Whether you telecommute or go to an office, your home should feel like a breath of fresh air, a peaceful haven where you can relax and unwind at the end of the day. But instead, there’s clutter everywhere, clogging the shelves, the cupboards, your closets and every surface where you look. Ugh. Not relaxing at all.
If you feel stressed out by all your stuff, you’re not imagining things. According to Psychology Today, that stressed-out, anxious feeling you get when you’re confronted with crowded, disorganized spaces is real. Clutter overwhelms our senses, distracts us, and creates guilty feelings. So it’s no wonder why you’re finding it hard to relax.
Luckily, decluttering your home doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment going through stuff. It’s okay to start small and tackle one dresser or one room, at a time. If even that feels like too much, set a timer for 5-10 minutes and go through your medicine cabinet as a simple way to start out. Once you get in the groove of decluttering your home, you’ll develop that muscle memory and might never want to stop.
Before we get into teaching you how to declutter, here are reasons why you should organize your home right now.
5 reasons why you should declutter your home
1. It frees you up to focus on more important and fulfilling parts of life.
Looking at clutter all the time makes your brain think its work is never done. You may be distracted by your clutter, which makes it hard to be creative or allow yourself to have a lazy afternoon reading on the couch. According to WebMD, clutter overwhelms some people so much they become unproductive and even nonfunctional.
2. You'll create a healthier environment.
Clutter is the perfect home for nasty things like dust mites, mold, and animal dander. Imagine all that circulating in the indoor air you breathe. Once you get rid of stuff, you can tackle a good old deep spring cleaning to restore order in your home.
3. Decluttering reduces anxiety.
Back in the caveman days, order and symmetry gave us an evolutionary advantage. Fast-forward to today, and clutter gives us anxiety. Just taking a few minutes or hours to declutter a room will make you feel calmer and more at peace.
4. You'll be way more organized
Piles of clutter are really good at hiding things you need. Like when you’re in a rush to get out the door and can’t find your keys anywhere. Getting rid of stuff you don’t use or need makes way for you to be more organized. With less stuff, each item has a proper home.
5. You'll save money
Once you get rid of stuff, you’ll be less inclined to buy even more stuff. You’ll want to keep that nice, Zen minimalist environment as much as possible. Not only will you save money, you’ll achieve a sense of inner peace when you’re not trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Declutter your home with this room-by-room decluttering guide
Remember to start small when it comes to organizing your home. Make a list of all the rooms in your house you want to declutter, and don’t forget your closets, cabinets, attic, garage, and basement. Think about a plan and create a decluttering schedule for your home. Bit by bit, you’ll get there.
Banish Bathroom Clutter
Bathrooms can become major havens for mess. Products, makeup, beauty supplies, and tissues gang up to create total chaos. Then when you’re looking for something important -- like a thermometer -- you can find everything else but that. Decluttering your bathroom doesn’t have to be hard. Here are the top things to focus on when organizing your bathroom:
- Empty all drawers and cabinets and toss items that are expired or mostly empty.
- Combine items if you have more than one of the same thing.
- If you haven’t used a product in months, toss it!
- Make sure items like medications and sunscreens are up-to-date.
- Keep items you use on a daily basis in your bathroom.
- Store the rest in a stackable bin you can put in your linen closet.
Create a Zen-like Bedroom
The bedroom should be relaxing and free from clutter to promote a night of deep, rejuvenating sleep. Try these tips to organize your bedroom in a jiffy:
- Take everything out of your nightstand and sort it into boxes labeled “keep,” “discard,” and “catch-all”. The catch-all bin is for things that don’t belong in or on your nightstand.
- Choose one book to keep on top of your nightstand, or better yet, tuck it away in the drawer.
- Decide where to put the catch-all items.
- Clean and disinfect the surface of your nightstand.
- Pick up all dirty and clean clothes and put them in their proper places. Get in the habit of putting clothes away immediately after wearing or laundering them.
- Pick a beautiful bowl to put on your vanity for spare items like jewelry, your watch, and your keys so they don’t clutter up the surface.
And finally -- the simple act of making your bed every morning makes the entire room look neat and organized for when you return for a good night’s sleep.
