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How to Successfully Declutter Our Homes

Updated on February 26, 2013

Emerging from the Clutter: A How To

There comes a point in life when we take a long hard look at the place in which we have chosen to live, and come to the realization that we are on the brink of being considered a hoarder. This realization is what has created spring cleaning, ultimately making us re-organize, and declutter our homes forcing us to rid our lives and emerge from our junk. We must toss away our past, move away from our crap and clutter, and begin to move ahead into our future.

We all have items in our homes that we no longer have a serious attachment to and that we no longer need because we have just simply grown out of them. If we can move past these things, throw them away, and move on, we are better able to make room in our home for different, more age appropriate items in our households that we are able to use for a longer period of time, making it less necessary to have to declutter in the future.

A home should reflect the people we are and wish to become; our homes should reflect pieces of our past, but grounding us in the present, and reflecting our futures. A home should be a clear reflection of the souls who reside in it.

Our homes should invite people in, making it feel safe and comfortable as well as make a statement as who we are as individuals. Our homes should be our sanctuaries.

Unused items, taking up space in our small home.
Unused items, taking up space in our small home. | Source
Trip and fall hazards.
Trip and fall hazards. | Source

Identifying the Clutter

Our clutter is not always obvious to us because we can attach ourselves to it. As people we are nostalgic, and our things evokes an emotion and brings out a certain memory, which is why we hold on to them so tightly for so long (even if there are unnecessary things we hide in the back of our closets).

Here are some obvious and clear cut ways we can identify the clutter in our homes:

When we open our closets, they overflow, our belongings tumble down, creating a tidal wave of junk, falling on top of us, breaking, shattering and crashing.

Toys and other belongings crawl out of their designated areas in the house, forcing us to trip, stumble, and stub our toes.

Stacks of magazines, books, and DVD's are piled all the way up to our ceilings and we hold our breath as we walk by them fearful they may tumble on top of us, crushing us, killing us in our own homes.

Clothing, purses, and shoes are shoved, stuffed into corners, crevices, and other places in which they do not belong because we do not have room in our dressers and/or closets.

Dishes flood out of the cupboards taking up space on our counters and drawers. We leave dirty dishes on the side of the sink, hoping someone else will wash them.

We are beginning to develop anxiety, claustrophobia, depression, and fear due to our clutter in our homes.

Preparing Ourselves for the Decluttering Project

Before we can begin this project, we must first take a deep breath, gather our thoughts, and first dip our does, and jump in after we test the waters. We must not be afraid to part with things we have been holding onto for years (for unknown and/or insignificant reasons).

When beginning such a daunting project, we must take our time and be sure not to rush. We must begin with one room or one space and finish it before moving on to the next. We must sort through our personal belongings and choose which are more important to us in the lives we are living today.

This project will be difficult, it will take time, it will take patience, but once we complete this project our home will once again be comfortable.

Our "junk drawers". These get cleaned out and reorganized every year, but they always seem to fill up again. These are meant to be storage drawers, not "junk drawers".
Our "junk drawers". These get cleaned out and reorganized every year, but they always seem to fill up again. These are meant to be storage drawers, not "junk drawers". | Source

Start Small; Say Goodbye to the Junk Drawer

We must first dip our toes in the decluttering waters by beginning small, by first clearing out our junk drawers. We all have that “junk drawer” or designated area in our homes, where we stuff batteries, that may or may not be dead, a deck of cards that we might play one day, piles of mail (both opened and unopened) and maybe a key or two that we have forgotten what they open. We throw a random assortment of things in this designated area in our homes, promising ourselves, we will either find a purpose for them or throw eventually throw them away, two things that never happen, but we do allow it to sit there, for months or even years. The only time we ever grab the little knob and tug it open, is when we have more junk to shove inside of it, hiding it, tucking it away where no guest will ever venture to find it.

Our junk drawers is the ideal area in our home to begin our decluttering project because we could most likely toss everything inside of the drawer, dust our hands off and quickly move on to the next room or area in the house. For some saying goodbye to the “junk drawer” is easier said than done, and for some reason we become particularly attached to this area of our homes; it's a mix and match, a jumbled piece of our lives.

