Clutter creeps up. No matter how vigilant you are about performing annual clean-ups around the house, the gradual accumulation of junk is a never-ending tide that wanes in and out, leaving piles of chaos that challenge your clarity and overwhelm your sense of serenity. No two ways about it: clutter is stressful.
Thing is, though, it’s an easily solvable problem—one that takes only two steps. First, you have to purge. Then, you have to adopt best practices. And lucky for you, we’ve rounded up said best practices right here. So read on, and learn how to declutter all the unnecessary stuff from your life. There’s only one possible result: you feeling happier, healthier, and more free than ever before.
Ask yourself three questions.
Every big purge starts the same way: you staring at a big pile of stuff that you have no clue what to do with. It’s daunting and frustrating in equal measure, yes, but it’s also far more simple than you think. To get things rolling, all you have to do is ask yourself three questions.
- What’s the worst thing that would if I got rid of this?
- Could I rent or borrow this item if I need it in the future?
- Is the storage space taken up by this item really worth it?
Trust me: Your honest answers will tell you everything you need to know.
Plan a purge.
Most of us get the itch to clean up the house when the weather gets warm, windows get thrown open, and sunlight hangs around longer. But don’t just wait for a spring cleaning to get clutter under control. Schedule a big purge at least twice a year (at, say, the equinoxes) to keep things neat and tidy.
Invest in a label maker.
Besides being surprisingly fun, making labels can help you in your quest to conquer clutter. If you label drawers and storage containers with the names of the items or categories of stuff that goes there, then you’ll be more likely to keep putting the right things in their right place, making for a more organized home.
Go for groupings.
Another bonus of the label maker: it’s the perfect time to corral clutter into specific groups. Grouping similar items into separate cubbies or shelves helps with chaos control, and allows to you easily see when you have duplicates, so you don’t end up doubling and tripling your stock of unnecessary goods.
Be ruthless with lone socks.
It may seem like a trivial thing, but that pile of mismatched socks you have by your dresser isn’t going to get any smaller, so start trashing it. If you haven’t found the mate of a mismatched sock after six months, it’s time to say goodbye. Hopefully, it’ll meet its mate in the alternate missing sock dimension.
Put up hooks.
Jackets and hoodies can quickly start to pile up by the door, especially when the weather gets chilly. But instead of draping them on the bannister or over the couch, add a few hooks to a wall in your entryway so they have a quick and easy home that won’t make them look like a messy lump.
Trash any manuals.
When ever you bring in a new appliance or electronic device, they usually come with a thick product manual that you dutifully file away for future trouble shooting. Go gather them all up and trash them. These days, you can find any info you need for any product at any time on the internet now.
Cut down on duplicates.
Have four spatulas hanging out in your kitchen drawer? What about three peelers? Or about 300 USB cables in the junk drawer? Toss all duplicate items, especially any you haven’t used in six months, they are just making more clutter and adding to the chaos.
Toss out old meds.
This is an easy way to help you get started on clutter control, just hit up your medicine cabinet and pull out all expired medications or prescriptions. If the date is past, put it in a bag and drop them off at your local pharmacy—no excuses, no delays.
Stick to one room.
It’s easy to tell yourself it’s time to clean out the clutter in a room, but once you start going through stuff, it’s inevitable that you’ll find something you want to keep. Thing is, it goes somewhere else, in a different room. (Maybe it’s a stray towel that belongs in the bathroom, or a pair of shoes that should go in the foyer.) But then you leave and head to that room and your cleaning gets derailed. Instead, just put a container by the door of the room you’re tidying and drop out-of-place objects there.
Bring on the baskets.
Clearing out unneeded junk is important for calmness and clarity, but you’re still going to be saddled with a bunch of unsightly objects like remotes and magazines and blankets. But you don’t have to totally hide them away, pick up some cool baskets or boxes that are easily accessible in main rooms but still conceal essential clutter.
Declutter, then organize.
Don’t fall into the trap of buying organizational items like containers or hangers before embarking on a serious attempt at killing clutter. If you splurge on those things before you even make piles of stuff to save or get rid of, you’re just adding to the clutter, plus you won’t know what kind of organizational products you’ll need.
Keep surfaces clear.
If you start to abide by the maxim to keep every surface clear of stuff, it will massively help in the battle to reduce clutter. Just don’t fall into the trap of stuffing magazine and receipts and other papers into a drawer or desk. Throw them away or, if they’re important, digitize them by scanning and then tossing them.
Don’t get overwhelmed.
If you find yourself halfway into a serious clutter control session you get overwhelmed and want to quit, just remember that it took you years to accumulate all of this junk and it’s going to take more than a day to deal with it. Take a breath, take a break, and make a plan to get back to it tomorrow. It takes time to properly conquer clutter.
Put limits on pillows.
Sure, you may love a good throw pillow or stylish bolster or two on the bed, but a pillow-laden bed is just another form of clutter, no matter how decorous things may look. Plus, dealing with all that extra bedding even takes time out of your morning and night, so go for a minimal amount, like three.
