10 Creative Ways to Declutter Your Home

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” —Dale Carnegie

The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many. They have considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions. They are ready to declutter but some get quickly tripped up by the very next question… where in the world do I begin?

Many begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and defeated around the idea of decluttering their homes. That’s too bad. The decluttering journey doesn’t need to be as painful as some make it out to be. In fact, there are a variety of people who have come up with some pretty fun, creative ways to get started.

Consider this list of 10 creative ways to declutter your home:

1. Give yourself 5 solid minutes. Leo Babauta at Zen Habits recommends 18 different 5-minute decluttering tips. Pick one today that sounds appealing. Or better yet, pick a random number 1-18, read the specific tip, and commit 5 minutes to completing it.

2. Give away one item each day. Colleen Madsen at 365 Less Things gives away one item each day. Over the past several years, she has experienced quite a transformation simply reducing her stuff one day at a time.

3. Fill one trash bag. Early in our journey towards simplicity, one of my favorite decluttering techniques was to grab a simple large trash bag and see how quickly I could fill it. While much of what I collected was trash, this could also be used to fill a bag for Goodwill.

4. Try the Oprah Winfrey Closet Hanger Experiment. While this idea didn’t originate with Oprah, she was the one to help give it notoriety. To identify wardrobe pieces to clear out, hang all your clothes with the hangers in the reverse direction. After you wear an item, return it to the closet with the hanger facing the correct direction. After six months, you’ll have a clear picture of which clothes you can easily discard. This experiment could also be applied to a number of clutter areas in your home (cleaners, toys, linens, tools, hobbies and craft items).

5. Make a list. Dana Byers recommends creating a list of places/areas in your home to declutter beginning with the easiest… which doesn’t sound all that creative until she adds this note, “When you’re done with one area, STOP.” This list could be made as easy or difficult as you desire based upon what areas of your home make up the list (drawers/closets/rooms). And could easily fit into any schedule.

6. Take the 12-12-12 Challenge. A simple task of locating 12 items to throw away, 12 items to donate, and 12 items to be returned to their proper home can be a really fun and exciting way to quickly organize 36 things in your house. On more than one occasion, this challenge actually became a quick competition between my wife and me… and your kids don’t have to be too old to participate as well.

7. Change your perspective. Unclutterer offers a powerful approach to decluttering when they offer a number of strategies to help you change your perspective and begin to notice some clutter you may have missed. Among their ideas: take photos of your house, invite over a toddler, or ask the boss to meet in your office. With all of the examples, the hope is to cause you to see your home in a new light.

8. Experiment with numbers. For example, Courtney Carver invented Project 333 to challenge people to wear only 33 articles of clothing for 3 months. If 33 articles of clothing seems too little, adjust the rules as you need by picking a new number. The important thing is to challenge yourself to live with less and see what you learn from the experiment.

9. Use your imagination. Psychology Today recommends using your imagination to help declutter objects that may seem difficult to remove. Try asking yourself unique questions like, “If I was just buying this now, how much would I pay?” These creative techniques may prove to be very helpful for some with difficulties removing unneeded clutter.

10.The Four-Box Method. As we first set out on our journey to minimalism, this was the technique most often used in our home. As I set out to declutter an area, I brought four boxes: trash, give away, keep, or relocate. Each item in every room was placed into one of the four categories. No item was passed over. Each was considered individually. Some projects took an hour… others took days or weeks. But the technique and principles remained the same.

No matter what you choose to help you get started – whether it be one of these ten or one of countless others – the goal is to take your first step with excitement behind it. There is a beautiful world of freedom and fresh breath hiding behind that clutter. How you remove it is up to you.

***

Special thanks to each of you who purchased a copy of Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life. We are excited to announce it recently debuted as the #1 Self-Help book on Amazon. 

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Glad I’m not the only one in an incessant, endless-seeming battle to declutter (and then of course, remodel). Here’s one thing I do:
    -set a goal of “items cleaned” (100 is good). note: it does not “count” as cleaned if you just moved it to another spot.

    Cleanliness is next to godliness, and will help us think more clearly, i think?

    • peter anderson says

      For those with boxes of accumulated ‘papers’, being notes or press-cuttings etc, saved for action some day in the future, I have discovered an effective principle, after years of wasted time, that “if you don’t need it, don’t read it”.

      Only save it if it appears on the face of it to warrant attention; all others should be immediately discarded.

