Before I removed the clutter and found a way to get organized I used to walk around my home like it was full of land mines. If you think that sentence is a bit dramatic, then you have never stepped on a Lego in bare feet at 1 am holding a crying baby. Staying upright when you are half asleep is a talent most mothers are born with I think. And don’t even get me started on Matchbox cars. Those things have wheels ontop of their sharpness combining the terrifying joy of moving while in pain.
It still amazes me I never permanently damaged the bottom of my feet. Or, for that matter, drop one of my kids!
When I began my long decluttering journey I realized that I had triggers. Things that would stop me and my rarely seen motivation right in its tracks.
I knew I needed to make things simple but when you are cleaning out a house full of mess, simple is not going to get it done. What I had to do was find parts of that monumental project that I could make simple even if the decluttering part was still going to be hard.
I decided to set up a decluttering kit. A basket of decluttering tools that I could grab and go. Something that I could get to quickly and take with me to any decluttering job. Little did I know back then that this would become one of my best decluttering strategies. One that would propel me through every cluttered drawer, cabinet, closet, and room in my home.
What decluttering tools do I need?
To be honest this list will vary just a bit for each person. It all depends on your clutter personality. If you need specific instructions to stay on task, then labels and lots of them is something you will keep in your decluttering kit. If quick and easy is more your speed then a large stack of boxes will be your main tool.
The following list is the one I use to this day. The list that I find covers just about every clutter personality and contains things in a basket that is easy to move from place to place.
And easy is the key to this entire process not only working but sticking.
Decluttering Tools – Setting up a Home Decluttering Kit
Decluttering Tool #1. Bags
First, you need bags and lots of them. I prefer black trash bags to the thinner white ones. This will keep nosey eyes from seeing just what is inside. A nifty trick that is especially helpful when cleaning out a playroom or a closet. Temptation happens with things you can see and you need to trust your judgment. What I mean by that is, if your initial thought was to put it into the donation bag then trust that thought. Toss it in and put your attention to the next item in the pile.
Rethinking things will only set you back, drain your motivation, and distract you. Before you know it you are working on something else that is completely unrelated as the pile of clutter just sits never getting any smaller. Our job is to remove those distractions by using decluttering tools that are effective.
Bottom line – black trash bags belong in your decluttering kit.
Decluttering Tool #2. Labels
To help the sorting process flow more smoothly I encourage you to label your sorting boxes. Every single one. This will not only keep you focused on the decluttering part but will allow anyone else in the home to jump in and help. Yes, I know…slim chance…but just in case they DO show up I want you to be ready with sorting boxes that are clearly labeled.
You will want a label for each of the following.
- GIVE AWAY
- PUT AWAY
- SELL (For the advanced declutterer only)
Let’s go over each of these categories quickly so you fully understand what they are for.
Donation – These are any items you want to give away to charity. Please do not put anything in this box that is torn, stained, or broken. Be intentional with your things and donate items that are clean and in working order.
Give Away – These are items that you want to hand down to a specific person. Dishes to a niece that just moved into her first home or a hoodie that you know your sister will love. This is a great way to give new life to your things that you may not be ready to donate yet.
Remember: Do not use this as a way to pass on clutter. Always ask before you give and allow the recipient to make the decision of that item once it is in their possession. A gift that is given with rules and limitations is no longer a gift.
Put Away – Sometimes what we think is clutter is just things that need to be put away. Have a large basket ready to toss these items into as you are cleaning out an area. When you are finished, take that basket and walk your home putting things away as you go. It is a great way to wind down after a decluttering session and it also helps you to get things closer to their prospective home.
Trash/Recycle – This will be set up as a trash bag or trash bin and is pretty much self-explanatory. I would, however, know the pickup times of your trash collection service. See what they can take and when they can take it especially if you have a big decluttering job ahead. If not, you can also call a junk removal company if you have one in your local area.
Sell – Notice I said “for the advanced declutterer only”. The reason here is simple. Distractions halt progress and nowhere is this done more easily than when you have a SELL bin. Selling items is time-consuming and requires a dedication that keeps you from changing your mind. Not something found when you are first starting out. If, however, you are on a tight budget then please explore this option thoroughly before you decide to include or exclude it. I am not suggesting you give away everything of value, just keep this container from becoming a crutch that keeps you from cleaning things out.
Maybe – This is a great tool and one that helped me the most when faced with a difficult decluttering decision. By having a maybe box it helped me to better see the clutter and the things that really needed to stay. As I better honed in my inner decluttering skills I used this box less and less. In the beginning, however, it was a large box that filled up quickly.
A few rules to remember with the maybe box.
You can only put in items as long as they fit. If the box is full you will need to remove something before you add anything else. Once filled, close the box up and date it. Leave it closed until the “Open Date”, usually 1-3 months later. If after that date you do not look inside for an item you need, then more often than not, that box is usually safe to go.
As you move through your home, you will find the need for this container widdle away.
