How to Declutter an Entire Room in One Afternoon

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Decluttering can be a time-consuming and draining task.  What if I could show you HOW to declutter an ENTIRE ROOM in just one afternoon?  Interested?  Read on!

One of the big problems with the decluttering process is that it typically is a long, drawn-out process that requires weeks or even months to complete.  Well, when you put it like that, I wouldn’t want to do it either!  But if you can clear out a chunk of time and you’re willing to work FAST and be fairly ruthless, you CAN declutter an entire room all in just one day.

Disclaimer:  I’m talking a fairly “normal” room.  A basic bedroom, living room, office area, etc. that is pretty cluttered, but not in drastic wall-to-wall, can’t find the floor kind of space.  Sorry, but Martha Stewart couldn’t fix that type of a room in just one day! 

Actually, the BIGGEST bugaboo I see, particularly for women, are the messy craft rooms or sewing room areas.  So, I made a whole post with special techniques just for that type of room – 4 Tips to Organize Your Messy Craft Room

First – Analyze the Space

This is probably the most important step, so don’t leave this out.  Set aside about 10-15 minutes to just look at the space the way a Real Estate Agent would.  What is the purpose of the room and what activities need to happen here?  Do you need to have separate zones for different activities within the room?

For instance, in my living room, I always had a special corner set aside for my kids to color, play, do their homework, or whatever.  Unsupervised kids can get into a boatload of trouble, so I generally kept them in the same room with us.  I bought a regular school desk at a garage sale, so they could keep all their STUFF contained inside it and still have a space to have a snack or work on stuff (or play with Hot Wheels – whatevs).

So figure out your zones and activities for the room.  Next, take a good look at what is in the room that doesn’t belong there.  Why is it there?  Where does it need to be relocated to?  Does it just need to go away?  What would you like to add to the room?  A comfy chair for meditating?  A table for your morning tea or coffee?  Hidden storage for blankets, magazines, or clutter?  Even if you don’t have these items, you can plan out a space for them.

Gather Your Tools (and some rocking music!)

You’ll need some tools to make this job easier and some upbeat and loud music to inspire you.  Here are some of the basic items you’ll need:

  • Large garbage bags
  • Donation boxes (multiple)
  • Post-it Notes
  • Labels and a marker
  • A timer (to keep you on track)
  • A dust cloth (might as well dust as you go)
  • A laundry basket (for belongs elsewhere items or things belonging to other family members).

Set aside a large space for sorting; this can be on a bed, a card table or just the middle of the floor.  You can also use your Post-it-Notes in this process.  See my post on using Declutter ANYTHING using the Post-It Note Method.

Make Some General Ground Rules to Declutter an Entire Room Quickly

In order to do this efficiently, you’ll need to set some ground rules.

Move Quickly and Efficiently – That’s where the music comes in.  Don’t sit down, keep moving, use both hands, make quick decisions, these are all the techniques that will help you get through this decluttering process quickly and efficiently.

Macro Sort, Don’t Micro Sort – this is not the time to sit down and categorize things into a bunch of different categories.  If you have papers, put them in a pile and move them to another spot for detailed sorting.  If you have clothes, dump them into a basket and figure them out later.  Just try to get like items together so you are only handling them once.  This is particularly helpful for messy craft rooms.

Set a Clear Goal – For instance, to reduce the items in the room by 20% to 50%.  So, if you have 12 decorative items on shelves around the room (not unusual), you’re going to want to eliminate at least 4-6 of them.  Or you may look at less furniture in the room.  My mother was famous for cramming as many little tables and shelves as she could fit into a space and then filling every inch of them with decorative items.  It was a little overwhelming, to say the least.

Work the Room Correctly – Strategize the manner in which you plan to tackle the room. Always go in a single direction, focus on one shelf or drawer and commit to never returning to an area you’ve already hit. You may wish to start with the back of the room and work from left to right, then toward the door. Or you could begin at side of the room, moving steadily across to the other side. Just have a plan.

Use Your Timer – I prefer a “pomodoro” strategy.  It’s very famous and it works beautifully.  You work for a set amount of time – say 50 minutes, then you rest for 10.  Then you start the timer again.  I use this technique frequently when I’m writing or doing other focused work.

REMOVE YOUR PHONE TO ANOTHER ROOM – See how this one is in ALL caps?  Yep, I know you, ‘cuz I’m the exact same way.  The temptation to check your phone every time it beeps is SO powerful (addictive, one might say) and when you are doing stuff you don’t necessarily want to do, it’s so easy to come up with random questions that you simply MUST ask Google.  Remove the temptation or put it in airplane mode if you need it for the music.

Declutter an Entire Room

Label Your Storage

Use the post-its and marker to label your baskets temporarily. You’ll want one for Donations (probably several), one for Action Needed (for repairs, returning to friends, etc.), one for Sell and one for Move (to another room). If it works for your space, you’re also going to want to label your permanent storage.  I’m thinking like snack drawers, labels for bills or different types of paperwork, or linen closets.  Those are areas that can really benefit from labelling.

Now that you’re all set up – dig in and just go for it.  I probably should’ve mentioned that this is best as a solo activity.  If you’re trying to do this with a spouse or a kid, it can end up in huge power struggles and fights.  But on the other hand, if you’re dealing with someone else’s belongings, be careful and respectful.  Nothing can damage a relationship more than just digging in and tossing out someone else’s cherished items.  You wouldn’t appreciate that either, so pack them up carefully and move to another safe area.

Check out my post on When Your Husband is a Pack Rat.

Even with the most cluttered room, this process shouldn’t take more than a day to complete. Be firm with yourself when it comes to deciding See? There are lots of things you can discard or donate easily with little stress. Go give it a try, yourself, and see how your motivation increases when it comes to ditching your old stuff. And at the end, you’ll absolutely LOVE your new decluttered room.

Here are some other posts you might enjoy:

50 Quick Wins for Decluttering Your House

How to Blow Away Your Paper Clutter FOREVER

Smash Those Bad Habits That Keep You Stuck

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