Decluttering an entire home can be incredibly scary and overwhelming. Learn the 3 steps to take before you declutter to make decluttering easier.
When you can learn to make decluttering easier it really does help you make amazing progress in your how to declutter journey.
“What on earth is that smell?”
Hubby and I were sitting in the family room watching TV, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. This odor, like burning sugar and plastic, was drifting in. We sat there and just made this awful face and stared at each other. Do you know that deer in the headlights look? Yes, that was us. Both of us.
Finally, I got up to investigate when we both decided there was no way to write it off as a neighbor burning outside.
Off to the kitchen I went only to be greeted by smoke coming out of the oven.
I ran over to shut it off, yelling at the guilty party who had to still be in the house somewhere.
“Who on earth turned the oven on!”
Out my 17-year-old came running with his friend, patting the air with his hands in a “calm down, mother…you are scaring my friend” manner.
“We were just going to make a pizza,” he said.
The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
“You know we never EVER turn on the oven without emptying it first!”
Let’s back up for just a minute. This flashback is from my clutter-bug heyday when it was just easier to hide dirty dishes in the oven so I didn’t have to look at them. On this occasion, there were more than just a few dirty dishes. There was also a leftover birthday cake still in its plastic container that I had hidden inside my oven. I can’t even begin to tell you what a mess that was to clean up.
Not a proud moment and, unfortunately, not a rock bottom moment either.
I was a closet clutter bug.
It looked like my house was neat and tidy on the outside but behind the closet doors, under the beds, and yes, inside of my oven was a hidden world. My “hide it so I don’t have to ever deal with it” clutter problem.
It’s not that I was okay with the mess; I wasn’t. The problem was I had no idea how to deal with it. To me, there was so much stuff, so many piles of things and junk that I couldn’t get even find the energy or the motivation to mentally deal with it let alone physically take care of it.
It wasn’t until a few years later that I learned the secret of clutter. A secret that gave me a new outlook and changed everything for me.
What you think is clutter isn’t always clutter.
Let me explain.
More often than not, the clutter you need to deal with is buried. Hiding under things that are not clutter. Things like trash, recyclables, or items that need to be put away. And if you would just take the time to uncover the actual clutter there may be only a fraction of what you originally thought.
Before you get ready to clean out a drawer, cabinet, or an entire room, do these 3 steps first and remove the overwhelm while you do. Then you might see yourself making progress with your home like never before.
3 Steps to Take Before You Declutter
Just because these steps are super easy does not mean they won’t be incredibly effective. Turn these steps into a clutter-stopping habit, and you might see big changes happen in your home!
First, Gather up the Trash
I am sure you have heard this before, but starting with the trash in a cluttered area is by far the best way to get rid of the stuff. But have you ever actually been told why?
The reason is simple.
Trash can do a lot to camouflage the clutter, so much so that we are paralyzed by the size of what we have to go through. By removing the trash, we can begin to uncover what is our actual clutter, and we just might find our problem isn’t quite as intimidating as we thought.
To remove the trash, we will break things down even further into super-simple steps.
1. Arm yourself with a large trash bag.
2. Take a walk around your home. Gather up anything obvious that you can throw away. Empty food containers, napkins, crumpled tissues, bags, junk mail, and newspapers. Look at this as if you are taking a stroll and casually walking in and out of every room, filling up your bag with trash.
3. If your house is in really bad shape, you may need to do this a few times. Remember, the more you remove today, the less you will have to deal with later.
4. Be relentless here. Collecting trash is simple and easy, so don’t make it any harder than it needs to be. If it’s trash, pick it up, put it into one of your bags, and move on.
Second, gather up any recyclables.
1. As you did in the previous step, arm yourself with a bag.
2. Take a stroll around your home. This time you are looking for any materials that can be recycled. Newspapers, plastic bottles, magazines, cardboard, glass, etc. Be sure to follow your county guidelines and bundle up items appropriately.
3. Don’t be tempted to keep it “just in case.” You are in full clutter jumpstart mode, and for that reason, you need to be hyperfocused. If it’s trash and recyclable, get it out of your home. End of story.
Gather up Anything that Needs to Be Put Away.
When our rooms are cluttered, more often than not, mixed in with that clutter are things that simply need to be put away. And sometimes, it can be hard to see those things when there is chaos scattered about. Unless you are specifically looking for it, you might mistake your things for clutter and lump that into the insurmountable task you believe you are faced with.
