I’m the first to admit I struggle with clutter. I was once a big-time shopper, who loved to buy things without planning where they’ll go or how they’ll affect my space. That led to a room full of junk and all the attached anxiety.
Since we downsized to a smaller home I’ve been on a decluttering crusade. The work is never done.
Decluttering your home is a journey, not a destination, y’all!
But you know what, I’m on this journey with some very clever people. You (of course!) and a some smart bloggers and writers (especially this one – definitely the best place to start getting the clutter under control) who are trying to live a life with purpose and let go of pointless clutter.
I absolutely love that it’s almost mainstream to talk about decluttering and living purposefully now, which is so important in this time of rampant consumerism and excessive waste.
Check out these quick decluttering projects for when you’re stuck for time.
15 Genius Decluttering Tips for When The Struggle is Real
I wanted to share the best decluttering hacks with you here, to help you take the next step when it comes to decluttering your home and life.
1. Everything in its place.
This simple piece of advice was mind-blowing to me, probably because, like Carly, the author, I’m not naturally tidy and sometimes the mess is overwhelming.
But this piece of advice is the simplest thing ever. Start where you are, pick up one thing and put it away. If it doesn’t have a home, find a home for it or make it leave your home. Seriously simple, and something you can do in bite-size chunks when you have the time. Go read the full post here.
2. Use your goals as a barometer
OK, so this is actually my tip! But it’s a goodie, I promise. It’s the only way I was able to keep on task when we opened up our huge storage shed and tried to make everything fit into our smaller home.
When we downsized, it was a decision we came to with intent. We wanted to travel more, and living smaller would help us save money to achieve that.
Keeping the goal of traveling more in mind, I was able to look at each item and assess whether it helped or hindered my life goal. You can read more about this tip here.
3. Use a timer to get started
Sometimes just starting is the hardest thing.
When clutter and mess have got out of control, the motivation to get started decluttering your home wanes.
Days or even weeks can pass, while you keep looking at the mess every day and getting stressed out by it. That’s why Jamie’s tip is so helpful.
Set a timer for 5 minutes at a time and use that 5-minute block to complete one task.
Repeat three times, each time completing a different stage of the tidying process. It’s something anyone can achieve, with only a few minutes a day. Check out the full post here.
4. Identify hot spots and create action plans
If decluttering is a journey, my desk and kitchen counters are the gas stations and diners along the way.
This cracking piece of advice from Happily Ever Mom is a great one to keep in mind when you struggle to keep certain areas clean.
By identifying the hot spots in your home and making action plans for tackling the clutter, you start to develop new habits which break the clutter cycle. Read the full post (and get the free printable) here
5. Find a way to use or repurpose sentimental items
Do you keep special items in keepsake boxes or stored away like museum pieces to be admired but rarely used? If so, those items
may will become clutter.
Melissa of Simple Lionheart Life has a smart way to appreciate the special items in your life.
By using the items regularly or finding a way to display them in a clutter-free fashion, you are switching the item from under-appreciated relic to useful life tool.
This is exactly why we have our son’s silver Christening utensil set in the utensil drawer to be used like all the other cutlery.
Another great way to repurpose baby clothes (my most sentimental item!) is to get them turned into a quilt. Read the full post here.
6. Donate, don’t sell
If you’re frugal or trying to save money, it can be tempting to sell your items rather than donate them, especially if you perceive them as having a high value.
I get it, I really do. It pains me to give items away for nothing, knowing how much they cost me in the first place.
But selling things online has a cost too, mainly in your time.
Think about how long it takes to get a great photo, post a descriptive message, weed out all the tire-kickers, then hope the buyer actually shows up when they say they will.
And that’s only if you list an item right away.
More than likely, the item will sit in a box somewhere until you’re ready to list it, cluttering up your home and life for longer than necessary.
If you’re on the fence, this post by Amy of More Time than Money will give you lots to think about.
7. Always have a donation box in your home
If you have kids you probably don’t have large blocks of time where you get to declutter your life in one fell swoop.
More than likely, you encounter many useless items throughout the day.
By having a donation box in the home at all times, you now have a place to put that clutter, rather than just leaving it where you found it only to (not) deal with it later.
I love Tracy’s idea of using a beautiful decorative basket as your donation box. Read more of Tracy’s awesome tips for decluttering your home here.
8. Tap into the sharing economy
If you struggle with decluttering the useful items, look into the sharing economy. A friend of mine shared this.
“We really struggled with decluttering useful items as it felt like it went against our frugal natures. By tapping into the sharing economy we can find the items we need and only use them when we need them (trust me when I say you don’t need to own an orbital sander when you only use it twice a decade).
