How to declutter your home: 20 quick and easy tips for organizing your space
Get organized with our practical guide on how to declutter your home
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Ever feel like you’re drowning in stuff? If you're feeling overwhelmed and paralyzed by indecision over what to keep and what to bin, then we're here to help with our expert guide on how to declutter your home.
Cluttered surroundings not only make your space look and feel smaller, but clutter can have a detrimental effect on our emotional well-being. The simple act of organizing your kitchen can create an all-mighty feeling of satisfaction and help you focus your energies elsewhere.
So whether you're wondering how to organize your life more generally, or are on a pursuit to organize a small space, the first step is to always declutter. Here are some quick and easy tips to help you along the way.
How to declutter your home: 14 easy tips
"Often when I work with clients to organize their homes, they comment on how much their life changes simply by knowing where everything is. Not only does it save time, but it also makes it easier to put things back where they belong, creating discipline," explains Kate Ibbotson, Founder of A Tidy Mind (opens in new tab).
Follow these expert tips to declutter with ease and change the energy in your own home.
Sometimes starting the process of decluttering can feel a little chaotic and overwhelming, so it's wise to make a plan of attack. Regardless of whether you're organizing a small bedroom or your whole living space, a strong plan will help you on your way.
"Write a plan of what you want to get organized. Order it in preference of most bother to you but easiest to fix, to least bother to you and harder to fix," advises Siân Pelleschi, founder of Sorted! (opens in new tab) and Association of Professional Declutterers and Organisers (APDO (opens in new tab)) President.
"From there you can start on the easy, big wins that then make you want to continue and then work on the harder not so worrying areas when you feel more in control."
Elaine Penhaul, interiors expert and director of award-winning national home staging company Lemon and Lime Interiors (opens in new tab) also sings the praises of creating a robust plan before getting started.
"When transforming your home, whether that be for relaxation or seasonal hosting, the first step is making a plan. Walk through your house slowly with a notebook in hand, identifying the strengths and problematic areas that you want to improve in each room. Take notice of bookcases that are overflowing or wardrobes that are bursting at the seams," Elaine says.
"Once you have created your list you need to equip yourself with boxes, labels and marker pens, before allocating everything into ‘skip, store and show’ piles. Make this a fun communal activity for the family, with some great music and snacks to get you through the declutter.”
2. Assign a box for essentials
Kate advises storing essentials in a box in a place you can easily access. Not only does this remove clutter from other places, it means you won't throw them out during a zealous clean-up.
"Assign a box or dish for your essential items," she advises. "When you return home, you need a place to put items such as your wallet, phone, keys, diary and the other miscellaneous contents of your bag (emptying your bag daily will ensure you avoid cluttering it up). I recommend an attractive, roomy box kept on a shelf in the kitchen. This will reduce clutter and save you time searching for these items the next morning."
3. Focus on one room at a time
"The prospect of decluttering and deep cleaning an entire home can feel overwhelming, particularly if it’s been a while since you embarked on an edit of your home. To maximize feelings of empowerment, avoid tackling too many spaces simultaneously," advises Wayfair (opens in new tab)'s Resident Style Advisor, Nadia McCowan Hill.
"Instead, set aside a couple of hours to focus on one room. Start with the main space before you clear and order storage such as cupboards and chests of drawers. You’ll find that you’re much more motivated and mobilized if you go through each area methodically."
It's better to apply laser focus to one specific area, before moving on to the next one, otherwise, you'll end up half completing some rooms, possibly creating more chaos than order. If you're short on time, you can narrow your focus further and just concentrate on one shelf or drawer at a time - for example, you could spend one session organizing your kitchen drawers, before moving on to the bigger things next time.
"It can be easy to get distracted. When you’re decluttering or organizing a specific area, work only in that area and organize while there until finished. Create four piles: items to be given away/sold, items to be put back in their rightful homes elsewhere in the home, items to go back into that space, and those that are no longer fit for purpose," advises Siân.
"Once you’ve gone through the whole area, put back those items that live there first and then work on the other piles. Don’t be tempted to put back items around the rest of the home while you’re still organizing it as you can then be distracted with other jobs."
4. Group similar items together
Lisa Pantling, Membership Director at APDO (opens in new tab)and founder of Clutter Free Living (opens in new tab) advises grouping together similar items. When you see how many of each item you own, it can help you understand the ones you can get rid of. After all, who needs five can openers?