When rummaging through the junk drawer I keep in our home, I didn't actually throw much away (besides some garbage, a few receipts, and a few bottle caps), but I felt very attached to most items, such as, the hospital shirt our daughter wore when she was born, a few knickknacks I have received from very close and dear friends, the card game Skipbo, along with a few other items. How was I ever to throw these things away? I didn't, but I didn't want to keep a “junk drawer” any more either. I decided that I was no longer going to hide these items in my life that hold so much emotional and personal meaning and nostalgia. I was determined to find creative and special ways of displaying these items throughout my home.

I may have kept some things others would call “junk”, but I waved bye-bye to that damned drawer.

Start and Finish One Room at a Time

The real work for all of us begins when we have to start sifting through individual rooms of our houses.

I am somewhat of a pack rat. I hold onto and keep things that I might need one day or things that I believe hold some sort of value. So when I began to sort through things, I quickly became very overwhelmed. I felt myself rummaging through everything at once, trying desperately hard to make this a quick excursion. Needless to say, my first attempt was not as successful as I wished or hoped it would be. When I became serious about my re-organizing project, I felt a sense of anxiety. Our small one bedroom apartment in little Vermont, seemed like a giant mansion crammed, packed, and wedged full of stuff, crap, garbage, clothes, toys, and extra furniture that we no longer had any use for, but for some reason we were hanging on to these things like our lives depended on them; as if, if we threw them away, a major disaster would occur, and the apocalypse would begin.

Several days later, I gained the courage and motivation, to try again, this time, I began going through the house one room at a time, starting at one end and finishing at the other. I paced myself, and alloted a certain amount of hours dedicated to each room in the house; starting with one room, and not leaving that room until I finished what I had set out to do, which was to declutter and reorganize.

It is important for us to remember that before going crazy and pulling items out, spreading them throughout the house and trying to tackle the entire house as a whole, we will most likely end in discouragement and anxiety about what we had just begun. So, we must first create a schedule for our project (unless it may become on ongoing project with no clear deadline, and that is unacceptable). We must set goals for what we wish to accomplish from decluttering and reorganizing, so that we are better able to stick to it, and complete it.

Child's room before decluttering.
Child's room before decluttering. | Source
Child's room after decluttering.
Child's room after decluttering. | Source
After
After | Source
After
After | Source

Decluttering the Children's Rooms

The trick is, when cleaning out a young child's room, to make it a game (the let's see how much space we can create game). Make cleaning out, donating and/or selling toys and clothes that they no longer use fun for them, so they are more likely to give up those items and disconnect from them. Get the children involved and ask them to help. Alone, you may not realize a certain attachment to that teddy bear hidden in the bottom of the toy box, or the toy you think is cool, might be their least favorite, and they may throw some toys in the rid pile that you never knew existed.

My 18 month-old daughter was interested in my need to pile many of our belongings into one room of the house. She squealed in excitement, trotting along side me, carrying bundles of stuff in her arms, throwing her own loads into the large pile. “Ahhh! Momma! Haha.” she would screech and run, as her head seem to bobble along faster than her feet, back into her room collecting toys and garbage, and tossing more onto the pile we were to get rid of. “Good job baby, thank you, you have so much stuff we can sell” I would say to her as she smiled back at me, so proud of herself that she helped her momma.

I DO NOT suggest rummaging through a teenagers room. Leave that up to the teen themselves. Make the teenager choose the day and time they want to sort through and re-organize their own room, but make them responsible to stick to that designated time. If the teenager does not make the time to clean their room (and if it goes weeks without being cleaned) then, I suggest a certain consequence should be determined (a good consequence would be taking control and cleaning the room for them, and taking a certain item away, such as a cell phone or a computer).

