Organize & Clean

5 Ways to Declutter: Conquer Clutter Before It Conquers You

published Feb 5, 2014
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(Image credit: Marcia Prentice)

As many of us are probably feeling at the close of the January cure, there’s something so refreshing about an empty, cleaned out space. Keeping clutter from multiplying and knowing what to do when it starts to grow are essential for maintaining a peaceful living space. Here are five ways to get and keep that clutter out:

1) Work clockwise. When faced with a space you want to declutter, staying focused is key. By working through the space clockwise, you direct your energy to one area at a time, and you end up sweeping through a room with thorough precision. For instance, if you want to declutter your kitchen counters, start in one corner and work your way around the room. The fresh space you create in the beginning will motivate you to keep going.

2) Inspire yourself with quotes. My favorite decluttering quote comes from William Morris:

Have nothing in your home which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

This helps you choose what to keep and what to let go of. Extra note: Make sure you’re specific about what constitutes useful. I like to think useful to us now or in the very near future as opposed to useful to someone somewhere someday —which won’t get you anywhere.

3) Throw everything in a box. For a particularly challenging decluttering project, rather than sorting through it in the here and now, put everything in a box and only retrieve items as you actually need them. This is a good test of what’s actually “useful” (see number 2). At the end of a specified time (write the date on the box), throw away or donate the contents. This is a good way to get rid of kitchen appliances and gadgets.

4) Practice one in, one out. Once you get a space breathing again, so to speak, you’ll do almost anything to keep it that way. To avoid a relapse of clutter in any given area, make it a habit to let go of an old item if you acquire a new one. Think magazines, clothing, etc.

5) Stay in one spot. Decide which space you want to clean out and don’t move. Get three laundry baskets or boxes, one for garbage/recycling, one for donations/giveaways, and one for putting away elsewhere in the house. This way, you won’t get distracted by the mess in the bathroom when you go to put away an errant comb. Focusing on one space at a time rewards you with a finished project — or piece of a project — that will get you addicted to decluttering.

What are your favorite decluttering tricks?