Ten Quick Ways to Declutter and Get Control of Your Home and Your Life

Most homes in the United States are cluttered because people have too much stuff. We start accumulating at a young age and never seem to learn to discard the things we no longer need.

To add to the problem, if you have parents who lived through the depression, you may find that you have learned how to hoard items out of fear that you may one day find yourself without something you need. Psychologist can probably list several reasons people hang onto things they no longer want or need, but that’s not going to help you if you are feeling overwhelmed by the things you’ve been keeping for too long. What can you do to turn this around?

Here are 10 very quick and easy ways to get started uncluttering your home and your life. After getting rid of your junk, you’ll find that you sleep better, have better relationships with people and that you aren’t having to spend so much time cleaning each week. Instead, you’ll have more time with your family and friends, you’ll enjoy having people come to visit your home and you’ll be able to relax because your surroundings will be more peaceful and beautiful.

  1. Throw away the trash. Grab a trash bag or a grocery store plastic bag and take a quick walk into every room of your home. Pick up trash off the floors, off counters and tables, in the kids’ rooms, next to your bed, everywhere that trash can accumulate, find it and toss it.
  2. Open the mail next to a trash can. Don’t even let the junk mail get past your trash. If you have a paper shredder, set it up near your trash so that you can get rid of sensitive information immediately. If you have small children, you’ll need to find a safe place to set up any paper shredder but the point is to deal with it immediately instead of letting anything pile up for another time. Open every piece of mail and toss what isn’t necessary. If you leave your bills in the envelop until time to pay them, stack those bills and put them in once place to collect them until you sit down to write out checks or pay online. Put everything else away that comes in the mail and toss the junk.
  3. Declutter what you can see first. Don’t worry about closets and drawers until you’ve cleaned off every counter and table and shelving that can be seen first. Working in shifts of 10 or 15 minutes, you can easily and quickly go through piles and toss unneeded papers, file what needs to be saved and then put away the rest in an appropriate place.
  4. Give to the Poor. For the things you’re holding onto that are still useful but you don’t need them, box them up and deliver these items to your local mission, a thrift store or some type of charity that collects for refugees relocating to your area. Most of us have too many plastic storage containers, more utensils than necessary and way too many cups, saucers and plates. Knowing that your cast-offs will be put to good use and will be appreciated makes giving them up much easier.
  5. Unfinished projects. Many people love to do crafts and scrapbooks and other little projects in their spare time. Problem is, many people get started on these crafts but don’t get them finished. If you started a quilt five years ago and it’s still sitting in bags under your bed it’s likely you won’t be finishing it during your lifetime. Free yourself of the quilt and the guilt by donating it to a group who sews blankets for needy children in your area. Some craft projects may be so outdated they are best thrown away. You may feel wasteful, but you have to start somewhere to get rid of the junk.
  6. Knick knacks are a waste of time and space. When you’re on the road to decluttering and simplifying your life, one of the first things you realize is that the knick knacks have to go. They are time consuming to keep clean, they take up a lot of space and unless they make you extraordinarily happy every time you look at them, they aren’t worth the trouble. Give them away, pass them on to other family members that enjoy them or sell them online.
  7. Limit your collections. If you are a collector, you are probably wallowing in stuff. You have boxes everywhere of this thing or that thing, usually there are so many things you can’t even display them all. Collecting can be a fun pastime, but for some people it just becomes an out of control obsession with accumulating more and more stuff. Emotional attachments to things are not as healthy as emotional attachments to people. Pick your favorite item to collect and stick to that. For everything else, move it on to another collector, sell it online or at a garage sale or give it away.
  8. Recycling rut. If you don’t have curbside recycling service in your area, you may find yourself living in a recyclable rut because you never seem to find time to get your items to the drop off areas. If this is a problem for you, just start throwing the recyclables away in your regular trash until you get a handle on your clutter. You can’t fix a problem until it’s under control, so first get the clutter out of your home and once you can breathe then you can work up a regular schedule for recycling drop offs that will not feel so overwhelming right now.
  9. Involved the Family. One person was not responsible for all the clutter in your home. Start teaching your children early how to purge old papers, coloring books, broken toys and worn out clothes so that they do not grow up and repeat the patterns you’ve now established. Each day, make it a family habit that trash is tossed, yesterday’s newspaper is in the trash or recycled, broken items are thrown away and rooms are made neat before TV, video games or playing outside with friends.
  10. Closets and drawers. Once the visible clutter is under control and maintained daily, you can slowly tackle the unseen clutter. The rule here is to only take one small area at a time. If you have a cabinet with six drawers, do not empty out all of the contents of each drawer all at once. Try working on one drawer at a time and maybe even one drawer per day to make the task easier. When you begin to declutter a closet, start with the hanging items first, and then on another day you can work on a shelf or another area of the same closet. Any task that takes more than an hour will become discouraging very quickly.

Having a home that is relaxing and inviting takes a lot of work. One main reason why people don’t enjoy having friends over is that their home always seems messy and cluttered. The only way to fix this problem is to get rid of the stuff. If you try to organize junk, you will fail. If you decide to begin the process of decluttering your home and simplifying your life, you’ll find very quickly that you’ll be happier, you’ll feel like you have more space in your home and you’ll sleep better with less distractions.

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Published in: Personal Organization


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  1. We are in the process of decluttering as our children leave the nest and go off to college. What a huge task!
    It is amazing what we accumulate with the many stages of raising children.
    Your article is very sound advice.

  2. Juliane, thank you so much for your comment and nice words. Good luck in your project — I know it’s a ton of work and seems overwhelming. For me, it is something I have to intentionally keep track of to keep the clutter from first, getting in the door, and second, helping it leave.

    All the best,
    Anne Mathews

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