      Difficult, but essential to retain sanity and reduce stress; easier when one is aged in 70’s and recognising documents, notes, reminders, cuttings, correspondence etc which require or are likely to be actioned, then discard the others.

  2. says

    It’s always tough to get rid of the good old stuff laying around the house, I think the one item a day rule is great! Hopefully it’s not a one bedroom apartment they are coming from though or their might not be anything left. lol

  3. says

    Thanks for the great advice! I live in a tiny apartment in the city and need to save as much space as I can. Just decluttering the things I don’t need didn’t seem to do the trick yet, so I designed a service that helps me get rid of the things I do use, but only once in a while. We just launched and I’m happy to hear your thought. Check it out at http://unbouncepages.com/declutter-box/

  4. Gina says

    Okay… So now that I’ve gone through everything, what do I do with the pile of belongings on my floor? If I try to put something where it belongs I have to take out the crap that’s already there. But then I don’t have a home for said crap. That’s the part that trips me up, and completely unmotivates me. The throw everything in a pile in the middle of the room method only works if you have like 50 hours in a row and people to help. I’m on my own with this one and I get discouraged very easily. Please help!!

    • sarah says

      Hey there, that’s exactly my problem too. So now what I do is… Section by section, one cabinet for example, or one closet it will take a little longer this way, but everytime I get started to “Declutter” I end up so discouraged that I have these “piles” to declutter that lay around for weeks! Until I get so fed up and put everything back where I got it from! A vicious, tiring cycle of discouragement. Soo section by section, easy does it :-) Goodluck

    • Bec says

      I know exactly what you mean. Do not use this technique because it becomes overwhelming. Modify it to suit yourself by doing a small select area at a time or use a different technique. One of the useful things I have found about myself is to give to charity. I don’t like getting rid of perfectly good things but do not get around to selling them. So I donate them. A local charity will take almost anything and if they cannot resell the actual product they can very often make money by recycling. Eg. Old clothes that are worn out can be used for textile scraps. I can’t bear waste and this has helped me personally to cope with getting rid of things I know I don’t need or want. And for those of us who are easily overwhelmed it is essential to start small. For me that may mean a single box or a 2ft square space on my desk. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, just do it. You can always come back another time and go through the same process to whittle out more clutter. Then give yourself a huge pat on the back and enjoy that uncluttered area to help encourage you to move on to the next one.

    • love says

      This is something I get slowed down by too; so I’ve come up with a way that has helped. For example, I completely cleaned out the bedroom, but I made myself do it in bits with a little time here and there each day. So I emptied the closet and went through everything and put back what I wanted. I found things in the closet that I wanted in my night stand. Another day I cleared off my dresser and quickly emptied, purged and reinserted the clothes I kept. Some of the things on top of the dresser (now clear) I wanted in my night stand. My night stand was full as a sort of junk drawer. So I took everything out of my night stand and put it in a basket. I was then able to put those items in it that I really wanted there. The laundry basket sat in my closet briefly-I made a plan to go through it in the evening while watching TV. The first night, I was overwhelmed looking through all my old memories and notes and things in there. I realized I wasn’t going to get it done in one night, and was discouraged. However, I made myself work on that basket a little each night until I got through it and didn’t rush, just kept going. I took pictures of things and got rid of most of it. Then I put the few things I kept back into my now neat night stand. Then I took a short break and started on another area of the home in this manner. Now I know the sentimental parts take longer and allow myself to keep a basket that needs to be gone through slowly. As long as I work on it a bit every day, it gets done. I hope this helps you too! :)

      • marsha says

        Everyday we de-clutter we put the donations in U-Haul boxes (previously gotten from Craigslist) and put the boxes in my SUV. That way when the SUV is full, I know it is time to go to Goodwill or some other charity. It also gets the donations out of the house and lets us start the process over without the donations in the way.

    • Kaelyn says

      If u don’t have a home for it then chunk it if u absolutely need it get storage bens otherwise if u need someinf it will have a home if u don’t need it then like I said chunk it

    • dpat says

      Gina March 2015: the pile.

      I know that overwhelming vision. What worked for me might help. I had to layer my approach. I repeat to myself: Do I need to bring this into my home? It’s useful but do I really need it? What in the pile do I never use?

      I start with 1 trash bag labeled with trash. Do i see one thing that is useless to me and too shamefully beat up that it would be an insult to donate? Dump it!

      Repeat as needed by appointment or when bored or when you cannot figure out what next to do.

      Once getting the trash out, I look at giveaway and keep. Much less painful because I eliminated that mental visual roadblock.

