If you’re reading this article, it’s likely because you suspect you have too much stuff in your house. The bad news? You’re probably on to something (albeit you’re not alone). The good news? Having clutter doesn’t mean your house is messy. In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.

You want a tidy home, right? So you put items in drawers, hang things in closets, and store stuff in cabinets. However, repeating this “tidying up” pattern for a number of years can create a significant amount of forgotten stuff that’s no longer wanted or needed (that is, out of sight and out of mind). 

It’s time to break the cycle. It’s time to declutter every room, cabinet, closet, and cubby.

Sure, we know this sounds like a big task — ok, it is a big task — but there’s even more good news to share. To make the process less intimidating and to allow things to run as smoothly as possible, we’ve created a “Decluttering Your Home Checklist” that will walk you through how to purge your house. Whether you’re prepping for a move or ready to make an organization transformation, the plan below will help you get the job done thoroughly and effectively.

But what does it mean to purge your house?

Before we begin, let’s address the terminology. When we talk about how to purge your house, we’re talking about decluttering — just on a bigger scale. How can I purge my house fast? You probably can’t. This isn’t that kind of process, so it’s important to set that expectation going in. You’ll be traveling from room to room, going through every item, choosing the things that no longer serve a purpose in your home, and getting rid of them in an eco-friendly way.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s start getting some real stuff out of the way.

A couch outside with a paper sign that says "FREE" on it

Step 1: Start with the quick wins

Decluttering can be tough work. If it was easy to get rid of things, the home organization industry wouldn’t rake in billions of dollars each year. That’s why we recommend starting your purging journey by first getting rid of larger, less-sentimental items. Think old furniture, outdated electronics and appliances, unused sporting equipment, and the like. After that, move to the rooms you use the least, like your basement, attic, and garage. When you see how much progress you can make in a short amount of time, you’ll be motivated to keep the momentum going. Added bonus? You’ll be more emotionally able to part with other possessions that have more sentimentality or value.

Q: How do I purge my house of clutter that’s accumulated (and taking up precious space) already?
A: So you’ve identified larger items that you no longer want — now what do you do with them? We’ve got more on donating, recycling, and selling in a minute. However, if you need a more temporary solution for holding stuff while you complete your purging, consider using a portable storage container. These can be placed conveniently in your driveway or kept in a secure storage center until you officially decide what stays and what goes. Also, if you feel that some pieces of furniture or other items would be more beneficial for a friend or family member, your container can be delivered straight from your home to theirs.

Step 2: Create categories

After your big wins, it’s time to move to other areas of your home. Go room by room, looking through every cabinet, pantry, closet, and drawer. Pull out things you no longer use, that are outdated, expired, etc. Now that you have everything out in the open, you’ll need to sort through it. To make this easier, group items into four categories or piles: donate, sell, recycle, and trash. You may even want to consider a fifth “maybe” category if you’re on the fence about any items.

If you’re having trouble deciding if something is worth keeping, ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • Do I love it?
  • When was the last time I used it?
  • Would I miss this item if it was gone?
  • Do I have something else that serves the same purpose as this item?

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about the value and necessity of your things. 

Feeling overwhelmed, want decluttering tips, or need an extra dose of inspiration? Check out some other topics on the PODS blog, for more tips and tricks. 
Someone going through clothes to donate them

Step 3: Discard with diligence

The reason we suggest putting things into four piles is because, too often, people put their unwanted items directly in the trash can. When you consider alternative ways to get rid of your unwanted possessions, you’re not only helping the environment, but you’re helping other people, as well. Here are some ideas for handling items in each category.

  • Donate: Just because you don’t use something anymore doesn’t mean it’s of no use to someone else. If you have old clothing, home goods, and household kitchen items in good condition, consider donating them to a local nonprofit organization. Some, like the Salvation Army, may even send a truck to your home to pick up your haul. And don’t forget — making a donation is a tax deduction, too.
  • Sell: If you have things of value that are in high demand, consider selling them on an online marketplace like eBay or Facebook Marketplace. This works well if you’re looking to sell only a handful of items. For a larger load, consider hosting a garage sale. This is a great way to get rid of a lot of stuff quickly and make some extra spending money while you’re at it! At the end of your garage sale, ask a donation truck to pick up all the items that didn’t sell. And remember, once it’s out of your house, it doesn’t need to come back in.
  • Recycle: You’d be surprised at how many things can be recycled or repurposed. From stacks of newspapers and magazines to electronics and technology, all it takes is a little research to see what resources your city or town offers for recycling.

As great as it is to give old stuff new life, there are some things that can’t be given away, sold, or recycled. Here are some examples of items that need to go straight in the trash:

  • Expired food and medicine
  • Pans with scratched Teflon
  • Old toiletries and makeup
Q: What do I do with broken furniture and appliances?
A: If you want to get rid of large items that are not in good condition, you have a few options, depending on the extent of the damage. If repairs can be made, either sell the pieces with that disclaimer and price accordingly or consider giving the items away for free. If you want to make a donation, ask the nonprofit organization if the repairs are something they’d be willing and able to handle. For furniture and appliances that have considerable or irreparable damage, call your area’s bulk waste collection program and ask for curbside pickup.
Bathroom drawers organized neatly

Step 4: Start organizing

Now that you’ve decluttered every area of your home, it’s time to organize what remains. You may be tempted to run to the nearest store and load up on fun containers, carts, and products, but don’t go crazy. Unless you have an intricate hobby that necessitates lots of parts — like scrapbooking or quilting — you don’t need elaborate home organizing equipment. For instance:

  • Photo and art boxes work well for keeping important mementos stored in a neat and stylish way.
  • For more sensitive documents, use file drawers or digitize the paperwork.
  • For everyday items, figure out how to make the most of your drawers, closets, shelves, and other household storage spaces. Use separators, baskets, and bins to turn an open space into an organized one.
  • Outdoor equipment, like camping gear, or other things that aren’t used often but need to be protected from the elements, should be kept in large, clear storage bins with weatherproof locks or seals.

Step 5: Keep it going

You’ve decluttered, you’ve organized, and now you’re done! Well, not so fast. You’ve made a tremendous amount of progress (seriously, give yourself major kudos!), but the main point of decluttering and home organizing is to set yourself up for success moving forward. You wouldn’t want to go through all of this just to find yourself in the same position a year from now, right? Here are some decluttering tips for keeping your home extra tidy for the long haul:

  • If you bring stuff into your home (and we’re not talking about groceries or other necessities), use the “one in, one out” rule.
  • When the seasons change, go through your wardrobe and get rid of clothing you no longer wear. If you haven’t put it on in the past year, you’re probably not going to wear it in the next year either.
  • Set a decluttering schedule. Select a day or weekend every quarter (or when you feel it’s necessary) to go through areas of your home. For example, clean out bedroom closets in the spring, your garage in the fall, the kitchen in the winter, etc.

Once you’ve cleared the clutter out of your home and organized the space, you’ll feel how nice it is to not be tied down by extra possessions. And that sense of pride and accomplishment that comes with it? You certainly earned it!


LB Gabriel is a freelance writer who lives with her husband, daughter, and Golden Retriever in Memphis, TN. A frequent PODS blog contributor, she’s a sucker for any tip she can find on downsizing, cutting clutter, or minimalist living. When she’s not on a deadline, you can find her on a tennis court or golf course.