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 I… 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 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

    This is so fun!
    I’ve been blogging just for the fun, inspired by your site and a few others. I love your light hearted posts and then those like todays’ that give depth. Several times I refer to your site from my site. And then today, up pops a ping from some anonymous person connecting your site to my site. I love tracking your progress and the inspirations that come, or the memory jogs. “That’s right, I remember that stage of decluttering!!” Keep writing . . . you inspire so many of us to stay focused.

    Anne (www.minimalisthomeschooler.com)

  2. Michelle says

    Always such quality advice here- thanks for that. Any word for those of us who feel like minimizing and de-cluttering are actually stealing time? I find myself constantly looking for “one more thing” to clear out. We are by no means hoarders and I often wonder how I can still have stuff to part with (I guess 3 kids, homeschool, families who pass stuff down…)!! I am actually making myself take a break from it because I get too caught up and I want to actually value what I am trying to create in our home. Thanks!

  3. says

    Putting “trash” and “throw it away” first is a bit upsetting. Donating should be first and then recycling. Then hopefully there’s very little left to put into a landfill.

    • lisa says

      @ Caroline, for some people they really have too much stuff and limited resources. Donating and recycling take time, transportation, and energy some do not have.

      • Annette says

        Thank you, Lisa! I have a huge number of books to declutter, and have tried to take them to charity shops in the past. But I don’t have a car and don’t often go to the places where they are. And with so much to declutter, I’ve realised that it will take too much time to try and sell them. So I’ve started throwing them away instead (for recycling). It feels awful, but you’ve confirmed what I’ve been trying to tell myself – that I don’t have the time or resources to do anything else and I might as well accept that.

        • Diane Porter says

          Could you donate any of the books to your local library? As an avid reader – it almost hurts to hear you are throwing them away. I appreciate the efforts to declutter – goodness knows we all have too much stuff- but for the books – see if you can find them a new home before you just pitch them.

          • Beth says

            Depending on your books.. a library may not want them! Some libraries have a “friends” bookstore, or an annual book sale, and this is where many of the books end up. It really depends on the quality of the books if it’s worth donating. Frankly, some libraries will end up recycling some of the books they get themselves–but it really depends on the library. Check out your own local library’s donation policy, as they are all different. They may be VERY happy to get them at some, and not so much at others.

          • Marilynne says

            Always try to donate first, toss only if it no longer has any value to anyone. JMO ;)

        • Thyera says

          Put them in boxes with a free sign on it and place it on the curb…someone will surely take them….some charities and thrift stores will pick up your items (for free). It is a shame to waste books..any books..even to recycling.

      • says

        Good morning Lisa! I wanted to add another suggestion to the list of the ones already mentioned: Donate your books to a local jail or prison. Local libraries might be a bit “picky” about what books they’ll take but I promise you the local correctional facilities will not be! Libraries are usually not funded behind the walls and inmates are desperate for a way to pass the time. If you can’t get them there, contact a local ministry or church and ask for their help. I bet they’ll be glad to do it! blessings, linda

      • Fiona Cee says

        So sending good stuff to landfill is the answer? I think not. Ask for help. Some orgs may collect if you have some useful things. Have a yard sale. Don’t throw out good things.

    • Lara says

      The majority of the stuff I run in to as a single mom of four kids is trash. Trash from food packages, trash from tearing up that school project they did not like, trash from the puzzle missing 1/3 its pieces, the shoes that look like they went through a shredder, the shirt that had more paint on it than the paper, etc. So yes, for me most is trash. Even though I do donate as much as I can to library, shelter, schools, etc.

  4. says

    Great tips. I have been using the tip of throwing one item out a day. What I have found interesting are a few things. 1) I don’t miss the things I throw out and sometimes cannot even remember what they were. 2) cleaning up has become quicker 3) it gets easier too move things on as the year goes on and 4) there is a joy giving items to people who need them and you are also happy offloading them.

  5. says

    Great tips!
    If I could just add one more…..

    Place toss baskets in areas that have the most clutter to encourage family members to toss unwanted items DAILY; then empty those baskets each time they get full…..toss, sell, donate, etc.

