How to Begin Decluttering Your Home (without feeling overwhelmed)

We know that our environments reflect our inner state; chaos and clutter at home is not the state we want to choose. Feng Shui tells us that clutter is low, stagnant, and confusing energy that constantly drains positive energy from us. We can risk suffocating a productive life under an accumulation of stuff – small and large - that doesn't serve to help us realize our potential and our goals.

Yet in the current world of fast and easy consumerism, accumulating clutter is all too easy.

The secret to dealing with clutter is to be mindful of the things you own that actually add value to your life (whether through function, comfort or beauty), and give yourself permission to let go of the rest, open up space in your home for the good stuff, and thrive.

  • The less stuff you have, the less stuff is on your mind and in your way.
  • The less you have to clean and organize.
  • The less you have to pick up.
  • The less you have to store away.
  • The more space you have for the things that are meaningful in your life. 
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But beginning to declutter if your home has become too full of stuff over the years can be overwhelming. And stressful. Enough to make you want to go out and buy something new as a way to calm yourself down! 

I know. I get it. It's hard to let things go. It's hard to make the time to purge. It's hard to find the physical and emotional energy to do what you know needs to be done. 

That's why I believe in decluttering the simple way. 

Decluttering can actually be fun, liberating and energizing if you tackle it in a way that works for you. Maybe that's the KonMari method. Maybe it's by choosing one room at a time and spending a weekend on. 

I'd like to suggest that you try the 15-minute declutter dash method. 

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A dash is about breaking the decluttering process into small areas at a time so you don't get overwhelmed. It's been a hugely successful tactic for me and many clients who I work with and who've gone through my courses. It's why I created the 21-Day Declutter Dash. 

Essentially, you pick one cupboard or countertop or closet or category of item (ex. purses and bags) and do what you can for 15 or 20 minutes max. You'd be surprised at how much progress you can make with only a short amount of dedicated time. And the more you do it, the more energy you get because you are benefiting from the results of simplifying your life, one small piece at a time. 

I recommend starting with the kitchen because it's a space that, when simplified, can have a huge positive impact on your life. It's also where there are probably the least amount of sentimental items that can be tough to let go of.

Here's the order I recommend for decluttering your home:

  • Major surfaces (countertops, dining table, coffee and end tables)
  • Kitchen (one cupboard at a time, fridge, pantry, counters)
  • The Entryway
  • Master Bedroom (excluding wardrobe)
  • Master Bathroom (toiletries, vanity, makeup/beauty tools)
  • Cleaners, laundry room, linens
  • Paper
  • Office/workspace (including your tech)
  • Wardrobe (plus accessories like hats, jewelry, scarves, shoes)
  • Living room (plus all decorative items and collections)
  • Kids' spaces
  • Closets, basement, garage and other storage spaces/junk graveyards
  • Sentimental items like photos, gifts, cards, childhood mementos

Here's the other thing: there's no reward in decluttering your home if you just end up cluttering it back up again. Along the way, you need to set up systems that will help you create good habits and not let 'stuff' creep back in.

Some of the systems I like include:

  • Creating an 'inbox' in your entryway or household command centre for all papers (receipts/notices/homework/bills/etc.) and scheduling a monthly time in your calendar to go through them, deal with them, and then shred, recycle or file away. 
  • Setting up a dedicated tech charging station so that you only leave your gadgets in one area of the home.
  • Setting up a drink station, baking zone and/or snack shelf so that everyone in the household can find what they need quickly and gets trained to put things back there (and only there).
  • Switching to natural DIY cleaners so you can cut back from umpteen different bottles to just one or two. 
  • Setting up your entryway to easily house the gazillion hats, mitts, keys, bags, sunglasses, etc. in a way that will stay organized. 
  • Switching out your many-sized plastic food storage containers for glass versions in just 2-4 sizes so you can stack them all neatly with corresponding lids (imagine always finding the right lid?!)
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Take Action:

1. Get into the decluttering mindset. 

Give yourself permission to let things go that you don't use, don't love, or don't believe to be beautiful. It's ok to let things go that are bringing you function or joy at home. By donating them they'll go on to someone who will appreciate them and get more use from them. If you're having a hard time trying to decide whether to keep something or not, hold it and be truthful about whether you'll really use it, or if it really makes you smile. But don't get too caught up in the process - a 15 minute/day declutter dash is about going through one small area quickly and tossing/donating what's not essential. 

2. Keep a donation box in a closet for the whole month.

You can pull the box out each day and fill it with the things you declutter. Keep it for a month, and at end of the month, you can go through it one more time to make sure you want to release everything in it. This makes it easier for you to throw things in the box during your 15-minute declutter dashes without agonizing about if you'll miss it or not. Odds are, if you haven't missed it by the end of the month, you never will. 

3. Begin decluttering your home in just 15 minutes a day.

Go through your spaces one at a time in the order I've listed above and set a timer to do only what you can in that 15 minutes. Then just come back to it again the next day. You'll make steady progress without feeling drained and overwhelmed. 

4. Take one or two hours every month to set up a new system at home. 

Figure out the habits that are keeping you from a clutter-free, relaxing home. For example, if you (and/or others in the house) drop papers, change and keys on the counter or dresser and it builds up and drives you crazy, perhaps you could find a basket to serve as an 'in-box' and get used to dropping papers there, so they're contained. You could use a pretty bowl for change and keys. Put them in the spots where you normally drop things, and then gradually shift them bit by bit to the best spot to permanently house them. 

5. Sign up for one of my coaching programs.

I offer courses and programs that will walk you through the decluttering and simplifying process step-by-step. Sometimes you need that daily/weekly/monthly prompt and the accountability of having 'homework' so you can jump into action and see results. 

Good luck on your journey, and enjoy the liberating feeling of opening up more space in your home, one small step at a time! 

Kelly Anderson

Refreshed Designs

A re-designer focused on natural, sustainable and holistic design.