Ever since Marie Kondo’s KonMari craze swept the globe in 2015, decluttering has been a hot trend. Countless books, television specials, and listicles now advise you how to declutter your home in more and more elaborate ways. While you might enjoy the rituals and spiritualism of Marie Kondo’s method,[i] there are much simpler ways to make your home a tranquil, well-organised space.

Decluttering your home will make it easier to keep clean, boost your overall mood, and could even make you more productive! It’s true – studies show that working in a neat and tidy space can actually improve your concentration and output.

Start by recognising that you need to declutter your space

It’s very easy to become ‘blind’ to your surroundings, and you stop seeing the mess, clutter, and flaws in your home.[ii] But just because you have become desensitised to your clutter doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting your wellbeing and mood.

Walk around each room and try to take an objective look at your space. Note the books toppling off your shelves, the busy surfaces, dog toys and kids’ stuff, and write them down or make a mental note of what can be pared back. Unsure about some of your knick-knacks or decorations? Try only to keep the ones that you really love, and that match your décor scheme.

Are you having a hard time looking at your home objectively? Ask a close friend or family member to come over and give you their honest opinion.

Draft a plan for the decluttering process

Next, make a plan for how you’ll go about your decluttering strategy. Make lists of the different categories in your home, such as clothing, mementoes, kids’ stuff, books, paperwork, and kitchen items. You can go through these categories one at a time, which will make the entire process much more manageable, and prevent you from becoming overwhelmed.

The ‘Purge’

The biggest part of any decluttering process is the purge, in which you sort through your belongings, decide what to keep and what to give away, and dispose of the rejects. This is the phase that can be the most difficult mentally – some people have a tough time parting with objects.[iii]

Only keep what you actually need – do you need three or four old hallway rugs in the closet when you have two new washable rugs? An old version of a board game when you have the updated edition? A wardrobe of clothing that no longer fits in the hopes that you’ll drop a stone? Be realistic and strict about what you no longer need. The most common test is if you haven’t used/worn it in six months to a year, it’s got to go.

  • Work zone by zone - Once you have prepared your sorting station, choose a specific zone of your home that you will tackle first. It can be tempting to rush from room to room, grabbing bits from different shelves, surfaces, and cupboards. Resist this urge – you’ll have a lot more success if you work methodically and designate ‘zones.’

    Different rooms demarcate obvious zones; within each room, split things up further. A bookshelf, cabinet, and your coffee table are all different ‘zones.’ Complete one before moving on to the next.
  • Create a sorting station – Set up an area in each room that will act as your sorting station. Clear a big enough space for the four piles that you’ll make next.
  • Create four piles - Create four piles that you will sort the objects into – keep, rubbish, donate, sell.
  • Keep – You’ll keep these items, but they must have a home, or else you’ll be back in the same cluttered mess before long. Start by asking yourself if you love the object, or if it is useful. Even if it is useful, have you used it within the past year? If you can’t honestly answer ‘yes,’ then it has to go.
    • Rubbish – We should actually say ‘rubbish and recycle.’ Damaged items, worn-out clothing, and paperwork should all be put in the bin. You’ll be amazed at how much you end up throwing away.
    • Donate – Remember to donate any useful and gently used items to local charity shops and organisations. In addition to charity shops, you can post household items on Gumtree, Olio, or Facebook Marketplace labelled as ‘Free.’
    • Sell – You could take your saleable items to a car boot sale, post them on eBay, or list them on Facebook Marketplace, Shpock, or Gumtree.

Create storage for every item in your home

Now that you’ve done the big ‘purge,’ it’s time to set yourself up for success and prevent the clutter from creeping back into your life. After all, decluttering isn’t very useful if your home just becomes cluttered again in a few weeks!

Let’s say it again – storage, storage, storage! If your home was cluttered in the first place, you likely didn’t have enough storage.