Say Goodbye to Old Clothes and Shoes when Organizing Closets
Oh, the dreaded closets. You may want to reserve extra time for decluttering your closet, especially if it’s been a few years. Unused clothes and shoes take up tons of extra space and make it hard for you to choose an outfit every day. Plus, let’s not forget about the emotional baggage tied with too much clutter.
Here’s how to easily declutter your closets:
- Start by trying on clothes to determine what fits. Have a pile to donate and a pile for what fits. After you’ve determined what fits, decide what you actually like, and what mixes and matches well with your other clothes.
- Just can’t decide what to keep? Try wearing those clothes for a few weeks to see if you love them, or hate them. Remember, it’s not necessarily a good idea to keep too-small clothes around just in case they fit….one day.
- When you’re done decluttering your closet, dust the shelves, wipe them down, and clean the floor.
Purge Kitchen Drawers and Cupboards
Do you have a hard time shutting your kitchen cupboards and drawers because you have too much stuff? It’s not uncommon to have several sets of measuring cups, or five corkscrews.
But you don’t need all that stuff in your kitchen! Especially items taking up precious counter and storage space.
Here’s how to declutter your kitchen:
- Empty one cupboard and drawer at a time, making sure to get rid of duplicates and keeping only what you use and need.
- Most families have way too many plates, bowls, and mugs. Unless you have dinner parties for 15 every Saturday night, donate the items you don’t use on a regular basis.
- Analyze your appliances carefully. Do you actually use that fancy mixer? What about the rice cooker? Decide which appliances you can donate.
- Store any appliances you’re keeping in cupboards to keep your counters nice and bare.
- Do the same thing with your pots and pans, keeping only what you use and love.
- Now you can clean and disinfect your bare kitchen countertops with ease!
Sift Through Stuff in Your Garage
Are you one of those people who stores everything in your garage? Boxes of unused clothes, outdoor gear, barbecue grills of all kinds? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, one in four Americans can’t even fit one car in their garage! The garage can be an especially difficult area to declutter, so start small and make weekly goals. Don’t try to declutter your entire garage in one sitting or you’ll never get around to tackling such a huge task.
Here are our best tips for decluttering and organizing your garage:
- Start by sorting through the boxes taking up room on your garage floor. Decide which items you want to keep, which to donate, and which to throw away. If you think you’re going to use an item “someday,” get rid of it.
- Create a pile of items you use frequently, like tools, gardening supplies, or your dog’s leash. Install hooks on the walls to hang items, or put in a shelving unit to store neatly marked bins.
- Put rarely used items, like Christmas ornaments and other seasonal decorations, on the highest shelves.
- Install hooks to hang bicycles on the walls of your garage.
- Go through all your tools and find duplicates to donate, and decide which tools you actually use, love, and need.
- Pare down your boxes of childhood mementos on an annual basis and decide which truly have emotional meaning.
- If you end up with tons of stuff to donate, have a garage sale!
Remember, decluttering your home doesn’t have to be painful
Many people put off decluttering for years because they think it will be too hard or take up too much time. But once you organize decluttering into bite-size chunks, it's easier to handle. You’ll see those items flying off shelves, creating a Zen, minimalist environment you can’t wait to come home to every evening.
If you’ve got a major downsizing and decluttering project on your hands, you may find that an on-site storage container gives you just the right amount of extra space and motivation you need to get it done.
For example, PODS will deliver a portable container to your driveway so you can store stuff out of the way as you go. Since the container is rented by the month, you’ve got a built-in 30-day deadline if you want to minimize costs. You can also keep the container longer by continuing to rent on a month-to-month basis. And if you need longer term storage, you can have your container taken to a secure PODS Storage Center, where you can access it easily.
Whatever degree of decluttering you decide to take on, consider these words from the 19th-century author, William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” Yes, they actually had clutter in the 1800s, and they didn’t have the luxury of curbside garbage pickup. But even in the 21st century, this is an inspirational – if unattainable – goal for most of us humans.
Kristin Hanes is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in SF Gate, Marie Claire and Realtor.com, among other publications.