"Like with like is a great mantra for sorting and organizing, sometimes getting straight into decluttering can feel a little overwhelming, so if you start by simply grouping similar items you can make the rooms look a great deal tidier, while also preparing items in categories ready to go through when you are ready," she says.
"This can also help you decide which are the 'best' or 'favorite' items to keep," she says. "If you have lots of similar t-shirts, for instance, you might be able to let go of any that don't fit or feel great when you wear them, any that are damaged or a bit bobbly and be left just with those that are the best of the collection."
5. Follow the "4D method" - do, ditch, delegate, defer
The 4D method is often used in project or time management, but Julie Stevens, APDO (opens in new tab)'s Professional Development Director and founder of Younique Designs Ltd (opens in new tab) swears by it as a decluttering method too.
"For every item that you touch, ask yourself - is this something that needs doing, ditching, delegating, or deferring? Allocate a container (box) for each D and set aside time to deal with the contents. Hint: The ditch box is more often than not simple rubbish or recycling so can be dealt with really quickly and is an instant win."
Anything in the "do" box, you'll want to keep and store away. If you live with others, put anything of theirs into the "delegate" box for them to sort.
Your problem clutter can sit in the 'defer' box. Keep it there, only bringing the items out when you need them. It will quickly become clear what's essential and what's not.
Julie advises starting in one room and working for 30 minutes a day using this method. You'll be surprised how easy it is to detect the things you want to ditch. Depending on what the items are, you'll want to consider donating or recycling, rather than putting them in the trash can.
6. Set a timer
Decluttering can seem like a mammoth task, so consider tackling it in short, productive bursts. Set your phone to alert you in 20 minutes and see how much clutter you can sort in that time.
"Start with a drawer and time yourself for 20 minutes to see how far you get. If you find that was easy, work on a slightly bigger area (again for 20 minutes) and see how far you get. You’ll start to know how long it takes you to get through a space/type of item which in turn will help when planning to declutter an area," advises Siân.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can get through in a short amount of time when you're fully focused on the task.
7. Give items a 'home'
It's important to give each item a specific home when you're decluttering. Not only will this help you identify any duplicates, but it will mean you can avoid an accumulation of clutter in the future, as you'll get into the habit of putting items in their correct place.
"It’s all about making it easy for you going forward. Give items home in areas where they are easily found or most needed. It’s okay to have a pen pot in each living space if you regularly need them there but it’s not great to have to walk through the house from one side to the other to put your coat away when you come home," advises Siân.
"Likewise, don’t overcrowd an area with too much – you don’t need all of your extra toiletries crammed into the bathroom, it’ll just make it feel messy and disorganized. Just keep what you’re using available and have spares in another cupboard nearby or cut down on the extras you’re housing if you don’t have the space."
If you're working through one room at a time, or are short on time, put anything that doesn't belong there in a pile until you can find a home. You can store this 'pile' in a box, bag, or storage unit out of the way until you have time to organize your miscellaneous items. But avoid letting these 'piles' add up: the last thing you want is more clutter.
This is a great tactic when it comes to working out how to clean a bathroom, or how to organize your pantry.
8. Get rid of clothing you haven't worn for the last year
If you haven’t used an item for a year and can’t see it being used in the next one, then sell, recycle or donate to a charity shop. Check out our handy guide on how to sell clothes online if you're looking to generate extra cash.
Once you've decluttered your wardrobe, think about swapping your hangers around so the hooks face outwards. When you wear the items, put the hangers back so the hooks face the wall. After one year, consider donating or recycling any clothing on hangers where the hook is still facing outwards, as you'll know that you haven't worn them over the past year.
Of course, there are exceptions. For example, you might reserve your best designer heels and best designer bags for special occasions. Similarly, your favorite designer frocks might only get an outing every few years. In which case, just ensure these items are stored carefully, ideally in garment bags in a well-ventilated space. Check out our dedicated guide on how to organize your closet to ensure your closet is not only free from clutter but super organized so you don't have to declutter it again in the near future.
9. Carefully assess sentimental items
Sentimental items are the trickiest ones to get rid of. It might be that you've inherited some gold jewelry you never wear, or that you have stashes of old clothes that mean something to you. You don't need to get rid of all of these items but do carefully assess how much value they hold to you, and if you can preserve those memories in other ways.
Marie Bateson, APDO (opens in new tab)'s Volunteers Director and Owner of Cut the Clutter (opens in new tab) recommends thinking about alternative ways to honor late loved ones or special memories. "The memories are not attached to the items however, they may prompt them, but they will always live in your head," she says.