Decluttering Tool #3. Magic Markers, Post-It Notes, and Sandwich Bags
It may sound like the beginning of an old joke but actually they are pretty powerful decluttering tools. The black magic markers are there to label things clearly so there is no question of what is inside. The Post-It notes are perfect for “the next step” when you are decluttering. Meaning, if you find an item that you want to relocate to a new room, then put use a Post-it note with the new location and attach it before tossing the item into the Put-Away basket. This makes that process a lot easier.
D/M PRO TIP: After you put the item in the new location, add your Post-it note to a page in your home management binder. This will help you remember what is where making the decluttering process a lot easier to stick with.
Finally, the sandwich bags are perfect for containing small and similar items such as game pieces or hair ties. This just makes the put-away process quicker and easier to get through.
Decluttering Tool #4. Miscellaneous Containers
We all have them. Those little bins and baskets that hold small items. I like to keep a few inside of my decluttering kit so they are ready to go when I am. These baskets are quite inexpensive and a great tool to have plenty of.
D/M PRO TIP: If your budget is just too tight to purchase plastic organizers then you may want to think outside of the box a bit. The shoe box that is. Not only are these the perfect organizing container for a shelf, but the lids work great to contain smaller items in a drawer or on a dresser top. Worried about the look? Wrap the box and lid in your favorite gift wrap and pretty things up just a bit.
Decluttering Tool #5. Tape
This tool will be used in a few different ways. First, use it to close up any donation boxes so you can immediately take them to your car for a donation drop the next time you are out. Remember out of sight is out of mind. Get into the habit of taking donation boxes out of the home just as soon as they are filled.
You can also use the tape to reinforce a game box or a toy box. Fix and repair as you go so when a job is done, it really is done.
Decluttering Tool #6. Towel
This is one of my secret decluttering tools and is surprisingly helpful when cleaning out a group of drawers or cabinets. Hers is how it works. When cleaning out a small contained area place items on a clean and dry towel. Use one that best matches the size of the area you are cleaning out.
- Small drawer – use a kitchen towel
- Cabinet – Use a bath towel.
- Closet shelf – use a beach towel
The towels help you visualize how much room you have helping you better decide what items can stay and what items need to go. Also, a towel is easy to move. This is especially important if you are decluttering a kitchen. When it is time to make dinner, for example, just take the end of your towel and slide it out of the way. When dinner is done you can then slide the towel back into place and continue with your decluttering project.
The towel is your visual reminder and really does help you to declutter more quickly.
Watch my video to see my basket of Decluttering Tools in action!
D/M PRO TIP: Decluttering a basement and need something much bigger than a small towel? Try using a tarp or sheet. Again the goal here is to match the surface with the room you are working with. The visual helps you better make the decisions for how much you can reasonably keep. You can also use tape to section off an area on the floor if a tarp or sheet is not available.
Decluttering Tool #7. Pad of Paper
This is mainly going to be used for notes and, more importantly, for a shopping list. I am notorious for forgetting things and I find the more reminder tools I use the more time I save. As you are cleaning out an area and you find something that needs repaired like a burnt-out bulb, rather than doing the task now and risking the distraction, simply add it to your notepad to do later. Or better yet designate that job to someone else. Do what you can to keep your head in the game.
Also, if you find you are running low on something create a shopping list on your pad of paper. This will just ensure that you keep all the areas in your home running smoothly. Maybe you are cleaning out a closet and see that your socks are in desperate need of replacing? Add “new socks” to your shopping list. Sorting through a cereal cabinet and you realize that your last box of Raisen Bran is stale? Add it to your shopping list.
Decluttering your husband’s car and notice that he could use an organizer in the center console? Put that on your shopping list and save it for a birthday gift or Christmas.
When it comes to utilizing your time efficiently a simple notepad and pen can be pretty powerful tools. Try to think a few steps ahead whenever you are working in your home and you might just save more time than you realize in the long run.
Decluttering Tool # 8. Laundry Basket
Keep your decluttering toolkit inside of a basket. I love flexible laundry baskets. I find they are the perfect container for not only holding our decluttering tools but to sort with as well. I like to keep a few extras stacked inside of each other and use them for my Put Away items. These baskets hold a myriad of items in all shapes and sizes and the handles make it easy to use when putting things away. Like a little decluttering purse, they hold a surprisingly large amount. If it is in your budget I would stock up on a few of these and keep them together for your next decluttering project.
Finally, the last part of your decluttering kit is location, location, location.
You will want to keep your decluttering basket in an area that is easy to get to. This way when you do feel the urge (and you will!) you can quickly grab and go. I suggest a front closet or if you are just starting out, an out of the way spot in your kitchen. Remember visual reminders are gold so keep that basket out where you can see it and get that gentle reminder to clean out an area.
If you are overwhelmed by clutter and mess then what you need is a plan. A plan that includes the step by step to get you through the process. You also need the decluttering tools in a convenient place so when the urge hits, you can take advantage of it before it passes.
Set up a home basket of your favorite decluttering tools and get ready to create a home you love.
Now you are ready to tackle just about any job! But before you do, test drive your kit of decluttering tools and dive into your junk drawer.