“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
― William Morris
In this ultimate guide, we will give you the tools and the tips to turn your house from a sea of chaos into an ocean of calm. Change your mindset, discover handy decluttering apps for your phone, and even challenge yourself to a 30-day junk blitz. Find out how turning around your cluttered life can help your mental wellbeing.
Why Declutter Your Home? (The Benefits)
To declutter makes sense. If you had to find your way out of a jungle and there are two paths. One is clear and straight, and the other is a series of tangled trails that twisted and turned back on themselves, which one would you choose? Our minds work better when there are fewer options.
If you have ever felt buried under the weight of all the clutter in your home, you are not alone. And if the thought of trying to clear it out has made you feel stressed, that’s normal. The psychological effects of all these things around you can make it difficult to think clearly.
Decluttering is like being able to breathe properly after a bad cold. It frees up your mind to think of the things that are really important. Clear surfaces and clean lines help you to focus, which aids concentration. You’ll get more done in a shorter length of time, giving you more time to relax when it’s finished.
The Psychology of Clutter
We hold on to things for many reasons. Try this quick experiment in your home. Select an object at random and ask yourself these four simple questions: Do you really need it? Do you really like it? Is it really useful? And does it really mean something to you?
If you answered no to these questions, it’s time to get rid of it. But if the idea of getting rid of it fills you full of dread, it’s time to find out why you are holding on to these useless things. Compulsive shopping habits, the fear of letting go, guilt and the hope for a change in the future are all things that feed our obsession with things.
Look at those trainers you bought when you promised you would run that 10k. Or that crochet set with miles of wool when you said you would make your own clothes. It’s hard to admit when you have given up on something. But the feeling of freedom that comes when you give these things away can be just as rewarding. Emotional baggage can become clutter in real life. Make a change and let it go.
Breaking the Habit
One way to break the habit of surrounding yourself with clutter is to practise mindfulness. It promotes listening to your senses and living for the moment. If sitting in a cluttered room, surrounded by stacks of papers, with no space left on the walls around hundreds of pictures makes you uneasy, you can do something about it.
Decluttering should be acted on as meditation. Every piece of junk that you pass on or throw away is one less piece of emotional baggage taking up space in your mind. It’s easy to be sentimental about an old shirt that you remember wearing years ago because it reminds you of a happy holiday, but if you don’t wear it any more, get rid of it. You won’t regret it, and you will love having that extra hanger.
The Best Decluttering Tips
We’re going to take a look at five of the best de-cluttering tips and how using them can make the process simpler, easier and even more fun.
- Pick Your Decluttering Battles If you try to de-clutter your entire home in one go, it will become a nightmare task of Herculean proportions. It’s probably the reason most people avoid doing it. Why not target one room at a time? Or, if it’s really that bad, just one corner of your most cluttered room. Starting is the hardest part, but once you see progress being made, it will push you on to do more. Set yourself achievable goals, and before you know it, you’ll have cleared half your house.
- Let Someone Else Take Them You’ve probably heard the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” before, and it’s not just a clever saying. It’s true. The things you might think are worthless could be just the right stuff for someone else. In the age of the internet, there’s always someone out there ready to take that broken bit of furniture away for firewood, or stacks of old magazines for an art project. There are communities like freecycle.organd freegle out there full of local people that will turn up and take away your unwanted items with a big smile on their face.
- Mentally Prepare Yourself Be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster. It might look like a bunch of junk, but before you know it, you’ll be sitting cross-legged on the floor, tenderly leafing through ancient birthday cards with a tear in your eye. These are just distractions. If you’re serious about freeing your life of excess, you must make some hard decisions. It’s time to say goodbye.
- Make Use of the “Four-Box” Method This one’s a must if you don’t want to just move your clutter from one side of the room to the other (then forget what things you said you would keep and what ones you would throw away). Get four large containers, and mark them Throw Away, Give to Charity, Keep and Re-Locate. Go through all of your things, make a decision, and stick to it. When you have filled the boxes for throwing away and charity, get rid of them quickly to avoid the temptation to unpack them again.
- Get Rid of Those Clothes That leather jacket you bought ten years ago, the one with the tassels, are you ever going to wear it? Maybe one day? It’s hard to let go of clothes, even ones that are unsuitable for you and totally out of fashion. Take all of your clothes on hangers and turn them backwards, so the hook of the hanger is pointing towards you. In six months’ time, give away every piece of clothing still on a backwards hanger.
