So, you’re ready to declutter.
No more excuses, no more procrastinating.
So, let’s do it! Below are seven steps to help you get rid of clutter now. Not next week, not when January 1st comes, not when your life circumstances change, but right now. Follow these steps today and start on the path to get rid of clutter now and get your house back.
Step #1 Set a Realistic Decluttering Goal
Sometimes when we get frustrated with clutter, we just want to storm through the whole house like a tornado in a matter of hours and get the clutter gone NOW.
But when you’re dealing with a lot of clutter, you want to be a little more strategic or you’ll quickly get overwhelmed and quit. If you want to get rid of the clutter now, you need to set a realistic goal for yourself that you know you can accomplish.
Example? Declutter your nightstand. That’s it. Just the nightstand.
This may seem small, but when you get a quick little win right away, it will inspire you to keep going. Next, move on to the top of your dresser. Then inside the dresser. Then under the bed. Then inside your closet. Before you know it, the bedroom is decluttered and you can check it off your list.
Break a large area into chunks, start with the smallest chunk, then gradually attack bigger and bigger ones until you finish (see how The Minimal Mom does this with her home office). The snowball effect is powerful and it can work every time. Setting realistic goals like this and accomplishing them reinforces in your mind that you can do this and you are doing it, so nothing can hold you back!
Step #2 Make Decluttering Decisions Now
Clutter is often the result of delayed decision-making. We’re not sure where to store something, we’re not sure if we might wear it again, we’re not sure if we might use that thing again, etc.
If you want to get rid of clutter now, you need to make decisions now. Label three boxes Trash, Donation, Relocate, and put them in the area where you’re working. Trash goes in Trash, donations go in the Donation box, and stuff that belongs in another part of the house goes in the Relocate box.
Leave no decision unmade. Decide right now if you’re going to keep those headbands, if you’re really using all the mismatched tupperware lids, or if you’ll actually get down to reading that book series (preaching to myself here!). If the answer is no, get rid of them. Don’t hesitate. You don’t want to come back and ponder these same items again in two months. Make the decisions and move on.
Step #3 Set a Timer for the Decluttering Session
It is rare to have a whole weekend, a whole day, or heck, sometimes even a whole hour to dedicate to decluttering. This process usually has to be done in the margins of our daily life. Because of that, many people procrastinate doing it, saying things like “I’ll set aside a Saturday to get this done,” which often never happens. Thus, the clutter continues to build.
Change your mindset on how you’re going to attack the clutter in your home. Rather than waiting for a large chunk of time, capture small chunks of time and use them to their fullest advantage. Set a timer, put a laser focus on what you’re going to accomplish during that time, and then go to town.
I’m a mom of two littles in diapers, so my time to accomplish things is when they’re down for their afternoon nap or after they go down for bed at night (See how I get stuff done with little kids). And if you’re a mom, you get it when I say I don’t often feel like diving into a three-hour decluttering project after the kids go down at night. I’m usually ready to collapse!
A twenty-minute timer is magical. It truly is. I can stay focused for twenty minutes and I’m always amazed at how much I can get done. Drawers, a closet shelf, under a sink or in the pantry. These are all small areas where I can make a big difference in a short amount of time.
Plus, Parkinson’s Law says that work expands to the time we give it, so if we give ourselves 20 minutes to declutter under the kitchen sink, we’ll do it in 20 minutes, but if we give ourselves two hours, it’ll take two hours. There is incredible power in short bursts of focus and energy.
If you’ve been waiting for a big marathon decluttering session to get to work, you’ll likely still be waiting a year from now, so just jump in with both feet and start decluttering in the rhythm of daily life now.
Step #4 Focus on Decluttering One Space at at Time
This can be so hard, especially for women, I think. We’re decluttering in the utility room, but then we go back to the kitchen to get a roll of tape, and then we see the junk drawer needs organizing and before we know it, we’re sidetracked and we’ve started stuff in ten different areas but finished nothing.
Don’t let yourself get distracted (this is where that timer comes in handy). You can deal with the dog’s water dish that needs to be washed, or the laundry that needs to be put away, or the dishes that aren’t done…after the timer goes off. Finish your decluttering session, allowing nothing short of an emergency to stand in your way. This is the only way to make progress and get rid of clutter now.
Step #5 Don’t Start Organizing – Just Keep Decluttering!
Oh sheesh, I am definitely guilty of this. It’s so easy to start arranging stuff on the shelf or grabbing a cute basket for a little collection of things, or making labels, but don’t do it! This is not organizing time.
Declutter, declutter, declutter.
Get rid or clutter now and you are making space to organize the stuff you want to keep later. If you pause decluttering to organize, you will lose momentum, get lost in the weeds, and the precious time you have to declutter will slip away.
Of course you will come back and organize later, but the point of these steps is to get rid of clutter now. So, if you have a closet where you sort of decluttered, but then started throwing everything in cute matching bins and stopped getting rid of stuff, you still have the same clutter monster on your hands (just dressed in a cuter outfit).
Save yourself time. Declutter the entire space, then come back and organize.
Step #6 When in Doubt, Declutter It
This may sound harsh, but if you’re not sure whether or not to keep it, toss it (or donate it). The longer you debate whether or not to hold onto something, the more you’re going to justify keeping it.
Go with your gut and that initial thought you have when you first pick up the item.
There’s not much else to say about this, other than the best way to get rid of clutter now is to actually get rid of it, so if you’re unsure, go with your gut, chuck it in the appropriate box and move on.
In the long run, it’s always surprising how many things we forget we have stored away until we lay eyes on them, and it’s equally surprising how few things we miss once they’re gone from our home.
Step #7 Rinse and Repeat
If you take nothing else away from this post, take this: Decluttering is not an event, it’s a lifestyle. Stuff will continue to flow into your home, and if you want to stay on top of it all, stuff must continue to flow out. If you take the time to regularly declutter in your home, one small area at a time, the clutter will stay at bay and you will not feel the need to spend a weekend digging through piles to reclaim square footage. Decluttering will be manageable and (dare I say it?) effortless.
So, once your home is decluttered, keep the good momentum going! Set the timer, grab your boxes and take twenty minutes a few times a week to go through a drawer, clean off a shelf or sort through a cupboard. This “maintenance” approach can be used throughout the ups and downs of life, both when things are crazy and when things are calm.
The important thing is just to keep at it, a little bit at a time.
Clutter will never go away (after all, we actually live in our homes, right?), but with these seven steps, you can start on the journey to get rid of clutter now and maintain a decluttered home with minimal effort in the future.
If you’re ready to tackle the clutter in your home, be sure and download the 7 Day Decluttering Challenge. Use these seven steps over seven days to get rid of clutter now and see a drastic difference in your home.