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How to Declutter Your Home

Overwhelmed by stuff? Learn how to declutter your home for good with these four easy steps for simplifying, organizing, and maintaining.

Decluttering your home can be a daunting task, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience. It can be a great way to reduce stress and create a space that you can relax and enjoy. In this blog post, we will go over the basics of decluttering your home and provide you with some helpful tips and tricks to help you get your home in order. So, grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and let’s get started on the journey of decluttering your home!

Today we’re tackling a topic that I think everyone can relate to: how to declutter your home. No matter how organized or minimalist we attempt to be, the clutter slowly creeps back in. Before we know it, those recently-cleared countertops are overflowing with papers and mail, our closets are a mess, and the kids’ toys and art supplies are taking over the house.

But we don’t have to live this way. In fact, I bet you can think of one friend or family member whose home always seems neat and tidy — despite the fact that she’s got multiple kids and pets.

And while it’s tempting to just feel annoyed at her seemingly perfect life (oh so tempting), I’d like to offer another solution. One that will help you declutter your home quickly, efficiently, and for good. Because believe me, I’ve been where you are right now. And clutter still accumulates when our family gets busy and our decluttering habits fall by the wayside for a bit.

But over the years, we’ve developed a system for keeping clutter at bay that can help you, too. So without further ado, I’m really excited to share my best tips to declutter your home and your life for good.

how to declutter your home with keep and donate boxes

How to Declutter Your Home

Decluttering your home is a great way to reduce stress and create a more organized and functional living space. The first step to decluttering is to create a plan. Decide which areas of your home need attention and determine how much time you can devote to the task. Once you have an idea of what needs to be done, begin by sorting items into categories such as donate, sell, keep, or throw away. Next, start organizing the items that you are keeping. Use storage containers and bins to help you stay organized. Finally, make sure that you take some time to enjoy the newly decluttered space! Read on for more info on these tips and to see them in action.

Woman organizing and sorting items into boxes for keeping and relocating
Photo credit: Jessie Wyman Photography

How do I start decluttering?

This is the question I’m asked the most often. And it makes sense. Because clutter can be overwhelming. That’s why my first step to organizing your home might surprise you. 

To declutter your home, you need to adopt the right mindset.

Now the word mindset might sound a little “woo woo”, and I get that. You might be looking for more practical tips to declutter your home. We’ll get there, I promise.

But experts know mentally preparing for a task actually helps us complete it. Plus, living in a cluttered home — and taking the steps to remove that clutter — can actually bring up some really tough emotions. So it’s a good idea to address these head-on:

  • Shame — when we look around and don’t feel proud of our homes, it can trigger feelings of shame. We say to ourselves, “How did I let this happen?” or “Why can’t I do a better job here”. Not only is this unpleasant, but it’s actually demotivating.
  • Guilt — often, clutter comes from not wanting to let go of unnecessary things. We feel guilty for getting rid of a family heirloom or a gift we don’t want. After all, we were taught to be grateful. So, we let guilt talk us into keeping objects and things that don’t serve our lives.
  • Regret — impulse purchases don’t always pan out. And if you regret wasting money, you might hold onto the object even though you don’t actually want or need it.

These feelings are all valid — and really common. But they’re not conducive to change. Instead, it’s important to get clear on your organization goals so you can focus on the positive emotions and outcomes. Rather than feeling paralyzed by guilt and shame, shift your mindset to focus on how you’ll feel when your house is tidy and clean.

To get in the right mindset for decluttering, ask yourself these questions:

  • Why is decluttering a priority?
  • How will it feel to live in a clutter-free environment?
  • What stands in the way of you and the home you want to live in?

Be specific with your answers. Write them down and put them on the fridge or next to the bathroom mirror. Let them really sink in and motivate you to move forward. Then, set clear goals for decluttering your home.

Maybe you want to pair down your belongings by 20%. Or maybe you want to tackle 10 trouble spots in your home in the next 15 days. Make these goals measurable and achievable, so you can celebrate once you’ve reached them.

Once you’ve gotten clear on your goals, you can move on to the task of clearing out clutter.

