The start of the new year is a common time to reevaluate — our health habits, our financial goals, and sometimes, the amount of clutter in our homes. If you’re staring down overstuffed closets and drawers, cluttered kitchen cabinets, an unorganized basement, and a crowded garage, it may be time to simplify and declutter your home!
While the process may take a bit of energy and time to complete, reducing the amount of stuff in your home has the potential to make you feel relieved, more inspired, and at peace. Not to mention, it makes your space more inviting for both guests and potential buyers, if you plan to sell your home in the near future.
Overwhelmed? Don’t be! Make the simplification process a bit simpler by implementing our tried-and-true decluttering tips.
1. Take “Before” and “After” Pictures
You know we love a good “before and after” moment — especially when it comes to interiors. Before you begin the decluttering process, make sure you properly document the “before” of your home. And if you feel so inclined, you can even share your progress on social media to hold yourself accountable — and inspire others to clean out their own spaces! And once you’ve finished decluttering, your “before” photos will remind you how far you’ve come.
2. Get a System in Place
You don’t need many supplies to get started — just some boxes or garbage bags, properly labeled in the appropriate categories. The most common are “donate,” “toss” and “keep” but you may want to add a “maybe” pile or a “sell” pile for the more high-value items. The most important thing to do is remove the “donate” and “toss” piles from your home as soon as the process is complete, so you’re not tempted to bring any items back into your home. Plus, this helps you feel an immediate sense of accomplishment!
3. Make a Weekend Of It
There are mixed opinions on whether decluttering should be tackled slowly over a long period of time or all at once. But there is a lot of evidence to prove that the latter is more effective, as you are able to build up momentum and see immediate results. Set aside an entire weekend (or a bit longer, if time allows) to do an intensive decluttering of your entire home. You’ll find that you will be able to make more harsh, difficult decisions, as you experience “stuff fatigue” when dealing with it in such a short amount of time.
Pro Tip: Employ the help of friends and family, if you can, so you have extra hands on deck — and more people to give their input and advice as you decide what is worth keeping or parting with. Fuel up with a good breakfast and some coffee, blast some upbeat music, and get started!
4. Declutter By Category, Not By Room
Many suggest going room by room when decluttering, but there’s something that happens when you go by category instead. When faced with the entirety of one category (winter coats, for example), you are able to see all that you have accumulated that can be pared down. But when similar items are spread out, hiding in different closets and rooms, you can’t quite grasp exactly what you have. That’s why it’s wise to go throughout your house and gather all items that fall within a particular category, pile it all up in one space, then begin to make decisions about what is worth keeping.
5. Start With the Easiest Categories
When deciding which categories to tackle, don’t begin with the most daunting and overwhelming ones, like sentimental items. If you start with a box filled with letters, journals, yearbooks and other mementos, you’ll quickly get sucked into reading and reminiscing. Instead, start with an easier category, like kitchen utensils or children’s toys. Then, as time goes on, you’ll build up momentum, so by the time you get to those more challenging decisions, you’ll 1) feel more comfortable with the whole process and 2) probably be a bit more inclined to part with more things, as you might be fed up with all that you have.
6. Pretend You’re Moving
As a real estate company, we are certainly in the business of moving. And moving is a natural time to reevaluate your belongings — and often a great time to consider paring down your stuff. So, if you are looking for more drastic results, you could pretend you are moving! The Minimalists created something called a “packing party,” where you pack up every single thing you own in boxes (including all your kitchenware and even your toiletries), label them by categories or rooms, and only unpack things you actually need over the next 30 days. Then, whatever is still packed away can be donated or sold! Plus, it’s already packed away, to make the removal process that much easier. Again, this is a more drastic approach, but could be worth it if you’re fed up with the amount of clutter in your home.
7. Weigh the Costs Of Holding Onto Each Item
When you’re considering an item, you may be thinking of its monetary value, as you remember just how much you spent on it initially. But have you considered the additional cost of holding onto this item? Aside from the financial cost, it costs a lot to keep something: it takes up space in your mind, it takes up space in your home, and sometimes, you have to maintain the thing, clean the thing, replace parts on the thing… it all adds up! And above all, remember what you gain when you let it go: space, time and energy — and sometimes even more.
8. Implement the 90/90 Rule
When holding up an item, ask yourself, “Have I used this within the last 90 days?” and “Will I use this in the next 90?” If the answer to both questions is no, it has to go. This is called the 90/90 rule, which accounts for seasonality, as it covers a total range of six months. But if you’d rather be a bit more brutal, you could reduce the number to 30!
Pro Tip: Take it a step further by implementing the “one touch rule,” which means you can only touch an item one time before deciding its fate. This forces you to make a game-time decision, instead of dwelling on it for a while or procrastinating on making a choice.
9. …And the 20/20 Rule
Another metric is the 20/20 Rule, created by The Minimalists. This one says that if you can replace an item with less than $20 and in less than 20 minutes, it can go. This prevents you from hanging onto those items you assume you should keep “just in case,” like extra flashlights, an excessive amount of extra bed sheets, empty boxes from products, clothes in different sizes, etc. There’s a good chance you can easily replace an item — and an even greater chance you won’t end up needing to replace it at all!
10. Think “One In, One Out”
Further down the road, when you bring a new item into your home, consider removing another to create space. Or you could even remove two, five or even 10 items in exchange for that one new item! This helps eliminate the tendency to accumulate the same amount of stuff you originally had.
Pro Tip: Don’t buy more hangers than what you have! Once you pare down your closet, remove any excess hangers. Then, vow not to buy more hangers as your clothing collection grows. So once you run out of hangers, that’s your cue to go through your closet again!
11. Store “Maybes” Out of Sight for a Period of Time
If you have a “maybe” pile, try storing it in a box out of sight for a certain period of time — say, 2-4 weeks. Then, once the time is up, if you haven’t missed those things, it’s a good sign you can part ways with them. And sometimes, you won’t even remember what’s in there! Out of sight, out of mind, right?
12. Go Digital With Sentimental Items + Important Documents
One of the hardest categories to go through is sentimental items, which might include family heirlooms, souvenirs, trophies and awards, and other meaningful memorabilia. We hold onto some items simply to trigger memories, whether or not we actually use them — and sometimes, they take up quite a bit of space in our attics and basements. Consider documenting such items by photograph, so you can treasure them (without having to store them). Then, you can donate or sell them so someone else can enjoy them.
Similarly, cut down on paper clutter by digitizing important documents so you don’t have to store them in bulky file cabinets. The Dropbox app allows you to scan papers and organize them in digital format — all from your phone!
13. Ditch the Duplicates
There’s a lot of gray area when it comes to decluttering. But do you know what’s very black and white? Duplicates! If you have more than one of the exact same thing (or a very similar thing!), then one of them has to go. Think: identical pieces of clothing or two of the same kitchen utensil. While there’s always a chance one could break, you’ll easily be able to replace it if that does happen (see the 20/20 Rule above!).
14. When In Doubt, Throw It Out
There are a lot of rules, tips and tricks to remember — but at the end of the day, it’s pretty simple: when in doubt, throw it out. Or more likely, donate or sell it! If you are having doubts of any kind about a particular item, that’s a pretty good sign that you don’t need it any more. So follow your gut instinct as you’re decluttering, and don’t worry — you’ll start to get more in tune with it as you go!
We’ve just scratched the surface! What decluttering tips do you have? Share them with us in the comments below.