PART 2: Room-by-Room Decluttering & Organizing Tips
Now that you have the tools you need to tackle any decluttering project in your home, you are ready for our ridiculously thorough, room-by-room decluttering tips. Decluttering room-by-room is the most efficient way to declutter and organize your home. And you will feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each room!
How to Organize & Declutter Your Bedrooms
Bedrooms often become dumping grounds for stuff that doesn’t have a home in your house. When you think about it, you don’t really need more than a bed, a nightstand or two, storage for clothes, shoes, and perhaps a home for jewelry and makeup.
Start by Decluttering the Bedroom Drawers
Take everything out of the drawers and ask yourself the following questions about each item:
- Does it belong in the bedroom?
- Have you used it in the last year?
Did you answer, “No,” to either of those questions? If so, then put it in your “Get Rid of It” bin or move it to the room where it belongs.
When you are ready to place items back into the drawers try adding dividers or small containers so you can store like things together.
Bedroom Decluttering Tip: You don’t have to go to the store to buy something. You can use small gift boxes, shoe boxes, cereal boxes, or repurpose plastic containers to hold the items in the drawer. Get creative – perhaps you won’t have to send as many things to the landfill at the end of the day!
Keep Flat Surfaces in the Bedroom Clear
Or at least keep them almost clear. Moderation is key here. It’s ok to have a few decorations, a lamp, or pictures on your dresser or nightstand tops, but try to limit each surface in the bedroom to less than five things. When you have fewer things cluttering the flat surfaces in your bedroom, space will feel more calming and peaceful.
Use Storage Bins for Kids’ Toys, Seasonal Items or Things You Use Infrequently
Let’s face it, not everything can be tucked away behind a closed door – closets are valuable real estate in a house, so some items like kids’ toys or seasonal clothing/bedding need to go somewhere else.
Kids’ toys can live in baskets, toy chests, or even shelves in a bedroom. If you find yourself running out of space for toys, it’s probably time to donate those toys that were a hit for a few weeks but no longer get much attention.
Seasonal clothing, bedding, or decorations can be easily stored in plastic or cloth bins that fit under the bed or in a closet. Space-saver bags or even comforter bags are also an option if you’re looking to get bulky items into a smaller space.
How to Clean Your Closet Clutter
I have some good news: decluttering your closet is therapeutic. The process of going through clothes, shoes, and other long-forgotten belongings will help you cleanse your house and your mind of any emotional baggage that may be connected to these items. Be sure you keep your three bins nearby for this task as you follow these three ways to declutter your closet:
Declutter Your Closet From the Bottom Up
Your instinct will be to start from the top with the things that are hanging, but cleaning up and cleaning out the mess at the bottom of the closet is the better way to go. Not only will you free up space in which to work, but you will feel like you’re halfway done in no time!
Get Rid of Clothes and Shoes
In case you glossed over the section earlier in the guide where I discussed the 80/20 rule, I’ll reiterate. We typically wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, which means you should have a significant amount of clothing you can purge. Ask yourself these questions about each item if you’re having trouble deciding which items you should pitch:
- Does it fit?
- Is it damaged? (stained, torn, faded)
- Has it been worn in the past year?
If you answered, “No,” to any of those questions, I strongly urge you to add the item to your “Get Rid of It” bin. If you have something that is sentimental or seasonal that you don’t wear often, put it in your storage bin and free up some space in your closet. The same goes for shoes.
Since I’m sure you will keep at least a few things that you probably should get rid of, even after this exercise (I know I did), try the “backward hanger” trick over the course of the next year to weed out any more items that can free up space in your closet. Start the year with the hangers’ tips all facing the front of the closet (backward). After you wear something, put it back in the closet with the hanger facing the back. At the end of the year, you’ll be able to easily identify the clothes that just aren’t worth keeping anymore.
Clean Up Closet Shelves
Remove everything from your closet shelves, wipe down the shelves, and then get rid of anything that isn’t adding value to your life. Avoid stacking clothing on shelves and storing stuff on shelves that can get buried under hanging clothes. Aside from items you store in containers, you should be able to see everything in your closet without moving too much. Boxes and bins are recommended for storing smaller items on your closet shelves.
