4 Simple Steps for Ruthlessly Clearing the Clutter in 2019

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Emily Ley is a mama of three, a designer, author, and the creator of the wildly popular Simplified Planner. She lives in a perfectly imperfect new-build house in Florida with her husband and kiddos…and she knows a thing or two about simplifying life. Below, her four simple steps for ruthlessly clearing the clutter in the New Year.

Emily Ley is a mama of three (Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Here’s Emily:

The beginning of a new year feels so fresh, doesn’t it? The giant, light-up holiday decor has been put away. The green tree needles and silver glitter has been swept up. And now it’s time to get your home back to normal. Ahh, take a deep breath.

But wait.

I challenge you to embark on a fresh start this season, rather than just embracing the pre-holiday state of your home. Instead, let’s use this new season as a chance to dig in, clean out, and clear the clutter. It’s truly incredible what clearing physical clutter will do for your mental state. A clean, organized home brings more than just peace of mind. It gives us the margin to breathe and enjoy our space. Let’s walk through four simple steps for ruthlessly clearing the clutter and strategically maintaining order once your home is simplified.

(Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Get out the trash bags

Leave no drawer un-pulled, no closet unopened. First, walk your home looking for actual trash: napkins, receipts, papers, tags, empty shampoo bottles. Gather trash and walk it to the trash can (don’t just set it outside your door or in the garage; that’s just more clutter). This exercise is great if you’re feeling a little trepidation about embarking on the decluttering journey. There’s no shame in easing into the process.

(Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Declutter in a big way

Room by room, drawer by drawer, shelf by shelf, unpack every space. For example, if you are beginning with your pantry, take everything out of your pantry. Then, as you begin to place items back into the space, handle each one and make a decision about it. Only keep things that fall into one or more of these three categories: the favorite, the best, the essential. As for everything else? Out it goes to be donated or trashed. Goodbye pants that “might fit one day.” Goodbye white acrylic dog statue you paid too much for and don’t have a place to display. Goodbye second and third ice cream scoop (you only need one).

(Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Make space to hold the donation pile

I recommend keeping your “donate pile” in a room with a door that closes (this will be a multi-day marathon, not a sprint) so you can forget about it when it’s time to rest. Perhaps a closet, a garage, or a guest room. Set items to be donated in here and, when ready, call to schedule a pick-up or load up your car for a delivery.

(Image credit: Gina Zeidler)

Lastly, once your home is freshly decluttered, create good nightly habits

Every evening, employ the “laundry basket trick.” It works, trust me. I have two two-year-olds and a six-year-old at home. My husband and I walk the house with a laundry basket every evening. We pick up every item that is out of place. Cups, shoes, toys, everything goes into this basket. At the end of the evening, we dump the basket, sort the out-of-place items, and put them away. It takes ten minutes, tops. But the result? A home that’s back to square one and ready for a new day. Good as new. Because every item has a home, the putting-away process is a cinch.

Our homes have the power to inspire us, to rejuvenate us, and to make us feel welcomed, loved, and comforted. They also have the power to drain us, and make us feel stressed and anxious. You get to decide how you will kick off 2018 in your space. You get to decide how you will feel when you step inside the walls of your home every evening, when you wake up every morning. This year, if you’re itching for a calmer, slower, simpler way of life, remember that goal begins inside your home – one trash bag at a time.

Thanks Emily!

Along with the first Simplified Planner, Emily has also written Grace, Not perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Chasing Joy and just released her second book, A Simplified Life: Tactical Tools for Intentional Living, which offers ways to get rid off life’s endless clutter and help folks bring joy back to life.