Even if you’re still at the stage where you feel like you’ve just moved in, there’s every chance the clutter has already started to build. We define clutter as the stuff you have but probably don’t want and definitely don’t need. It usually doesn’t have a place of its own in the home and can be often found lying around on floors and tables.
Think of the things you have that end up packed in a cupboard with other things that are mostly irrelevant, and you’ll have a good idea of what we’ll try to tackle in this feature. The good news is that it’s never too late. However, the further you find yourself down the clutter rabbit hole, the more ruthless you must become. It can be difficult at points, but it’s all for the right reasons, so let’s get straight on to the tips.
1. Start Your Declutter in Smaller Sessions
You might not have much to declutter in the first place. However, if you find yourself reading an article on getting it done, then chances are you’ve reached a point where you feel like some of these things have to go! The process, much like anything else, can be overwhelming. There’s so much to do that you don’t know where to start until you reach the point that you don’t start at all.
You don’t need to declutter in a day. Your unwanted items aren’t going anywhere so even if you can find a handful of things to throw out, you’re still further ahead than before you started. Decluttering broadly fits into the same category as cleaning, but it can be far more taxing. There are diminishing returns too, so you might get more done in a 15-minute session every day for a week than you would in a two-hour burst.
2. Stick to an Area – And Don’t Miss Any
We already mentioned how you need to be ruthless when it comes to clutter, and we will again. At this point, you aim your nasty streak at the items you might never have considered. If you have any attachment at all to certain things, it is easy to overlook the fact that they are indeed clutter and that you need to address them accordingly.
This tip works in two parts. First, if you’ve gone with the first tip and you’ve broken down your sessions into small chunks, you can focus on specific rooms. If you’ve got a big issue to address, you can focus sharply on parts of that space. You’ll achieve the best results if you get one area cleared, not least because you’ll feel like a success and that will spur you on to the next job.
3. Keep a Rubbish Bag Close at Hand
Ultimately, clutter will fall into one of two categories. It will find a home, at which point it no longer fits our definition of clutter, or it needs to go. If you have a mix of items that might be rubbish, recycling and could potentially find a second life through sale or donation, a box might be better. You don’t want to sort as you go, but you don’t want potentially reusable items to end up in a landfill.
4. Work Downwards
If you're going to rid yourself of clutter as efficiently as possible, we recommend starting at the top of the house and working downwards. Start in the attic if you have one and finish in the basement – and adjust that based on the floors of your home. Clutter tends to accumulate faster higher up in the house as you spend more time downstairs. Even if that’s not the case, you won’t notice it as much upstairs as you’re usually asleep.
5. Start in the middle of a Room
There’s nothing like a newly cleared floor space to spark your motivation and give you the enthusiasm required to clear out a room completely. It can also double as a temporary spot in which to store things while you decide what to do with them. Just don’t fall into the trap of moving things from one place to another and calling it a day!
6. Save Small Items for Later
Stacks of paper and boxes of useless items can make your enthusiasm evaporate. When you’re in the zone, you want significant, sweeping changes that you can be proud of. Move those piles to where you sit of an evening, and go through them while you watch TV – it’s far better for your sanity.
7. Make Labelled Piles
If you can’t bring yourself to remain ruthless at all times, it’s easy to forget what goes where. Don’t give yourself a second chance to keep something you don’t need. Instead, place items in piles, containers or categories, and give each one a sign so you can put everything where it should be without delay.
8. Decide on Your Personal Definition of Clutter
We already outlined our thoughts and feelings on clutter above. However, you need to decide what it means to you and sort things out accordingly. Judge every item on its own merits and think about how it enriches your life, if at all, and think about how long it’s been since you used it. If the results aren’t positive, it’s probably clutter.
9. It’s Unlikely You’re a Collector
We’re not suggesting you throw out anything of sentimental value. However, while broken and otherwise unusable items make it into collections all the time, be honest when you decide whether you have such a collection. The chances are you don’t, so that damaged kettle and pair of designer trousers with the hole in probably won’t make the cut.
If you’ve got a lot to deal with, procrastination is to be expected. However, you should avoid the trap of thinking about the best time to declutter. There isn’t one. All you need to do is throw out one item. The domino effect then begins, and before you know it, the spree is over and you’ve officially decluttered… for now!