Keeping Up Appearances: Four Steps to Decluttering Your Space

Between lingering New Year’s resolutions and upcoming spring cleaning thoughts of decluttering may be on your mind. We find ourselves surrounded by so much stuff, figuring out what to do with it all can become overwhelming. It’s no surprise that a lot of people have started turning towards a minimalist lifestyle. But even if minimalism isn’t your thing, clearing your space of clutter can not only give you a more organized home, but a more organized mind. Here’s how to start your quest for less.

The first step in the decluttering process is to visualize the space you plan to work on organizing. Visualizing the space is really the first step to any home improvement venture, but it may be a step you overlook when decluttering if you’re not making major decor changes. Before you get started, take a few minutes to look at the room as it is, and then think about how you want it to look. Make note of the most essential pieces of furniture. Keep track of what’s in the room but doesn’t belong there and what may have accumulated on the floor and other flat surfaces. After you’ve figured out what needs to stay in the space and what’s nonessential, it’s easier to get rid of the unnecessary items.

The key to getting your space clutter-free is purge. Keep around only what is necessary and rid yourself of what is not. Anything that’s no longer used should be gotten rid of — either donated, recycled, or if unsalvageable, thrown out. The biggest purge will occur at the start of your decluttering project, but really purging is an on-going process to ensure the clutter doesn’t return. A good rule of thumb for keeping your space free of clutter is “one in, one out.” If you buy something new, get rid of an older version of it. If it’s something you don’t have an older version of, get rid of something that’s unrelated but still no longer of use. The “one in, one out” rule is especially helpful for keeping electronics clutter under control. It’s important to go through this step of paring down before you start purchasing organizational tools. You won’t know how much space you’ll need for storage until you know how much stuff you have to store. If you’re having trouble staying motivated about getting rid of your belongings, or start feeling weighed down by decluttering, there are ways to make the process more manageable. One way is the “12–12–12 Challenge.” For this challenge all you need to do is select 12 items to donate, 12 items to throw away/recycle and 12 items to keep and put back in their proper place. A more intense challenge is the Minimalism Game. The challenge starts easily — get rid of one item on the first, two on the second, and so on. But by the second week things get more difficult as you have to keep getting rid of more and more things. You can make it a real game by challenging a friend and seeing who can make it the longest, or just have it as a personal challenge. Don’t feel defeated if you can’t make it the full month though.

Once you’ve gotten rid of what you don’t need anymore, you can get to work organizing what made the cut. Baskets and boxes are an invaluable resource when getting organized. You can easily label them, and the uniformity will help keep your space looking clean and crisp. Pieces of furniture with hidden storage are also a great way to maintain an orderly look. Storage benches can add valuable space to entryways, reading nooks, and bedrooms while storage ottomans are ideal for the living room.

Any style of home decor will look better once the clutter has been cleared away. Once you’re no longer surrounded by unnecessary items your home can become a relaxing sanctuary where you feel like you have space to breathe. When you see it every day, the clutter often starts to blend into the background and we don’t notice it anymore. If you start going too long without even the smallest purge, consider taking a picture of your room and you may be surprised that what faded away in the three-dimensional real world is popping out at you when you really stop to look.