If you are decluttering a closet that you don’t use to store clothing, it can be really tempting to stack everything in there like a beautiful game of Tetris. Don’t do it. Consider adding more shelving above things that you may keep at the bottom, like a vacuum cleaner or storage bins. You can also add hooks inside the door for brooms, mops, and dustpans.
Cleaning up your closets is guaranteed to improve your quality of life! Seriously, it’s the little things. You’ll save time when you no longer have to look and search for items you ‘could have sworn were in there.’ You’ll make room for new belongings that bring you more joy. And you won’t risk something falling on you the next time you open a closet door.
How to Declutter Your Home Office or Workspace
Does your home office or workspace look like it was hit by a tornado? Have no fear; our tips will help with the disaster cleanup. And as an added bonus, organizing your home office can actually make you more productive!
Go Through Paper Items
For most people, office clutter consists of piles of bills, important documents, semi-important documents, receipts, and other pieces of paper you “intended” to get to. When cleaning up an office or workspace, it’s best to start with the papers. Cleaning up the paper mess is likely half the battle!
The best way to start organizing your office is to sort papers into three piles: File, To-do, and Trash. Once you have everything sorted, throw the trash pile in the trash or shred the papers, file the papers you need to keep, and put your to-do pile in a basket or special file so you can address it when you’ve cleaned up your office space.
Here are some other tips for decluttering stacks of papers in your home office:
- Scan important documents and receipts to make a digital record, then shred and throw away the paper if you don’t need a physical copy lying around.
- Older paper files, such as taxes can be stored in a plastic bin and kept in your basement, garage, or another space for things you don’t need to access often.
- Designate a space for important mail or paper documents that you need to act on soon, or for future incoming paper documents – this way you’ll have a place to put them when you get them.
- When you’re filing paperwork, don’t forget the most important file: the circular file.
Clear Off Your Desk
Challenge yourself to remove most items from your office desk, aside from your computer, a lamp, and a few other essentials. Only keep items on your desk that you use frequently. Whenever possible you should store office supplies in drawers – tabletop organizers can easily get messy. A few knickknacks are OK, but don’t overdo it!
Clean Out and Organize Drawers
Do your office drawers look like piles of junk when you open them up? We have three simple steps to help you make sense of your office supplies:
- Take everything out of the office drawers.
- Get rid of the excess. If you have more than you actually need in the next year, then get rid of it. If you haven’t used it in six months, you should probably get rid of it.
- Organize like-things together and avoid a lot of free-floating objects in a drawer when you put your office supplies back in. There are drawer organizers you can purchase or you can use small boxes or containers you already have.
Tame Your Cords
While not essential for organizing your home office, wrangling in your cords will help you achieve the clean, crisp look you will want to have in every room of your house. A simple search online will present a myriad of cord management products made for tying up and taming cords. You can also use a few of these clever cord hacks:
- Label cords with washi tape, so it’s easier to tell what cord goes with each device.
- Hold cords that are frequently unplugged up on your desk with binder clips.
- Use twist-ties or rubber bands to tie up excess cables – it’s not fancy, but it’s effective!
How to Declutter Your Kitchen
You probably use your kitchen more than any other room in the house, and, if you cook even semi-regularly, you likely have a lot of stuff in it. Utensils, cookware, small appliances, food, spices, and more likely leave little space in your kitchen cabinets, drawers, and countertops. We want to help you take back your kitchen from clutter! Our kitchen decluttering tips will make this space more enjoyable and hopefully make cooking less stressful.
Start by Decluttering Kitchen Countertops
Kitchen counters are clutter-magnets in most homes, so this is a great first step for anyone looking to declutter their kitchens. This small, two-step project will look and feel big when you are done!
Step 1: Clear everything off your kitchen counters except 3-5 essential items (such as a coffee maker or knife block). You can put the counter clutter on the kitchen table or on the floor, but get the stuff off the counter.
Step 2: Put away or find another home for everything you cleared off the counter. If you’re left with a lot of papers or junk mail, trash them or move items that need to be addressed to your office or workspace.
This is a project that only takes a few minutes unless you have piles of things in your kitchen, in which case you may need an hour. Either way, it will feel like a NEW kitchen when you are done!
Divide the Kitchen into Zones
We recommend decluttering one section of your kitchen at a time to avoid a potentially bigger mess. Assigning zones can also help you improve the organization of your kitchen things.
- Identify space near the stove for cooking utensils, pots, and pans. These items should be conveniently located near where you cook.