    • Karen says

      Agreed!
      Just had a yard sale this weekend after using this idea for the last year. Set one hamper next to the laundry and one in the bedroom, and when we found anything we didn’t want/need it went in the hamper. When the hampers were full I sorted out “trash” and put “sell/donate” items into a sturdy bin in the garage. When I went to post the yard sale announcement we had 5 (!) foot locker sized bins full of clothes and household knick knacks, and I honestly couldn’t remember 90% of what was in them! Already put one hamper back (sold the other!), and have started again for spring.
      It’s easier for me to make one quick decision at a time (ugh, these pants don’t fit, into the hamper not the dresser) instead of doing a major purge/sort. And one thing at a time can really add up!

  6. says

    Joshua, thank you so much for these simple yet powerful suggestions.
    I live in Denmark, I never watch Oprah and I don’t know anything about feng shui or decluttering, we just call it a mess, though some of us think of it as an organized mess. I feel that exact way, although I have piles of crap, I still know where every little thing is placed, like, to the left of the screwdrivers, behind the black box and under the bag of rubber bands :) though this makes perfectly sense to me, people seem confused when they come to my home and my children do not share my brilliant sense of overview and/or memory. They tend to loose their things quickly and not to care for things for very long and I think it all comes down to my being a mess. It seems I have a lot to work on, and since I read this blog – and due to the fact that we danes are considered the happiest people on earth – I shall do so with a smile.

    • Susie says

      I work full time and have one kid and one Husband that makes more extra work than my kid does. I’m planning 1 item to toss or give each day and 10 Items on my days off:) ……….. Wish me lots of luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. says

    These are great tips! The next time I declutter my closet I’m going to try the 12-12-12 challenge! I am one of five and we are all living at home so this should be fun…

  8. Vera says

    My favorite method is not deciding what to take OUT, but, rather, deciding what to put IN. I completely empty a drawer, shelf or closet, then put what I really want in there. (It’s much easier for me to choose what I do want.) I find that deciding what to do with the remainder is easy then, maybe because I’ve already demoted those items in my mind.

  9. pboo says

    Thank you everyone! I love learning little tips that go a long way.

    I will share a favorite of mine:

    The TIP: One way I keep it REALLY fun and ALWAYS under five minutes? I play a segment of the “William Tell Overture” while I do a last-minute tidy-up!

    The DETAILS: My college roommate and I, typically in a hurry, too busy to clean,” decided to take ONLY 30 seconds JUST BEFORE leaving our dorm for classes to “tidy up,” (even this choice of words felt MUCH easier than “clean up”!)

    We’d say, “Ready…?” and we would empty our arms of books, purses, sweaters, etc., and “do the tune” –(“dadut dadut dadut dut dut…”) — together, out loud, and for about 30 seconds, we’d tidy up the most conspicuously out-of-place items. We’d end up laughing as we gathered up our things and marched off to class.

    The outcome? We saw how a tiny bit of time could make a HUGE difference when we were FOCUSED, TIME-LIMITED, and KEPT IT FUN!

    The reward? Upon our return to our humble dorm room, we’d almost gasp at first sight when we opened the door! Like at a hotel: “Sweet! The MAID was here!”

    The other reward is how this little extra effort continues to bless me through the years and phases of my life. It’s one of those priceless “gifts to me” that is still fun, still free, and always pays a big dividend for my little time invested!

  10. says

    I do not like clutter! I have found 2 things, okay 3 things, help me de-clutter and stay that way (nope, make that 4):

    1. Move. Across country or overseas. You don’t want to lug all that stuff around!
    2. Move – into a smaller space.
    3. After a trip and you’ve collected “more,” get rid of some of your old junk (especially if visiting mom and dad’s house, and sadly, you still have stuff there).
    4. Knowing people who need it or are less fortunate than you. This keeps your life and stuff in perspective. Plus, you can bless someone with something you do not need but they do.

    Thanks for the blog!

  11. Glenda Herdman says

    I have already applied some of these. I regularly tidy out my drawers and from time to time I get rid of old and worn out clothing and underwear. T shirts and sheets are good for cutting up into cleaning rags and also for using with varnishing and painting. I still have a way to go but every day I like to pick up at least one object or piece of clothing and decide whether to get rid of it or keep it.

