How to declutter your home: 10 top tips to get you started

Stressing over how to declutter your home? This is what the pros recommend to purge items successfully – without getting overwhelmed

open shelving in the kitchen with jars and trays and a table
(Image credit: String)

If your house lacks order you might be wondering how to declutter your home. Getting rid of unwanted items and organizing once and for all is a daunting task – but it’s always well worth the effort when your home and storage solutions function like a well-oiled machine. Not only does it help your day-to-day flow but it also helps to improve your overall mindset and wellbeing.

It can be very overwhelming when you start out, especially if you haven't done any household purging in a while or are preparing to sell your home. Take the pressure off for the best results, just go one step at a time. Don’t go after the whole house in the afternoon because trust us, it will be too much. Do it by room or by area just so you don’t end up with a full house of decluttering mess.

Antsy to start decluttering your own space? We spoke to a handful of decluttering and organizing experts to get their best insights on exactly how to declutter your home as efficiently as possible so that you can implement the most efficient organization ideas around, for zen-like surroundings.

Equipment list

1. A timer: get a stopwatch (opens in new tab) or use your phone's application
2. Baskets: lots of choices on Amazon (opens in new tab)
3. Acrylic storage:
see your stuff with these bins (opens in new tab)
4. A label-making machine:
Cricut Joy (opens in new tab) is our fave
5. A small printer: digitize your paper docs
6. Recycling bags:
for paper, plastic, and reusable materials (opens in new tab)
7. Trash bags
8. Your
best trash can/kitchen bin

1. Start with your hallway

wooden sideboard in hallway with assortment of houseplants and tiled floor decor

(Image credit: Ercol)

Your hallway is the entrance to your home, and one of the first rooms your guests will see as they walk into your space. Yes, it receives a lot of traffic, but having a messy entryway is no excuse when there are a plethora of hallway storage ideas at your disposal.

The last thing you want is for family and friends to come in and see shoes scattered on the floor, coats draped over the stairs and yesterday's post still littered on your mat. So that's where shoe organizers, console tables, and coat rails all come in handy.

Not all furniture needs to be so 'in your face'. So if you want a subtle way to scoot away your stuff, look to under the stair ideas. Unless your visitors are very close relatives they shouldn't be wandering into this space...

2. Set a proper time duration for the activity

'Decluttering takes time because it involves decision-making every step of the way,' explains Anton Giuroiu architect and founder, Homesthetics.net (opens in new tab). 'You need to decide on a per-item basis if you’re going to keep something or not and that will definitely not always be a fast decision to make.'

That being said, Giuroiu suggests you make sure to allocate a proper time window for decluttering. Organizing a bathroom might take as little as half a day if you're not a product junkie and know how to keep your bathroom cabinets tidy.

A whole weekend, on the other hand, might not be enough for larger places like a home office or when organizing a closet. Set your expectations early and make sure that you do not do things in a hurry because you might not be able to declutter properly if you are pressed for time. You could also try the 15-minute declutter method, which will allow you to do a little bit each day.

3. Gather and sort like items

If you are clearing out your closet, put together pants, shirts, handbags, etc. If you are organizing a garage, put all gardening supplies together or sports equipment, or car maintenance tools (We've got some great garage storage ideas FYI).

'Break things down into little categories based on how much time you can spare,' says Katherine Lawrence, founder of Space Matters (opens in new tab) and support organizer for Hoarders on A&E. 'If you want to organize your kitchen in 30 minutes a day, then one day pull out all the mugs, the next day sort through glasses, and so on.'

4. Decide from that category what you love, what is useful, and what is practical

It's true what they say: one man's junk is another man's treasure. So if you're feeling altruistic, giving away your secondhand wares to charity is one way to simplify your space.

'I recommend donating or throwing away anything you haven't worn in six months or used in six months,' says Cornell.

'Don't keep things that have a negative emotion attached to them. For example, if you see an item of clothing that you no longer wear and think ‘wish I fit into that’ or ‘wish it looked good on me,’ you do not need to carry those feelings around with you. Out it goes!'