      Draw or clip magazine pictures to represent some ideas of what you want your space to feel like. I started to realize that I just wanted comfort, clean and a little color.

      Gradually…and I mean years then months and now daily, I discovered that less useless stuff meant I did not need to buy more shelves. I kept my books. Discovered that I had over 300 blank sketchbooks which I have stacked into large see-thru closed containers out back.

      Sometimes it is crazy scary how anxious about moving one piece. What a relief when I do. Issues? Oh yeah. I had to look and sort these underlying mental blocks, too. removing it’s misleading defenses.

      It ain’t easy. Don’t be afraid to observe your pile. Reorganize it after you toss or put a keeper in its temporary or new home. Celebrate when you do. And celebrate even when you are brave enough to look because ir means your mind has decided you deserve better.

      • Toss it says

        Thank you, Awesome tips! I’m in the process finally, and found that all my kids crafts, artwork, drawings, etc took 5 x- large bins of space. Yes 5 bins!

        Tip #1 My solution to minimize these items was taking pictures of everything saved to pc and now I have 0, yes, zero bins for these items, any new projects are photographed that day and tossed out immediately. I can’t believe it took years to figure this out and only one weekend to clear. (I did save one special note, and 2 pieces of art and framed them to hang in my office area)

        Tip #2- stuffed animals (dust mite magnets) same idea, photograph all (we positioned them on the bed in groups by color) each kid can keep 10 favorites for now :-), then for the kids I printed the photos and placed in album with extra space for each photo so they could label animals (names, who gave them + when why/where they came from stories) 163 stuffies turned into 20 and 2 small albums. I had no idea we had that many.

        It was so much easier then I thought. Now, I’m doing my office paperwork nightmare. This will take a lot longer to scan papers to pc (I plan to scan for 15 mins each day until done) I gathered and sorted to small bins and stacked important on top down to memories. Major important papers will get filed or binders and memories tossed if possible or framed/albums.

        It wasn’t easy to start but then I couldn’t stop. I am only partly done with whole apt but totally ready to keep going, just paperwork clutter and stuffies have freed so much space to pull out closets and some place to sort.
        I know you can do it too, baby steps!!!!

    • ren says

      You know how u eat an elephant? One bite at a time…just sit by your pile for ten minutes a day…the clutter was there before..now its just in one easy to reach pile…trash, keep, donate, dont overwhelm yourself

    • jem says

      I read the books by the sidetracked home executives, two sisters, Pam and Peggy. They have a four box system I find helpful. One box is put away, one box is give away, one box is lined with a trash bag for trash, and one box is for storage. It really helps me when I am working my way though my home chaos situation. Good luck.

    • Helen says

      If it is in a pile in the middle of the room, throw it away.

      Better yet, I find if best to put things in a trash bag immediately as I declutter. You will know what to put in the trash bag:

      -the maybe I can use it in the future,
      -the maybe “X” can use it,
      -the maybe I will be able to fit into it again (soon!)
      -used looking clothes, furniture, wall hangings, linen
      -odds & ends of dishes
      -NEW clothes, shoes, furniture that does not look quite the same when you got it home.

      I would not concern myself with giving it away or worry that I am throwing “money” away. It is just stuff. And once you put it on the street to be taken away, regardless of how much $$$ you paid for it, it will look like exactly what it is. JUNK.

  5. says

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  6. says

    i get real frustrated when i look at what all i have to do – and i lament that im not doing the area i just finished – because that area that seemed so impossible now seems easy – but you put a phrase that really put that “seems so impossible” into clarity – you added everything probably needed to stay anyway – i think that’s part of my problem – thinking that everything is going to have to stay – and i have no where to put it – and anticipating the emotional stuff – but i think that’s my irrational fear – that everything is going to have to stay – thinking you for putting it into words – the only other phrase i’ve ever heard that was as close to being helpful – i found it on youtube and haven’t been able to re-find it – but clutter is evil – and it wants to stay in your house – it helps me feel like a warrior princess fighting to defend my home – which really we all are

  7. says

    What you want to do is clear one area. This is your no-clutter zone. It can be a counter, or your kitchen table, or the three-foot perimeter around your couch. Wherever you start, make a rule: nothing can be placed there that’s not actually in use. Everything must be put away. Once you have that clutter-free zone, keep it that way! Now, each day, slowly expand your no-clutter zone until it envelopes the whole house! Unfortunately, the neighbors don’t seem to like it when you try to expand the no-clutter zone to their house, and start hauling away their unused exercise equipment and torn underwear when they’re not at home. Some people don’t appreciate simplicity, I guess.