Local tool libraries or community groups are a great source of share items. Knowing we still have access to these items (without needing to buy them again) makes decluttering so much easier.”
Kay from Paws and Pines agrees. “Don’t rent storage units. I’ve found that the amount of “things” you have to correlate to the amount of “space” you have available to store them.
Instead, invest in a few basics that you use on a weekly basis and rent / borrow everything else. You can rent everything from fancy dresses, washing machines, power tools, video games, and camping equipment these days!”
9. Be honest with yourself
June from This Simple Balance gave herself a reality check to help kick the clutter.
“Ask yourself whether you are keeping something because you actually will use it, or because you WANT to want to use it. For example, I kept a crockpot for years because I wanted it to work for our family.
The reality? We hate crockpot food: I never used it. So now I ask myself if we actually use something, or I just wish we were the type of family that used it. It makes letting go of stuff so much easier!”
10. Help your kids let go of things
Sharon from Melbourne Family has a clever system for decluttering the kids’ items.
“I find the biggest problem we have with fitting in a small space is all the stuff our kids have that seems to grow all by itself if we don’t constantly cull!
We now regularly (every month or 2), put everything away in our cupboard if we haven’t seen anyone play with it in a while. If the kids don’t notice after another few weeks, it goes in the charity or rubbish bin. The kids have never worked this out!”
11. Incentivize your kids to let things go
Lindsay from My Trampoline Kids has this advice.
“In order for us to downsize (and to seasonally de-clutter) we dump out all of the toy bins in the floor (not all at once)!
Then the kids organize them by themes, such as Paw Patrol pups and vehicles or Star Wars stuff and make sure missing pieces of games or toys end up back where they belong.
Any toys that do not get much love will either go to sell or donate. Quite often my oldest wants to keep everything, but when I tell him he can sell some toys and get something new, such as a pack of Pokemon Cards, he quite happily purges.
My 4-year-old does not have much attachment to stuff at all so he is an easy sell and will offer to sell everything, but I only let him get rid of the stuff he does not actually use!
Everything that does not sell or stuff that is not worth more than a dollar or two are donated. We also go through the clothes and donate anything that does not fit, or if they have clothes they do not wear.”
12. Put a time limit on items
Patrick from German Backpacker travels a lot and needs to be ruthless with clutter.
“My best decluttering tip is to get rid of everything that I didn’t use or wear in the past 12 months – since this means that I probably won’t need it ever again!
I try to not own more than what fits into two big suitcases.
Since I’m spending a lot of time traveling abroad, after returning home after a few months I’m always very surprised to see all these clothes that I own but completely forgot about.
Time to get rid of them! While it’s sometimes difficult for me to give my belongings away, I feel like it’s necessary and I try to go through all my things at least once a year.”
13. Gently declutter to change your mindset
Sarah from Best Futon Info finds a slow and steady approach the best way to stop clutter accumulating in the first place.
“Our young family downsized from a large five bedroom house to a two bedroom cottage. It was a challenge but fortunately, we had tiny living experience in Japan and we already had many pieces of ‘double duty’ furniture, like futons.
It can be daunting to start so I started small and I’m still going to this day. Each week, while cleaning the house, I choose three items to move on, placing them in a box out of sight.
When the box is full, I donate the contents. It takes a while to fill a box and only sometimes is an item missed and retrieved.
This is a constant practice, slow and gentle – I’ve been at it for over ten years now. The result is not only a clutter-free home but also a mindset which helps prevent accumulating ‘stuff’ in the first place.”
14. Honor Your Items
Betsy from Passing Thru has this advice.
“We’ve downsized a total of five times, from two individual residences when we were first married to a townhouse, to a home in Kauai, and then to a nomadic lifestyle with two suitcases of belongings.
We know how difficult it can be when attachments are emotional and strong. The best piece of advice we can offer is to think in terms of “things deserve to be used.”
You aren’t honoring your things if they’re packed away and never see the light of day. Re-home them to give some other owner the joy of using them in the way they were intended.”
Do you have a genius decluttering hack or tip to share? Let me know in the comments.
15. Get out of town
One of my top decluttering tips is to remove yourself from your environment for a few days. Getting out of your cluttered space can give you some much-needed time away to reassess what it is you really want.
You can read more about the epiphanies I had about decluttering while traveling here.
If you liked this, click the links to read how I minimize my kid’s toys without them losing their minds or how to deal with paper clutter.
For more inspiration on decluttering your home and taking back your life, check out The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.
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