Cull your magazine library.
It’s nice to have a healthy mound of cool and interesting magazines hanging around the living room or by the bed, but you should take the time, once a quarter, to go through them and recycle the old ones. If an issue has a good article or recipe you want, cut it out or take a pic and look for its duplicate online.
Once you make the determination to go for a purge, head for a small spot to get started—the medicine cabinet or the makeup drawer or the bookshelf. This way, you’ll see results quickly and it’ll motivate you to move on to bigger and bigger spaces.
Having clear containers for foodstuffs is good, because grains and legumes generally look cool in such jars. But don’t go for see-through containers or bins for your other, less attractive items. Clutter that’s organized but can still be seen is still technically a mess and not a soothing sight.
Take up tidying time.
Once you do a few big purges and feel like you’re back in control, schedule a time at the end of each week, or even each day, to clean up and get things in their place—the garbage, the garage, the guest room. When you make it a consistent habit, you won’t get overwhelmed by a mound of growing junk a few times a year.
Throw out take-out trash.
When you frequent fast food spots or take-out joints, you usually come home with some plastic silverware and a pile of condiments. Sure, maybe you could use them someday, on a picnic or at work. It’s a noble notion—but also a line of thinking you should halt, immediately. All such item do is add clutter to your space. Toss them immediately, double back through your drawers, and trash any stragglers.
Purge your spice rack.
We all have spices that have been around forever. Every time that dusty jar of ground coriander rolls around, it comes with a requisite crack about how it dates back to college days. Yeah, you see where this is going: tossing old, crumbly spices is another easy way to declutter. A good rule of thumb: put any that are older than three years straight into the garbage.
Find and fill spaces.
To kick off a cleaning spree, look for a bunch of things that are out of place or scattered about and then start putting them back into place like a bookshelf, a DVD stand, a magazine rack, or whatever. The sense of satisfaction that comes from putting like with like can motivate you to do more.
Become a curator.
Think of your home as a fine museum or showplace, and start to cultivate objects that are beautiful, necessary, and meaningful once you perform a huge purge of junk. You don’t have to go to a minimalist extreme, but be selective about what you bring in and buy. Keep it neat and nice.
Utilize vertical spaces.
For more storage options, don’t forget to maximize your vertical areas like hanging hooks on the backs of doors and walls by main doors or adding storage solutions like shelving and multi-prong hooks or big racks in closets. These will get stuff off of the floor and make items more accessible.
Someone once said that clutter is really just a bunch of decisions that you’ve put off making. Unless you’re a bona fide hoarder, most of the junk hanging around without a place to go is just crying out for a decision. Make the choice for the item (and yourself): keep it, or trash it. It’s as simple as that.
Clutter clean-out time is a great way to redo your food storage situation. Pull them all out and then try to match containers with lids—any that are missing, toss them. And if you have warped, yellowed, or cracking containers, trash those too.
Get honest with yourself.
A lot of clutter accumulation is about filling a void or distracting yourself from other problems. Short of seeing a therapist, get honest with your needs. Ask yourself: what items would you replace if your home burned down? Make tough choices and build a new, cleaner home from those realizations.
Toss old tech.
Delve into that drawer or container that holds cables and power cords and USB drives and hard drives. You’re never going to use 90 percent of that digital cruft again, because technology updates so quickly these days, so take it all to a recycling center and say your farewells.
Take a photo.
If you have some super sentimental things but are scared to let them go, take a picture of them and save that instead. It can be anything from a practically-useless-but-emotionally-treasured gift, an old battered punk T-shirt from college, or even your first iPod; save the memory with a photo and then let it go.
Use the four box method.
The three box method—one for keeping, one for donating, and one for tossing—is a popular decluttering technique. But we swear by the four box method. It’ll add some clarity. Here’s how it works: one box for keeping (stuff you need and use), one box for selling or donating (items that are no longer needed that could benefit someone else or put a little money in your pocket), one box for storing (seasonal or sentimental stuff you just can’t part with yet, only used if you have the storage space), and one box for tossing (junk and broken stuff that has no place in your new, clutter-free life).
Move out makeup.
Another easy one to help you get on the de-cluttering train, going through and trashing old and expired makeup can be cathartic. Even those it’s expensive and easy to collect, expired makeup can actually cause allergic reactions and even may hold nasty bugs.
Get clear containers.
When you bring home bulk goods like cereal and rice, dump them into a variety of clear containers you can find at most home or container stores. This way, you’ll be able to see what dry foods you have and how much you have of them, making it easier to know when to buy and not go overboard with duplicate items.
Make an in-and-out promise.
To limit the build-up of junk and duplicate items in your home, make a hard and fast “in and out” rule. This simply means that for whatever item you bring into the home—sweater, bowling ball, throw pillow, hammer—if you already have one version of it, you have to get rid of the older model. Sorry, we don’t make the rules; we just report them. And for more genius tricks that’ll have everything in your life tidied up, here are 65 Genius Ways to Organize Your Life.
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