- Unless you bake every day, store your baking supplies away in a cabinet or on a shelf – if you have a mixer on your countertop try to corral your baking supplies near it.
- Storage bags cling wrap, aluminum foil, and similar items should get their own zone, as well as cleaning supplies.
Purge and Relocate
As you start to declutter your kitchen, consider throwing away or donating any items you come across that haven’t been touched in a year. When you decide to keep an item you use infrequently, you may want to put it away in storage in another part of your home, especially if you’re low on real estate in your kitchen. And be sure to move anything you come across that belongs in another zone to its new home.
Small Appliances: If you use that food dehydrator or deep fryer maybe once a year, you should put it in your “Get Rid of It” bin. Inventory all of the small appliances you have and only keep what you really use. Appliances that do multiple things tend to be keepers.
Plastic Storage Containers: If you’re hoarding enough plastic storage containers to open your own take-out restaurant, it’s time to purge. Start with the lids – there always seem to be fewer lids than bottoms in my house. Match each lid up to a bottom. If you have any stragglers you can get rid of them. You can keep some spare containers to accommodate occasions when you may need more plastic storage containers, but you should consider keeping them in the basement or somewhere outside the kitchen.
Pots & Pans: Chances are you only have so many burners on your stove that you can use at once, so you may not truly need all of the pots, pans, cookie sheets, and whatever else you have. Unless it serves a special purpose, and you use it frequently, duplicate pots and pans should get donated. When was the last time you used your wok?
Pro Tip for Decluttering Kitchen Cabinets: Install hooks along with the backsplash or underneath cabinets so you can hang pots and pans instead of storing them in your kitchen cabinets.
We know it can be tough to part with a lot of the items in your kitchen, but simple is simply better when you’re trying to limit the chaos in this high-traffic space. If you’re unsure about getting rid of some of your kitchen tools, try storing them away in a box and see if you really need them over the course of the next year. If not, take that box straight to Goodwill!
How to Declutter & Organize Your Bathrooms
We’ll cut straight to the chase with bathrooms. Decluttering a bathroom mainly requires purging and organizing the items that consume your countertops, shelves, and drawers. You will probably be surprised not only by what you have but how much you have of some items as you go through everything.
Follow this simple four-step process for decluttering your bathrooms:
- Pull all of your stuff out of the bathroom closets and drawers. Some experts recommend decluttering multiple bathrooms at once so you really get an idea of how much excess you have – you may have enough soap to last you for a year and a half and not even know it. However, you decide to do it, clear off countertops, empty drawers, and completely clean out linen closets in or near your bathrooms.
- Put like things together. This is an important step in organizing your bathroom clutter. Make piles for medicine, towels, toiletries, cleaning supplies, makeup, etc… so you can see exactly what you have cluttering up your bathroom.
- Throw away or plan to donate the excess. Often times we have multiple bottles or boxes of half-used stuff in our bathrooms. For multiples of the same thing, combine them, and clear out some empty bottles or packaging. In the case where you are holding onto something that only has a little left, give yourself a month to use it – if you don’t use it throw it away. Do you have more towels than you will use in a month? You may want to donate excess towels to a local animal shelter. And if you are holding on to something (a gift perhaps) that you never really liked, you should pull the trigger and get rid of it.
- Put your bathroom back together, but keep it organized. Dividers, drawer organizers, small boxes, and baskets are essential for bathroom organization. With a lot of small items floating around in your bathroom, you don’t want to have to dig through a drawer to find that one thing you need, especially when you are getting ready in the morning. Organizing your bathroom clutter doesn’t have to cost you money either. Look for small boxes or plastic containers around the house that you can repurpose into drawer organizers.
Similar to other spaces in your house, your goal is to remove as many items from bathroom countertops as possible. If you have items you use daily, organize them neatly on a tray, or put them in an easily accessible drawer or on a shelf.
How to Declutter Your Laundry Room
Everyone’s laundry room is different so our advice for decluttering your laundry room is less specific. Some people have their washing machine and dryer in an unfinished basement or a mudroom off of their garage, and a lucky few have their washer and dryer on the second story, closest to where all the clothes generally live. All of these different laundry room setups create many more possible scenarios for laundry room clutter, which makes it a little challenging to offer specific advice.