Decluttering, Room by Room
It’s clear that tackling this mound of stuff will be a big job. Split the project into smaller tasks, so you can make small gains over time rather than trying to do everything at once. Concentrate on one area at a time, and you will see the results much quicker.
Decluttering Your Kitchen
Many people believe that the kitchen is the heart of the home. It’s also the most practical room in the house, so it makes sense to keep it tidy and clear of clutter. But that’s not the case, is it?
We buy kitchen gadgets like waffle makers, juicers and bread machines, use them a couple of times and then banish them to the back of a cupboard. Not to mention hundreds of jars of spices, sauces, jams and chutneys gathering dust as well. If it has gotten to where when you open a cupboard door, stacks of plastic containers fall out and you can’t close it again, it’s time to make a change.
Old Food Needs to Go
The best way to start is to take everything out of the cupboards and drawers. This makes cleaning and sorting much easier. Throw away everything that is way past its sell-by date. That pasta sauce from 2014 can go. So can that cake mix with the now-retro label on it. When you put things back, organise them into sensible groups. Something like ingredients, condiments, spices, sweets. This makes the most of the space and means that the next time you look for the strawberry jam, you might actually find it.
Do You Need That Gadget?
As for the kitchen gadgets, treat them like your clothes. If they’re covered in dust and you haven’t used them for a year, get rid of them. Sell them on eBay or give them to charity. You could make some money or make someone else happy. Unless you are a professional chef, do you really need to use a kitchen blender to chop vegetables? A simple cutting board and a kitchen knife are all that most people need to prepare food for their family. Gadgets are sold as labour-saving devices, but they never mention the piles of washing up or acres of storage room needed for the 17 different attachments that you will never use.
Get into The Zone
Now that you have cleared out your kitchen, it’s time to think of strategy. If you can look at this most practical room as a system, it will help you stay organised and on top of the clutter. Think of a triangular layout between your fridge, hob, and sink. When you are preparing and cooking food, these are the three places you bounce between the most, so if you can keep these areas clear, you’ll cook more efficiently.
Keep utensils, pots and pans close to the hob, containers close to the fridge and cleaning supplies close to the sink. Following these simple rules will make things run smoothly and give you more focus when making those special meals.
Decluttering Your Bedroom
In the ideal bedroom, what would be there? A bed, a bedside table and neat storage for clothes. A bedroom should be an island of calm, a place for relaxing and sleeping. Unfortunately, our bedrooms become dumping grounds for all sorts of things from books to work papers and just about anything else that doesn’t have a real home. The secret to a good night’s sleep, according to The Sleep Council is to drop off in a clean, organised and uncluttered room.
You Aren’t What You Don’t Wear
Let’s talk about the elephant in the bedroom. We seem to own more and more items of clothing now than ever before. Fast fashion, throwaway accessories, and cheap outfits lead us to buy clothes we wear once and then forget about. All of this leads to piles of clothing that clutter up your bedroom and make it hard to move, let alone relax.
A great way to halve your clothing is to store them by season. Divide spring and summer as one half of the year and autumn and winter as the other. Vacuum seal the clothes you won’t need for six months and put them in storage. Those thick woollen jumpers are just using up valuable drawer space in the summer.
There are more storage solutions online via websites like Pinterest than you could ever hope to make use of. But it’s worth trawling through some of them to find ideas that suit the size of your bedroom. Cupboard organisers, pegboards and hidden drawers are just three storage hacks that might be just what you’re looking for. There are sneaky ways to reduce the clutter all over your bedroom, you just have to do some research and find what works for you.
Shelving to The Rescue
Flat surfaces are natural places for storage, and the more you have, the better. The same goes for any room in the house, but shelves for reading books, perfumes and jewellery make all the difference in the bedroom. Shelving kits are an easy way to transform storage in a bedroom and are available from any big DIY retailer, but coming up with your own ideas is a lot more fun. What about magical floating shelves or uber-trendy copper pipe shelves? These original ideas make your practical storage a focal point.
Hide Under the Bed
The largest single object in your bedroom should be the bed. If it’s not the biggest thing in there, you have a real issue with clutter. It might seem obvious, but the space under a bed is a perfect place to organise and store items that aren’t used every day.