Baskets and boxes with relocate and donate signs for decluttering

What should I get rid of when decluttering?

Here’s where most people really get stuck: how to decide what to keep and what to get rid of.

I get it. Our belongings are often tied to memories, experiences, and places we don’t want to forget. They remind us of another chapter of our lives. This is powerful stuff — and why the mindset piece is so important. It allows you to take a more objective approach to getting rid of clutter. Keep returning to your focus on the present, and the future you want to create, rather than memories of the past.

British designer, poet, and craftsman William Morris had a mantra:

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

This statement provides two key questions to ask yourself as you’re assessing each object:

  • Does this object serve a clear, tangible purpose in my life? Does it solve a problem or accomplish a task?
  • Does this object add joy and beauty to my home?

If the answer to either question is yes, it’s a solid contender to keep. If not, ask yourself if you’re holding onto it for the wrong reasons (see negative emotions above).

Organized laundry room and closet

My 4-Step Decluttering and Home Organization Process

Like I said, I’m no rookie here. That’s because — while my home tends to stay clutter-free for the most part — I’m not naturally wired to be neat and tidy.

It’s true. If left to my own natural inclinations, the title of my memoir would be “Little Piles Everywhere”. Maybe The Life-Changing Magic of Overcoming Pack Rat Tendencies? I think it’s got bestseller potential, no?

But over the years, out of sheer frustration, desperate to tame the overwhelm, I’ve created and honed an organizational system that allowed me to get truly organized at the onset, and keep it that way in the day to day. We’re certainly not perfect — I mean, I’ve got 3 kids homeschooling this year, you guys! But we typically stay about 20 minutes away from a truly clean and tidy house at all times.

Sound impossible? I swear, it’s not. If a recovering stacker like myself can do it, you can too. Here are my 4 steps for how to declutter and organize your home…

Empty kitchen with marble countertops and white cabinets

Step 1: Empty the Space

The first step to decluttering and organizing any space — your linen closet, your mudroom, wherever — is to empty the space. “But Nina, isn’t this harder than just moving things around?” Yes. But this step is the difference between making a space look decluttered and actually getting the results you want. 

First of all, our minds are hardwired to find shortcuts. So if you’re staring at a row of shirts in your closet, trying to decide which ones to remove, you’ll probably take out a few and leave the rest. But, if you take them all out first, you override that mental progamming so you’re able to think critically about what you actually wear. You’ll put fewer back, leaving you with what you really, objectively need. (And, you’ll free up precious space for a closet that’s organized and calming instead of jam-packed).

Removing everything at the onset also allows you to rethink your storage and develop a plan that works better for your life. But it’s hard to envision a new solution when you’re staring at a closet that’s still filled with stuff. By starting with a clean slate, you’re able to really devise a functional storage plan that looks great now and helps you stay organized long-term.

So take everything out, my friend. Ev-er-y-thing. And then, you’re ready for step 2!

Keep, Relocate, Donate boxes to help you declutter your home

Step 2: Sort It Out

Now that everything is out of the closet and you’ve made a huge, colossal mess — congrats!! You’re ready to do some sorting. (Hold tight, friends, it gets better soon, I swear!)

A lot of home organization guides will tell you to create two or three categories, but I’ve found it pays to be more specific at the onset. Instead of simply ‘keep or toss’, I like to create 6 categories as I declutter my home:

  • Keep
  • Relocate
  • Donate
  • Recycle
  • Sell
  • Shred

By breaking up your piles into more specific categories, you make sure everything goes to the best place. Because home organization is a lot of work, my friends. And at the end of a project, it’s tempting to just put all the ‘keep’ stuff back in same the closet it came from. But that’s not always where it really belongs.

how to declutter your home with signs for categorizing items into boxes and baskets

So as you’re decluttering, ask yourself:

  • Do I love this item?
  • Is this the best/most logical spot for it?
  • Could someone else use it more than me?
  • Can I recycle it?
  • Is it valuable?

Use these questions to sort your stuff into the appropriate piles. Obviously the shred category is great for areas with papers, but it applies to closets, too. Got t-shirts or towels that are past their prime? Instead of throwing them away, could they be repurposed into cleaning rags? I love to see how much I can purge while finding creative solutions to keep things out of landfills.