No matter what clutter plagues your laundry room and what other uses your laundry area has, follow these laundry rooms declutter guidelines:
- Get rid of what you don’t need in your laundry room.
- Organize what you keep with baskets, well-labeled bins, and sturdy shelving.
- Keep clothes off the laundry room floor.
- Try storing detergent and fabric softener in glass jars or beverage dispensers to improve the aesthetic when this space is highly visible or in a high-traffic part of your home.
- And avoid storing items on top of the washing machine and dryer – remember the declutter mantra: “Keep flat surfaces clean.”
If you have questions about how to better remove clutter from your laundry room or a particular challenge in this space, drop us a note in the comments and we’ll help you out!
How to Declutter Your Living Room
There is one thing that everyone intends to do in their family room or living room: Relax. It can be difficult to really relax and unwind when this space is cluttered with toys, books, wires, blankets, magazines, and more. Nothing feels as good as a sitting down to enjoy family, friends, or entertainment in a clean and organized room. If you’re in need of a family room or living room refresh, follow these living room organization tips to curb the clutter so you can truly relax at home.
Remove Clutter That Doesn’t Belong
A lot of things tend to end up in this frequently used space in your home. Start by removing any items that have lost their way and belong in another room. Look for toys that belong in your kids’ rooms, mail, or magazines that belong in the office and glasses or dishware that may not have made it back to the kitchen yet.
Add More Storage
You may find yourself with an overabundance of blankets, toys, video games, and more that DO belong in this space. Here are some simple storage solutions that will help you declutter your living room by finding a new home for the clutter.
- Add baskets to hold frequently used toys and blankets.
- Add shelving for video games, DVDs, and other media that are prone to sitting out in the open.
- Look for furniture/storage combos such as storage ottomans and trunks to store anything you don’t want out in the open. There are even some couches and loungers that double as storage.
- Add other furniture that doubles as storage space such as a credenza below the TV or a behind-the-couch chest.
It is possible you simply have too many things in your family room or living room, which is making it feel cluttered and overcrowded? Try pruning back the pillows, hanging pictures, and adding floating shelves to the walls to remove pictures or collectibles that are crowding your tabletops.
Donate or Sell
Be sure to address your books, CDs, DVDs, and other entertainment by donating or selling anything that is no longer a staple in your collection. If you can convert your music and movies to digital format, you can free up a lot of valuable real estate in your family room without having to part with something you would otherwise keep. Get rid of any broken or unused toys, tchotchkes, remote controls, and anything else that has lost its usefulness.
Wrangle the Wires
A mess of wires from your entertainment center is an eyesore that adds visual clutter in your family room or living room. There are countless products these days to help you tie up and hide your cables, but here are a few other tips for cord management:
- Use cords and cables that aren’t excessively long – you don’t want to have to tie up 20 feet of coaxial cable!
- Choose furniture that will cover up the cords if you don’t want to go to the trouble of feeding them into the wall (though you may be surprised at how simple that can be in some cases).
- Store your mess of cords in a container that matches your room décor.
- You may also be able to conceal some cords around your room with an area rug. There’s no getting rid of the cords in most cases, so we’re OK with hiding them in clever ways!
After you finish decluttering your family room and/or living room, be sure to let us know how it feels to sit down in your new Zen den after a long day!
How to Declutter & Organize Your Basement or Attic
Clutter can live forever when it is banished to a basement or attic. Again, the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind” comes to mind as we easily forget about the things we have stored in these spaces. You probably have possessions you haven’t seen in years…decades, even. If you’re holding on to items because you think you might use them later, it’s time to get real about clutter. Yeah, you might use it one day, but if you haven’t used it in the last five years or more, I’d wager the odds of you putting these long-forgotten items to use are slim to none.
You should put aside a good chunk of time for addressing basement or attic clutter – these typically aren’t 15 minute or hour-long projects. You may want to enlist some friends to help if you have a lot to carry or move up or downstairs.
Follow These 6 Steps to Clean and Organize Your Basement or Attic
We break down basement and attic decluttering into six manageable steps to help you avoid getting overwhelmed:
- Divide your basement or attic into zones. It is important to work in one area of your attic or basement at a time. Start with a set of shelves, a stack of boxes, seasonal decorations, or old kids’ clothes and toys.
- Take everything out of the zone. If you’re tackling shelves, clear the shelves. If you’re working through boxes or bins, empty the bins. Don’t move onto another zone until you completely finish the current zone.
