6 Week Strategy to Declutter Your Home
“If it brings you joy keep it…if it doesn’t ditch it” – Marie Kondo
In our modern way of life, we naturally aim to collect more and more things. It’s a mark of accomplishment, socially, and financially…and we just like to buy things. But there is a large degree of stress and overwhelm that can go along with living with too much ‘stuff’ around us.
This is one of the reasons why Marie Kondo’s (she is also known as Konmari) approach to living a simplified life took off. It struck a chord with people who possibly hadn’t connected the dots before, that a cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind and unexpected stress.
In her most famous books The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying UP & Spark Joy she discusses the life-changing benefits of choosing to live intentionally. Making deliberate choices about what you own, how much you own, and how that impacts your way of living, thinking, and perspective on life.
Her abiding principle is about intentional living, and that if any item doesn’t bring you joy, don’t keep it in your life.
There Are So Many Benefits to Decluttering Your Home.
Basically, this is about simplifying your home and lifestyle approach, and it also results in calming your mind.
In an ever-increasingly complex world…there’s a lot to be said for having an uncomplicated calming space to come home to.
If you’re ‘on the fence’ about taking on this challenge, decluttering will make you feel better mentally, physically, and emotionally. Trust me, it’s absolutely worth it.
There’s been such a shift in mindset over the past few years, and the minimalist lifestyle has taken off to such an extent that some people even go so far as choosing to live in a ‘Tiny House’.
However, you don’t need to take such a drastic approach to still reap the benefits of the ‘less is more’…of space, airiness, less stress, and a simpler life.
Although I’m writing this post for us midlife women…it’s obviously also going to apply to your partner. Otherwise, the whole idea of decluttering isn’t going to work. So hopefully, you’re both fully on board and ready to enjoy the pleasure of a more minimalist lifestyle.
As we go through this decluttering journey, keep Marie’s Kondo’s mantra in mind about only keeping things that bring you joy. This will help with the decision process.
As the whole process of changing how you live in your space can be a little overwhelming, the best way is to break it up into weeks. However, if you’ve both decided that ‘this is it’ and you’re going all-in…then tackle it at a much faster pace.
Weekly is a great way to approach decluttering your home. It can be difficult to make decisions about what should go and what should stay…but it’s even more difficult with sentimental items. So, leave those until last. I have a good suggestion to help with these that we’ll discuss later.
It’s a good idea to start one room at a time. Choose an important room…one that you will really enjoy a sense of achievement from organizing. Therefore I recommend not starting with the junk room. Although it’s one you have probably planned on sorting out for years…it’s not a room you spend any time in, so you won’t get the same daily enjoyment from your declutter effort.
Welcome to decluttering and living a more peaceful, minimalistic life.
Let’s get started.
WEEK 1. Master Bedroom
Ideally, your bedroom should be a sanctuary of calm and peace. This will promote better sleep and you should look forward to spending time in it. No clutter, use soft lighting, (preferably no TV, hard to let go of..I know) and luxurious bed linen will help to create the right ambiance for you.
Start by taking any unnecessary items from your nightstand and find a drawer for them. Place any medications into the bathroom cabinet, items of jewelry into a nice box in your undies drawer, and just keep one framed photo rather than 3.
Place any clothing items that seem to be inhabiting your bedroom chair (or the floor) back into the closet or drawers where they belong…same with shoes…march them back to the closet or shoe rack.
Decide which 3 decorative cushions will take pride of place on your bed. Find a home for the other 2, including the fluffy bears (well, maybe one fluffy bear can stay).
Looking better already?
Now for the closet. Let’s be honest. We ALL have clothes we keep just in case we lose the 8lbs and will fit into them again. This reason to hang on to clothing is our go-to excuse!
Time to be brutal ladies…and gents. If it no longer fits, it hasn’t for some time, and you haven’t even thought about it for months…time to put it into the ‘Donate’ box.
The same goes for shoes. You know…the ones you bought but have never worn because, well truth is, they’re not comfortable and you just wouldn’t be able to wear them all evening with those enormous heals.
Or, the pearly high heels you wore for your wedding…stunning at the time, but unlikely to look good with any other outfit these days.
Time to make a decision – it’s tough I know…but maybe they should go.
Use the same system for underwear, old sweaters, T-shirts, lonely socks who have lost their partner, and gym gear you never wore even though you hoped it would make you feel like Jillian Michaels. Time to donate or ditch!
Set up a system in your closet for hanging scarves, belts, and hats (ties and scarves for the guys). Also, the clear plastic boxes for shoes are a brilliant investment as they protect your precious shoes, keeping the dust off, AND you can clearly find which ones you’re looking for.
Create innovative storage systems for items like underwear, sweaters, and other foldable items so they have a ‘place to live’. It’s so much easier to stay organized when you know exactly where everything is…and that’s an incredibly satisfying feeling.
Well done! You’ve made it through the first week.
Don’t do too much more because it’s an emotional experience and if you keep going, you’re likely to feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and give up the whole idea.
