Decluttering Success — Make Progress in 5 Easy Steps

Roz Andrews
Aug 8, 2019 · 6 min read

“The best way to find out what we really need is to get rid of what we don’t.” Marie Kondo, organizing consultant and author.

Declutter your dining room so you can connect with your family over dinner. Photo by Skeeze from Pixabay

Did you start decluttering with great enthusiasm, donating piles of clothes to charity, recycling stacks of magazines, and giving away DVDs you know you’ll never watch again?

At some point, did your enthusiasm for decluttering decline? Perhaps you got to a point where you found it hard to make decisions. Or perhaps it was difficult to find the time to declutter.

It can sometimes be hard to move forward with decluttering. If your decluttering process has stalled, here are five small steps you can take to get moving again.

1. Ditch the Undecided Box

I used to put quite a lot of items into an undecided box. Having an undecided box slowed down my decision-making process because I had three choices (keep, discard or undecided) rather than two.

I found that my undecided box was just causing me to delay decluttering decisions that I needed to make immediately.

Now that I’ve ditched my undecided box, I follow Marie Kondo’s advice and just keep anything I’m uncertain about.¹ On a few occasions, I’ve gone back and got rid of things I originally decided to keep.

Sometimes it just helps to take a bit of time to think about whether you really want to keep something. Time gives you a bit more perspective.

When decluttering, it’s fine to err on the side of caution and keep things you’re not sure about. You can always change that decision later.

2. Set Yourself a Time Limit

If you don’t have much time for decluttering, set yourself a time limit of five or ten minutes a day. Decide which shelf, drawer or cupboard you’ll focus on and start the timer.

Then, declutter as quickly as possible, putting each thing into these piles or boxes:

  • Keep in the same place
  • Relocate to another room
  • Give to charity
  • Recycle
  • Throw away.

Once your timer has finished, quickly tidy away as many things as possible. Take anything that needs to be relocated to the correct room. Store your “give to charity” box or bag in a dedicated cupboard.

Put things that need to be thrown away straight into a garbage bag while you’re decluttering.

If you can, arrange the items you’re keeping in the cupboard or drawer, but, if you haven’t finished decluttering it, just leave them in a box so you can start where you left off tomorrow.

I like this method as it forces you to make quick decisions. You’ll be surprised how much decluttering you can do in just five or ten minutes!

You’ll also feel like you’re making progress every day without decluttering taking up a lot of your time.

3. Set Yourself a Challenge and Deadline

What cupboard, shelf or drawer would you like to declutter next? Write it down.

Then, set yourself a deadline, such as: “I’ll declutter the top cupboard on the right-hand side of the stove by August 15th.”

Next, write down a few small steps you could take towards decluttering this cupboard. Break the task down into small chunks. Think of times when you’ll be free to do each of these “chunks”. Make a plan and stick to it.

So, your plan might look like this:

1. I’ll empty the bottom shelf of the cupboard, clean it and get rid of anything I don’t need on Saturday morning at 11am.

2. I’ll do the same with the middle shelf on Sunday afternoon at 3pm.

3. I’ll declutter the top shelf on Wednesday evening at 8pm.

I find that this method works much better than thinking, “I must declutter that cupboard sometime soon.” If I just think that, I never seem to get around to it.

On the other hand, if I write down small, specific steps and set a deadline for each, it focuses my mind and convinces me that it’ll be easy to do each small task. Crossing each task off the list also gives me a little sense of achievement!

4. Work on One Category at a Time

Marie Kondo advocates working through your home several times, decluttering one category of possessions at a time.

She advises sorting through the following categories in the following order:

  • Clothes
  • Books
  • Paperwork
  • Miscellaneous (i.e. anything that doesn’t fall into one of the other categories)
  • Sentimental items.

If you follow this system, you’re just focusing on just one type of item at a time, wherever it’s stored in your home. Once you’ve decluttered a certain number of items in one category, it’s easier to make decisions and you sort through the rest of the things in this category faster.

I’m currently about half-way through decluttering all the books in our home. Now that I’ve been through a lot of books, I’m finding it much easier to let go of books.

At first, I was hesitating and keeping books I wasn’t sure about. Now I’m more decisive about getting rid of books we’ll never read again, are out of date, or are of no interest or use to us anymore.

I’ve even gone back and let go of a few books that I had decided to keep originally, realizing that I don’t really need or want them and hanging onto them for sentimental reasons is pointless.

Working on one category at a time can help you focus your attention and your energy. It also gives you a clearer idea of just how many things you have in each category. This may surprise you and encourage you to discard more items.

It’s still a good idea to set goals and deadlines, so that you finish one category in good time and start on the next.

5. Set Intentions for Each Room

In Breathing Room — Open Your Heart by Decluttering Your Home², Lauren Rosenfeld and Dr. Melva Green advise you to set intentions for each room before you begin decluttering that room.

For example, you may want your dining room to be a room for:

  • nourishing your body and soul
  • nurturing relationships and friendships
  • conversation and laughter
  • welcoming guests with kindness.

Before decluttering a room, write down your intentions for that room. Then, remove anything that doesn’t fit in with those intentions, whether you move it to another room or get rid of it altogether.

So, if your dining table is covered with paperwork, craft materials, toys and anything else that doesn’t fit in with your intention of creating a room where people can enjoy spending time together while savoring a healthy meal, your decluttering goal is to remove all the things that stop this from happening.

This is a good method of moving forward if you’re decluttering your home room by room. Before you begin decluttering each room, sit down and think of what kind of atmosphere you’d like to create.

You may decide to move the furniture so that conversation is easier, for example, or remove some furniture so that you have more space for the main purpose of the room.

Start Decluttering Again with These Small Steps

If your decluttering process has stalled, it’s easy to re-start it by following one or more of these small steps.

Remember to reward yourself for the progress you’ve made. Decluttering your home is a big job that can take you a long time.

Focus on how good you’ll feel once you’ve created space in your home for the activities that are truly important to you, whether that is cooking nutritious meals, spending quality time with your family and friends, being creative, or simply having the space to sit down comfortably and lose yourself in a good book.




Small Steps

Move forward in life by taking one small step at a time.

Roz Andrews

Written by

Writer, editor, proofreader & founder of and, moving forward in life, one small step at a time.

Small Steps

Move forward in life by taking one small step at a time.

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