I’ve always had a knack for decluttering, but usually the results don’t last. Not even a few months after decluttering a closet, for example, it will end up filled to the brim all over again. Then add kids to the mix and forget it, by the time I’ve moved on to the next room, the last is full of clutter again.
Sorting through your home every few months is exhausting. I was sick of the constant projects, and just wanted a place to put my stuff!
If you are looking to transform your space, and finally declutter your home for good, this is going to be your go-to guide to get started! I’m going to walk you through step-by-step exactly what I did to take back my house and how you can use these techniques for other rooms in your home as well!
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Step 1: Lay it All Out There
The first step to truly taking back your space, is to get everything out on the table. Dump out every box, unload every shelf, and put it all in one central area. If you’re working in a small space, consider moving it into another room to sort.
Step 2: Sort your Items Into Logical Piles – Sell, Trash, Donate, Keep
The best way to sort is by next action — meaning, what is the next action will you take with this item? I like to use sell, trash, donate, and keep piles. This system will work no matter what room you are working in, and is the best starting point for sorting your things.
I’ve actually labeled 4 bins with these signs and I keep them in my basement since I repeat this process frequently throughout my home.
The place I tend to see people get stuck is in this sorting process itself. I like to use these questions to really challenge myself to assess every item:
- Would I buy this item again today?
- Does this item somehow better my life?
- Is this something I’ll want my children to have in the future?
- How easy would this item be to replace?
- Can I make money selling this item?
Still feeling stuck on an item? Here is a process I use when deciding what to keep when decluttering.
Once you have sorted your things into these categories, take your trash pile and immediately throw it out or get it out of the house. This will keep these items from recirculating back into your space.
Next, we will look at your donate pile. You can choose to either donate them now if you don’t think you’ll be able to do it in the next few days, or go ahead and put them in a place where you won’t forget them and they can easily be donated when it’s time. Make sure you write down all of the items you are donating (or at least the general category and estimated worth) for tax deductions if applicable, and that all your items are ready to go in trash bags, boxes, or whatever you’re using to transport them.
Minimally, put them somewhere like your garage, by the door, or in your trunk, so it’s out of the room you are working on and serves as a reminder to drop off. I’ll sometimes drive around with a box in my trunk for a few weeks before I drop it off, but it makes me do it and keeps it out of my house.
Then, take your sell pile and put all of these items in a box or bag together. The second part of this is crucial, you need to keep all of these items together or you risk letting them recirculate into your space. Go ahead and take a few minutes to photograph each of the items you are selling and list them on Craigslist, eBay, Amazon Trade-in, or another selling site.
If you have a roommate, significant other, or even older children around to help, this is a great task for someone who doesn’t want to organize.
Finally, it’s time to address your keep box. Now that there are no other distractions in the room, we can move on to finding each item a home.
Step 3: Find a Home for each of your Belongings
If you need a break, leave all of the items in the keep bin and come back to it later. This is another area where people struggle with this process — they are exhausted by the time to put things away, and they just shove things anywhere they can. This will only put you back in the same situation.When you are ready to thoughtfully put your items away, come back to your keep bin. Remove things one at a time and ask yourself the following questions to help determine where to store:
- Where does it makes sense to keep this?
- How often do I need to access this item?
- Are there other similar items that should be grouped with it?
If you use it often, make sure it’s easy to get it. Conversely, if you don’t use it very often, does it need to take up the easy-access real estate? For example, when I decided to organize my office supplies, I realized I really rarely pull out paper clips or binder clips. So I organized them all into a tackle box and I store it in the back of my desk drawer. Now when I open, it’s the things I use more frequently that have that up-front space.
Step 4: If You’ve Run Out of Room, It’s Time to Get Rid of More Stuff!
As I find each item a new home, I often realize I still have too many things! If you run into this problem, that means you probably need to get rid of more stuff or find a different home in your house for it. Ask yourself if each item in this space really needs to be there, and if it doesn’t, find it a new home. Don’t feel discouraged if everything doesn’t fit as you envisioned it right away, it can take multiple tries before you finally get everything in its place.
I also like to keep a list during this phase of things I’d like to better organize. For example, when I did my office, I put all of my cords in one bin. I made a note that at some point I’d like to come back to those cords and better organize them (which I later did).
Step 5: Break the Cycle
Your space is finally decluttered, but you don’t want to come back a few months from now and do it all over again.
This brings me to the last and final step: Break the Cycle. Out of all the steps in this list, this one is the most important. Without this step, you will find yourself in a constant repeat of this same list over and over again.
So how do you break the cycle? You cut it off at the source. Find out why your space keeps getting to this point, and redirect it! For example, my kitchen counter became a catch-all space for all the mail we brought in the front door until I found a system to organize mail once and for all.
Ask yourself – why does this area get cluttered? What prevents me or stops me from puting things where they belong? You may need to completely change the way you use this space in order to keep it organized and free of clutter forever.
Here are some of the things we did to break the cycle:
- We created a system for our dumping ground – I thought about all the things we bring in the house each day — my purse, the kids backpacks, husbands keys/wallet, work bags, mail, shoes, and jackets. From there, I came up with a plan for what we would do with each or where each item would live,. Cubbies helped with kids backpacks, hooks for the jackets, a basket for shoes, and so on.
- Items brought through the front door are now dealt with as soon as they enter our home – if it’s groceries, it comes into the kitchen to be sorted and put away. If anything needs to be put away, it gets put away or gets put in the ‘put away’ bin we keep for things that need to go upstairs on the next trip up.
- We implemented the 2-minute rule – if it can be done in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
I wish I could say I was done, but I feel like decluttering is an ongoing process. I’ve completed one pass at each room of our house, and by the time I completed my kid had already grown out of sizes and toys prompting me to start some rooms over again.
Give yourself some grace, create your bins, and try even just one room each month. You’d be surprised how much you can get done just a few minutes each day towards one room.
Have you decluttered any of the rooms in your home? What works well for you?