  8. Michael D. O'Brien says

    I have been in my apt. for 15 yrs. A lady moved in and invited me over for lunch. Nothing serious. She then started to be a control freak. I started noticing both bedroom doors shut. When I asked why, she came unglued! I’m not going to waste heat. Well one day she was gone and the owner asked how he could get in to service her garbage disposal? I know she needed help because I would hear endless comments about the guzzler. I work just a few hours helping the mgr. Wow to my amazement you could not walk in them! You have to sidestep in order to walk in. I got out of there pronto. Now she never leaves me alone. Post-it-notes all over the place! I am not kidding! I tried every trick in the book to help her….Oh GOD she is only 316ft. away. I would really like her to get help. She says I am consumed by a site like yours. I don’t care, I love the body of your data and I love living each suggestion! It’s soul soooothing! What can I do to put myself in prior happiness and security that I used to have? It’s bad enough going through chemo. at the moment! Give me a couple of suggestions without a smart a__ comment from her. I am just a normal guy who is remembering his bride who passed away recently. When I got the door open she pops in and the picture of my life makes her disgusted… She says “you need some help” I am doing just fine with the bedroom doors” wide open” with the contents neatly shown and organized. Wow I have been up too late! Send me a dream message. Mike,,,,, a guy that is simple and wants to help others if I can? I really don’t think I am weird. When I look in the mirror in the morning I generate a smile back. It’s warming and it starts my day!

  9. shank says

    I want to be a minimalist but I’m not really good at it so I keep trying new things. The question that has finally worked really well for me – to declutter and when buying new stuff – is “Would this go with me if I moved to Hawaii?” Voila! Suddenly, I know what to do.

  10. Tayner says

    Love these tips. My two favorite inspirations to declutter (and I cleared my garage, my friends garage, my basement and a full attic) with the help of reading Goodbye Clutter Hello Simplicity. It walked me through and motivated me to finally let go of stuff I was holding on to. I also like the pictures and i did the same; taking before and after to inspire me to keep going as it was a process but i finished it and now am on to painting my basement and making it into a nice area for my children to actually USE!

  11. says

    Terrific tips to be considered there of for an inspiration to Declutter. I have to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in writing this website. It’s always bad to take rid of the good old stuff laying around the household.

  12. mrs Elisabeth says

    Ola,

    Tenho a intençao de dar-lhe uma parte de minha riqueza como uma doaçao financeira livre-arbitrio para voce. Responda nao participar. Saudaçoes Maria Elisabeth Schaeffler Email: mariaelisabethschaeffler02 @ outlook.com Nota: Tenha cuidado com Impostors

  13. Ashley says

    #4 Oprah’s guest, Peter Walsh, is the person responsible for the closet hanger idea. He is a professional organizer. He’s PHENOMENAL. He is going to be on Good Morning America tomorrow, Thursday, April 16. Check it out! He’s sure to have more great tips.

  14. says

    Excellent article. My friends travelled the world for 10 months, and only used 20 article of clothing each the whole time. When they returned, they tended to keep wearing the same clothing!

    We just linked to the becomingminimalist.com site, from our site: BrickRecycler.com

    Our mission it to “reuse” millions of LEGOs since they are not recyclable, and many thrift organizations can’t even handle them. These durable toys bring such joy to children around the world. We have matched up Legos with needy organizations from the US, to Honduras, Zimbabwe, and Mexico.

    Our site also provide a list where to recycle lots of other “hard to recycle items” at: http://www.brickrecycler.com/recycle-anything/

    Sadly, billions of LEGO pieces are put in to storage every single year…even though there certainly will be billions available for purchase in the future on eBay, Craigslist, and LEGO.com. You would be surprised how many people pay hundreds or thousands of dollars a year just to store their toys, that they may, or may not use in the future.

  15. says

    Tidy up ‘creatively’. If you’re a creative type, you may prefer to order your things creatively – use color order to organist your books or hang your clothes. Choose bright pen pots and artistic folders that meet both organizational and creative requirements.

  16. Julia says

    I just want to add the thought that is helping me to set my mind to unclutter: Two words: Real Estate…

    I have found that we in our home tend to cling to items that we think we “might use”, or about which we think we “can’t afford to lose what we’ve invested in them”…The breakthrough for me was in assessing what it would cost for us to build more space to hold all those items and still have room to live. If you assess that building a square foot more space costs about $50-$100, (depending on your location), it puts “space” into a whole new perspective.