Decluttering the Bathroom(s)

As I walk into my bathroom, the stench of urine and old crusted poop wafts up, directly into my nostrils. Body hair lines the sink, tub and floor, claiming corners and clogging drains. Old makeup lines the counter top, and bottles of it are overflowing from the drawers and cabinets, and scattered on the floor and counters. Towels and linens hang from their designated shelf and hooks. Laundry crawls out of the hampers and becomes tangled around my feet, trying to drag me into the depths of bathroom hell. This is no place for the living; only a place where mothers go to cry, maybe curl up and wish to die. The entire room could use a good clean, so maybe, then, it won't look so mean.

There are so many things we hold on to and store in the bathroom that we could potentially rid our lives from. We can rid our lives from the old items and belongings and replace them with new belongings that will make our lives much more comfortable. Some of these things include (but are not limited to):

  • All expired make-up, medication, and old brushes can be tossed and replaced.

  • Old perfume or cologne can be tossed and replaced.

  • Linens and towels need to be limited and replaced.

  • Clothes need to be washed, then tossed, donated and/or sold.

After the room has been sorted through, cleaned out, decluttered, and reorganized, we can scrub and clean the entire bathroom, and possibly spritz a little fabreeze in the air. Our bathroom(s) can easily become neglected in our busy, crazy lifestyles. The bathroom is also the one area where we tend to feel the most rushed (when we are getting ready to go to work or out for the night). We tend to allow our bathrooms to become cluttered and embarrassingly disgusting, therefore the bathroom(s) should be one of the first rooms that we clean out.

Living room before.
Living room before. | Source
Living room after
Living room after | Source
After
After | Source

Decluttering the Living Room

In our living rooms the junk seems to take a life of its own, piling itself up to our ceilings and climbing toward the sky. In this particular room, it seems to never end and to our belongings we do truly bend. Our furnitures rules us, our televisions control us. We have stacks of books we have never read. We have movies we have never watched, and quite possibly a few extra clocks. We can rid ourselves from it all, and if a day comes when we find a need for these things, we can always make a trip to the mall.

We do the most living, in our living rooms. This is the room in our house where we come to relax after a long, taxing day on our body and minds. This is the room we gather in to converse with family and friends. We curl up on the couch with a full glass of wine and maybe even sit at the coffee table to dine. We flick on the television and turn off our thoughts. In this room we wish to live and forget, but when our junk takes over and our crap is piled high, it makes it more difficult to relax and possibly take a nap.

It is important to make our living room livable. We tend to spend most of our time at home in the living room, so it is important to keep this area clean, organized, and comfortable, so that we are better able to relax and enjoy time with our family and friends. We must go into this room with an understanding of what we use and what we may want or need to use in the future. We must have an understanding of what we could replace for nicer items to ensure comfort. We must also have an understanding of what we could sell and/or donate to those in need of the things we no longer do.

The living room can be one of the most time consuming areas of our household, because it tends to be a collection of every persons belongings and this makes it more difficult to get this room done in one day. It is important to schedule a living room clean sweep on a weekend, when every person who resides in the household is home, so that everyone can be involved in the decluttering project. If everyone puts in their input on which items to save and which to get rid of, it will make the project easier and less time consuming, also making everyone happy with the outcome.

Decluttering The Kitchen

The kitchen is the place to get dirty when it comes to reorganizing your home and life. This is the place where most things are stored, and someday you might actually use them and/or need them. This is the place where appliances go to hide, until you need to prepare that special dinner for Thanksgiving or Christmas. This is the room where pots and pans accumulate for no particular reason, just because they are different shapes and sizes. This is the room where multiple wine glasses, plates, bowls, and cups just hang out since you and your family are their biggest fans. This is a difficult room to sift through, and a difficult room to reason with, that's why, in this room, you can't be nice about decluttering anymore.

This is the time to sever ties with multiple unnecessary dishes and appliances, and send them on their way, to find a new home. If you can not cut the ties you have with your appliances, find some cabinet space or space in the garage to easily store them (and a place where they are easily accessible for that one time per year you use them, preferably with your Christmas ordainments and fake tree). Only keep one dish (of each kind) for each person that lives in your house (and maybe two extra of each kind, for guests) all extras should be either sold, donated, or stored elsewhere.

