Having too much stuff – and feeling overwhelmed about how to get it under control – is a common problem. Fortunately, there are tried-and-true ways to conquer clutter, free up space and reduce stress, too.
Maybe you joke about the piles of boxes and old furniture you’ve stored away for years – saying things such as, “My garage looks like an episode of the Hoarders TV show!” Perhaps you’ve wanted to clean out a spare bedroom for years but can’t figure out how to tackle it. Or you can’t find the clothes you want to wear because they’re buried in a closet crammed full of too many other outfits.
Don’t feel hopeless about your disorganized home. Help is on the way! By following proven clutter-busting strategies (and enlisting a professional organizer, if needed), you can have an easier-to-clean, organized household.
How and Why to Start Decluttering
The more clutter you’ve accumulated, the more daunting the task of organizing your home may seem. But the key is to start.
“Break big projects down into small tasks so what seemed impossible becomes achievable,” professional organizer Jaime Brooks, owner of Atlanta-based A Nurtured Nest, tells Synergy. “It works best for most people to start organizing in 1 area and finish that project before moving on. Once you see progress, it can be very rewarding and inspire you to keep the momentum going.”
Brooks recommends choosing an initial project, such as your bedroom closet. First sort all like items together and assign them a location. For example, put all tops in 1 box or basket and all dresses in another. Purge what you can.
As you sort and organize, Brooks says it helps to ask these questions: When is the last time I used this item? Will I use it in the future? Can it be replaced? Will I miss it?
It can be difficult to get rid of something that you know has value or was a gift. But holding onto things you’ll never use is at the core of what creates clutter.
“As a professional organizer, I often work with people who have become emotionally attached to their belongings, even if they haven’t used them in years,” Brooks says. “Many items can be recycled, consigned, sold or donated. Knowing something won’t go to waste can definitely help you not feel guilty for getting rid of stuff. It also helps to remind yourself that less stuff equals less clutter.”
The Kondo Clutter Cure
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by cleaning consultant and organizer Marie Kondo, became a New York Times bestseller. The book’s popularity demonstrates how millions of Americans are recognizing the need to conquer clutter. Kondo’s core decluttering philosophy is simple: Go through each item you own and ask if it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, out it goes. She even advises getting rid of her book once you’ve read it.
Kondo explains that organizing your home can be cheerful and life-changing – you’ll end up surrounded by things you can use and enjoy. The result is less stress and less time spent looking for misplaced items or struggling with clothes that don’t fit but that you keep putting back in the closet.
She advises starting your personal decluttering without enlisting help from your partner or kids.
“There’s no need to let your family know the details of what you throw out or donate,” she writes. “You can leave communal spaces to the end. The first step is to confront your own stuff.”
After donating, selling or throwing away what you don’t need, Kondo emphasizes the importance of organizing what’s left so it doesn’t turn into unorganized piles again. Neatly fold, roll and place most things in drawers so you can see what you have at a glance. Put rarely used items on top or bottom cabinet and closet shelves. Scan or shred documents and papers you don’t need. File what you keep.
More Ways to Get Organized
Make a decluttering schedule. Don’t assume you can organize your entire home in a weekend. Professional organizers warn that most people underestimate how much time it will take. Setting aside even half an hour every other day to tackle parts of your house and a few hours on the weekend for big areas such as the garage can get the job done.
Sort out duplicates. You don’t need countless unmatched coffee cups or 3 blow dryers. Donate duplicate items to charity. When you buy something new, get rid of the item it’s replacing – whether it’s a sweater or a TV.
Don’t be a nostalgia victim. Of course you want to keep your children’s drawings, favorite teddy bear or science project. Consider displaying a few key family treasures in your home. Preserve memories by taking photos of your kids with their toys and projects instead of holding on to the actual objects forever.
Say no to freebies. Avoid the trap of taking in things you don’t need because they are free. Whether it’s a promotional T-shirt or free magazine subscription, if you don’t need it, say, “no, thanks.”
If decluttering still overwhelms you, consider consulting a professional organizer.
“Some people have life circumstances such as moving, having a baby, downsizing or simply being too busy and they need help,” Brooks says. “A professional organizer can teach you organizational skills and tips.”
Whether you conquer the clutter alone or with help, the rewards will be worth it.
“I sense lightness in people after they’ve organized their homes, like a weight has been lifted,” says Brooks. “Having order in your space truly improves your quality of life.”
– Sherry Baker