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Is your house drowning in clutter? Has your kitchen table disappeared under a pile of bills, newspapers, school papers, and magazines? Has your teenage daughter and her friends started raiding your closet for vintage clothes? Do you repeatedly move the “to be sorted” box to a new location instead of dealing with it?  

If you have answered “yes” or “maybe” or “it’s not my fault that I have so much stuff,” you are simply one of the millions of people who find themselves drowning in clutter. The secret to learning how to declutter is simply that: deal with it.

Here are five easy steps for decluttering your home:

Choose A Strategy And Schedule A Time to declutter

Decide whether you want to designate a day or weekend to tackle your worst clutter areas or if you prefer on tackling clutter on a daily basis by focusing on dealing with smaller clutter areas at a time.

For the ultimate decluttering help (including both the Weekend Warrior Challenge and a 30-Day Challenge), get the Conquer Your Chaos Bundle.

If decluttering and organizing your kitchen in a weekend seems like too much, try taking a few hours to declutter your kitchen table and counters.

Schedule a day (or time) that you will designate for decluttering. Let your family know that this particular day, weekend, or time is designated as a decluttering time.

If you’ve decided to tackle clutter on a daily basis, try to work at the same time every day. Make it your declutter time.

pre-Sort your piles of clutter

Sorting is perhaps one of the most important steps, if not the most important step in organizing and decluttering a home. It’s the step where you decide to take action and decide for yourself what stays and what goes.

Professional organizer and author Peter Walsh offers three distinct categories for sorting your stuff: the keep pile, the donate/sell pile, and the toss pile.

As you sort, decide whether or not you want to:

  • keep an item
  • donate/sell it, or
  • throw it away.

Set up zones for each pile. If space and weather permits, work outside, so you have ample room to work. Have plenty of bins, boxes, and bags on hand to hold your stuff.

Your initial surge is a quick one. Try to resist the urge to reminisce about the time when you went to that concert and got that very T-shirt you are holding in your hands. Simply go through your stuff and decide whether or not you want to keep it.

When in doubt, put it in the keep pile since you will be doing an additional sort on your keep pile.

Purge your clutter and Sort Again

After sorting your stuff into the three piles, stop for a moment and take stock of the piles before you.

  • Does the relative size of each pile surprise you?
  • Did you get rid of more stuff than you thought you would?
  • Did your sheer number of items surprise you?
  • Is your donate pile looking a little too small?

Now is the time to work with each pile separately.

The toss and donate piles are easy. Since you defaulted to keeping an item, there shouldn’t be any surprises in the toss or donate piles, but you might want to quickly go through each pile to make sure there isn’t anything you overlooked.

Remember, sometimes treasures like to hide in even the most tattered-looking boxes. Once you’ve given these piles a second and final look-over, box and bag everything up.

The toss pile should head to the trash can as soon as possible. If you don’t have enough room in this week’s trash to get rid of everything, you might consider a dump run or asking your neighbors if you can add some items to their trash. Remember to be respectful of your neighbor’s trash can and make sure your trash bags aren’t leaking.

The important thing is to get rid of the trash and to do it as soon as possible. In the event that you can’t take a dump run or use the neighbor’s trash can, it might take you a couple of weeks to get rid of the trash.

You should take the “to donate” items away as quickly as possible. Have a bag or two of clothing that you plan to drop off at the closest women’s shelter? Put it in the trunk of your car. Have some furniture that you are giving away? Call your favorite charity and see if they accept pick-ups or see if the new family down the street has any use for it.

Planning on having a garage sale instead of donating? Give yourself an expiration date: if that date comes and goes and you still have those items, it’s time to head to your nearest donation drop-off.

Finally, it’s time to purge and sort your keep pile one more time.

This is the time that you really need to make some tough choices. You only have so much space, and not a lot of stuff will fit into each space. Figure out what you and your family need and how much of it you need to live the life you want to live.

Discover you have five spatulas, including that oversized one that you received last Christmas as a joke? Select your favorite two to keep. Perhaps you can re-gift that oversized one or use it as a decorative item.

If your son’s T-shirt collection is out of control, tell him to select a few of his favorites and turn them into a craft project, such as a quilt, pillow, or framed art.

Notice that your important papers tend to spread throughout the house? Invest in a simple filing system and designate an area of the house to pay bills and store important papers.

For more help sorting papers, get The Paperless Home.

Restore Your Vision

Ask yourself what you want each room or area of the house to say about you and your family. What is the purpose and function of each room?

If you need help creating a plan for your home decor, I love The Confident Designer. It helps you evaluate each room in your home and gives you decor ideas and solutions to transform your house – based on your personal design style.

As you do your final sorting of the keep pile, ask yourself whether or not each item fits into that vision. Does your present furniture and furnishings reflect that vision? Depending on your budget, you might consider buying a new dresser to replace that one you’ve had for several years that really doesn’t hold much.

Don’t be afraid to reorganize your house. But remember not to merely move clutter from one room to another.

Make A Plan

After you have de-cluttered your home, you will discover a few things about how your family deals with clutter. You will discover what kind of items you and your family tend to accumulate and wherein the house most clutter tends to gather. Make a note of these items and areas and decide as a family the best course of action.

Perhaps you will want to instill the well-known “one in, one out” rule. Every time a new item comes into the house, a similar item must go out of the house.

In the event that you find clutter slowly taking over the living room, take a few minutes each day for each family member to pick up their stuff and return it to its designated space. Enforce this simple rule: everything has a place and everything in its place.

Schedule an annual or even a monthly de-cluttering day. Remember that even though clutter tends to slowly accumulate over the course of time, you can easily defeat it by remaining vigilant and keeping a few key guidelines in place.

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