How to Declutter Your Home (While Making it a Habit)
At the end of the year, we will be moving out of our little apartment of nearly three years. Since moving here, we’ve had birthdays, Christmases, and welcomed a new baby into our home. With each new event, we’ve acquired quite the assortment of 'things'. Much of this, sadly, is pure junk–stuff that goes unused month after month, merely taking up space. When it comes to the random toys or trinkets my kids have acquired, these things do more than take up space; the constant dumping of toy baskets flips the switch on my anxiety, often resulting in what my husband calls a cleaning rampage.
Does this sound at all like you? Although I’ve gotten MUCH better at controlling my own frustrations and instead working with and teaching my kids about picking up and organizing, I’ve noticed that the main thing that leads to my nervous breakdowns is all the clutter. And with a move coming up, I’ve really started analyzing what stuff is actually worth taking. As I’ve done so, I’ve realized that, moving or not, getting rid of junk and cleansing your home of all the stuff we don’t need can have a huge impact on your mental health.
If you feel overwhelmed by the clutter in your home, here are some tips on how to get started with dejunking (and how you can even make decluttering into a habit in the process!).
Step 1: Find Your “Why”
Everything we do in life has a purpose--a “why”. For example, we eat because we need to survive. We shower each day because we would stink otherwise. The same applies to any goal or potential outcome we want to achieve in life. However, more often than not, we do things without any conscious effort or thought as to why. This is fine in some instances, but when it comes to changing habits, not knowing why you want to do something often results in inaction; finding your “why” is what will drive you to make a change.
Therefore, if you want to have a tidy and orderly home, the first step is to think about how your life could improve if you removed all the stuff. Maybe it’s because you get anxious when your home is a mess. Maybe frequent messes result in nervous breakdowns at your spouse or children. Maybe it’s just because you feel more peace in the absence of chaos. Or maybe you’re moving soon and know you’ll enjoy moving into your new home more if you have less to pack up.
Whatever your reason is for wanting a clutter-free home, focus on this. This will not only allow you to accomplish your goal in the present, but can help you make decluttering into a habit.
Step 2: Start Small!
We all know how overwhelming it can feel when we look at our house as a whole. Even looking at our small apartment, I get overwhelmed by all the rooms, cabinets, and closets that contain stuff.
If you’re wanting to declutter, try your best not to think about everything that needs to be done. Instead, focus on one thing per day. Even focusing on a whole room can overwhelm us to the point we’d rather avoid it altogether. So find one small cabinet, shelf, or closet you can start with today. How much or how little you can do depends on you. Starting small and doing just a little bit more each day will have a compounding effect. Eventually, it will lead to a clean and clutter-free home.
Taking it bit-by-bit is also extremely beneficial long term because it allows us to turn decluttering into a daily habit instead of a once-a-year, overwhelming task.
As moms, there will always be junk. Focusing on the end result of a “clean home” is overwhelming because it’s nearly impossible to reach! Our kids will always be bringing things home--new projects from school, little trinkets and gifts from friends, a new stick or leaf from the park, etc. By focusing on small things each day, we build that habit of decluttering spaces, and we feel less overwhelmed by the junk because we aren’t allowing it to pile up over the course of a year or more.
Step 3: Pick a Space
Even though we all know we can’t declutter our whole home in a day (especially as busy mommas), it can still be overwhelming to know where to start when we know our whole house needs to be tackled!
If you’re at a loss of where to even begin, here are some spaces most of us could probably declutter!
- Bedside tables: Oh, the bedside table–a catch-all for all the random things like old receipts, WAY too many chapsticks, and a few too many books you still haven’t gotten to after a year of them sitting there. This is a great place to dejunk and declutter!
- Your/your spouse’s wardrobe: My wardrobe is normally my go-to when I’m in a dejunking mood. I have plenty of old clothes I NEVER wear, things with holes, and things that no longer fit me after giving birth to two children. I can normally find a handful or sandals or shoes that are ultra-worn out that can go bye-bye as well!
- Bathroom cabinets: Have you ever gotten random beauty or skin care samples, so you tuck them away in your bathroom never to be seen again? Yep, that’s me! My bathroom cabinets are full of old lotions, beauty samples, and facial cleansers that are expired and that I honestly have NO intention of ever using!
- Pantry: I often go to the grocery store and buy pantry items, not realizing I have a stockpile already at home. Even though I rotate, stuff occasionally slips by. As I’ve been going through our pantry recently, I’ve found tons of food that’s way past the due date, and other food items that I really don’t think we will ever use!
- Kitchen cabinets/drawers: Most of us have plenty of random kitchen gadgets we’ve only used once or twice (or never). When clearing out my cupboards recently, I found plenty of old water bottles, mugs, mismatched plates, cups, and silverware that I haven’t used since college. When I cleared all the stuff out of my kitchen that I never used, I had more space for the things that I did!
- Entry closet or mudroom: These are often another catch-all space for junk! I always find random things that I had completely forgotten that I owned.
- Under beds: I don’t normally keep things under the beds in our home, but I know that some people do! Random stuff often gets pushed under there and forgotten, so it’s another great place to clear out.
