into your home.

  1. Learn how to store things. Don’t just get the clutter out of sight. Organize the items you keep.
  2. Create a cleaning schedule. A home that is in order requires maintenance. Keeping your home tidy and decluttered is easier with a schedule.
  3. Pick up as you go. When you take something out, put it back up. This simple tip makes all the difference!

Changing the feel of the home you live in and creating a calm and peaceful oasis within your home doesn’t have to be challenging. You can avoid the overwhelm that sometimes accompanies decluttering by choosing to take it one room at a time.

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