So, celebrate this week’s achievement.
BUT…here’s the thing. Keep your freshly decluttered room and closet in its new state. Remember the reason you chose to declutter in the first place and resist the temptation to fill up the new space in your closet and drawers! Don’t fall back to old habits.
WEEK 2. The Kitchen & Utility Room
Ok, this one’s a biggie.
It’s our domain and we can be precious about it!
It’s tough for us women to let go of our appliances, utensils, and gadgets. We seem to collect heaps of cutlery items…quite often from mixed sets because half have gone missing over the years. Dishes we got from our own moms, and countless other items we keep shoved at the back of our cupboards but rarely use.
Yes, it’s tough but here’s a ‘rule of thumb’. If it’s covered in dust at the back of the cupboards…you don’t really need it.
If you have more than one appliance that does the same thing (I had 2 blenders and 3 toasters – no idea why) keep the best and donate the rest!
Same with those weird and wonderful gadgets from the catalogs you just had to have but never used. You know the ones, where it turned out to be quicker and easier to just prepare the food the normal way!…send them packing!
And…if it’s broken and you’ve been meaning to fix it, but you’ve lived without it being fixed for months, you obviously don’t need it. It’s time to let it go.
Same for way too many dishes, glasses, cutlery, jars, mugs…in fact anything that isn’t used regularly, donate them. Now I realize we don’t all have ‘designer’ kitchens but…the less you have, the easier it will be for you to be able to organize what you do have…and find it when you want to.
Don’t forget the refrigerator and food pantries. Get rid of anything out of date.
Anything you bought but just never got around to using and probably never will (remember that strange recipe?), old spices, old sticky bottles of nearly empty sauces.
Tins of beans and packet soups you’ve had for several years…unless you plan on becoming a ‘prepper’ maybe you no longer need to keep them.
Invest in some jars and labels. This will let you easily see what you need to replenish.
Use clear stacking containers in your refrigerator and freezer. It prevents cross-contamination and allows you to see what you have. Glass will always be better for food storage where possible.
Also, use lists. This will prevent you from buying ‘blind’ and ending up with duplicates.
Now, re-organize everything you’re keeping and sit back to admire how neat, necessary, and accessible it all is.
Collate all your cleaning products into one location…and I mean all. A good place for storage will be under your kitchen sink or in the laundry/utility room. If you have too much, use the same process as with everything else.
I was always very guilty of this. Way too many cleaning items. It just shows you how well advertising works! Do we really need 8 different products for each room and purpose…really?
AND…Covid-19 has played right into the hands (or should I say pockets) of the companies making cleaning products. Yes…we know we need to watch our cleanliness, hand washing, keeping surfaces clean and disinfected around our home, etc…but they’re using this terrible pandemic to scare us all into buying items that aren’t going to help with the virus at all. It’s a huge sales boon for them, and a cluttered laundry for you!
Even the CDC recommends using gloves, washing surfaces with soap and hot water…then using a high-grade household disinfectant. So why would you suddenly need a pile of other cleaning products being touted in advertisements…unless it was scare-tactics for increased sales?
Ok…rant over! (here’s my pandemic frustration boiling over). I’m sure you can relate.
Ask yourself which items you actually use, and which ones you don’t even know why you have them. You know the drill…
So, how do you feel? a sense of relief, achievement, and satisfaction? You should!
You’ve just achieved what so many people never get around to, even though they want to.
WEEK 3. Living & Dining Rooms
These are the main living areas in your home and where you probably spend much of your time, so you’ll really enjoy the benefits of a calm, uncluttered environment here.
Start with removing anything that doesn’t normally belong here. A stack of books that should be back on the bookshelf. Organize any magazines into a neat pile (less is more) or, discard all those you’ve read, and have no reason to keep. Clear away any odds and ends that have found their way into this room that should be stored elsewhere, or ‘donated’.
Remove all the clutter from your coffee table and just have a couple of really significant ornaments (remember about ‘bringing you joy’) Have items on display that you truly enjoy looking at daily. Those that evoke wonderful memories. Same with the side/console tables.
Incorporate a pretty candleholder that’s in keeping with your decor. There’s nothing more relaxing than having a candle glowing in the evening while you chill out.
Resist the temptation to have TOO many cushions lazing around on your sofa. Maybe organize any photos into a vibrant array on your wall rather than have them all over every surface.
Simplify your dining table. Have a significant central display that you love looking at, but keep the rest of the table uncluttered.
So…does the room feel more like a sanctuary of calm now, rather than a dumping ground for reading material and errant cushions?
If in doubt with the decluttering/minimalism process, remind yourself what you are trying to achieve…a simplified life. Trust your judgment. This will help you decide what should stay, and what shouldn’t. Also, it’s your space and you can minimize as much or as little as you please.
WEEK 4. The Empty-Nest Kids Rooms.
If you’re an empty-nester and that’s likely as this blog is for those of us in our midlife years, then it’s probably going to be quite sentimental. All those old toys, clothes, teddy bears, action figures, special bedding, books, cartoons, etc.