- Storage rooms: Storage areas in every home will differ. Some have a traditional storage room or attic, while some just store belongings in the garage. These spaces can be overwhelming to declutter. So start with a smaller area or pick a category like Christmas decor to go through first!
- Office desk: From old pens to dried-out glue sticks and markers, office desks often have plenty of old items that no longer serve a purpose.
- Files: I’m not the best at keeping my paperwork organized, and I’m even worse at clearing out old stuff I no longer need. Getting in the habit of going through files and shredding old documents makes tax time much less stressful while also making it easier for me to find something important when I need to!
- Kids' craft drawer: Most kids don’t want to get rid of old crafts, drawings or paintings they’ve completed. This is a real problem in our home. But keeping everything makes it harder to enjoy their best creations. Go through the crafts with your children and let them pick their favorites. If they want to keep everything, get a box and tell them they can only keep what will fit in the box. This is a great way to teach children how to really think about what’s important to them.
- Kids' toy closet: Most of us probably have more toys than we need. Some of the toys tucked away may be things they’ve outgrown, or pure junk from trips to the dollar store or McDonalds. Most of these things can probably be thrown out or donated. (And don’t forget about your overflowing stuffed animal bins!)
- Kids' wardrobe: Similar to the toy closet, our kiddos’ wardrobes may contain old clothes or shoes that they have outgrown. Some items may be so worn out or covered in stains or holes that it’s just time to throw them out. When going through my kid’s dresser recently, I found tons of clothes that we had received as hand-me-downs that they had never even worn once. Those items definitely needed to be cleared out!
Step 4: Decide What to Throw Out and What to Keep
This may be the hardest part about dejunking and why many of us avoid it at all costs. We may think we need that old glass bowl that we got from our wedding even though we’ve never used it. I may need that half-used piece of scrapbooking paper for a future craft. Oh, that old phone from high school? Can’t get rid of that! Too many memories.
Some of us are sentimental, which is NOT a bad thing. But when all the sentimental things pile up to the point that we don’t even know what we have, and never even look at them, what’s really the point in keeping them? Here are some questions I ask myself when dejunking that helps me get rid of things I don’t need:
- When did I use this last? If it’s been a year or more, you can probably toss it!
- Is this irreplaceable? Some products are truly priceless. But some items can be purchased again if you ever get to the point that you really do need it again. For example, I recently struggled to decide if I should throw out a thermos I had from college because “I might use it again”. This is something I could EASILY replace with a quick Walmart run if I ever needed it again!
- Does it make me happy? Most of us have probably heard of the KonMarie Method. When decluttering, she has you hold items close to your body to see if they spark joy for you. This is a great way to get rid of stuff that really isn’t that important to you. (I do this when attempting to “declutter” the 20,000 pictures of my kids on my phone. If an image doesn’t spark a lot of joy when looking at it, I’ll delete it.)
- Does this item make life easier or add value to my life in any way? Does this hotdog slicer really help me out that much? Or is it easier to just cut up my kid’s hotdog with a knife?
- Is this item forgettable? If I got rid of this, would I ever remember having had it?
Step 5: Organize the Stuff You Keep!
Obviously, there’s going to be plenty of things we are going to want to keep! But creating a system that will allow you to keep those things put away, easily accessible, and organized is KEY to not falling back into that toxic rage cycle I talked about earlier!
When organizing toys, I find it helpful to organize them using clear bins with lids that are uniform in size. Then just get one bin out at a time and have your kids put them back in the bin before getting something new out. If this doesn't work for you, try to implement a toy rotation system! This is a great way to diminish clutter and keep things more organized.
Here are some other tips on how to organize the most used spaces in your home! Once you have a system in place, it allows you and your kiddos to keep the important things put away at the end of the day, ready to be used again tomorrow!
How can I organize sentimental items?
When dejunking my childhood room at my parent’s home recently, I found plenty of stuff to throw out, but there were also a lot of sentimental items I wanted to keep. Like I said before, it’s okay to be a little sentimental! It’s great to have items that spark incredible memories for us! Organizing these will help you feel less guilty for keeping them and will make it easier to go back and look through when you want.
When I organized my sentimental items, I began by dividing the items I was keeping into categories, such as high school, wedding, cards/notes, etc. I then purchased some really nice boxes with labels. I told myself I could only keep what would fit into each category’s box.
What should we do with the stuff we no longer want?
The first step is to decide if it’s really something that anyone would even want. If it’s just junk, just throw it out or recycle it. If it’s still in good condition, here are some things you can do:
- Donate it to Goodwill or other donation center
- Donate to a women's shelter
- Donate to a food bank (obviously don’t donate expired foods, but if you have items in your pantry you don’t plan on using that aren’t expired yet, donate them!)
- Have a yard sale
- Post it on marketplace and make a little bit of cash
- Give items away to a friend
- Post on your neighborhood Facebook page to see if anyone wants or needs the items
I would definitely not consider myself a minimalist, but I DO find a lot of beauty in reducing what I have. Having less allows me to spend less time stressing about the clutter, and more time spending quality time with my family; less time cleaning up the junk and more time to just feel calm and wind down at the end of the day. No matter what drives you, allow that to motivate you so you can build the home and life you desire! Because sometimes less is really what gives us more!