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7 Essential Tips for How to Start Decluttering

Most homeowners get stuck on how to start decluttering. To help you get going, we’ve come up with these seven essential tips.


Mike Kelleher

August 21, 2020

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When downsizing, going through a move, or reassessing your current space, most homeowners get stuck on how to start decluttering. Often, this first step to a successful, effective change in your life is the hardest one to take.

To help you break through this barrier, we’ve come up with these seven essential tips for how to start decluttering.

1. Establish why you are decluttering, and keep that in mind

Decluttering is a practice that can mean different things to different people. Your definition, and your reasons for taking on the project, will depend on your situation.

Therefore, you have to figure out why you are decluttering. Are you preparing for a move into a smaller space? Do you feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your current home? Are you taking stock of your life and trying to decide what’s important to you and your loved ones?

Establishing the why of your decluttering gives you something to hold onto. Write your why down and refer back to it whenever you start to lose focus.

2. Start with one room in your house

To further combat feeling overwhelmed by your decluttering project, you should start by focusing on one room in your house.

Where you decide on will change depending on your particular situation. Are there any spaces that need clearing to make room for other projects? Is there a room you’re more comfortable with starting on? Or is there one you’re particularly dreading that would feel good to get out of the way?

No matter which room you choose, it should be the sole focus of your decluttering efforts until it satisfies your why.

3. Focus on what you can see

Closets, wardrobes, storage bins, desks, and other containers are an intimidating part of any decluttering project. What’s even worse is that a single room can contain several of these things, each housing more and more clutter which you need to sort through and make decisions about.

Therefore,  one of the best things to do when starting to declutter a room is to focus only on what you see. Items that take up space on the floor, surfaces, or shelves are easier to separate out from their surrounding clutter. This makes them easier to tackle on a case-by-case basis.

Speaking of which...

4. Take on one item at a time

Often, it’s the number of things one has to declutter that makes people unwilling to start. And if they think it’d be easier just to get rid of everything, they might fear that some essential items would be lost.

You can address such concerns by taking on one item at a time during your decluttering project. Different items will take different amounts of time and consideration as you try to figure out how they fit into your why, but doing things slowly ensures nothing is missed.  

5. Establish categories for items to determine where they should go

Once you’ve considered whether or not you’re keeping an item, you should then sort it into a category. The categories you establish will depend on your why, but we recommend using a system of keep, sell, donate, or trash.

You don’t have to know everything about selling, donating, or trashing an item when sorting it into these categories. You’ll have plenty of time to revisit each pile and address each item’s specific needs when you’ve made it past this first step.

The most important aspect of having categories is that they guarantee you get a better sense of how the items you’re decluttering fit into your why.

6. Create (and stick to!) a schedule

Similarly to how you’re focusing on one item at a time in one room of your house, it’s important to establish a specific time for doing the work as well. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to start and finish a room in one day, or maybe even in one weekend. Setting that kind of expectation for yourself will do you more harm than good.

Instead of making a mad dash for the finish line, start slow. Set aside 10 minutes a day to work on decluttering your space. Even though it seems small, staying focused on decluttering for those full ten minutes will add up quickly, and watching that progress unfold will help boost your confidence for each following project.

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Regardless of your why, decluttering is an emotional process. Likely, the items cluttering your house are there because they’ve acquired some form of sentimental value. Therefore, decluttering is often equal parts physically and emotionally stressful.

To solve this issue, it’s strongly encouraged that you look to other people and resources for help. Get your family involved to help share the burden, consider hiring a move manager, or continue consulting articles like this one. The better equipped you are with helpers and knowledge, the easier the decluttering process will be.

With these tips in mind, you now know how to start decluttering.

Commit these steps to memory, and remember to refer back to them whenever you find yourself losing focus during your decluttering project. Whether it’s part of a small effort to improve your space, or a significant undertaking to change your entire lifestyle and living situation, these tips on how to start decluttering are the best tools you have for addressing all your decluttering needs.

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