Decluttering 101

Can't figure out what needs to go? Having trouble letting go of an item? Want to get rid of it but can't figure out what to do with it? Or have you started decluttering but aren't sure how to stay decluttered? Here are my principles for getting decluttered and staying that way!
  1. If it's broken and can't (or likely won't) be fixed, get rid of it and don't replace it. If you haven't gotten around to fixing it, selling it, or cannabilizing it for parts by now, you never will. If it were that important you would've done it already. 
  2. If it’s bad for you, get rid of it. Why make yourself miserable?
  3. Keep your memories in memory books, not in your clutter. 
  4. If it’s not yours, give it back or give it the boot.
  5. Do not duplicate! 
  6. Ditch hobbies you've ignored in the last year or two.
  7. Stop keeping gifts you don’t like just because they were gifts.
  8. Get organized by repurposing your old tupperware.
  9. Reduce your financial account clutter. Bank statements have to come from somewhere! Close the account and you'll have one less account to look at each month and one less statement on your desk. 
  10. If you're decluttering a small space, try removing EVERYTHING from that space before you start decluttering and organizingYou'll have a better sense of the space and a better idea of what's in it. Much easier than trying to declutter around piles of stuff.
  11. Use up any extra consumable items that you have open.
  12. If you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it. 
  13. Stop offering to be your friends' and family's storage unit. No, no NO you cannot 'just hang on to this heirloom for a little while' for them! If they want something stored, direct them to a storage facility. Make it clear to them that a clutter-free, serene home environment is important to your well-being.
  14. Stop asking other people to store stuff for you. People won't stop asking you to hold onto things for them until you stop asking them to do the same. And get your stuff out of their basements.
  15. If looking at the object brings up bad memories, ditch it. Why would you want to be reminded of something awful?
  16. Start small. Don't set the bar too high and set yourself up for failure. Set reasonable goals and reward yourself when you reach them (though preferably in a non-material way!)
  17. Don't keep objects that make you nervous around them. If you're so terrified of breaking that crystal vase that you keep it hidden in a closet, why not sell it for something you'll feel comfortable using?
  18. Figure out where you have too many choices available to you and cut back. Do you need 60 earrings to choose from every morning? Or twenty kinds of tea? Or fifteen bras or ties, each in a different color and style?
  19. Remind yourself of how far you've come. Throughout your decluttering process, take pictures or notes of the condition of the room, drawer, box etc. Note your accomplishments. When you're feeling down or overwhelmed, look back on how things used to be and realize how much better off you are now!
  20. Look at the objects in your home through the eyes of the most organized friend or family member you know. Toss the ones that they would think you were crazy for keeping. It may help to invite that person over to get their opinion. 
  21. Don't keep thing just because they were expensive when you bought them. The money has already been spent. Don't spend your energy on these items now, too. Keeping those items is the true waste. 
  22. Get rid of expired items. That eyeliner may look fine, but the bill for treating the case of pinkeye you could get from using 6-year-old eyeliner is definitely not worth the price of keeping it. 
  23. Ask family and friends you respect to help you. Let them be the rational voice that helps you figure out when you're keeping things for the wrong reasons. Leave the hoarder parents out, though.
  24. Keep like things together so you know just how much you have. It's easier to realize that you still have enough sunblock to get you through next week's vacation when it's all in one place. This will keep you from purchasing things because you think you're running low, only to discover that you had extra of it but you didn't know where it was.
  25. 'Tis better to give than to receive. Remember how good it feels to give someone a gift they really love? Give your items away to people and places who need them more than you do. Focus on the positive feelings you get from giving someone something they really need. Just be sure that what you're giving away is something that is actually needed. People won't take your own decluttering seriously if you  pass along things that will only be junk for the recipient.
Have anything to add? Please comment below!

...more to come soon! ~joanna, 5/17/12


  1. This is a great list. Number 24 very much resonates with me. In university my now-spouse was always, always worried about running out of this deodorant (which had been discontinued). Guess what... when moving I managed to find about 12 of the stupid things strewn about the room, in gym bags, in backpacks, etc. This after listening to "I have to conserve deodorant, I'm almost out," for at least 6 months, just because of disorganization!!

    1. And it wastes so much money too! My parents keep medications all over the house. Half of it's expired by the time they find it.

      Has your now-spouse become a reformed character or is the disorganization still working for him?

    2. I would say partially reformed. Though I do get accused of putting things "away" in multiple locations that aren't consistent, things get put away. He jokes that he is a gas, always expanding to fit the space. *sigh* the slovenliness (is that a word?) is a big relationship rift at times.

  2. This is a fantastic list! I just found your blog and can't wait to read more. My mother wasn't a full blown hoarder, but she was close, and she certainly never taught me any skills for dealing with this sort of thing - and I just think that's a wonderful way to look at it - these are "skills" that we need to learn!

    Anyhow, I've been working slowly at liberating my home from stuff, and myself from the fear of getting rid of stuff for years. It's a slow process, but I keep getting better and better. I'll never have one of those beautiful spotless minimalist homes, but at least I've got a few horizontal surfaces now!

    Off to read more of your posts now!

    1. Thanks! And horizontal surfaces are just aweseome, aren't they? Looking forward to seeing more of your cats on those horizontal surfaces :o) thanks for reading!

  3. There are numerous benefits of decluttering. Eliminating clutter could reduce stress of finding stuff in state of disarray and make you more efficient. Moreover, organizing your home can also save money. You'll be less likely to buy replacements for misplaced items. At the same time, you can identify items you do need and plan purchases when they best fit your budget. You can avoid paying late fees on lost bills that resurface a week past due.

  4. Great list. I would be a little cautious with number 25 though. Many people accept gifts/pass ons so as not to hurt the givers feelings, then feel obliged to keep the items forever more. Not to mention the recipients may have hoarder tendencies. I'd suggest passing items to a charity or thift store, at least people have gone there with a desire to buy. They get a bargain, the charity gets the money, you get a clear space. Win, win all round.

  5. Hi Tess, welcome! Thanks for your suggestion, you made a great point. I tried to make #25 a little clearer. Hope to see you again soon!

  6. These are great suggestions and points. Right! Clutter is what we bring into our homes that we don't want. Thank you.

    1. Thank *you* for your kind words! I hope you enjoy the blog. Happy decluttering!

  7. Great blog. I've got a junk removal business in Texas and we sometimes do work for hoarders and their families. I've been in the process of educating myself more on the subject so we can be a better service for people struggling with hoarding.

    You've got a new subscriber :)


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