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How To Clear Clutter

Small spaces can often feel cluttered, but they don't have to feel that way! Learn how to clear your clutter to truly maximize and enjoy your space.

January 1, 2018

Clutter can add stress and negativity to your life. However, keeping your home clutter-free is easier said than done — especially when you’re dealing with a small space without a lot of storage.

While you may not be able to clear all your clutter in a single day, it is possible to restore a sense of balance and harmony in your home with patience.

Start Small and Easy

Looking at all your clutter can be extremely overwhelming and make you feel like this mess is impossible to tackle. For this reason, it’s important just to start small and start easy. Start with one room or, if that’s too much — one corner of one room!

You can also start by getting rid of easy items that hold no sentimental value. A popular method of decluttering is from Marie Kondo. She recommends that people only hang on to items that people have a positive association with. Keep items that serve a purpose and remove the items that are just clutter.

Set Realistic Goals for De-Cluttering

Again, looking at all your clutter and thinking that you have to tackle it all at once is totally unrealistic. Instead, it often helps to set realistic goals for your decluttering mission. Maybe you want to take care of one room per week.

If that routine is too ambitious for your schedule or your amount of clutter, feel free to take longer. At the end of the day, these goals should work for you and no one else.

Set a Timer

Trying to declutter your home on your busy schedule can seem impossible. The odds are that you constantly have a list of things to do that don’t relate to cleaning and organizing. The good news is that decluttering doesn’t have to take up your entire day or even an entire hour!

Instead, you can try setting a timer for a short and realistic period. Experts usually recommend 20 or 30-minute spurts. For those that get bored or overwhelmed quickly, this is the perfect approach. You can even try to race the clock to get as much done as possible during that time.

Take Everything Out

While this approach may seem counterproductive since you’re essentially creating more clutter, it’s all part of the process. Sometimes it really helps to take everything out and take a good look at what you have. Seeing all of your stuff may make you realize that you really don’t need it all.

This is an excellent approach if you really struggle with organization. There’s nothing worse than going through what you think is all your towels only to find even more elsewhere. Then you’d likely have to go back and reconsider what you’re keeping and possibly reorganize areas that you’ve already tackled.

Create Categories

If the thought of taking all of your stuff out is completely overwhelming, you may also want to consider the “pile” approach. When going through your stuff, you can place items in different piles based on what you want to do with each item. For instance, you can have a “keep” pile with all the similar items you want to keep.

You can also have a “trash” pile for items beyond repair or otherwise useless. Toss these items in some garbage bags and send them on their way.

Finally, you can have a “donate” pile for items that are in good shape but you no longer personally need. The pile approach can help you feel more organized as you go through the process of decluttering.

Designate the Proper Place f

Once you’ve made progress by doing a purge of your stuff, you need to move on to organizing the stuff that you’re keeping. This is often the hardest part of the decluttering process, especially if you’re working with a small space without much storage.

The good news is that no place is permanent, and you can always move things around with a “trial and error” approach to find the best location that really works.

Some places are obvious: you put blankets and pillows in the linen closet. Some places aren’t as obvious. Don’t be afraid to get creative during this stage to come up with the best storage solutions that work for your items and your overall space.

Depending on where you live, you may have an attic, garage, or basement. This can be a great storage place, but keep it organized. Plastic containers, baskets, and bins with lids can be a great place to store things you don't need very often, like official paperwork (taxes, birth certificates, receipts) and winter clothes (down jackets, wool socks, etc.).

In smaller spaces, think creatively. In your living room, look into ottomans with storage spaces where you can put cords, cables, or gaming devices.

If you don't have a medicine cabinet in your bathroom, an attractive solution is to put toiletries like soap or makeup tools in glass mason jars on the counter.

In your closet, try hanging jewelry on hangers or a hook to keep them from tangling.

Make Decluttering a Habit

In order to maintain your progress, you need to make decluttering a habit. There’s really no use in spending time on decluttering if you’re just going to accumulate a bunch of stuff again. The good news is that it’s not hard to maintain the progress you’ve made.

For instance, you could make it a habit to put items back in their place right away. If that approach doesn’t work for you, you could make it a habit to spend 10 or so minutes picking up around the house at the end of the day. If you have kids, ask them to clean up after they play; designate a cubby or shelves where they can neatly put their toys.

At the end of the day, you just need to find a system that works for you and stick to it.

Replace Your Items

Another interesting way that you can maintain your decluttering progress is the “one in, one out” method. In this method, when you buy a new item, you have to get rid of another item. For example, say you buy a new bath towel — you then have to get rid of one of your older bath towels.

This is a great system that prevents the accumulation of items that you likely don’t need and can be applied to many different areas of your home.

Limit Your Purchases

In addition to replacing old items with new items, you should also try to limit your purchases to only the necessities. While it may be tempting to buy those new picture frames, office supplies, and sheets (especially when they’re on sale), you should think about the things you actually need.

For a lot of people, limiting purchases is difficult and takes a lot of discipline. When you go to the store, try sticking to a list of basic items you need right now rather than items you think you might need at some point down the line. In time, it will become easier to simply focus on the necessities.

Use Teamwork

Finally, you can use teamwork to clear clutter. Tackling the clutter in your home shouldn’t be a one-person task. Most likely, your family members or friends in your home have different opinions and methods of decluttering that you should incorporate into the process.

Depending on the people in your home, you could use one of two approaches. You can spend an entire weekend going all out on decluttering as a team. If that’s not feasible, you could take an extended approach of tackling one room at a time.

Cast Off Clutter

Too much clutter in your space can quickly drag you down. And while it’s easy to simply accept clutter as the status quo, it is possible for you to declutter your space. With the right approach, you can eliminate unnecessary items, organize your stuff, and feel more relaxed at home.

There are so many reasons to live in a small space, including the financial and environmental impacts. When building a smaller space like an ADU (accessory dwelling unit), look for some help from the experts at Cottage. We can help you design a small space with all the storage space you need; so that there is no more need for clutter.


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