So, before you take on this task, ask your college-age, or adult kids if they want any of it…maybe for their own children or, maybe they still want to keep the comics and action figures as collectibles.
After ownership has been decided, the best way is to have 4 boxes.
Donate, Recycle, Sell, Trash
If toys are in really good condition or ‘collectible’ you may be able to sell them. Heaps of people collect old toys.
Other toys will be very gratefully received by your local schools. Same with any art supplies and stationery items.
Maybe you have left-behind clothes. Obviously, they won’t fit or maybe too out-of-trend. Donate them. There is always someone less fortunate who can use them.
Books from anywhere in the house can go to local libraries or schools.
Bed linen in good condition will be welcomed by Homeless shelters. Old towels and bed linen not in great shape can be given to animal rescue shelters…they always need more.
Here’s something you may not know…
Old cell phones can be given to EcoATM who will recycle them for cash.
Cell Phones for Soldiers will give one to a member of the armed services and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence will take a package of 3+ devices and distribute them to survivors of domestic violence.
Old textbooks that are in good condition and were published after 2002 can be given to Books for Africa, a non-profit organization that sends them to kids in African schools.
Now for the furniture. Once again, if your grown-up kids don’t want it, donate it, so some other family can benefit from it.
Wow!…now you have a new room. Craft room, reading room, hobby room, guest room, music room, man/woman cave! How exciting. It’s a great new space but use it wisely, no clutter!
WEEK 5 – Garage/Shed/Car
It’s amazing how much crap we can collect in our cars. Magazines, leaflets, (parking fines!), CDs, empty cigarette packets, bits of paper, and receipts that fall down between the seats. (Some of them we may need for tax purposes). Not to mention the trunk. Full of last year’s camping gear, old tools, books. We had an old cat basket in ours for 2 years…still no idea why!
AND…if you’re feeling really enthusiastic, now’s the time to give the car interior a good clean. It’s always a treat to get into a clean, uncluttered car.
In the garage and shed, donate old sporting gear, tools (the 15 screwdrivers, hammers, etc) gardening equipment. Old ceramic pots you never got around to using. An old worm farm (yes, we had one)…even a potting bench from when you planned to grow your own veggies that never happened…but someone will love it.
Also, that ‘just in case’ box that you haven’t used in years full of odds and ends, screws, nails, bolts, old padlocks without keys.
If you really feel the need to keep these items, organize them into separate jars on a shelf so you can easily see where things are. Otherwise, you know the drill…time to give them the heave-ho.
Organize the bigger items you’re keeping (only one of each) onto some new shelving or a metal cabinet with doors so everything is neatly tucked away.
Brilliant! you’re getting there.
By the way, if you have a ‘junk room’, you probably won’t find this as daunting as expected. By now you will be in full-on declutter mode and able to tackle any room. Use the same 4-box method: donate, recycle, sell, trash, and finally get that dreaded room under control. You can do it!
WEEK 6 – Cosmetics, Medicines and ‘Sentimentals’
So, any medicines that are out of use-by date have to go. Also, any that you didn’t finish like antibiotics need to go. A safe place to dispose of these is to take them back to the drugstore and ask them to get rid of them. They’re usually happy to oblige as no-one wants pharmaceuticals floating around in the garbage…just in kids finds them, etc
Go through your cosmetics and be truly honest with yourself about what you need and what you don’t use anymore.
I remember purchasing a stunning designer label compact of 20 eyeshadows. It looked so special on my bathroom vanity but I only ever used 3 colors! What a waste…but my sister loved it. So now it’s on her vanity cupboard.
Try to pare down your cosmetics to only one of each thing…well maybe 2-3 lipsticks, but overall, you don’t want a Macy’s cosmetics department.
Don’t forget your handbag. Yes, that collects all sorts of strange items. It’s so much easier to actually find things in it when you clean out the incidentals.
Same deal with the guys…do you really need 2 shaving creams, 2 razors (just in case) 3 deodorants, 4 aftershaves, etc.
Now the ‘Sentimentals’
Take your time over this. You’ll find emotions bubbling to the surface you aren’t expecting.
There is no reason you need to let these items go. Particularly old family photos. But if you’re really serious about being more minimalist then one way is to photograph things. Digitize it all and store it safely in the cloud. That way you still have the memories but don’t have to store the items, AND they stay preserved from deterioration.
If you feel there are things that you just can’t part with, and let’s be honest…there are some items you shouldn’t let go, as they are a part of your family history. That’s ok. Decide on a storage place for them. Pack them well to prevent damage…and maybe display some items that bring you joy every time you see them.
That’s it! Well done. You’ve achieved what most people really struggle with.
How are you feeling? I can imagine there’s a huge sense of accomplishment and a lighter load mentally. Decluttering has that effect on your senses.
Do you think you can make decluttering a priority and stay committed to living a clutter-free life?
I would love to hear how you found this experience. Did you find this post helpful? Please let me know in the comments.