If you have a lot of a certain item, it might take a little more decision-making to cut down your collection… Let’s say you have twenty-five wine glasses and you and your spouse have a daily glass of wine. Pick two of the best wine glasses to keep. Sometimes you have dinner parties with six guests, add another four to your keep pile. You love glasses that you picked up while traveling to your favorite vineyard. Add those four to the keep pile and adjust your kitchen storage accordingly.

'Ten glasses fit nicely on one shelf in your cabinet,' points out Lawrence. 'Keeping ten glasses checks the requirements of what you love, what you use, and what is practical. Good job!'

5. Place items in a permanent home that makes sense

A set of labeled black baskets with labels containing glass bottles

(Image credit: The Container Store)
(opens in new tab)

Most of us get the idea of a permanent home with socks (dresser drawer), forks (kitchen drawer), coats (closet), etc. So let’s apply this logic to everything else and create a “home” for all the things you own.

'Use labels in drawers and bins as reminders for other family members,' suggests Lawrence. 'Challenge yourself to keep minimizing until everything fits without stacking, shoving, and stuffing.'

Labels don't have to be boring white stickers. You can get super creative with adhesive vinyl labeling made using a Cricut machine (opens in new tab) to add a more personalized touch to your organization.

And since children like mimicking behavior, why not create some cute ideas for your kids' bedroom? Decals make toy storage designs and organizing playthings that little more fun. Not to mention that you'll reduce your chances of stepping on a lego brick.

6. Make digital copies of your documents

'Papers and other documents account for most of the clutter in anybody’s house,' says Giuroiu.

As a result, it is vital to keep a digital duplicate of your papers so that you may search for them digitally when you need them right away, but the physical versions can be kept out of sight and in a secure area.

'Simply ensure that your digital copies are secured from hackers and that your physical copies are stored safely away from floods, fires, and other natural disasters,' he adds.

Even the best small printers these days have copier and scan functions so you can create electronic files from the comfort of your own home office, rather than lugging your confidential info down to the local library or internet cafe.

For the items that you do need to have a paper copy of (i.e. birth or marriage certificates for example), there are some cool home office organization ideas that'll stop your docs from getting dog-eared or accidentally marked with ring-marks from your coffee. A good desk organizer can keep these essential records separate from your casual notebook or pad so you won't hurriedly jot down a phone number or address on your legal forms and files.

7. Channel a minimalist mindset

'If you are struggling with any of these steps I give you permission to just chuck stuff,' says Lawrence. 'The fewer things you have the less you have to organize!'

It is very difficult to “organize” things that you don’t really like, never use, and do not fit into your living space. So keep donate, recycle, and trash bags handy and fill them up with enthusiasm. Congratulations, you just eliminated one more thing you will never have to organize!

On the contrary, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a boss babe and fancy a little side hustle, channel that entrepreneurial side and list things on online marketplaces like eBay (opens in new tab) or even social markets dedicated to homewares (like Narchie (opens in new tab)). A few dollars earned here and there can really add up... just don't be tempted to buy more stuff from the income you've made – otherwise it defeats the object.

Technological advances aside, you could just do a good old-fashioned yard sale if you enjoy the face-to-face barter. This way there are no postage costs involved and you won't need to package it up and find a bit of spare time to head down to the post office. Oh, and you get a chance to socialize with your neighbors too.

But, if you do struggle to get rid of stuff on the day, or if you don't think your items are sellable, why not give them away for free. You could just leave your wares in your front yard with a little note. Just be aware that super courteous passers-by may ring your doorbell to be sure they're not stealing.

7. Utilizing vertical space is key

An Ikea Billy bookcase in living room with upholstered grey chair decor

(Image credit: @designsixtynine)
(opens in new tab)

Create a cleaner aesthetic in both big and small living rooms by taking your furniture off the floor, and considering alternative ideas for living room storage that draw the eye up. These have the secondary advantage of making a compact living room look bigger, plus you can keep small hands (and big paws) away from prized possessions.

