Decluttering is a process.
Getting the process started can be the hardest part. With these methods, you’ll have a starting point, which is sometimes the only push you need to start decluttering fast.
These methods focus on baby steps. To start, just choose one method.
Then take action.
These are bite-sized methods you can apply in a short amount of time. So get to it!
First, Change Your Mindset
Before we get started, there needs to be a mindset change.
Anyone can look at these methods and go “great idea!” but when they try the method it doesn’t work at all.
It doesn’t work because we have false beliefs about our stuff.
So before trying any of these methods, ask yourself some questions:
“Have I used this item in the last year?” Make it apply to the last 6 months, last 30 days, or even last week, depending on the item. A book will have a longer shelf life than last month’s electric bill.
“Did I know I had this item?” If you’re decluttering, you may come across things you didn’t even realize you had! If this is the case, ditch the item. While it may have some sentimental value, your life was perfectly fine before you found it.
“Does this item spark joy?” Taken from Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”, ask yourself if an item you’re holding onto makes you happier. If it doesn’t, get rid of it. You’ll feel a burden lifted.
“Where does this item get the most use?” If you’re not throwing it away or donating it, find a home for the item near where you use it!
If you’re not sure what to do with an item as you go through these methods, ask yourself these questions and put things in perspective.
Knowing that an item hasn’t been used in 2 years and you forgot it even existed makes it easier to get rid of.
But It’s Sentimental!
This is the main reason people hold onto so many things and their lives get cluttered.
It’s hard to let go of the art project you did in 2nd grade because of the memories attached to it. It’s hard to let go of the pair of shoes you wore on the first date with your spouse, because of the memories.
Let’s get one thing straight.
It’s not the item that’s sentimental. It’s the memories.
Minus a few exceptions, it’s the memory that you love, not the item itself. The item just helps you spark that memory.
What else helps spark memory, yet takes up significantly less space?
Take a picture (or several!) of the item. Put all the pictures into a folder on your computer, and whenever you want a trip down memory lane, just look at all the pictures. Then declutter the item!
Everything Has a Place
Or at least it should. It doesn’t always, which leads to a lot of the clutter and chaos in our homes.
Decluttering is one thing, but keeping your stuff decluttered is another beast entirely.
Which is why everything needs a place.
If everything has a place, you won’t enter a room, see the chaos, and immediately feel discouraged.
You’ll walk into a room, see disorder, and notice items that aren’t where they belong. You’ll see items that can easily be returned to their homes, not items that will need to have a home made for them.
Here are three suggestions that literally anyone can apply to get your mind flowing in the right direction.
- Trash belongs in the trash can.
- Dirty laundry belongs in the hamper (and probably the wash).
- Dishes belong in either the sink or the cabinet.
Even mastering just those three things will drastically improve your organization and simplify your life.
But Nothing HAS a Place!
That’s the problem, isn’t it? So what’s the solution?
Create places! You’ll find that a lot of things have a home that makes perfect sense. Dish soap belongs right next to where you wash dishes. The vacuum belongs in the closet.
But what about those things that aren’t as simple? What about the hallway closet that’s overflowing with linens and blankets? What about all the duplicates and back-ups, “just in case”?
That’s when you need to start decluttering.
Personally, I found that when I tried to find a home for something, and I couldn’t think of anywhere the item could go that made sense, I got rid of it.
There were also plenty of things I didn’t want to find a home for. That helped me get rid of quite a lot of stuff, too. If it didn’t have a home, and I didn’t want to find one, I threw it out.
So what’s the result?
You’ll find that, when everything has a place, cleaning up is easy peasy.
Putting things away isn’t about trying to find an empty drawer or closet. It’s about putting things back in their home.
There’s also a tremendous sense of satisfaction that comes with walking into a room and seeing everything in its place. Sitting on the couch and relaxing, not seeing the mess before you. Sleeping peacefully because your room is clutter-free and organized.
It’s a process.
You won’t find everything a home on day one. But you will find the places of a few things that you use on a regular basis. And knowing that you can always find your item in that place, and you can always return it to that place, is a small victory every time.
Which encourages you to help more items find their homes.
Let’s Get Started
Here are 4 methods that I love that can get you moving in the right direction. They aren’t silver bullets, but they’re worth their weight in gold (heh).
1. Front Door Method
What’s the first thing people see when they walk into your house?
If you’ve started noticing the clutter in your house, that thought may stress you out.
By using this method, we’re focusing on that specific stress and creating a stress-free doorway into your home.
- Leave your house. Seriously. Walk right out the front door. Abandon your kids. They’ll be fine.
- Take a deep breath and smile. Enjoy the fresh air. I hope it’s not cold.
- Open the front door. NOW WAIT! Don’t step inside yet. Just leave the door open. What do you see? Give yourself 5 seconds. Look around.
- The first thing you see that is out of place, go put in its place. No matter how big or small it may be. Don’t give yourself time to look at anything else, just focus on that one piece and declutter it fast.
Every time you step back outside, congratulate yourself! You’ve cleaned up one thing and your house will be that much cleaner the next time you step inside. Remember to take a deep breath and smile. It helps.
If you find yourself wanting to go a bit crazy and start a cleaning spree on that first room, perfect! This method is perfect for you.
If you get overwhelmed by all the things you see that need doing, take a deep breath and just focus on one thing. Just one.
Rome wasn’t built in a day.
2. Meta-Habit Method
For example, instead of going for a run every morning, a meta-habit would be to simply get out of bed and put on your shoes. Then you can take them off and go about the rest of your day. After a week, you would start to go outside with the shoes on. Stand for 1 minute, then go back inside.
You get the idea.
The idea is that as you build these “micro habits,” they will lead to larger habits becoming automatic. Decluttering your entire home (or sometimes even one room) sounds like a large task, but breaking it down makes it manageable.
Personally, I find that introducing a meta-habit often leads to the rest of the task being carried out. For example, washing one dish ends up leading to me washing all the dishes.
Here are a few ideas of meta-habits to introduce to your day:
- Wash one dish. Just one.
- Throw one piece of trash into the garbage can.
- Put one item of clothing into a hamper.
- Put one dish that doesn’t belong in the sink.
- Take a load of laundry to the laundry room. If one’s already there, start it!
The key is to take one small task and execute on it. No matter how small.
Action is always better than inaction, and action snowballs into more action.
3. Trash Bag Method
- Grab a trash bag. The bigger the better.
- Go into any room in your house. The one you’re standing in is perfect.
- Look around for trash.
- Put the trash in the trash bag.
- Don’t stop until the bag is full.
Twist this method a little bit and make it a Goodwill bag instead of a trash bag!
4. Reverse Hanger Method
Sometimes it’s hard to realize exactly what you wear and don’t wear when your closet is overflowing with clothes. Start this method now, and in a couple months, you’ll be able to declutter your clothes fast.
- Make all your hangers face the same way. Personally, I did it so that the open end of the hook was facing toward me.
- Whenever you put clothes away, hang it the opposite way as the rest of your clothes. I made the hook face away from me.
This will show you, over the course of a couple months, what clothes you actually wear and what clothes are taking up space.
After a few months, put all the clothes you haven’t worn in a trash bag and take them to Goodwill!
Take the First Step!
These methods are there to encourage you to take that first step.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed looking at the entire house as a project and get paralyzed.
These methods give you one actionable item that you can do right now to declutter fast in the next 2 minutes.
It’s up to you to take the step toward a cleaner house and more manageable lifestyle.
You can do it!