how to declutter your home

Out of sight, out of mind, or so the old adage goes.

But you can go on dumping the excess of daily life into drawers, piling it in the basement, or tossing it in a box for only so long.

Sooner or later, the drawers will get stuck, the basement walkway will disappear, the box will overflow.

And the already space-crunched surfaces in your home will be teeming with stuff. What's the solution?

Begin by clearing out what you can, finding a place for what's left, and creating a system for organizing the new things that come through your doors. It's the key to a clutter-free home.

Here's the step-by-step routine to declutter your home.

Decide What to Keep and What to Discard

To decide what to keep and what to discard when decluttering your home, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have I used or enjoyed this item recently?
  • Does someone in the family attach personal value to it?
  • Would I save it if my house were burning down?
  • Will I need it in the future?

If you've answered "no" to all of these questions, congratulate yourself. You've identified something you can eliminate in order to declutter your home.

Where to Start to Declutter Your Home

Where should you begin your home decluttering? Wherever the results will have the most visible impact.

If you normally enter your home through the living room, tackle that room first. If you come in through the garage, kitchen, or dining room, begin your job there.

Start by bringing in five boxes or plastic lawn-and-leaf bags into the first room or entrance area.

  • Fill one container with items that belong in other rooms, 
  • a second with items you can give away, 
  • a third with items to be stored, 
  • the fourth with the items you plan to toss out or recycle, 
  • and the fifth with all those things you want to include in your next garage sale.

Don't Plan to Make Your First Decluttering Session a Marathon

Don't plan to make your first clutter-busting session a marathon. Instead, break down the job into small, manageable tasks. You're more likely to tackle a smaller job than you are to allot an entire Saturday to home decluttering. 

Go around the room or target area, starting from the highest point and working your way to the floor.

Give each item you encounter - furniture, pictures on the wall, and items tucked in cabinets and drawers - careful consideration as to its usefulness or sentimental value to you and your family.

If you can bear to live without the item, put it in the proper box or bag. Make a list of any large furnishings to be removed or relocated.

When your boxes or bags are brimming or you've given the area a thorough once-over, return displaced items to their proper rooms. 

Make an appointment with your favorite charity to cart off the giveaways, or take the initiative and haul them away yourself. (Be sure to get a receipt for tax purposes.)

Recycle or toss broken or unusable items. If you're going the garage-sale route, check your calendar for a good Saturday or Sunday in the weeks ahead and pencil in a specific date. 

Place Items Going Into Storage in Sturdy Boxes or Cardboard Cartons

Transfer the items you'll be storing into sturdy filing boxes or thick cardboard cartons from a moving company. Or, take advantage of trunks or large suitcases that are sitting empty in your garage or attic.

Make sure each container closes tightly to keep out dust, insects, and moisture, and label the containers so you won't have to open them later to know what's inside and keep a computer record of what you've stored where.

For easier stacking, consider boxes of a similar size. Put boxes containing items you probably won't need this year or next in the least accessible spots.

Stash boxes containing items you may need in the months ahead in the most reachable places. Keep a record of what is going where in your storage area, so that you're able to get to items when you need them.

Finding New Places for the Keepers

As your walls and floors begin to reappear, take a good look around the room and consider how to organize the keepers. Items should take up residence where they are most convenient for you instead of where they are traditionally kept.

  • Store batteries in the family room or the bedrooms where the kids toys are, instead of in a kitchen drawer.
  • Stash items that are normally used together - such as holiday decorations - in the same place rather than scattered in closets throughout your home.
  • And why keep summer shorts and winter skiwear in the same box? You'll probably never use both at the same time.
  • Place things you use often in the most convenient spot. Put your frequently used pots and saucepans in the front of the kitchen cupboard so you don't have to rifle through the pie plates or sauce pans to get to them.
  • Store gaming DVDs together on a waist-high living room shelf where they're easy to reach, instead of in an overhead cabinet or under the TV.

Obvious, yes, but as you discover more logical ways to declutter your home, you may realize that you've been doing things the hard way until now. 

How to Control Future Clutter

Make these strategies a part of your life to control clutter in the future:

  • Place a catchall basket in your home's busiest rooms to hold keys, receipts, mail, and other items until you can find the time to organize them. 
  • Place baskets at the bottom and top of the stairs to hold things that belong on another floor; take one or more items with you when going up or down.
  • When you bring home a new shirt, a kitchen knickknack, or a toy for the kids, resolve to store, recycle, give away, or toss another item that's past its prime.
  • Make putting away playthings a part of your child's nightly bedtime ritual.
  • Set aside 15 minutes each day to return mislaid books, magazines, cups, and so forth to their rightful homes.

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