A Pro Organizer’s 3-Step Process to Declutter Any Space in 20 Minutes

published Jan 9, 2023
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Organized white kitchen with wooden shelving and decor.

As a professional organizer, I work with a lot of people who have trouble with traditional decluttering methods, like removing each item and deciding if you want it and where it goes.

This 20-minute method might help if you feel similarly averse to making so many decisions at one time. 

Step 1: Choose a space and set your goal

Choosing the space is the easy part: just make it small and manageable. For instance, choose one drawer, not the whole set of drawers. Setting your goal takes more introspection. You must be kind to yourself and acknowledge your limitations. Some possible goal ideas include:

  • Sock drawer: only pair socks I love and are ready to be worn
  • Bathroom counter: mostly clear space with items I use daily 
  • Pantry: restock and make non-expired items that my family will actually eat easier to find
  • Shoe collection: be able to find matching shoes I love in under 15 seconds 
  • Office drawer: be able to find tools I need instantly when I open the drawer 

Step 2: Remove everything

This sounds easy because it really is. Take a few disposable shopping bags or used shipping boxes and put everything into the bags (or boxes). Do not overfill the bags. You can remove the items by category if you are feeling extra sharp. Use separate bags for different categories of items. For example: from a pantry shelf, put all the baking goods in bags, then put all the canned goods in a bag. Continue this process until you’ve cleared everything out of your small space. 

You’ll have miscellaneous items and that’s fine. Remove them anyway and put them in a “random” bag. The point is to achieve a clean slate. If you have a short attention span, removing items by category is probably not going to work for you. That’s okay, my friend. Remove things without categorizing. Place the bags or boxes on the floor of your area somewhere they are easy to access, but out of the way of your daily activity. 

Step 3: Shop your stuff

Now you are essentially done with the decluttering part. It’s time to go live your life and see what you need from the bags on the floor in the coming week (or two). When you need something, go shopping from the bags. This method works for a lot of people because it focuses on acquiring instead of letting go. Humans love to get new things which is what got us into the cluttered mess to begin with, but I digress. By shopping your bags of stuff, you only bring things back into your space as you need them and put them back together with like items. 

To help yourself stay on track in the first week or so, write your goal or a reminder on a sticky note and mount it where you’ll see it over and over in the decluttered area. “Only things I use every day” or “Would I buy it again if I lost it?” After a few weeks, get rid of the shopping bags and whatever remains in them. Donate the bags or put them out by the curb and move on. Yes, throwing out these bags can feel irresponsible, but taking care of yourself and your mental health is equally important. If finding the exact right place to donate or recycle is keeping you stressed out and living with clutter, just throw it away. Good enough is perfect. 

Trust that if you need something, you’ve gotten it out already. Focus on how nice your newly cleared area looks. Maybe find some containers to organize what’s left in your space. You deserve to live in a comfortable space without being stressed out by disorganized clutter!

Give this method a try and be kind to yourself. Be curious about the whole experiment. Wonder about what you’ll go shopping for in your bags and boxes on the floor. I’m guessing you won’t miss much of it at all!