8 of the Best Decluttering Methods We’ve Tried This Year

published Dec 29, 2023
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cardboard box with clothes on coffee table

To me — and many of you, too — 2023 seemed like the Year of Decluttering. When you have to manage multiple rooms, like bedrooms, bathrooms, living spaces, a kitchen, and maybe even a home office, you’re probably looking for the best — read easy and painless — way to declutter your home (and life).

Fortunately, this is one of the things Apartment Therapy does best: test the trends and see which ones work best. These were the most popular decluttering methods we tried in 2023.

Credit: Lauren Wellbank
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Ski Slope Method

This method by interior designer Anita Yokota, found in her book “Home Therapy,” is simple: Instead of looking at one room — or cluttered mess — as a whole project, break it up into sections where you can move slowly from one spot to the next until the job is done.

What we love about it: You don’t feel overwhelmed trying to do everything at once.

Credit: Lauren Wellbank
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Hushing the House

Myquillyn Smith of The Nester says that you can get so accustomed to all the stuff in your home that you don’t even see it anymore. The solution? Hush the house. Relocate all the items in a room — say your home office — to a staging area so you can let the space breathe before moving specific items back and intentionally putting them away. This gives you the chance to clean the room, too, before returning only the things you want in this space. 

What we love about it: You see a room and all of the stuff in it — and you realize how much of it you don’t need.

Credit: Catherine Toth Fox
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Core 4 Method

If you get overwhelmed by decluttering, but still need a detailed plan, this method, created by professional organizer Kayleen Kelly, is for you. She breaks down the decluttering process into four simple steps — clear out, categorize, cut out, and contain — that can be applied to any room in your home, without feeling overwhelmed. 

What we love about it: The steps make the process feel more manageable, and it gives you the chance to make decisions about what you’re going to keep, toss, or donate.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths
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12-12-12 Challenge

This method from Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist is as simple as it is fun. You simply walk around a room and identify 12 items to toss, 12 to donate, and 12 that need to be returned to their proper home. It’s quick and stress-free. 

What we love about it: Finding 12 items in each category is totally doable, and kids love playing this game, too.

Credit: Shifrah Combiths
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OHIO Method

Sometimes referred to as the “one-touch rule,” this method is a lot easier to remember. OHIO stands for “Only Handle It Once,” and it’s good advice. If you read an email, respond to it right away. When you’re done with your stand mixer, clean it and put it away. It prevents clutter from accumulating in the first place. 

What we love about it: It can be applied to a lot more than just household clutter.

Credit: Jennifer Billock
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Move-Out Method

Katie Holdefehr, the author of ”Embrace Your Space,” coined this method, where you basically pretend you’re moving. Remove everything from a specific spot, like a guest bedroom or walk-in closet, then separate all that stuff into keep, toss, or donate piles. Return only what you plan to keep into the space, and it will feel like the day you moved in. 

What we love about it: It makes you feel like you’ve given your space a complete makeover — and in a short amount of time.

Credit: Jennifer Billock

One Bag a Day Method

The beauty of this method is in its simplicity. All you do is take one bag and fill it up with things you consider clutter. Don’t worry about whether these items need to be donated, trashed, or sold at first. Just fill up the bag and set it aside. 

What we love about it: It’s easy, simple, and something you can turn into a daily practice to keep your clutter under control.

Micro-Decluttering Method

If you don’t have the headspace or bandwidth to deal with clutter right now — but the clutter is bothering you — this method is for you. Simply snap a photo of something you don’t need anymore — books, extra dishes, that brand-new juicer you’ll probably never use — and post it to your local Buy Nothing group to give it away freely. And that’s it. 

What we love about it: It’s a realistic way to clear my home a little at a time.