- Sort everything into two bins. Since you’re working on a space that is generally used for storage, you can remove one of the bins and just focus on keeping or getting rid of the items you find. If you find things you intend to fix, you may want to create a separate pile for items that can be fixed affordably, but give yourself a deadline for fixing them. If you don’t get them fixed by the deadline, donate the items, or throw them away.
- Move the items you are not keeping outside the house. Before you start putting away the things you are keeping, move the things you’ve chosen to part with the outside of the house. Put them directly into the trash or dumpster if you are throwing them away. If you are donating or selling them, you should put the items in the vehicle you will use to drop them off, or keep them on a porch or in your garage until they can be picked up.
- Keep like things together. This organizational tip applies just as much to decluttering your basement as it does your bathroom. It will greatly improve your ability to find and access items when you do need them later. Do you have more ornaments than you can fit on a tree? Try sorting the ornaments by color. Next year when you go to decorate the tree you won’t have to move as many boxes!
- Label boxes and bins. As you put everything back that you are keeping into boxes and bins, be sure to clearly label the contents. If you don’t want to write directly on the bin, you can tape a paper list to the front of it so you have a visible inventory of what’s inside. Or you can use a label maker to add semi-permanent, removable labels. If you use clear bins you can more easily see what is inside.
How to Declutter & Organize Your Messy Garage
Garages allow things like old sporting equipment, tools that have been long-forgotten, old kids’ toys, half-complete DIY projects, rusty car parts, storage boxes, and more to hang around like a bad cold. This is another challenging space to declutter – challenging, but not impossible! From my experience, this is where most of the items that make you think you might use or need one day end up. I’ve got news for you: If you haven’t used it in the past five years, the chances are high you will never use or need it.
The following pointers will help you declutter your garage so you can actually use it for parking a car or two. We recommend planning this project for a weekend with good weather so you can pull EVERYTHING out and sort through it before putting anything back in.
Tips for Decluttering Your Garage
- Take everything out. There may be a few extreme cases where this isn’t possible, but you will have the most success if you start by completely clearing out your garage space.
- Sort through your finds, putting like things together. This is the most important step as you work to free up some space in your garage. Put all of the tools together, the sporting equipment together, the gardening tools, the hardware, etc. But don’t put them back in the garage yet.
- Purge. If you have duplicates that you don’t expect to use in the next five years, get rid of them! If you are holding on to worn or damaged anything, you should probably say goodbye to it too. That one tool, that did only one thing that one time – sell it or give it to a friend.
- Organize. After you have sorted through all of the items in your garage and decided on the things you are going to keep, you need to plan how you intend to store everything to maximize your space. This may require purchasing more storage bins, a tool cabinet, or pegboard. You may also need to install some sturdy shelving. When possible, try to create storage space in your garage that is up and off the ground to maximize space. Be sure to clearly label everything to identify the contents, so you can find things easily later. Check out this post for more garage storage ideas.
- Rent extra storage space. This garage decluttering tip may feel like cheating, but it’s a very practical move. If you still have a lot of items you want to keep after decluttering your garage, but don’t have the space for them, consider moving some things to a local storage unit to free up space around your house.
PART 3: How to Declutter Your Home for Good
Trust me, after you spend the time removing clutter from your house, it will be easy to let it back in due to all the excess room!
Prevent the clutter in your home from returning in the future with these four simple tips:
- Don’t allow potential clutter into the house in the first place: Before you purchase or acquire anything new, ask yourself, “Do I really need it?” and “Where will I keep it?” If you don’t have an immediate answer to those two questions, don’t bring it home.
- Declutter a little each day: Deal with mail, clothes, toys, and other common clutter a little each day. Set aside 20 minutes a day and you’ll avoid having to find hours to clean up messes in the future. If you build this time into your daily routine, you are likely to have greater success. If daily isn’t doable, plan a weekly declutter sweep, and be sure to give yourself enough time.
- Use the one in, one out rule: Whenever you bring something new home, you have to throw out or donate something else. You can even implement this room-by-room – it will make you think about where you will keep this new thing.
- Don’t buy. Rent or borrow: If you need something only once in a blue moon, consider renting or borrowing it. When it comes to books and videos, the library is a great resource, or you can opt for digital versions, which take up far less space!
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