There is no doubt that decluttering can be exhausting and soul-shattering. So, I came up with a list of 50 quick wins for decluttering to help you feel some encouragement, especially if you have a space that feels OVERWHELMING. Then you can start to see the picture coming together a bit. These little mini tasks can usually be done in 15 minutes or less, so you could complete several of them in a single day.
6 Rules of Decluttering
When it comes to getting organized, the first step absolutely NEEDS to be decluttering. Paring down your possessions is the only way to pave the road for sorting them and organizing them. However, for some people, letting go of their excess clutter is massively intimidating. As with any other process, it often helps to have some rules in place. Consider these six rules of decluttering to help you take steps toward living a clutter-free life.
Step One – Quit Buying Shit!
Americans in particular are awful at this. We buy too many toys, too many clothes, too many home products, just too dang much shit! And it’s not stuff we NEED. So, step one is to STOP IT. One popular way to manage this is to implement a one-in/one out rule. Buy a new pair of shoes, donate an older pair or one that doesn’t fit. You’ll save money and also as a side effect, have less stuff in your home. It will also help you to be more creative in using the items you already have. This is one of my top decluttering tips.
I have a ton of great posts on this topic, but here is my favorite one – 10 Secrets of Women Who Always Have MONEY
Step Two – Strike a Healthy Balance with Your Nostalgia
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion that can lead us to hold onto clutter. We want to keep things we’ve inherited from parents and grandparents or we want to keep items from your children’s lives. At the same time, we have valued possessions of our own that we’ve accumulated in our own lives. It is an important sentiment, but you can see where this can take up 20%-30% or more of your available space for the past, not the present or the future.
This means that you have to set sensible limits and be creative in how you deal with this situation. But there are so many great options available. You can turn them into artwork and display them on walls and shelves. You can digitize them or scrapbook them. One family we know turned their kid’s artwork into laminated placemats. This was especially touching as their son had passed away in his late teens, so it was an even more meaningful memento.
So make some rules for yourself about what to keep and what to let go of and then make a plan. See how this strategy fits into your quick wins for decluttering process, because I think this one can be quite helpful to your process. Nostalgic clutter can be a huge burden, especially as these are things you could end up hanging onto for 20, 30 or 40 years! PS: 90% of the time, your kids do NOT WANT this stuff, so don’t hang onto it for their sake.
And don’t burden them with tons of stuff to clear out after you’re gone. We loved our Mom dearly, but we were seriously cussing her when digging through her HUNDREDS of sentimental items after she was gone! It’s not kind to do that to your kids.
Step Three – Manage Your Paper
Paper management can be pretty crazy-making and it can get out of hand in the blink of an eye! It needs to become a daily task to manage the huge flow of paper coming into your home.
I’ve got some great tips to help you with this – How to Blow Away Your Paper Clutter FOREVER
Step Four – Dump the Duplicates
A relatively easy decluttering task involves getting rid of unnecessary duplicate items. So take a moment to go through your home and gather up all your duplicate articles of clothing, dish sets and books. Then sort through them, keeping only your favorite items or the one that is in the best condition. This is one of Marie Kondo’s top decluttering tips.
I’m not just advising you to do something like this out of the blue. A few years ago, we were thinking about moving to a different house and we literally got rid of about 30% of our STUFF in every category. Then we liked the new uncluttered look so much, we decided to stay.
Step Five – Nix the Guilt
An empowering decluttering strategy is to get rid of things you’ve been holding onto out of guilt. It doesn’t matter how much you paid for that stylish coat, if it’s not being used, and unwanted gifts are something else you should part with immediately. These things are yours. The decision of whether to keep them is also yours.
People are always so worried about someone getting offended if they dispose of an unwanted gift. In most cases, this is an unfounded fear. Most people aren’t going to come over and quiz you about a particular item. If they do, my old standby is to look vaguely around and then lie like crazy – “I know I saw it around here somewhere just last week. I’ll look for it later.” But read the situation carefully. If you think it’s going to cause a major family blow up, then you should probably keep it. In the basement – out of the daily flight path.
Step Six – Put Items in Their Place
Another way to bring organization to your home is to give each item a home. You’ll find that a super helpful practice. My trick in this area is very simple. Think of the FIRST place you would go to find something. That’s it’s natural home, so if you keep it there, you’ll always be able to find it easily.
This is where macro sorting is super helpful and also using good labeling techniques. Some people prefer to micro sort where they have a separate place for the cans of green beans and the corn, and the spinach. I can see where that is helpful, but it requires constant maintenance to keep things orderly. So it tends to fall apart easily. Macro sorting means you have a whole drawer simply labelled as “Vegetables” and it’s much easier to manage.
50 Quick Wins for Decluttering Your House the Easy Way
Here’s what you’ve been waiting for. You NEED those quick wins for decluttering your house to give you encouragement and energy. Grab a box (or two) and and a trash bag. It’s sort of like exercising a muscle – it gets stronger in time. Set a timer for 30 minutes and let’s see how far you can get through this list.
- Junk mail
- Broken or ugly jewelry
- Old greeting cards
- Duplicates of anything
- Nearly empty bottles of anything
- Old makeup (most makeup is only good for 6 months or less)
- Outgrown toys or games
- Socks with holes
- Boxes from electronics or small appliances
- Hotel toiletries (always in demand in shelters)
- Kids’ clothes that no longer fit
- Expired food items
- Excess grocery bags
- Outdated holiday ornaments
- Broken laptops or devices you’ve been meaning to fix
- Unused blankets, towels, sheets (homeless shelters love these!)
