How I Organized and Decluttered My Home

I’ve been living in a one-bedroom apartment for the last 15 years. It has mostly suited my needs — I don’t have any hobbies which require lots of “stuff”, and having a smaller apartment means that I can live closer to the city which makes for a shorter commute. In short: my apartment is a good fit for me.

However, there was one thing that got steadily worse over the years: clutter. While I cleaned regularly and could make my way around the apartment just fine, it was the little things that got me: the overflowing bookshelf, the ironing board with clean clothes sitting on it (because I had no room in my dresser), etc.

This was less a closet, and more a disaster area.

Things reached a breaking point a few months ago, when I realized that I needed to do some serious decluttering of my apartment. With the help of my Amazon Prime subscription, I started to order organizing products by the boxful and was able to make my apartment much more inhabitable then before.

That’s not to say I didn’t throw things out — I threw out a bunch of things, donated other things, and put a few more things into my storage unit. If you are trying to declutter your home, you are very likely going to have to throw something out. Be prepared for that. If you must, take pictures of the things you’re throwing out, but understand that the key to decluttering is throwing out the things you no longer need.

I’m going to go through the various things I used for organizing. I’ll start with plastic Rubbermaid/Tupperware containers, then move on to trash bags and shelving. Finally, I’ll wrap up with some additional organizing tips.

Rubbermaid Containers

Let’s start with what I use to store things. Here’s what I use for storage:

  • 50 Quart Rubbermaid Containers — These are great for large items such as coats, pillows, and bedding. If you have small boxes, such as electronic items (cellphones, small hardware, etc.), these are also great to store in 50 Qt containers.
  • 15 Quart Containers — These mid-sized containers are great for things like linens, magazines, paperback books, and other similarly sized items. One of these can hold 2–3 large towels wrapped in a trashbag (more on trashbags below)
A 15 quart container in action.
  • 7 Quart Latch Boxes — These are the smallest of the bunch, and quite sturdy! They are excellent for storing toiletries and other small items. One box will hold a dozen bars of soap and a half dozen sticks of deodorant with space to spare.
  • Clear Shoe Box — This item is possibly optional, depending on how many shoes you have and your needs. I personally found it helpful to be able to stack a few pairs of shoes in the closet in a manner that I could easily get to them.

One thing to note about each of these containers is that they are all clear. This is important, because it helps you get an idea of the contents of each container, without having to open and close a dozen containers.

If you are decluttering for the first time, no matter how many containers you think you’ll need, it never hurts to order more. If you need them, they’ll be on hand. If you don’t, you can stack them inside each other and keep them on a spare shelf.

That leads us to…

Trash bags and Shelving

What good are Rubbermaid containers if the contents in them can’t be sealed or there is no place to store them?

First, I recommend starting with this utility shelf. It is made from plastic so it is lightweight and easily assembled and moved, and it has 5 shelves for storage. The afore-mentioned 50 quart containers? 2 of them can fit on each shelf.

Next, get yourself some trash bags. There are 3 main types:

  • 55 Gallon trash bags — They’re huge, and have little use in home organizing. I personally do not bother with them.
  • 33 Gallon trash bags — They are medium-sized, and I’ve found they are useful for a medium-sized load of laundry and just generally hauling things around.
Guess what? Rubbermaid containers can be used for storing trash bags!
  • 10 Gallon trash bags — These are the smallest and weakest of the bunch. They are great for one specific thing: storage. Anything being packed up that is organic and sensitive to damage, such as clothes, books, and magazines, should all be placed into trash bags first. It is not necessary to tie the trash bag shut — twisting it shut and placing that under the weight of the trash bag should be sufficient (and it allows accessing the contents if you need them). A bonus with packing clothes in this manner: you can squeeze out extra air and fit the same volume of clothing into a smaller space.

Additional Organizing Tips

Do you have a desk drawer full of junk? Get one of these organizers. They work great.

My battery collection is amazing.

Do you have lots of cables in storage? These microfiber cable straps are great for keeping stored cables organized nicely.

Remember that closet? Here it is again, after decluttering and being reorganized.

Do you have lots of cables in usage? You may want to try these silicone cable clip grips. They are fantastic for keeping cables off of the desk and the floor.

It may look a little silly, but it does help with cable management.

Doing all of this from start to finish took me about 2 months of several hours of effort per week. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. If you find that you have more stuff than storage, things are regularly piling up in your home, or similar, I would recommend checking out some of the products I have linked to above.

How did these products work out for you? Do you have any decluttering stories to share? Let me know in the comments!

— Doug