    If I am using $50-$100 worth of space to cling to a $20 vase, or a $5 bag of yarn that I could easily replace at a thrift shop should I need to, than it makes keeping those things an expensive proposition, doesn’t it?

    It “broke the code” for me.

  17. says

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  18. Jodi says

    I just got rid of a ton of paper by spending a few minutes each day downloading pdf files of the user manuals for my appliances, electronics, etc.

    Most manuals are readily available on the internet. Once you have all the pdf files, keep them on your laptop, a flash drive, or upload them to your cloud storage. Then you can have fun recycling all that paper, freeing up a file drawer or two.

    I also decided to put all of the house fixture manuals in their own folder, so when I sell my house I can just pass those on to the new owner.

    Another advantage to pdf files is that in most cases, you can delete all those pages which are in a language foreign to you.

    I read a lot of simplification blogs and hadn’t seen this idea, so wanted to share. :)

  19. Katherine says

    I do a little bit at a time by focusing on one space in my home each day. I follow this routine: http://personalorganizing.about.com/od/Basics/ss/Your-New-Improved-Weekly-Organizing-Routine-Printable.htm

    I like this for two reasons:

    1) If I am constantly focused on decluttering, it’s easier to toss stuff. If I see it every week and haven’t used it, I will eventually give in and throw it out.

    2) Doing it everyday is kind of like exercising: You just get used to doing it daily and it takes less time.

    Mary

  20. says

    Think I am a minimalist, but not sure exactly.

    I have stuff, CDs, an old printer and other doodles that I don’t find the time to use. Every time I tell myself that the printer needs to be fixed, change the matrix, ink refill etc. The printer still stays without being used or fixed. About the CDs I wanted to check what they have before deciding what to throw out and what to keep. After I reading my impression is that I should take a bag and push everything inside and carry it to the rubbish. I hate cleaning, but it happens from time to time and when it does cleaning the useless rubbish is a hassle I would like to eliminate. Decluttering time baby!

  21. Grateful granny says

    If you are struggling with whether or not you should keep an item, pick it up and hold it. If it does not immediately bring a smile to your face and give you joy – it goes. A collection of coffee mugs from places visited – pick 2 or 3 from the places you enjoyed the most. Take a “group photo” of the rest and let them go. My daughter and her husband went camping in Colorado. I found a hand crafted mug with Colorado motif and a color that matched their house for 25 cents at a thrift store. It now graces their kitchen counter filled with pens and pencils. Similar mugs at the “gift stores” sold for $15! They were thrilled. A useful memento of their trip at a bargain price. I recently donated a doll from my childhood that no one else wanted. I dressed her up; took a picture and packed her up with all her clothes, along with a note saying she needed a new owner to love and donated her. The mgr. of the store told me she sold within half an hour of being on the shelf. I still have the picture and the memories, but not the “where do I put her” dilemma. Let it go.

  22. says

    To encourage decluttering, all I have to do is watch one episode of “Hoarders” and I begin! Honestly, I cannot breathe when watching that show!

  23. Robert says

    The trash bag scenario works well. One additional tip is to use “clear” trash bags (got mine at Home Depot). This way if you stop and restart your decluttering process, you will not be spending time looking thru bags to determine their destination. Most Banks and Credit Unions offer a “Shred Day” for their customers once or twice a year. This is an excellent way to declutter old paperwork that can’t be tossed because of it’s sensitive nature! If you know the date in advance, this gives you a pefect timeline to complete your goal.

  24. ren says

    This is my FAVE site…I’m in midst of total house decluttering…already a third done BUT basement..storage rm and garage are the tough ones.

  25. Liz says

    Sort through just one COLOR of clothing per day to decide which of your blue shirts to keep, get rid of, etc, then tomorrow move on to green. Or you can do it by type, today just the button up shirts.

  26. Niamh says

    What do you do when your partner is totally opposed to decluttering?!? He had a session of sorting out the loft and almost as if to spite me he is now bringing down stuff he has “found” to prove they are useful. In reality they will be used once or twice then lie around for me to tidy up. Anyone decluttered behind a partners back? I know there is stuff I can get rid of & he will never notice!

  27. Helen says

    I just can’t throw things away because I am constantly thinking that I will need them again one day and then it will end up costing me money to buy them again. A good example are all the fancy dress costumes we have accumulated. But I keep on thinking….”well, you never know…” Help!

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