Decluttering and organizing your space can either be a wonderfully liberating experience or a stressful emotional journey—but there are certain steps you can take to get the process rolling and see instant results without the time commitment or stress of accidentally throwing out a sentimental item.
Hoping to finally clear out that problem storage room or attempting to downsize into a smaller space? Below, we spoke to a handful of decluttering professionals to get their insights on exactly what they recommend their clients get rid of and how to make the process that much easier.
From unnecessary mail and paperwork to expired pantry items, these are some of the easiest—and most impactful—items to throw out and finally start that decluttering journey. Get ready to channel your inner Marie Kondo!
- You might need our home office storage ideas to help with this.
Catch-all paper storage.
“If we are going to purge some items that no one needs include the Accordian file. The all time worst office supply in the world—it’s fixed and non-flexible,” explains Soreff. The paper should tell us where it should live based on quantity and how often we need to access it.”
According to Soreff, the accordion file and similar catch-all paper storage is limiting and forces you to work with it instead of it working for you. “We also want items to go in easy but also come out easy and anything that goes into an accordion file isn't' coming back out.”
Inexpensive repair items.
Soreff also urges his clients to discard all those inexpensive repair items—like a broken coffee pot. These are the types of things that we say we are going to fix but never do. “We don't want to live in the future or say the word ‘could’ when it comes to organizing,” he shares.
“The first item I recommend my clients get rid of is mail,” says Lisa Dooley, Organizing Coach at Your Organized Life. “It tends to pile up and cover all available surfaces. Recycle the junk mail. Gather and put aside what needs to be shredded and create a pile for filing what needs to be filed/acted upon.”
However, if you’re in the midst of a quick declutter for home staging or preparing for guests, Dooley suggests putting all your unnecessary mail in one spot and making a mental note to sort through everything at a later date.
It should come as a no brainer but when sorting through and purging a cabinet or pantry of food, it’s important to immediately throw away cans/boxes/packages of food that have expired—you’d be surprised by how many of us have expired food floating around in our pantry or in the back of the fridge!
“No one wants to start making dinner and find out halfway through cooking that an ingredient has gone bad!,” shares Stacy Agin Murray, Professional Organizer at Organized Artistry, LLC. “Before heading to the supermarket, it’s a good idea to check the refrigerator and pantry shelves for expired food. Expired items can be thrown away and then added to the shopping list.”
- And this is how to clean the refrigerator out when you're done.
Clothes left behind from an ex.
“It’s challenging for a client to start a new relationship if remnants of an old one are still hanging in their closet,” says Murray. “After talking with the client and assessing their comfort level, I often recommend donating the clothing to a thrift shop or charity especially if the relationship did not end well.”
While there’s nothing wrong with holding on to a piece of clothing for sentimental reasons, more than that can get in the way of a client being able to move forward and meet someone new.
- See all our bedroom storage ideas for extra help.
Packaging and boxes.
Sure, those neat little iPhone boxes or expensive cosmetics packaging might seem too pretty to throw out… but what are you really going to do with a closet full of empty packaging?
“The number one thing I tell my clients is to get rid of packaging that items come in, where it’s protein bars, bandaids, or cereal boxes, they take up way too much space,” says Marie Jackson, Founder of Organized Marie. “Plus multiple mismatched boxes isn’t appealing to the eye, our brains love symmetry and that’s what it looks and feels better when items are out of the packaging.”
Take a look at all those toiletries you get in the popular subscription beauty boxes that you’ll never use yourself or the miniature hotel toiletries that you pick up every trip but never then pack for other trips. “They might be small but miniature toiletries take up a whole lot of unnecessary space,” says Katherine Blackler, Founder of SortMySpace Ltd and the UK’s first CPO® Certified Professional Organizer. “Donate these to local refuge and homeless shelters for pampering.”
- Bathroom storage ideas: helping you clear the clutter.
Blackler also suggests getting rid of all those belongings that you’re saving for “someday.” “Someday is not one of the 7 days of the week, so if you can’t give a confident example of when or where you’d use it, consider letting it go, especially if you could re-acquire it easily/affordably enough if a particular scenario ever actually presented itself.”