“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.” —Dale Carnegie
The idea of living a simple 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 financial freedom and energy for their greatest passions. They are ready to declutter but some get 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 owning less. That’s too bad. Learning how to declutter 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 decluttering tips to get started.
How to Declutter Your Home
- 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 complete it.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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 organization tip actually became a quick competition between my wife and me… and your kids don’t have to be too old to participate as well.
- Change your perspective. Unclutterer offers a powerful approach to decluttering when they offer a number of decluttering tips 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.
- 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 seem 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.
- 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.
- 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 in decluttering your life with excitement behind it.
There is a beautiful world of freedom and fresh breath hiding behind that clutter. Deciding how to begin decluttering your home is up to you.
General FAQ About Decluttering
Do I need a professional organizer to help me get rid of clutter?
Absolutely not. Getting rid of the clutter in your home can be done by yourself. It can even be a fun family activity when using the decluttering tips found in this article.
How can I declutter quickly? Can it be done in a day?
Removing clutter from our homes and our lives doesn’t need to be rushed or done in a single day. It’s something that can be done over time and may even need to be done on a semi-regular basis. As long as you start the process today, you’re further along than you were yesterday.
Will owning less make my home look empty or boring?
Simple doesn’t mean sparse or boring. The opposite is true. With fewer mess and distractions, your home can become more peaceful. You can view your home as a space for rest and comfort, instead of a source of stress.
What’s the difference between declutter and unclutter?
They’re both interchangeable, though I prefer using “declutter.” The “de-” hints at being complete and permanent. I like to think of decluttering as something that solves the problem forever.
When should I declutter?
This is a personal question. When you find yourself overwhelmed by your possessions and tied down, it usually means you’re ready to start making a change. Note that this feeling is just a broad litmus test. The feeling of overwhelm can be different for everyone.