Overwhelmed by mess? Don’t give up hope. Learn the basic rules of decluttering and organizing your home to get it under control for good.
To declutter your home, you get rid of things. To organize your home, you arrange what’s left. Working in this order saves you both time and money. By decluttering first, you free up space. Then you organize that space to make things easy to find and put away, which keeps clutter under control.
1. Decluttering Is Not a One-Time Event.
It helps to think of decluttering like grocery shopping. Before you go to the supermarket, you toss out old stuff or things you don’t like. You don’t outdated leftovers because you spent money on them.
To declutter, you need to treat your possessions the same way. Don’t get more than you need or have room for, and make room for new things if you do.
2. Get Rid of Things That Aren’t Useful or Enjoyable.
No matter how much you spent on something, it’s clutter if it doesn’t improve your life in some way. You can’t organize your home if you’re holding onto clutter.
- If clothing doesn’t make you look or feel amazing, you won’t wear it. Get rid of it.
- If a kitchen gadget is a hassle to use or to clean, you’ll avoid it. Get rid of it.
- If you don’t like a shampoo, don’t stick it under your sink. Get rid of it.
The things you don’t like or don’t use aren’t going to get any better just sitting around taking up space. Get rid of them.
3. Have a Short-term Holding Spot.
When you start purging clutter, you’ll wind up with things like charitable donations or items you want to give to friends. Pick one spot to hold them. The trunk of your car works well and lets you drop them off next time you’re out of the house. Make a donation trip as soon as it’s full.
4. Don’t Hoard Clutter Hoping to Sell It.
If you’ve never had a garage sale and don’t shop them routinely, chances are you won’t make time to hold one either. And if you do, your prices will be so out of touch nothing will sell.
Give stuff away, list it on Facebook market place, donate it to charity, or stick it on the curb with a “FREE” sign. Someone will snap it up fast.
5. Don’t Start by Buying Containers.
Containers commit you to specific locations and sizes. To get your home organized, you need the freedom to move things to functional spaces. Besides, if you declutter well enough, you may not need containers at all.
6. Make Using Your Stuff Easy.
If you use something daily, keep it accessible. The harder something is to get out, the harder it will be to put away, and that means you’ll just leave it lying around. Before long, it’ll attract more clutter.
7. Put Things You Use Together in the Same Spot.
For jobs that you do often, keep all the necessary elements together. If you pay bills by check, for instance, have your checkbook, a pen, and stamps in one spot. Love to bake? Keep your baking things in the same cupboard. Organizing your home is about making it useful and efficient.
8. Curate Like a Collector.
Think of your belongings as collections and put them together as a collector would. Shoes in one spot. Books shelved, not scattered. Kitchen linens in one cabinet. You get the picture.
When you group your belongings like collections, it’s easier to see the duplicates and excess. No one needs a dozen flat-head screwdrivers or seven pairs of casual black flats. Curate your collections by choosing the best and letting go of the rest.
9. Put Heavier Things on Lower Shelves.
Heavy things that are difficult to put away get left sitting out. Your clunky stand mixer, that set of barbells, the bulk-sized bag of dog food: they all belong on lower shelves or in the bulk-storage zone of the garage where they’re easier to access and put away.
10. Choose Containers with Care.
If you’ve got to use containers, think about how practical and accessible they are. If you can’t see inside a container, you’ll wind up rummaging through several searching for things.
Opt for open, clear containers for things you use regularly and clear containers with tight-fitting lids for long-term storage. They make the most of your space while keeping your stuff protected from dust and pests.
11. Have a Place for Everything.
Every item in your home should have a designated spot where it belongs. When you can’t figure out where something should go, it’s a sign that you need less stuff—or might not need that item at all.
12. Put Stuff Where You Look for It.
If you find yourself frequently searching for the same thing, pay attention to where you look for it first. That’s where your brain expects it to be, so work with it. Rearrange to put it where you need it when you need it. Don’t get bound by someone else’s idea of where things “should go.”
Bonus Rule: Be Willing to Re-organize
As time goes by, the home organizing system you had in place can stop working well. That doesn’t mean your system was bad—it just means it’s time for a change.
If you stick with the way you’ve always done things, chaos will take over. Work with your life changes by reorganizing, and you’ll stay in control of your home.