Decluttering can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make and many of theme are extremely difficult. We all know we should start, and that we need to start somewhere, but how? Where should we start? My answer: wherever seems easiest. This post holds some tips to make your decluttering easier.
Decluttering isn’t a complicated, step by step system that needs to be done just so. It just needs to be done. Period. And the great thing about decluttering is that it’s addicting. Once you get started, it’s easy to keep going. Starting with an easy to declutter area where you can get a big win for little time and effort is key.
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What makes decluttering hard?
Decluttering is hard work for many reasons. It can be physically taxing – lots of time on your feet, moving boxes and other large items, bending, and reaching to get into corners. It’s even more mentally and emotionally taxing. Decision fatigue, the exhaustion you feel after making lots of decisions, can happen quickly during a decluttering session because of all the decisions you have to make. Items that you’ve spent money on likely have some kind of an emotional attachment once you bring them home.
And items that you didn’t spend money on, things that were gifts or were inherited, often have an even stronger emotional attachment. Even if you have no intention of ever using an item, it is difficult to get rid of something that your spouse gave you as a gift or your grandma left specifically for you.
How can we make decluttering easy (or at least easier)?
Not all parts of decluttering are difficult. If you use the onion decluttering method that I recommended in my post about family minimalism, you’ll find that the first layer of clutter that you get rid of has fewer difficult decisions to make. You’ll start by getting rid of the stuff that’s easy and obvious. As you go, you’ll strengthen your “decluttering muscles” so that you’re ready to start making slightly more difficult decisions on the next layer. Starting with the onion method is one of the best decluttering tips around.
But even with the onion method, decluttering can be incredibly overwhelming. There are so many areas to declutter, so many decisions to make before you even start.
Decluttering tips for 5 areas of your home
So my advice is to start with whatever sounds the easiest to you. This will likely look different for everyone, but here are some areas and easy decluttering tips that I think will help most people:
You’ll rarely find sentimental items among your cleaning supplies. Plus there’s little financial risk in getting rid of them because they’re fairly inexpensive to replace if you decide you need something you’ve discarded. You should also check expiration dates, as this can be an easy way to eliminate products. Take a special look at the specialty cleaners you have (I’m looking at you, shower cleaner) and ask yourself two questions: 1) When did I use this last? If you can’t remember, chuck it. 2) Could I use a multipurpose cleaner instead? If yes (and the answer is likely yes) chuck it.
If you don’t have a good non-toxic all-purpose spray yet, it’s time to get one! Three Main offers non-toxic cleaning products at a reasonable price. They’re committed to your family’s health and the health of the environment. Definitely a company worth checking out! Use this link for 50% off a starter kit.
Again, you’re probably not going to find many sentimental items in your bathroom. And if you do, maybe it’s time to consider storing them somewhere other than your bathroom? Bathrooms are small areas that you use often, and so you’ll get a lot of bang for your buck here. You can use the expiration date trick again. And the “When did I use this last?” question applies perfectly well here too. Look for duplicates of items that you don’t need that many of. Towels and washcloths are a good example. Keep one towel per person in the bathroom for use, and one extra clean towel per person if you desire. It may be appropriate to store the extra towels somewhere else.
You’ve probably collected a lot of cups. Most of us do. You get some free from restaurants or events, and why throw out a perfectly good cup? But do you really need 10 cups per member of your family? Probably not. I would bet that 3-5 cups per family member will do the trick. If you have a matching set, keep those. (We love these plastic cups.) Otherwise, just keep your favorites. A great way to tell which ones are your favorites is to look in the dishwasher after you’ve run it. You likely use the cups you like the best. You can confidently discard the ones that are left on the shelf.
Here you can almost let your food storage containers decide for themselves. Match lids to containers. Remove anything that doesn’t have a match. Done. Easy enough, right? If you’re stuck on the idea that you might find the match to one of the mismatched lids or containers and wish you hadn’t discarded it, put them all in a box and put the date on it. If you haven’t found them in 3 months, you probably won’t.
You probably already know what’s coming… Check your expiration dates! If it’s expired, throw it out. If you have anything that you bought to try and ended up not liking, give it away or throw it out. That open bag of chips that’s now super stale needs to go too. The pantry is easy because there are things that obviously need to go.
This area may sound more complicated than the others, but I promise it can be really easy. The key to making toy decluttering easy? Categories. You can read in more detail about this in my post about toy minimalism, but the basic idea is that you pick categories for your toys, and everything that doesn’t fit into one of the categories goes. It makes decisions more obvious and less emotional. If you’re worried about your kids missing certain toys, put them in a box (preferably somewhere your kids won’t find them) and put the date on it. If they ask for a specific toy and you’re willing to bring it back in, pull it out. Otherwise, you can safely donate everything in the box in a month or two.
The bottom line
So the bottom line is, start where it sounds easiest to start. Maybe that’s one drawer in your kitchen or one section of one drawer. Use some of the tips you’ve learned from decluttering these areas of your home. Do a little and see if it doesn’t improve your life. See if you don’t get hooked.
If you want even more direction, sign up below to receive my 30 day declutter challenge. The beauty of this challenge is that you can do it in just 5 minutes a day. Just go to each area and find one thing to get rid of. Just one. (Unless you want to keep going – I always do!) Put it in a bag, stack, or box to donate at the end of the month. That’s it! You’re done! By the end of the month, you’ll be at least 30 things lighter and well on your way to a more minimal lifestyle.