Thursday, July 23, 2015

How to Declutter One Section at a Time

My great-grandmother and her daughter were perfect examples of how NOT to declutter a house (see the picture on the right). Granted, they lived through The Great Depression and learned the importance of saving and re-using anything and everything they could. However, their frugality went a bit too far when they refused to throw away hundreds of empty Cool Whip containers, bags of empty Pringles cans, thousands of newspapers, and just about anything else you can think of. Eventually, it all overtook their home and, when we went to visit, we could only use one narrow walkway to pass through from the living room into the kitchen; and seating space was also very limited. Of course, not everyone goes to this extreme when saving items they “might need later.” But, it seems, the older we get, the harder it becomes to part with certain things, and the less energy we have to do it. So, in order to keep my house from becoming like Great-Grandma's, I have made a point to declutter on a regular basis. Let me share a few suggestions that have helped me in the decluttering process.

First of all, do NOT focus on the whole picture of a decluttered and organized home, or you could become overwhelmed and discouraged with the task ahead of you. Instead, focus on one room at a time; and even just one section at a time. To tackle a bedroom, you can start with a closet, a dresser drawer, a desk, or under the bed. To tackle a kitchen, do one cabinet or drawer at a time. In a play room, clean out the toys. In a living room, clean under, behind, and on top of the couches. Continue moving through each section of the house until the decluttering is complete in your entire home. It could take weeks, or months, or even years to get your house to where you want it. Actually, it's an ongoing process, and you will never completely be done, but starting somewhere is the key.

As you begin each section, gather 3 or 4 boxes, bags, or baskets and set them nearby. Use one box/bag for items to throw away, one box for give-away, one for items to keep, and an optional box for items to sell. Completely remove everything from the closet, drawer or cabinet. Then, choose one item from the pile, take a look at it, and decide where it should go. To help you make a choice, you can ask the following questions:
  • Is this a piece of trash? If yes, then it goes into the trash box.
  • Is this item smelly and/or growing mold? If yes, then trash it.
  • Is this broken beyond repair? If yes, trash it.
  • Can the broken item be inexpensively fixed? If yes, will you (or someone you know), take the time to fix it in a reasonable amount of time? If yes, place it into the “keep” box. If not, trash it.
  • Is this item sentimental to me? If yes, keep it for now. If not, give it away. (NOTE:  Something to remember here is that, no matter how sentimental, you cannot and should not keep everything. This leads to too much clutter. One idea my sister-in-law gave is to take a picture of those special T-shirts you used to wear, or of some special knickknacks you no longer have room for on the shelf. Then, put the photos in an album to look at, and pass along your items for someone else to enjoy, or recycle them if they are no longer usable.)
  •  Is this item something I can and will eventually use? If yes, keep it. If not, give it away.
  •  If you originally set the item aside to “eventually” use, how long have you had it? If it has been more than 5 years, consider getting rid of it.
  • Is this a clothing item that I am still wearing, and is it in good condition? If yes, keep it. 
  • Is this a clothing item that I have not worn for 2 years or more? Then, give it away (unless it is something truly sentimental, such as a wedding dress. Just remember not to go overboard with keeping those sentimental items).
After the piles have been filtered, immediately throw away the trash. Then, everything that is in the “keep” box needs to be put into its proper place. Toys go into toy boxes; shoes lined up and organized; books on bookshelves; and knickknacks on display shelves. Basically, all “like” items should be neatly organized with other “like” items and placed back into a clean closet, drawer, or cabinet.

If you find the decluttering process is too much for you to do on your own, ask a friend for help. Decluttering brings so many great advantages that you won’t want to miss out on.
  1. The satisfaction you feel as you look at the freshly decluttered and organized sections of your home.
  2. The blessing to be able to find the things you need when you need them.
  3. The ability to walk through your home without stepping on things.
  4. The fun of earning some extra cash if you decide to have a rummage sale.
  5. The joy in blessing others with the items you decide to give away.
So, start tomorrow.... and have FUN with decluttering!


  1. What a great post !!! This makes sense.

  2. Oh my goodness...this reminds me of some of our family members who have gone on to their reward. It used to DRIVE me crazy. I literally could not visit them too long because it just made me too nervous. We could never persuade them that half the junk was junk. But they were moving once and allowed us to take some things to Goodwill but GoodWill refused them. That should have been a clue but for some reason it never got through to them. I have to think that hoarders must have some sort of chemical imbalance that attributes to the problem.

    1. It could be partially chemical imbalance, or sometime its just emotional/mental. Whatever it is, its an unhealthy attachment to stuff.


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