Do you ever feel like you have too much stuff? When you’re acquiring books, clothes, DVDs, toys, and kitchen supplies one-by-one, it doesn’t feel like a lot. But then one day you look around and you’ve got piles of unused stuff everywhere, cluttering your home and causing stress.
Let this be the year you finally clean up, clear out and organize the items you do want to use! To help this momentous task, consider implementing some tried-and-true secrets from the organizing professionals on how to declutter your home:
1. Start With Something Easy
You’ll stay motivated to keep going if you see some fast results, according to Lisa Zaslow, founder and CEO of Gotham Organizers in New York City. “I like to direct people to their kitchen junk drawers,” she told The Spruce.
2. Time Yourself
Oftentimes, we drag out an unpleasant task for much longer than it needs to be by procrastinating. To keep yourself on track, set a timer. Writing for Woman’s Day, organizer Lorie Marrero explained that she plays little tricks on herself to get through the less-fun chores. “I remind myself it takes only three to five minutes to fold a load of laundry and about three minutes to put it away,” she wrote. Can you keep up the pace on your own folding?
3. Use Rolling Shelves
For any deep closets or cabinets, make it easier to reach for items all the way in the back with rolling shelves, organizer Eliza Krpoyan of Style My Life in Los Angeles told Real Simple. With a set like this one from The Home Depot, you can efficiently use all of your storage space.
4. Tackle Junk Mail Immediately
Junk mail adds up, and before you know it, the countertop is no longer visible. Jill Annis, a Wisconsin-based professional organizer, told us she recommends shredding, recycling or throwing out junk mail the same day it arrives. You can manage your junk mail with resources such as Catalog Choice and DMAchoice, which allows you to opt out of mailings you don’t want to receive. (You can do it for your inbox, too!)
5. Create a Drop Zone
Allowing just a little bit of clutter in one specific area can help it from spreading throughout your home. “For the most effective drop zone, think about what you often bring into your home,” Maeve Richmond, founder of Maeve’s Method, told Good Housekeeping. For those who are always shuttling kids to and from practices and games, she suggested cubbies or hooks could be a good idea to catch all the equipment as soon as it gets inside.
6. Don’t Buy Organizing Supplies Until You’re Actually Organized
Organizing and de-cluttering expert Nicole Anzia of Neatnik in Washington, D.C. said people get way too eager to start buying bins and baskets. They might even end up with more clutter than they started with by shopping first! “I recommend cleaning out first, assessing what containers you REALLY need, and then buying a few bins to start,” she told Apartment Therapy.
7. Get Strict With Yourself
Organizing experts told Reader’s Digest that a firm set of rules can make decluttering much easier. Get rid of every item of clothing that is stained or not in your size range, no exceptions, or all magazines and newspapers more than a few months or a year old.
8. Label Everything
Spend an afternoon labeling where you keep things, whether they be holiday decorations, winter clothes, baking supplies, beach towels or toys. That way, there will never be a question of which box or container something belongs in. “Labels help everyone in your household know where things go, and also impart a sense of responsibility on each family member to put things back,” organizer Barbara Reich told Good Housekeeping. You can buy your own label maker or just use masking tape or washi tape.
9. Carefully Assess Sentimental Items
Are your shelves crowded with vases and figurines from your in-laws? Is your jewelry box packed to the gills when earrings belonging to your mom that you never wear? Organizing experts told Reader’s Digest it’s important to remember that you don’t have to hold onto everything from family. You can give away or sell some of the heirlooms you’ll never use and keep the memories of your family members instead.
10. Don’t Stress Out
Last but not least, don’t forget to be kind to yourself throughout the process — it’s work! It can be emotionally taxing to look at all your belongings and it’s easy to get distracted or diverted when it feels too hard. But as Annis reminded us, done is better than perfect. Just make some progress every day and soon, your house will feel beautiful and relaxing.