'Instead of a bulky bookcase use thin book ledges hung on the wall, instead of a table lamp use wall sconces, and rather than a cold bare floor, lay down a patterned area rug to create more depth,' suggests Karin Sun, founder of Crane & Canopy (opens in new tab)

'Filling up your vertical space truly makes a difference when it comes to organizing all of your daily essentials around the house.'

It's also worth noting that decluttering and displaying items up high are fundamental decorating rules in Feng Shui (the Chinese discipline that boasts benefits to wellbeing). So something as simple as swapping out chunky furniture for some sleek shelving ideas can do wonders for creating a happy home.

8. Opt for a neutral (non-busy) background

A white kitchen by Farrow & Ball with shiplap on walls and ceiling

(Image credit: Farrow and Ball)
(opens in new tab)

With multiple personalities in a single space, things can get busy quickly. 'If you have neutral walls and bedding, add character to the space by decorating the space with colorful wall art, shower curtains, throw pillows and throw blankets,' says Sun.

White, grey, and beige tend to be the good paint colors for the living room if you're putting your property on the market or decorating on a budget. But don't underestimate the power of decluttering to sell your home. By removing your interior identity, prospective buyers might be able to see the potential each room has, which may include a change in the living room layout.

9. Go double duty

A contemporary living room with wooden lift top coffee table and modern geometric area rug

(Image credit: Walmart)

'Buy furniture pieces that can serve multiple functions,' suggests Sun.

'I love using sideboards in dining rooms that actually have filing cabinet drawers in them. This way, I have a place for all the important documents, and let's face it so many times people end up using their best dining table as a desk so it's nice to have everything in the same space.'

Alternatively, some of the best coffee tables can hide away a whole heap of items. If you're a remote worker, a lift-top coffee table should be on your shopping list, as packing away your WFH gear will help you to switch off at the end of the day.

How to declutter your house quickly

Nickerson's best tip is: 'Don't overthink it. It's pretty easy to justify holding on to something because "it was a gift" or "I paid a lot of money for that". If you aren't using it or wearing it then it's taking up valuable space in your home. Let it go. It's okay! 

You'll feel so much better once things are simplified. I like to list bigger items on Facebook Marketplace (opens in new tab). Price them right to get them out quickly.' 

The biggest decluttering mistake people make Nickerson thinks is down to simply not starting. 'Lists like mine can be overwhelming but they don’t have to be! So what if it takes you way longer to accomplish? Get it done on your timeline but get it done. 

Every year, after I go through the clean-out, I get better and better about being intentional in deciding what things I bring into our home (my kids are a different story). It's a process and unless you’re innately a minimalist, it takes time and consideration to change habits and live differently. Just start.'

Where do I start decluttering my house?

When it comes to shortlisting your favorite garms, not having a system in place is one of the biggest clothing storage mistakes you could make. By chopping up this chore into smaller chunks, you're much more likely to sort out the job more swiftly.

'Pick one space that you feel needs to function better for you. Don't pick one thing, like "all of my clothes"...It's too broad and can be overwhelming,' says DIY influencer Jessica Nickerson of @househomemade (opens in new tab)

If you do choose your closet, start with one part of it, like getting the t-shirts in order. Then move on to pants. When you break it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces, it can be less stressful. In an effort to keep things easy, I'd also advise to not pull everything out all at once. What if something pulls you away from the task at hand? Then you have an unfinished project AND a huge mess.'

Does clutter make you tired?

In short, yes. Having lots of visual stimuli in the house can cause mental fatigue. The old saying 'tidy space, tidy mind' does therefore have some truth in it.

'Clearing the clutter from your house actually helps you clear emotional clutter in your mind too,' says Victoria Cornell, founder and decluttering expert at Motherhood Life Balance (opens in new tab). 'Clearing out the clutter also lets you make room for new and positive things.'

Christina joined the Real Homes team as a digital writer in June 2021. Prior to this, she worked for Good Homes magazine and home interest events including the Ideal Home Show and Grand Designs Live. She lives close to Epping Forest and is spoiled for choice with lush green spaces, but loves her own English garden that adjoins her ground-floor maisonette, complete with a floral melange of roses, lavender, jasmine, and an apple tree.


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