Once you’ve sorted everything into your 6 categories, it’s on to step 3…

Sorting and organizing items on a bed while decluttering
Photo Credit: Jessie Wyman Photography

Step 3: Make a Plan

Now’s where the real fun begins! You’re ready to envision and plan your new, beautifully organized space.

First, remove everything but the “Keep” pile from the space. Put recyclables away, move the donate box to the car…get everything out of the space so you’re not tempted to just put it back where it came from.

Then, take a look at what’s left and create a plan to put it away. I’m a visual person, so I love to take measurements of the space and draw up a little sketch. I want to stress this point, friends: you do not need to go out and buy hundreds of dollars worth of home organizational systems.

It’s so tempting, I get it. And they can be really helpful. But you might have exactly what you need already (in another closet, perhaps?). So take inventory and get creative.

As you create your home organization plan, think about how you use each item, and how often. Daily use items should be front and center. Seasonal things can go on higher shelves. 

And if you’re using baskets and closed storage — make labels. These can be unused adhesive nametags or paper tags from the craft store. Just get clear about what belongs — and what doesn’t — in each container.

And now, you’re ready for the final step…

Woman putting away and organizing sheets in the linen closet

Step 4: Put Everything Away

You’ve done all the hard work, now comes the payoff! Sticking to your new organizational plan, put everything away in its designated place. Honestly, it’s a more in-depth topic than we can cover here, so make sure to check out my master post of home organization tips.

By this final step, you should have a really clear idea of what exactly goes into the space. But continue to check in — does this item really belong here? Will it get used? Make sure every single item you put back is exactly where it belongs.

How to Stay Organized

There! Doesn’t that feel amazing!? Take a second to step back and really admire your hard work. Take a picture of that beautiful space (and tag me @ninahendrickhome if you post it!).

The initial task is done, but as you know, it’s an ongoing battle to keep clutter at bay. The answer for how to stay organized is ongoing maintenance. That’s why my family does little resets — often in less than 10 minutes — each day. To target our most clutter-prone spots and prevent things from getting out of control in the first place.

Want some help to declutter your home?

Even with the right mindset and clear goals in place, decluttering can be an overwhelming task. That’s why I’ve put together a mini-course to help you declutter your entire house quickly, efficiently, and for good. It’s the next best thing to having a professional right there beside you teaching you how to declutter!

In the Declutter All of the Things course, I provide:

  • Four short video lessons that walk you through my decluttering process.
  • Over 20 printable pages of guidance to help declutter your home
  • A questionnaire to establish a healthy mindset and help you set clear goals (so you actually reach them!)
  • Clear, step-by-step instructions to help you get started decluttering — and finish the job
  • Printable signs and checklists so you stay organized throughout the process
  • Ideas for repurposing and donating things you no longer need
  • A guided 30-day plan to tackle the trickiest spots in your home — the mudroom, your desktop, that linen closet! 
  • My favorite tried-and-true-tips to keep your whole home clutter-free.

This course also includes a troubleshooting guide to avoid common pitfalls along the decluttering journey. Whether you have unmotivated kiddos, a sentimental spouse, or a mountain of family photos and memorabilia you just can’t seem to keep corraled. I’ve thought of clear solutions for you, friend.

Cards to keep your home organized daily

And finally, I’m sharing the wildcard system my own family uses to stay on top of clutter and keep it under control for good. Simply cut the cards from the printable and you have a fun and easy way to keep trouble areas clutter-free — in less time than your kids’ favorite episode of Paw Patrol.

You deserve to love where you live, friend. To have a home you’re proud of. One that feels peaceful and calm, without the mad dash of last-minute closet-stashing before company arrives.

Grab the Declutter All of the Things course here to get every tool you need for the home you want.

What comes next?

If you’re looking for some inspiration for how to organize after decluttering, check out my organized pantry tips, IKEA hack closet project, and how I organized my daughters closet.

The Most Important Thing You Need to Declutter Your Home (For Good This Time)

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