- Old trophies or memorabilia you no longer value
- That collection of extra buttons you’re never going to use
- Unnecessary receipts
- Outdated spices
- Accessories for hobbies you no longer pursue
- Frozen foods past their use by dates
- Stretched-out undergarments
- Vacation souvenirs you never look at
- Purses long out of style
- Instruction manuals for things you no longer own
- Last year’s calendar
- Craft supplies for projects never begun or completed
- Pens that don’t work
- Beauty products that don’t suit you
- Stuff that’s been in your junk drawer forever
- The clutter at the bottom of your purse
- Pantyhose or tights with runs
- Gifts you never liked in the first place
- Anything you forgot you even had
- Pet supplies from animals that have long passed (donate?)
- Chipped dishware or cookware
- Dusty floral arrangements
- Earrings without a mate
- Games with missing pieces
- Old magazines
- Books you’ve read once or will likely never read
- Expired medicines
- Electronics chargers without a device
- Excess or mismatched glassware
- Toys from fast-food children’s meals
- Videos you no probably won’t watch again
- Kitchen gadgets you don’t use (sandwich press, bread maker, etc.)
- Scraps of or crumpled wrapping paper
- Mismatched Tupperware
Bonus Tip: 10 Tiny Decluttering Steps You Can Take Today
If you’ve been procrastinating on a home decluttering project, chances are the reason behind your hesitation is feeling overwhelmed or just not knowing where to start. Those things can trip anyone up on the road to organization. So, let’s kick it into GEAR!
My advice is to print this list off, and keep it where you can see it. Then do at least one item every day. Even doing just one little thing is progress. Then, very important step – CELEBRATE. Do a little happy dance, give yourself a high five or a fist pump – whatever makes you feel like a winner. That step is the most overlooked, but the most important one. Your brain just loves that little moment of celebration and it so rarely gets that little boost.
Clear Just One Surface
Clear your kitchen table. If that’s too overwhelming, choose a segment of your countertop or your coffee table. Make it a surface you see daily, and then defend it against any family members who want to dump stuff there. I generally do this with Post-it-Notes and veiled threats “This is a clean counter, mess it up and you die! Love Mom”
Check out my Declutter ANYTHING with Post-it Notes.
Empty a Shelf
Now that you have a surface cleared that you will see every day to provide you motivation, you can move on to another small task. Find a cluttered shelf – one that’s in a visible spot and then clear it off. Just one. Then put something pretty on it so you aren’t tempted to clutter it up again. Remember to not clutter it up again.
Picture Your Finished Room
This is such a critical step. In fact, it’s one of the first things I do with decluttering clients. We talk about their vision for the space as well as what is currently in there and what needs to happen with it. Take just a few minutes, look around the room and just dream a little bit. Picture how your room might look when completely pared down and organized. Visualization is a powerful motivator.
Designate a Paper Zone
Nothing accumulates and gets out of control like papers. Designate an area as a catchall for your paperwork, and always place new papers in that tray or box. I keep his and hers clipboards for our most important papers, a drawer for bills, and then some basic folders for receipts, medical bills, pay stubs, etc.
Check out my paper organization posts – lots of great matchy-matchy folders and other items that are organized, but also look attractive. How to Blow Away Your Paper Clutter FOREVER
Find Homes for 5 Things
We all have a few items that never seem to get put away. Carefully choose your five most commonly left-out items, and find special places to store them. Good candidates – keys, purses, remotes, your phone chargers, office supplies like staplers, rulers, etc. I’m pretty good at this one because I absolutely HATE to lose things. So frustrating for me. So I try to keep these types of things in designated places because nothing makes me crazy like being late (I’m always late!) and having to search around for an item.
Donate Three Pieces of Clothing
Clothes are often the easiest items to declutter because of the sheer volume of items. Choose just three pieces to give away each day while getting ready. Too big, too small, fits weird, unflattering color, or just doesn’t make you happy. Be honest. Soon you’ll have a bag full.
Pro Tip: I always keep a box in my house somewhere for giveaway items. Then when I find any item that is unwanted, then I just toss it in the box. When it gets full, I send it off to the closest charity.
Dump One Drawer
I love this one. I can usually do it in just 10 minutes. Pick just one drawer in your home to declutter. Then dump it out and only keep the items you really want and need. Everything else goes. Then you get the FUN of putting it all back in an organized way. That’s the best part. This is particularly helpful for your messy craft room, which can get QUITE overwhelming.
See my post on how to organize your messy craft room.
Organize Your Medicines
Medicine, bandages and other health supplies should be kept together. Tackle just your medicine cabinet, creating a neat and tidy place to keep the up-to-date items you use most regularly. I’m a real stickler for this one – if someone is BLEEDING, they need to know exactly where to look for the first-aid supplies. Again, I do a macro sort technique – if your stomach hurts, you go to this drawer, if you have a sniffle, you go here, all the braces and ace wraps are stored together. Makes things SO much easier.
Pots and Pans Time
The kitchen is a treasure trove when you are looking for quick wins to declutter your kitchen gadgets. There are so many duplicate items, broken items, mismatched items, and just plain junk floating around in there. I’m guessing you can find 3-5 items pretty quickly and they will fill up your giveaway box pretty quickly.
Take That Bin to the Car
Once you have a few tiny tasks underway, you’ll likely end up with a sizeable amount of stuff to donate. Take the bag or box out to your car to deliver to the thrift shop. Actually, this is one of my rules when I work with decluttering clients. It’s right in my contract that all giveaway items have to be out of the house within 24 hours. Otherwise, it is in danger of becoming part of the landscape or you start picking through it.
Taking small decluttering steps is easy. Soon you’ll be on your way to big life changes.