In this room we can toss dishes and items that are cracked, chipped, or just old. We can sell or donate glasses and other dishes that are still in their boxes (that we may have had received as gifts) and that we may never or will never use. We can sell and/or donate old appliances and replace them with newer and nicer models. We can rid our lives from items that take space in our kitchens that we will never use. We must ask ourselves at some point in our lives, how many vases do we need? Why did I buy china, when I always eat at the coffee table? Will a special occasion ever present itself?

Decluttering the Bedroom

Our personal room of the house should be the last one on our agenda to go through during the process of organizing and donating and/or selling our belongings. This is the room where the most sentimental value lies, those family heirlooms that are tucked away in our closets, because emotionally, we can not bear to throw them away. Before going through old pictures, heirlooms, or any other item that may hold sentimental value, we must first rummage through our materialistic belongings.

  • Clothes: we can rid ourselves of anything that doesn't fit, we have forgotten about, clothing that is out of style and/or season, or we have not worn in over a year should be donated or sold. These clothes are unnecessary to hold on to, give them to someone who will need and appreciate them more than your closet does.

  • Shoes: the same rules we applied to rid ourselves from our clothing applies to our shoes.

  • Bags: we should only be keeping the bags we use and/or like the most. Any bags, or purses that are out of style, season, or we have forgotten about should be donated or sold. Any bag that is dirty, torn, or fixed personally many times over should be thrown away.

  • Furniture: when thinking of furniture we must rid from our bedrooms, we must ask ourselves several questions. Do we ever sit in that chair shoved in the corner where our purses and clothes go to rest? Do we ever watch that TV that sits and waits patiently atop of our dressers? Do we ever sit in front of that vanity and become vain as we stare at ourselves as we apply makeup to our faces? If the answer is no, it is time to move on, sell or donate these items.

The bedroom does contain more items than just the materialistic. The bedroom contains photos, heirlooms, that sentimental jewelery box and/or box of old coins our dead grandmother left us. These are the items that we may want to hang on to, forever, or maybe upon 400th look, we may decide they are not as important to us as we once thought. We can find creative and efficient ways to store and display these items in our rooms. We must stop letting our sentimental items collect dust and take up our much needed closet space.

Decluttering Garage and Storage Spaces

The space is so packed full of tents, fishing poles, basketballs, bikes, scooters, lawn mowers, and other miscellaneous items, that we can barely squeeze through the inch wide designated path to our car to be able to get to work in the morning. We trip over roller blades and tricycles, stumbling, catching ourselves and then stubbing our toes on our husbands lawn mower. We mumble, swear, piss, and groan, thinking out loud to ourselves, “one day I'm going to clean this messy, shitty garage”, but we never get to it, complaining every time we open the door.

Donate or sell all items in these places that we no longer have use or purpose in keeping. Tricycles, bikes, scooters, basketballs, and other items like these that you “may use someday” or that you and/or your family has outgrown, are no longer worth keeping to take up space in these areas. We can begin to replace old items with newer ones. We shouldn't keep holding onto deflated basketballs and popped beach balls. We should reorganize these spaces so that our gardening and lawn care tools are stored together. We should reorganize these spaces so that items are stored out of sight but very easily attainable when we do need to use them.

A Decluttering Conclusion

Cleaning, decluttering, and reorganizing our homes and ultimately our lives should be an annual project. In the winter we tend to keep, collect, build and hoard our belongings, dragging in more stuff into our homes, making excuses to as why we are keeping all these items in our lives. It is important for us to set a particular time aside during the year to make our lives easier and more efficient, to rid ourselves from our clutter. It is possible for all of us to emerge from our clutter and begin to live a new, well organized, and more efficient lifestyle.

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    • LagunaAlkaline profile image

      Amanda 4 years ago from Camas, WA

      Great hub. I am definitely saving this. I need this for my room! Thumbs up and useful! Thank you for saving me! Haha.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Wow what a great hub and I know the very person I could hand this one over to, but she may be a little offended!!Ha ha! However thank you for sharing this gem which I know will benefit many.

      Have a great day.

      Eddy.

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