We are going to take another clutter walk, but this time instead of being armed with a set of trash bags, you are going to use a laundry basket. I love to use these clothes baskets because they are not only easy to carry but can hold a surprising amount of misshapen items.
Put Away Items to Look For
• Clothes – Put dirty items in the laundry room and clean items in the rooms where they belong.
• Dishes – Gather up any dishes you find and put them into the sink or dishwasher.
• Shoes – Put shoes where you usually keep them. This can be in a bedroom, closet, mudroom, or entryway.
• Bills and Papers– Gather up any papers that need your attention. Bills, statements, receipts. Etc. Put them all into one location to go through later when you have time. If you have an office, I will put a clothes basket or other large container into which you can put papers as you come across them. Make a date to sit on the couch or at the table and deal with each paper one at a time.
• Office supplies – If you have a desk or other area where you keep office supplies, set up a box or basket for these items. As you come across any office supplies, take them to this box and add them to your collection. When you are finished, keep the best and donate or toss the rest.
• Books – If you are a reader and have a bookcase or other area dedicated to your books, then this is where you will want to put any that you find scattered around your home. If you, as you are doing this, notice a title or two you no longer want, put them into a donation bag. When this bag is full, take it to a nursing home, school, or library to donate for others to enjoy.
If you love to read, keep things organized by setting up a reading bag to hold your current reads!
• Toys – For this task, I would enlist the kids to help. Give them a small basket and have them collect any of their toys. Take them to where your family keeps toys in a playroom or a toy box.
Organizers that are great for containing toys:
- Large Toy Box Chest with Lid
- Under Bed Toy Storage Containers
- Extra-Large Toy Organizer
- Multi-Bin Toy Organizer
• Tools – It always amazes me how my Husband’s tools end up all over the house. If your home is anything like mine, you will want to take a tool walk. Look for not only tools but other items such as paint, hardware, tape, gloves, string, batteries, and zip ties.
Take these items to where you keep tools, such as a workshop or garage.
Just because my list ends with tools does not mean yours must as, well. Remember, no two homes are exactly alike, and the items you have in your home will be different than what is found in mine. Keep going until everything that has a home is in its home.
D/M Pro Tip: When you finish with this step, do another trash walk. The more you remove, the more you will uncover more items that can be thrown away!
What if I don’t know if it’s clutter?
I get it; this is a unique and new approach to decluttering.
A brand new approach to how you view your things and the purpose of your home. And maybe as you are going through these steps, you are just a little unsure as to what is trash, what is recyclable, and what are things that need to be put away.
Just remember, if it is clutter, it is something that does not have a home. A place where we keep it.
This means the overall purpose here is to find a home for our things. And once we designate a home for our clutter, we can then put it away. And, once it’s away, it’s no longer clutter.
Yes, it’s like a tongue twister and a nursery rhyme all rolled into one!
So, how do we designate a home? What if we have no idea where to PUT something?
You will need to ask yourself a simple question. If I was to look for this item, where would that be? And whatever the answer is, that is the new home.
Yes, it is that simple.
Let’s put this into an example and see if this helps.
You are in the family room; you remove the trash and the recyclables and put away all the items that have specific homes.
What you are left with is a small pile of random items. Most of these things you can tell right off you no longer need and that means that they can go right into a donation box. (Which, by the way, is the new “home” for those items!)
But other things in that pile. The items you DO want to keep. That is where you are going to focus.
Maybe you are looking at a large and somewhat intimidating pile of stuff, and suddenly, you see in that pile a packet of scrapbooking stamps and card stock that you bought for making cards. You can’t think of a home because you do not have a designated place to make cards.
Then, you remember the plastic basket with handles you found yesterday buried under some old newspapers. You grab that basket and fill it with the stickers, card stock, and markers you just found.
You then set that basket next to your rocking chair in the family room, and just like that, you have a home for all your card-making supplies.
Simple when you see it in action, right?
Bottom Line: Find the things you want to keep and designate a home for those things or CREATE one. Either way, your goal is to put away everything you want to keep and donate all the things you do not.
Now that you’ve learned the 3 steps to take before you declutter, what’s next?
It’s time to dive into your first decluttering project. Take it slowly, yet be determined, and remember to celebrate your progress.
Even the smallest step is still a step in the right direction, so be sure to acknowledge all of your wins.
If you are stuck, please leave a comment below, and I will do my best to help.