There’s never a bad time to spruce up your home. No matter whether you’re behind on spring cleaning or you’re preparing to pack for a move and need to get rid of unwanted items, decluttering is the perfect place to start. But, what are you actually supposed to do when you’re short on time but have a ton of stuff to sort through? Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to cover that feeling. That’s where a checklist comes in handy. For this Spruce Your Space entry, use this rundown of the best time-saving tips to help you efficiently declutter your home or apartment.
Don’t Start Decluttering Your Home Until You Do This First
How do you declutter when just one look at your closet or garage makes you cringe? You’re not alone. Many people report feeling embarrassment, stress, frustration, and anxiety over having too much “stuff” in their homes. In fact, holding onto junk may be a psychological safety net in certain cases. According to brain imaging studies, parting with items can activate the same brain regions associated with pain and conflict in some people (specifically, hoarders.) In others, the opposite effect can occur where one feels rewarded after discarding things they don’t need. (You’re probably in the second camp if you feel like throwing out unwanted items is a big accomplishment. Lucky you!)
It’s so crucial to get in the right mindset before sifting through everything you own, then figuring out what to do with each item. That goes double if you’re the sentimental type who can’t bear to part with certain items (even if you really don’t need them.)
Organization expert, Marie Kondo, has a ritualistic remedy she uses with clients that works perfectly:
If not, it’s time to ditch it by giving it away or throwing it away.
How to Painlessly Psych Yourself Into Decluttering
The good news is that you can avoid slipping back into old habits. All you have to do is prepare for your new, refreshing journey using positive thoughts and a good strategy. Based on basic behavioral conditioning and mindfulness techniques, there’s actually a more scientific way to boost your willpower and aid in your decluttering process: No matter how tidying up makes you feel, reward yourself after each decluttering session. This makes you more likely to do it while associating positive emotions with the task!
Example: If it takes you 2 days to clear out the under-the-stairs closet, treat yourself to something nice, twice.
Sounds good, right? Just make sure that “treat” doesn’t end up adding to your workload!
NOTE: If you suspect you may have a bigger issue when it comes to holding onto things, please seek assistance from a certified professional who can help.
What Are the Steps to Decluttering Fast?
When starting a declutter project, the biggest thing to remember is the triple D’s… (Not *that* kind, but it caught your attention, right?) Here are the 3 key phases to quickly clear out your stuff and the best questions to ask at each stage.
The Triple D’s: Steps to Decluttering Your Home:
- Downsize- do you really need to keep or take this item to a new space? Is there a better way to store it or make use of it? Can I get a smaller version? Can I sell it online or at a garage sale?
- Donate- if the item is still in good condition—especially canned goods, furniture, kitchenware, clothing, or shoes—can it be donated locally? Would your friends, relatives, or neighbors want it?
- Discard- throw out whatever you haven’t used in the past 6 months to 1 year, and whatever doesn’t make you happy. Would you be in dire straits if it ever went missing? Can you still repair or find parts to it if it stops working? Is it uncomfortable, ragged, or did your tastes change? Did you even remember it was there?
12 Tips to Help You Tidy Up Everything
The key here is to get rid of anything you no longer want or can no longer use. And, don’t bother talking yourself into keeping something because of One Day Syndrome… In other words, hoping that one day you’ll get around to using it.
(Let’s be real: does that actually ever happen?)
- Set a goal competition date. Give yourself at least 2 days for each smaller room. Plan to tackle larger or more stocked areas within at least 3 days.
- Designate a big box, laundry hamper, large garbage bag, or area for items to discard.
- Repeat, but this time have a container for items you plan to donate or sell.
- Use sticky notes (or if you’re using a box/bag, write on it) and label with DISCARD or DONATE/SELL.
- Put each item or set in its own place. Choose a spot that’s obvious & easily accessible so you won’t forget where it is.
- Organize sets of items in the order that you use them—especially cosmetics or tools—and store them all together.
- Combine similar items with each other instead of leaving them scattered around. (Example: put all office supplies in one place, and small kitchen gadgets in another place, together.)
- For a lot of the same type of items, (like clothing, toys, etc.) spread everything out in a single area so you can see what you have. Then, decide whether to discard or donate.
- Clean a little as you go. This doesn’t have to be a deep clean (which might be too overwhelming if you’re already tackling lots of clutter), but wiping up dust and spraying here and there will go a long way.
- Don’t transfer clutter from one place to another. You’re trying to de-clutter, not re-clutter, remember? If you’re not keeping it, put it in either your DISCARD box, or the DONATE/SELL box.
- SUPER IMPORTANT: don’t move on to the next room—or even to the next area in the same room—until you’ve completely finished.
- Wait until you’ve fully decluttered (and know what’s staying) to buy storage or organization products. As you declutter, note any areas that waste vertical or hidden space so you can find storage solutions for your remaining items later.
Use This Ultimate Declutter Your Home Checklist PDF + Calendar to Organize Without Stressing
Make decluttering your home easy with this printable PDF checklist! This simple checklist guide will also help you declutter each room fast and stay organized with:
- Cut-out labels (Donate, Discard, or Sell) to tape on each box or bin as you sort through everything
- A calendar to help you plan when to declutter each room—especially if you’re planning to move and need to start weeks ahead
- Checkboxes for each room to track your progress on the most commonly cluttered areas
- Space to add notes for each room (great for adding tasks you may have to circle back to for some reason)
Since you now have a checklist to work from, decluttering your home should be super simple. Forget the overwhelm, anxiety, and just plain confusion of not knowing where to start. You’ve officially got this. Just stick to the plan above—plus, the checklist—and tackle your next sprucing or downsizing project by going out with the old, in with the new!