3 Decluttering Projects that Are Always Worth It, and 3 that Aren’t

published Mar 23, 2022
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Credit: David Dines

If the expression “a cluttered space means a cluttered mind” is true, then surely any project aimed at decluttering would be worth taking on in the hopes of achieving inner clarity. But I’ve encountered my fair share of decluttering hits and misses in my quest to curate a more minimalistic household. And I’ve come to learn that some projects just aren’t worth the headache.

The common denominator among the clutter-reducing missions that were utter failures was simple: They were overly ambitious. I’ve learned that in order to be successful, I need to keep my plans focused. 

This realization completely transformed my approach to organization, and even put a little bit of magic back into tidying up. While I can’t promise that complete organizational bliss can be achieved overnight, I can share the types of decluttering projects that will provide little victories in your day-to-day life — and the ones that are likely to be more of a hassle. Read on to learn more from my experiences. 

Credit: Lula Poggi

Worth It: Incorporating More Bathroom Storage

The bathroom is where the day begins and ends, so it’s a space where I like to feel serene and practice self-care. There’s nothing that takes me out of a calming headspace faster than a bunch of toiletries cluttering up my sink vanity. My solution? Store as much as you can behind a door or in a drawer. To keep things tidy, you’ll need medicine cabinet organizers for smaller items like toothbrushes and nail clippers, drawer organizers for things like cosmetics or brushes, and storage bins for bigger products like lotion or hairspray. When you designate a place to tuck everything away, it’s easy to maintain those clean-counter zen vibes.

Worth It: Taming the Chaos of Cords 

I’d be willing to wager that my household isn’t the only one that has to charge a comical amount of electrical devices. From cell phones and tablets to laptops and smartwatches, they all contribute to an unruly — and unsightly — tangle of electrical cords. By setting up a dedicated charging station in my kitchen, my family now has an orderly area where each device has its own slot and corresponding cord. I bought this one, which has slots wide enough to fit even the clunkiest tablet cases, and all it took was a few minutes to set up. Talk about attainable! 

Worth It: Freshening Up the Fridge 

If your fridge is anything like my fridge used to be, then food packages are stacked perilously high, and there’s zero visibility in the back. So you end up knocking everything over to get to what you need, and wasting money on forgotten food. This is an easy cycle to break — you just need to invest in some clear stackable storage containers. Group like items together, and ditch any bulky packaging like plastic produce bags or beverage boxes. Not only will you be able to see all of your food clearly, but the handles will make everything easy to access. Bonus: Add a lazy Susan to corral your collection of condiments.

Not Worth It: Hosting a Huge Garage Sale

It’s not that garage sales are a bad idea, it’s just that they are a lot of work. Between boxing up all the items, hauling them to the sale site, setting up tables, marking prices, sitting out in the elements, haggling with shoppers, and packing up what didn’t sell, there’s a lot of manual labor involved. With the ease and convenience of today’s online marketplaces like Facebook and Craigslist, buyers come directly to you. They are also purposefully entering keywords to seek out the specific item they want to buy, which means they’re prone to pay more for something than a casual garage-sale shopper. And all you have to do is post a picture of each item and collect the cash. 

Not Worth It: Tackling the Whole House At Once

While a noble pursuit, the problem with a whole-house declutter is that it’s a huge ordeal that takes a significant amount of time and attention. Sometimes, in the attempt to clear clutter out of every single space in your home, you can end up making an even bigger mess with what you’ve uncovered. And then it’s easy to get overwhelmed, call it quits, and start shoving things back in without any organizational strategy. Been there, done that. Rather than starting with a big-picture mentality, go for the small wins. If you plug away at small space after small space, eventually you’ll end up decluttering the entire house. But it’s a journey, not a one-day or even a one-weekend kind of project. 

Not Worth It: Meticulously Organizing Photo Albums 

Hear me out on this one. I do see the merits of good photo organization, but the process of creating and maintaining it is tedious with a capital T. For example, at last glance, my phone’s photo storage had 17,853 items (gulp). If it took me just one minute to open every photo or video to decide whether to keep or delete, and then drag and drop it to a specific album folder, that would translate to roughly 300 hours — or nearly eight full work weeks. To save precious time, I simply back up all media to two places — a local hard drive and a cloud-based drive — and then I separate the photos by year. This way, if I need to find something in particular, I only have to scroll through a smaller batch of photos. While not the most sophisticated strategy, it makes photo management much more manageable without having to spend hours transferring items into an elaborate folder system.