We’ve been on the cycle of spring-cleaning for years, but what you may not be in the habit of is an annual decluttering. We know; we know. You’ve heard all about Marie Kondo and the joy of tidying up, but hear us out: Wouldn’t it be nice to look around your house and feel like everything had a place?
First, it’s worth saying that there are two elements to decluttering: a major decluttering session that might take place over a weekend or even a week in which you go through all your stuff and weigh whether or not to keep it and then the maintenance afterward.
We got tips on how people who love to declutter do both. Time to face your over-spilling closet. You’ve got this.
For a major cleanse
1. Make a donation plan before you start. Check your area for women’s shelters to donate unused beauty products, children’s toys, clothing and other miscellaneous items (they’ll likely have a list on their website of what they need and can accept). Secondhand stores are great for miscellaneous items. And if you have computer goods that no longer work, be sure to dispose of them properly by finding an electronics recycling facility or drop-off location.
2. Start with your storage spaces. Closets, drawers, etc. If these are filled to the brim, where will you put anything else you feel necessary to keep? It also helps to familiarize you with what you already have in case you come across a duplicate.
3. Don’t buy anything until the decluttering process is complete.
4. Enlist a friend for real talk. This is especially helpful if you tend to get lost down memory lane when going through your stuff.
5. If you haven’t used something in six months, throw it out. There are exceptions for seasonal items like clothing or gear, but reevaluate mid-season to get rid of anything you aren’t using.
6. Do you have a lot of items that have sentimental value but serve no other purpose? Take pictures of them and then toss them out. It sounds harsh, but it’s a huge help.
7. Sell your valuable stuff. Apps like OfferUp or Facebook Marketplace make it easy to get your items in front of interested buyers. But don’t get caught up on making $5 off something you haven’t used in ages, especially if it’s just an excuse not to have to part with it. Donate it instead.
8. Don’t buy a ton of fancy storage. Figure out how to repurpose what you already have into storage. Think shoe boxes, hooks, coffee cans, empty candle jars — these can all be great organizational tools.
9. Definitely have a place where things belong. It makes it way easier to organize as you go if you know where to put it (and steers you away from having a “dump” area.)
10. Are there a few things you can’t seem to part with in the maybe pile? Put them in a box for a month. If you haven’t needed anything in it, it’s time to let it go.
For maintenance decluttering
11. Assess your biggest problem areas. Is it mail? Is it impulse purchases? Is it books or plastic bags or miscellaneous stuff? Get a sense of what you’re holding onto and then make a plan for where it belongs and how you can better take care of it — whether it’s putting it away or getting rid of it — before it piles up.
12. Stick by this rule: If it takes less than one minute to do, do it immediately.
13. Daily maintenance is key! Spend 10 minutes each day tidying up and putting stuff away so it doesn’t pile up into a huge chore.
14. Look for trade-in opportunities. Are you a big book reader? Music collector? Gamer? Shopper? See if you have a local used store where you could trade in your old books, video games, albums and even clothing for store credit and get in the habit of visiting every month or so.
15. Create a buy-later rule. It can be as simple as making a 30-day list (and only buying things, other than necessities, that have been on the list for more than 30 days). It can be a 48-hour shopping cart “wait-list” on Amazon. Or it can be a buy-nothing-new challenge for a set period of time. The only way to keep clutter from accumulating is to stop taking more stuff in. To do that, you have to buy nonnecessities less frequently.