How to Start Decluttering in 6 Easy Steps

Roz Andrews
Jun 13, 2019 · 6 min read

“The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.” Joshua Becker, founder and editor of Becoming Minimalist

Display the things you love on your shelves. Photo by Pexels from

There are many benefits of having a clutter-free, well-organized home with a place for everything you need and love.

You can find things quickly. You can tidy up quickly. You can clean without moving lots of items out of the way.

However, many of us don’t have a home like this. There are piles of unfinished tasks, loose papers, things that need to be repaired, and things we’ve simply outgrown.

Looking at all these things can sap your energy, distract you from doing the things you want to do, and prevent you from creating the life you want to lead.

But decluttering can be a daunting task. Where do you start? Here are 6 small steps you can take to begin the decluttering process.

1. Pick up one thing and let it go

Kick start the decluttering process by looking around you and picking up just one thing that needs to go. Look at it and let it go, whether you put it in the trash or recycling, or in a bag or box for donation to charity. Do that right now without thinking about it too much.

I’ve just done it too. I picked up a leaflet with a money-off voucher that I’d left on the table, thinking that I might use the voucher. I’ve just looked at it and discovered the voucher has expired, so I’ve put it in the recycling bin.

2. Choose a small area you’re not emotionally attached to

Next, choose a small area of your home to declutter. It could be a shelf, a drawer, or a pile of things you’ve been meaning to sort through. Choose an area that doesn’t contain sentimental items or things that you’re emotionally attached to.

When I started decluttering my home, I started with the cupboard in the laundry room. I knew it was full of random things, such as half-used pots of paint, small gardening tools, and craft supplies my children had become bored with.

I knew this cupboard didn’t contain anything I was attached to. So, clearing it out, getting rid of everything that needed to thrown away, cleaning the cupboard, and arranging the remaining contents neatly was a quick and easy job.

Give yourself a quick win that’ll encourage you to declutter other areas of your home.

3. Decide how you’ll declutter

Will you declutter one room first? Or, will you start with a certain type of item, such as books or clothes? Or, are there a few different areas of different rooms that you’d like to declutter first?

Some people advise decluttering certain categories of possessions in a particular order. Marie Kondo, for example, advocates starting with your clothes and then moving onto your books, followed by your paperwork. Then, going through your miscellaneous items followed by your sentimental things.¹

I’m kind of following this system — to a point. I decluttered my clothes last year but will have another look through them this year. I’m in the middle of going through all our books (we have a lot!). I’ve also sorted through one concertina file of old paperwork and I’m about half way through the second. I’ve decluttered some random, miscellaneous items from various places in our home, including the kitchen, laundry room and bedrooms.

The point is to decide what works best for you. Systems are helpful but they might not be the best solution for you. Or you might decide to combine two or more different systems. It depends partly on the type and amount of clutter you have and which areas of your home are a priority for decluttering.

So, if you have a spare bedroom overflowing with clutter and have guests arriving in two weeks’ time, your priority will of course be to declutter that room, even if it contains several different categories of items.

4. Set Yourself some Decluttering Goals

I’ve found it helpful to set myself both small and large decluttering goals. My largest goal, which I set at the beginning of 2019, was to declutter the whole house by the end of the year. I thought that was a realistic goal based on the time I have available.

I’ve also set other relatively large goals of decluttering our upstairs storage area, sorting through large cupboards (one by one), and going through removal boxes that we haven’t unpacked in five years!

If you have some relatively valuable items that you no longer need, you could begin by setting yourself a goal of selling or donating them. At the beginning of the decluttering process, I sold a few items to Cash Converters, including a pink TV that my daughter no longer wanted. I received more money for these items than I thought I would.

If you have unwanted furniture, it’s a good idea to get rid of this first, to create more space for things you want to keep. Many charities will come and collect large pieces of furniture or you could sell them online.

The quick wins you gain from doing this will motivate you to continue clearing out your stuff.

Small decluttering goals include:

· Going through paperwork gradually — I tend to sort just a few sections from one of my files at a time

· Decluttering one shelf of books at a time

· Sorting through one small drawer at a time.

Set yourself several small decluttering goals each week.

5. Declutter at Least Once a Week

To keep the momentum up, it’s a good idea to do some decluttering once a day, if you can. You don’t need very much time — 5 minutes is enough.

For daily decluttering, I tend to go through a pile of paperwork, a small drawer or a few books, rather than embarking on a larger area such as a cupboard.

It’s good to keep to a regular time, as well. I’ve been spending 10 minutes or more going through old paperwork after dinner on about three evenings each week.

If you’re very busy during the week, it would be better to set aside a longer period of time for decluttering at the weekend. You could decide to tackle a particular room or large cupboard during this time.

When setting goals for each decluttering task, try to give yourself a time limit. This helps you make decisions quickly. It also means that decluttering doesn’t take up more of your time than is necessary.

6. Leave the Sentimental Things to Last

The most difficult things to declutter are the things that mean the most to us. They may be old photos, items we’ve inherited, or clothes and toys our children have grown out.

Don’t sort through these items at the beginning of your decluttering process. Leave them to the end. By then, you’ll be much better at deciding what to keep and what to let go.

Make Decluttering Fun and Focus on the Benefits

Make decluttering your home fun rather than a chore. Think of how spacious your rooms will look once all the clutter is removed. Think of how well-organized your cupboards will be.

Think of how free you’ll feel once you’ve let go of all those objects from the past that are stopping you from focusing on the things you want to do right now, so that you can create the future you’ve always dreamed of.


¹ Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

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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