Decluttering Tips

By Kristen Castillo

June 15, 2015 5 min read

How many magnets are on your refrigerator? How many scraps of paper are on your desk? Do you have lots of extra socks in case you need them?

Over the years, it's easy to accumulate things -- clothes, photos, gadgets and miscellaneous paperwork. Having lots of stuff around doesn't make you a hoarder, but it doesn't make you organized, either. That's why it's so important to overcome clutter.

"Just because it's clutter doesn't mean that it's junk," says professional organizer Melinda Massie, owner of Organizing with a Side of Fabulous, who explains clutter is anything that prevents you from having the house you want. "If it's not being used by you and doesn't fit within the goals of your home, it's clutter and needs to be let go."

*Getting Started

Mitzi Weinman, founder of TimeFinder and author of "It's About Time! Transforming Chaos into Calm, A to Z," suggests "pre-organizing planning" to make sure your decluttering is efficient.

First, write down what you want to organize and how you plan to use the space, such as cleaning out a file drawer for office projects.

"Clean up surface clutter, and you will feel instant gratification," says Weinman. "It becomes visually pleasing to see what was once cluttered is now nice and neat. But it's just as important to tackle the clutter in drawers or cabinets. Even though you can't see it, you know it's disorganized."


Professional lifestyle organizational designer Amanda LeBlanc recommends purging what you don't need.

"Get rid of the unnecessary," she says, encouraging her clients to create three piles - "keep," "trash" and "donate" -- to consciously decide what will stay in their homes.

Next she suggests looking at what you don't use, as well as getting rid of expired items like old cold medicine or expired spices.

*Stay Focused

Don't get overwhelmed by the big job.

"Work on only one area and one room at a time," says Massie, who advises setting a goal for how you want to "feel and function" in that room.

"Then, starting in one location, work one area at a time to remove everything you don't need, use and love," she says, noting you can work clockwise around the room until all the clutter is removed.

*Organized and Convenient

Designate a place for everything you need. For example, LeBlanc recommends using a Lazy Susan to store products under the sink for easy access.

"Use baskets in the pantry labeled with the type of food in each," she says, noting that snacks placed at eye level are ready for eating-on-the-go.

*Sentimental Stuff

Getting rid of sentimental items can be challenging. Weinman advises asking yourself these three questions: Do I really need this? Will I ever look at it again, really? Can I get it again if need be?

Massie reminds clients that memories are not in the things, and "excess clutter does not honor the item or the memory."

Instead, Massie encourages thinking about how the items work with or against the goals you have for your home.

*Be Creative and Clutter-Free

"If you love a space, you will keep it neat," says LeBlanc, suggesting keeping your home functional and beautiful too.

One example: dress up storage in your bathroom drawer by using acrylic bins with fun paper underneath.

*Be Wary of the Garage

Before you store stuff in the garage, realize you might just be moving the clutter around.

"Garages are where decisions go to die," says Massie. "So when you face the garage, know that you're going to be facing a number of unmade decisions. Be prepared to make them."

*Give Yourself A Break

Clutter takes time to accumulate so it's OK to give yourself a reasonable amount of time to sort through your stuff.

"Decluttering can be physically, mentally and emotionally tiring," says Massie, explaining that taking breaks can help keep you on task. "Facing a major amount of clutter can be very daunting but you'll feel so much better once you're on the other side."

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