"Articles of clothing can be made into all sorts of things. Teddies, cushions, patchworks, or even fabric hearts that you can hang around the home or garden." You can also repurpose jewelry, which can be taken apart, resized, or remodeled, meaning you can still wear a piece that includes part of the original item.
"Sell the items and reinvest the proceeds in some way to honor the memory," she adds. "You could buy a memory box, a picture frame, a shrub or tree for the garden, something for the grave or donate the money to a good cause that would have made the owner happy."
Before you do donate, sell or remodel anything, remember to take a photo of it, advises Bateson. You can set up a folder on your phone or computer so you can return to it at any time if you want to jog your memory.
While it's good to be realistic about your sentimental items, try to avoid getting caught up in the moment and throwing things away that you might later regret.
"When you're attempting to de-clutter your home, it can be easy to simply start packing up boxes and bags to take to the charity shop. However, some items might just be the things that make your house your home, holding sentimental value or reminding you of memorable adventures, from postcards to travel books," warns Nadia. "These home comforts might just need a little reorganization, clearing other items from the bookshelf or moving them to a photo frame, mantlepiece or coffee table."
10. View your home as a visitor
"When you live in your home every day, you may not even realize when things look cluttered or out of place as you’re so used to it being that way. Enter your home from the eyes of a visitor and walk around each room. Make notes as you go of things that don’t look very tidy, organized, or clean and then make some changes accordingly," advises Ryan McDonough, interior design expert at Myjobquote.co.uk (opens in new tab).
If you're still struggling to really objectively assess your space, consider taking photographs. It might sound extreme, but your perspective will change.
“Photograph the rooms that you are planning to declutter - your perspective will change when looking at the room through a screen, this will also keep you accountable for the decluttering. In reality, the eye tends to overlook what we have become accustomed to; we skim past the pile of old magazines and the wilting house plant in the corner because we know they are on our to-do list," adds Elaine.
"Taking photographs before the declutter is a great morale boost when you finish a room. You can look back at what you have achieved already, which will help you conquer the next room."
11. Ask if items 'spark joy'
This mantra by Marie Kondo was popularised in 2019 following her Netflix show, and the advice still stands.
"Use this criterion to decide what to keep," says decluttering guru Marie Kondo, author of Spark Joy, An Illustrated Guide to the Japanese Art of Tidying.
"Hold the item firmly in both hands and pay attention to how your body responds. If it doesn’t bring you joy, you will notice that your body feels heavier. Remember that you are not choosing what to discard but rather what to keep."
12. Remove something old every time you buy something new
Removing something old for every new thing you bring into your home. For instance, if you’ve bought a new umbrella, then do you need your old one? If you've bought a sparkly new classic white t-shirt, it might be time to get rid of one of your old, greying ones. Throw, or donate duplicate items immediately, as they'll quickly accumulate otherwise.
"Once you've started decluttering, bring in the 'one in, one out' rule," advises Ryan. This means for every new thing you bring into your home; you must get rid of something that was already there. This will help prevent your home from becoming overcrowded."
13. Enlist the help of others
"Getting a second opinion can be very helpful when decluttering," poses Ryan. "Ask a family member or friend to pick out some things to donate or throw away. If you disagree, you must give your friend a reason for wanting to keep the item. If they don’t agree with your reasoning, it’s time to let it go."
For a less hands-on approach, you can also take photographs of items you are unsure about and enlist a close friend or family member for a second opinion.
14. Be more mindful as you declutter
"Before you spend a fortune on expensive storage solutions you think you need, declutter differently," advises Suzanne Roynon (opens in new tab), expert interiors therapist and Feng Shui consultant. Decluttering without being mindful about what really counts as clutter (this is unique to everyone) means the clutter quickly reappears and you’re back at square one."
"You might even be wondering if you need to move to a bigger house to deal with all your stuff. Using the principles of Interiors Therapy develops a completely new perspective on possessions and a lasting low tolerance for clutter so it doesn’t come back."
15. Make a motivational playlist
Stay focused and motivated to tackle the job at hand with a dedicated playlist that will spur you on, similar to how it's easier to exercise to music to focus your energy.
Line up a playlist of your favorite tracks to play while you declutter. It’s been scientifically proven that music triggers a release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical in your brain that boosts your mood and therefore is just the thing to make motivate you to tackle a task you might otherwise put off – such as cleaning or decluttering.
