5 Decluttering Tips and Best Practices For A More Organized Life

At some point this year, you'll have the urge to declutter.  Perhaps, you've just had it with that pile of clothes that remain on the floor or the fact that you can't see your dining table and therefore have never used it before.  It's time to let go of personal possessions that are not serving you.  You'll read plenty of various ways to declutter.  You'll read plenty of organization tips.  You may also be tempted to buy lots of storage and organizational products.  I don't know if there's one magic method.  I think a combination of these method will yield you the success you need for a simpler home.  There's definitely more out there such as the #minsgame, but these have worked for me.  Before you go out and buy closet organizational systems, you must first declutter and let of things.  Here are some best practices for decluttering for a more organized life.


Declutter By Category Not By Room

This one is from Marie Kondo.   I'm sure you've heard of Marie Kondo before.  If not, let me educate you on her movement.  She has written 2 best selling books on decluttering.  She is famous for her "spark joy" method, which basically asks that you take each item in your hand and see if it sparks joy in you.  If it doesn't, it's time to let it go.  Marie Kondo believes that everything in your home should serve you and make you happy.

One of her strategies on starting the decluttering process is to start by category not by room. When you think about it, one room can contain multiple categories of stuff so it's sometimes difficult to really see what you have when they are distributed in multiple rooms.  For example, when it comes to clothes, gather every piece of clothing you have from jackets to winter wear to summer stuff and put them all on the floor.  Make sure you include clothes from the hamper, from the dryer, from that chair that holds all of your stuff, from the bathroom.  This will allow you to see everything that you have.  It's then easier to find duplicates or triplicates of the same thing.  It also allows you to include clothing that may have been long forgotten. Sometimes, you don't realize that you place things in certain places so by being diligent about including every piece of item from that category, your decluttering becomes more inclusive.


Declutter By Returning or Selling Unopened or Unused Items

When I first started letting go of things, I absolutely had a hard time.  Frankly, it was because I had paid money for them.  I didn't want to "lose money", but when you really think about it, any unused item depreciates in value over time.  So to make it easier to let go of things, I returned or sold things with tags on.  You would be surprised how many of your items are unopened, unused and still have tags on them.  My closet was full of them, my bathroom cabinets had unopened makeup, our extra room had unopened wedding presents 3 years later. 

We have all been there.  Saw something that looked like a good deal.  The problem is that while it was a good deal, because we really had no need for it, it stays in our closets or cabinets not being used.  It's such a waste.  It's taking up space.  It cost us money.  Think about these items in terms of dollars.  Are you ok having a $50 dollar bill sit in your closet for months even years?  How about a few $5 dollar bills in your medicine cabinet sitting there all pretty?  I doubt we would all leave money like that, but when you think about it that is what's happening to things that remain unused in our closets.  It's time to let them go.  Get back that money and use it on something else that you will use today.  There's no use in waiting because your tastes will change, your needs will change and you really can't predict if an item will make you happier in the future.  Probably not!


Declutter By Letting Go of Half Finished Things

We all have it.  A half box of cereal that's probably been in the cabinet for months now.  A bottle of lotion, a partially used mascara, a lipstick that has only been used a few times because the color was in for a week.  It's time to let those things go.  Even if it's purely for the sake of health reasons.  

Food that is half finished lose flavor and sustenance once it's opened.  I realize there's a shelf life to some foods, but if you are not going to eat it within six months, it's time to throw them out.  It's very rare that your taste buds will suddenly change and you'll want to finish whatever's been opened for many months.  If it's food still in it's individual packaging and can be donated, do so!  Let someone enjoy and appreciate them rather than letting it go stale in your cabinets only to be thrown out later anyways.

The same goes for personal hygiene stuff such as lotions, makeup, sprays.  If you've tried them and no longer fancy the smell or color, time to let them go.  If there are newly opened and someone else will appreciate them, share or donate them.  If they have been opened for years as in you can't remember the last time you use it, time to let it go.  This is not only good for your health, but for your sanity too, knowing that you will not have to sort through unnecessary items in the morning.  Imagine being able to get ready faster!


Declutter By Letting Go Of Just-In-Case Items  

This one will vary per person.  Our just in case items really depends on certain traumas we experienced in our young age.  Perhaps, it was having a business meeting and not finding a good pair of stockings so now we hoard multiple pairs.  Perhaps, it was not having a single band-aid at home for a crying child so now there's boxes of them in the bathroom cabinet. Whatever this is to you, review them carefully.  These just-in-case items fulfill a kind of safety net.  They are most likely unnecessary.  When you think about it, how often have you needed these items in a year?  If not often, time to let go.  

I do want to caveat that there are certain just-in-case items for emergencies.  Of course, keep those, but be ruthless about everything else.  Think about what happens if some of these items are not in your home, will everything be ok?  Is there an alternative that you can find?  When you also start letting of just-in-case items, you also let go of old beliefs and thoughts that occupy your mind.  You have plenty to worry about that you don't need to cloud your head with what-if scenarios.


Declutter Your Things First

I know that this can be difficult especially when we share space with others, but when it comes to decluttering, make sure to start with your stuff first.  Nothing will start a fight faster than you throwing out something that you may have thought was a piece of junk, when it holds some value to the person who owns it.  Let's be sensitive to our significant other, our roommate, our children, our parents.  I think sometimes, we want to try to do what's best for everyone sharing the space and we may sometimes mistakenly throw out an item, but let's be cautious when we declutter.

Always start with your stuff first.  If you are unsure, don't chuck it.  In the same vane, don't tell the other person to let go of their crap.  It's not nice and it also creates a feeling of animosity.  Some people 1) may no be ready to part with their things as you are 2) calling their stuff crap lessens respect for that person and their personal belongings.  Take this advice not only for adults, but kids as well.  Once you've tackled our own things, then offer to help them with theirs.  Let them do the decluttering on their own, but guide them towards completing it.  Family members have to be motivated to this themselves so that they continue to cultivate these good habits.



Remember that decluttering could take a few iterations.  Some techniques may have you do this in one sitting, but we've build up these habits for years that it will be difficult to completely change the way we consume.  So while we may declutter today, tomorrow we may bring in new stuff, so be aware of this pattern and don't get into the cycle of accumulation.  You have a lot of control to what you yourself bring in.  With a clearer sense of what you own, you should be equipped to know what you already have and what is needed.  This should become your map:

  • If you have something in the same category, you don't need it. 
  • If you have something similar that is not even used or opened yet, use that first.
  • If you have something similar that is half used, finish that first.
  • If you are buying just in case, you don't need it.


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