  • Create a ‘landing pad’ near the door – The foyer and entryway can become a tangled mess of shoes, bags, and Amazon packages, especially if you have kids. Hooks for coats, a dish for keys, shelves for shoes, cubbies and labelled storage bins can all replace chaos with tranquillity.  
  • Designate a home for papers – Receipts, bills, letters, junk mail, newspapers, warranties – we are drowning in papers! Paperwork of all kinds can contribute to clutter in a significant way. An accordion file can help keep all of these papers organised and help you determine what should head straight for the recycling bin.
  • Take a good look at your bathroom and vanity – We often have bottles, boxes, and jar spilling out everywhere in our bathrooms. Baskets and storage bins can help keep everything neat and tidy and provide a home for loose cosmetics and accessories.

Focus on your closets

Is your closet stuffed with items you don’t wear very often? It’s time to go through this ‘zone’ and filter through your clothing according to the four piles method above. Only keep the things that you love, that fit, and that you wear!

  • Get rid of wire hangers – Take a cue from Joan Crawford and ban wire hangers from your closets. Choose uniform wooden or plastic hangers to keep your closets streamlined and well-organised. Mismatched hangers often get tangled and add to the clutter.
  • Set a few accessory storage bins on the shelves – Choose some accessory storage bins in the same colour as your hangers, and use them for belts, ties, scarves and other bits that otherwise end up scattered on the closet floor.
  • Create usage areas – Create areas within your closet so that you know exactly where everything is located, and can grab what you need, when you need it. Wardrobe staples that you wear most often should be in the most accessible area so that you never have to go digging for your jeans. This makes your closet feel like a well-curated shop and saves you heaps of time.

Set your household up for success

Of course, unless you live alone, you need to get everyone in your household on board if you want to banish the clutter for good.

  • Get your kids involved – If your kids have lived in a cluttered house to this point, they won’t be in the habit of keeping things clean and organised. You need to speak with them - teach them why this is so important and demonstrate how to keep things clean moving forward. You can even channel your inner Mary Poppins, and make fun games out of it.[iv] Remember, kids learn by example! If you fall back into your cluttered ways, so will they.
  • Speak to your spouse or flatmates – Just because you have the decluttering bug doesn’t mean that the other people in your home are as keen. Speak with them and explain that you genuinely want to live in an uncluttered home and see if you can get them on board.
  • Start a 30-day list before you buy anything – Once your home is fully decluttered, it’s tempting to run out and buy new items to decorate your space. It’s time to say goodbye to meaningless consumerism and only buy things that you genuinely want or need. When you’re tempted to buy something new, put it on a list. If, after 30 days, you still want the item as much as you did when you put it on the list, go ahead. You’ll be surprised at how many things don’t pass muster.

Living in a clean, decluttered, and streamlined home is a genuine pleasure. Start your decluttering process methodically and don’t lose focus - you’ll soon have a calm and relaxing oasis of your own.

Reference list

Capistrano, J. (2017). Are You Blind to Clutter? [online] Get Organised Wizard. Available at: https://www.getorganizedwizard.com/blog/2017/11/are-you-blind-to-clutter/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2020].

Garrity, A. (2019). What Is the KonMari Method? Here’s How to Declutter the Marie Kondo Way. [online] Good Housekeeping. Available at: https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/organizing/a25846191/what-is-the-konmari-method/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2020].

Ryal, W. (2018). Secrets to Cleaning with Kids. [online] Parents. Available at: https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/secrets-to-cleaning-with-kids/ [Accessed 15 Aug. 2020].

Smith, P. (2016). 6 Reasons Why Letting Go Of Stuff Is Hard (And What To Do About It). [online] Elbow Room. Available at: https://makespace.com/blog/posts/letting-go-of-stuff/ [Accessed 14 Aug. 2020].

[i] https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home/organizing/a25846191/what-is-the-konmari-method/

[ii] https://www.getorganizedwizard.com/blog/2017/11/are-you-blind-to-clutter/

[iii] https://makespace.com/blog/posts/letting-go-of-stuff/

[iv] https://www.parents.com/parenting/better-parenting/secrets-to-cleaning-with-kids/