  12. Tracey says

    Re: ANNETTE-Books. Whilst on holiday in NZ I saw a ‘street library’ that a home owner had set up near their front gate. A weatherproof box with a clear front, that people could take or leave books for others. Pretty cool idea I thought, helps to foster a sense of community.

  13. says

    Wow, I never even heard of the Oprah Winfrey Closet Hanger Experiment before! Because your clothes all appear wearable in the heat of the moment, it’s hard to tell which items haven’t adorned your beautiful body for a while. My method is to go through each item and ask two simple questions: 1) Is this still my style? 2) If I saw this in the mall right now, would I still buy it? Your method seems better since we all know action speaks louder than anything.

    • Tina says

      I have been giving away a bag a week for quite a while now. I realized I had enough art and craft supplies for the rest of my life so I donated a big bag to the park district and a preschool and still have plenty left. I was given 3 big bags of buttons which I will wash and pass on to the preschool. I think the idea is not even to let the objects settle in and get comfortable.

  14. says

    It’s really amazing, the 10 creative ways to declutter your home. These ways are quite good enough to clean one’s house. However, one’s must have the patient as well as determination to clean the house. In reality putting trash and throw it away first is a bit disturbing. Now you can get friendly trash services in Black foot for cleaning your home accordingly.

  15. Celt says

    To all those throwing away perfectly good stuff. Some charity shops will pick up. Worth a try before adding to landfill?

  16. Billy says

    I started pairing down my stuff years ago and it’s been the best, most awesome thing I ever did ever. I don’t know if I’m a minimalist but I live clutter free, I’m organised now and no longer mindlessly consume. It’s a way better way to live. This goes as far as freeing your mind up too. For example, books, I donated all of them, gone except 2 reference books I still refer too, kept em because I use them. Oh and I had a copy of the bible and Koran, they went straight in the trash(recycle bin). No point in cluttering up other peoples minds with fantasy. Another form of minimalism, freeing your mind of all those stories other people want you to believe. This includes other stories like ” commercials”!! Be free people.

    • CJ says

      Just so you know, this is what faith in what the Bible says has done for me:

      1. Comforted me when I overheard my eye doctor tell my mother I’d need an eye transplant at 14 years old. I didn’t have surgery, and I see 20/30 without glasses, praise God!

      2. I had gallbladder disease – 5 surgeons in 2 states said I’d need to have it removed. I was INSTANTANEOUSLY healed, during a gallbladder attack, when I was prayed over in the glorious name of Jesus. I had gallbladder attacks 3-4 times a week for nearly a year. Since the moment I was prayed over, I haven’t had another gallbladder attack. That was 5 years ago.

      3. I have joy and peace. I’ve had childhood issues and adult heartaches, but God healed my broken heart.

      The Bible may be to you a fantasty, but to me, it is the power of God to save. God IS so awesome! :-)

  17. Wolfgang says

    Love the four-box method, I can’t wait to try that one. When I first read it i read it as the fox-box method, so that’s what I will probably always think of it as, haha

  18. says

    Fantastic website. Lots of helpful information here! It helps a lot in giving me ideas on how to declutter my home! I especially like #6 and #9! All in all, I very much like your article. Thank you for sharing

  19. lydia ackerman says

    One sad but true fact a great way to declutter is to find out you have bed bugs (ICIKE) then you can really go through your closet and have to decide if you are ever going to wear this outfit and is it really worth $$ to have all the the junk clean and do you still need the towels and sheets you have since you were a bride over 20 years ago get rid of them and use the ones you bought occastion you also can free up that closest space they have been taking up. You have to be careful where you send this stuff, but lots of time the people who take care of the bed bugs know how to get rid of the junk you don”t want to give them to anyone else Lydia

  20. Pam says

    Kids are in college and we have downsized 50%. I have boxes of framed photos that were on shelves all over our previous home. I’m wrestling with how to get rid of them!

  21. joseph says

    De cluttering will probably be a process that will take the rest of my life.
    We have already had two garage sales, sold lots on flea bay and Gumtree and my personal favorite… filling up garbage bags to take to the op shop.

    I’m only 26, how did this happen.
    I want to empty the kitchen so bad but my wife won’t let me lol.

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