Clever solutions include hinged beds that raise up to reveal the space underneath or large storage boxes on wheels that can roll under the bed. This means you don’t have to crawl under the space to get at shoes, spare linen or winter coats when you need them.
Decluttering Your Living Room
The front room, the lounge, the family room. It’s the room in the house designed purely for relaxation and family time. Because it’s used every day by different members of the family, it becomes a magnet for clutter of all kinds.
Put Things in Their Place
Just because we use this versatile room for relaxing, entertaining and socialising, it shouldn’t become a dumping ground after you have finished. Work papers, children’s toys and books are just some of the things that make their way in here. The only way to keep on top of this constant clutter is to attack it regularly. Make a rule (and stick to it) that when family members finish, they have to return their games, toys and magazines to their proper homes.
No Storage? Make Some
Even though they are rooms full of life, living rooms often lack proper storage solutions. You can fix this with the addition of versatile furniture. Big sideboards with cupboards and drawers can hold a television, sound system, and piles of assorted things whilst looking stylish. Ottoman style footstools double as seating and handy storage for toys, blankets and game controllers to keep them out of sight, but still easy to find.
Control the Controllers
The modern living room seems to contain enough technology to send a rocket to the moon. Games consoles, smart lighting, televisions, stereos, surround sound speakers, DVD players. And what do they all have in common? Remote controls. There could be upwards of six controllers at any one time, taking up space and getting lost at just the wrong time.
There is a wide range of remote-control organisers available, from ones that hang on the end of a sofa to something like a pencil pot for your controls. You just have to remember to put them back in there when you have finished. Failing that, you could merge multiple controllers into one universal remote control.
Decluttering Your Garage
Your garage could be many things. Artist’s studio, workshop, man-cave, she-shed or kids play den. The list is endless. However, it is more often used as a dumping ground. As an external extra space, it’s easy to consider the clutter in there as being “out of sight, out of mind”. The phrase “stick it in the garage” is the answer to many people’s storage problems, but with some effort, you could create a whole new room or even a home business in the space out there.
Make Some Money from Your Old Junk
Clearing your garage will probably be the biggest de-cluttering job of the whole house. It could take a whole weekend to even make a dent in the piles of old tools, furniture and hobby equipment collected over the years.
As we have said before, though, your junk could be someone else’s idea of treasure. It’s time to have a garage sale. Make a sign, set a date, and fill an old ice cream tub with small change. Prepare to haggle with your neighbours and price things to sell. You’ll be amazed at how the money adds up as the garage practically clears itself, and it’s a lot of fun to get to know the people that live in your area.
Park the Car
This might sound glaringly obvious, but a garage is a place to park your car. Just think about it. You don’t have to search for parking. There’s no chance that someone will smash your wing mirror off when they drive by. Your car will be out of the elements and kept clean. It will be safer than if it’s parked on the street. The list of benefits is long, and with a bit of de-cluttering, not an impossible thing to achieve. The final benefit has to be that if your car is in the garage, there’s not enough space left to fill with more junk.
What NOT to Do
Your house is a mess. Every cupboard is full to the brim, you can’t get anywhere near the garage and your kitchen looks like a jumble sale. One Sunday morning, after spending 45 minutes looking for a certain remote control, you snap. “That’s it, we’re cleaning this house right now” you announce to anyone close enough to hear. You dive into the closest pile of clutter and start sorting. Stop! It might tempt you to run full-tilt into this job, but it makes much more sense to plan it out.
Don’t Bite Off More Than You Can Chew
If you try to blitz the whole house in one go, it will burn you out. There is just too much to do. If you wanted to climb a mountain, you wouldn’t just run out of the door without planning a route, packing a bag and putting on some proper shoes. So, don’t tackle decluttering in any other way.
A well-planned strategy will help you tackle the problem and break it down into bite-sized chunks that make the overall goal much easier to achieve. Target one room, or even one area of a room at a time, and reward yourself for a good job done when it’s finished. Decluttering should be fun, so set aside an hour or two in advance and turn it into a game. How much can you sort through in that time?
Stop Keeping Things “Just in Case”
This is where the psychology of hoarding comes into play. You might not be keeping old piles of newspapers and old milk cartons like someone from one of those TV programmes, but if you put something back because you might have a use for it one day… You are showing the same behaviours.