16. Return items that don't belong to you
Sometimes it takes a good clear out to unearth possessions at the back of the cupboard that don't actually belong to you, you may have borrowed them months before and entirely forgotten about hidden away out of sight.
Accessing your storage to see if there are items you can return to their rightful owners is a great way to cut down on clutter and less painful than having to ditch your own possessions to save space.
17. Make decluttering a daily habit
Start as you mean to go on. "Make decluttering a regular, daily activity," suggests Kate. "Spaces need to constantly change and adapt to our needs. So once you do a ‘main declutter’, plan to have regular ‘mini declutters’ every week or throughout the year."
"You can reassess whether your belongings still fit into the ‘beautiful or useful’ category or still add value to your life in some way," Kate adds. "If not, let them go and donate them to a charity shop, such as the British Heart Foundation."
18. Access your surroundings
Don't simply declutter without thoughtfulness of how the process could help to create a happier home environment and bring more positive energy to your home.
"Walk around your home and notice any areas where you’re obliged to divert around furniture or can’t open doors fully," says Suzanne. "This is impacting your energetic flow and managing it now will help future-proof your home."
"Deal with the piles of stuff you haven’t got around to yet; notice where clutter gravitates to and work out why; relocate awkward chairs and tables and take control of your living environment so it works for you.
19. Set clear goals
The key to organizing any space efficiently is in having clear goals of what you want to achieve. "You are more likely to stay motivated if you have defined your ‘decluttering goals’," agrees Kate.
"Ask yourself ‘what is my vision for my home?’ or ‘how would a clutter-free home make life easier?’," says The more specific the goals, the better so aim to come up with things like keeping the kitchen table clear, ensure I can see everything in a cupboard at a glance, be able to see and access everything in the loft."
20. Buy the right storage solutions
After you've finished decluttering, nifty storage items like drawer dividers can help you keep the place in order. But ensure you buy these after you declutter, advises Lisa, as you'll otherwise pack away old, superfluous items.
"You can use any old phone boxes, shoe boxes, or gift boxes as drawer dividers or cupboard organizers, and that will help keep your new categories in order. If you want to get fancy then there are lots of decorative boxes and baskets to suit all budgets," she says.
Kate also sings the praises of drawer dividers. "Utilize draw dividers or open containers. These can be used to separate items in any drawer, cupboard or shelf. You don’t need to spend a lot – open shoe boxes or Tupperware works well. Just don’t bother with a lid, as this adds work."
For storage suggestions, check out our dedicated guides on kitchen storage ideas, bathroom storage ideas, and the best shoe organizers.
Decluttering tips for the kitchen counter
- Gather the clutter and sort it into piles: action, file, and recycle/shred list
- Keep smaller items such as coupons, tickets and receipts in jam jars
- Re-pin your notice board, only keeping stuff that’s relevant to the current month - put future notices in a plastic wallet
- Keep a pretty mug for pens and scissors, but don’t let it get too full - think stylish and useful
Decluttering tips for the bathroom
- Give each family member a drawer, tub, or shelf in the cabinet and insist that anything not put back will be binned
- Plastic or perspex trays and small tubs that can sit inside drawers will keep smaller bits together
- Bin any bottles past their sell-by date, then pop any unopened ones in a box and store elsewhere (the garage or bottom of wardrobe), and only bring in once those half-started ones are empty
- Invest in storage solutions: here are our favorite bathroom storage ideas
Decluttering tips for the bedroom
- Make the most of the space underneath your bed with a smart design. Choose a divan base with pull-out drawers or a lift-up ottoman bed. These are gas-powered, making them easy to open
- Tidy your bedside table every morning after making the bed, taking glasses, finished books and so on away
- Limit tech and its associated cables. If you rely on your phone as an alarm clock, then take time to tidy the cable out of sight with a few cable ties.
Anna is an editor and journalist, specializing in SEO and digital content production. First carving her career in communications and advertising agencies in Berlin and Barcelona, Anna's former life saw her work for film studios and inside a fashion house, before she moved to Metro.co.uk (opens in new tab) where her career highlights include heading up the SEO desk during the Covid-19 pandemic. Anna's published work ranges from culture and films to human interest features and live news coverage.
In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, discovering the next big thing in music, traveling, online shopping, and poring over poetry and magazines. When she's not consuming those things, she's probably writing about them.
Originally from Glasgow, Anna has lived in Berlin, Barcelona, and London, not to mention stints in Guernsey and Athens. When she's not struggling to navigate a new language, she's always chasing the next hot trend and perfect black dress (you can never have too many).
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