The 30 Day Declutter Challenge
It’s not a coincidence that the most successful people around us have goals. As we have looked at over the course of this intensive guide, breaking down huge tasks into smaller, more achievable goals makes sense. We don’t all have the time to drop everything, empty our house completely and sort every item down to its true value. There are kids to feed and dogs to walk! With this in mind, you can make great gains on decluttering your house if you can just do one little thing each day for a month.
- Meditate for 15 minutes. Imagine your life without clutter
- Find a kitchen utensil you have really no use for. Give it away
- Look for something that’s out of date in your kitchen cupboard. Get rid of it
- Sort through that pile of letters and bills in the kitchen. Recycle or shred them
- Pick out a piece of clothing that fits no more. Give it to charity
- Find a piece of jewellery you haven’t worn for a year. Gift it to someone
- Find something, anything, in your house you don’t want. Sell it and count the money
- Pick out a cookbook. Make something from it or give it away to charity
- Clean out the junk from inside your car. Spend any money you find
- Go through your old medicines. Throw away anything out of date
- Find a stack of old magazines. Recycle them or give to an art teacher
- Open the junk drawer. Throw away items until it closes properly
- Go through the kid’s cupboard. Donate clothes they have grown out of
- Pick out all the socks that don’t have pairs. Throw them out
- RELAX! This is your day off. You deserve it
- Clear off the dining room table. Enjoy a proper family meal on it
- Look through your phone. Remove any apps you don’t use
- Buy a functional storage item. Commit to using it
- Find a worn and broken pair of shoes. Throw them away
- Search through your freezer. Use or throw away old food past its date
- Congratulate yourself! Doing something for 21 days creates a new habit
- Go through your emails. Delete as many from your inbox as possible
- Find old and half-burned candles. Melt them down or throw them away
- Start a loose change jar. When it’s full, treat yourself to something special
- Sort through old greeting cards. Unless they make you cry, get rid of them
- Organise your drinks cabinet. Pour away any old alcohol you don’t like
- Download a decluttering app. Make the most of the good advice it gives you
- Pick up five things, and find a place for them. This is where they should stay
- Promise to not buy any clutter for 30 more days. Stick to this plan
- Marvel at your personal transformation. Enjoy your simpler home and life!
The Best Decluttering Apps
You’re in luck. You don’t have to do this decluttering all on your own. There is technology to help keep you on track with your decluttering goals and give you helpful tips and advice. Let’s run through a few of the best:
Toss. Free, Android and iOS
It does what it says on the tin. It’s designed to give you a goal of tossing out one item of junk every day. The app gives you a new, random task every day to complete. From tossing out old towels to clearing your kitchen of unused cutlery, it keeps track of every item you have removed. You can look back over your achievements and really feel you have made a difference.
Taskrabbit. Free, Android and iOS
You’ve decided that the decluttering job is just too big to tackle on your own. Or maybe you just need help to take it all to the dump? Hire a professional handyperson, cleaner, or organiser by the hour! They could help you put together a flat-pack cupboard to hide loads of stuff or even organise your things for you. Although it’s only available in bigger cities in the UK it’s still a great service if you want some help.
Cozi Family Organizer. Free, Android, iOS and web browser
As they say themselves, it’s “The must-have app for families”. Decluttering and organising should be a team effort, so make sure the other members of your tribe pull their weight. Create schedules and lists of chores that need to be done and share them with your loved ones. You can plan for that special dinner by creating collaborative shopping lists and even share recipes.
eBay. Free, Android, iOS and web browser
This one’s probably obvious, but selling things on this platform is almost too easy with a mobile phone. Take pictures, write the description and hey presto, you’ve just sold that old laptop for a handsome sum! You can even use your phone’s camera to scan barcodes and let the clever app fill in the details of the things you want to sell. They take a fair amount in commission, but it’s straightforward and easy to use.
Phew, you made it to the end. This exhaustive (but not exhausting, we hope) guide to decluttering your life and streamlining your goals is a good start, but it’s not the end. You can download all the apps and read hundreds of tips if you like, but decluttering is bigger than that. It’s more about changing your relationship with stuff and making small gains every day. If you can let go of physical baggage, the emotional baggage can go with it and help you focus on the things that really matter.