How do you declutter a room? These are the 5 things professional organizers want you to know

Decluttering a room can be an overwhelming task. These experts explain how to tackle it methodically

living room in a city apartment with white sofa and armchair
(Image credit: Adrian Gaut)

At some point in your life, you'll want to know how to declutter a room quickly and efficiently. I'm a strong believer that there's a lot to be said for the phrase, 'a tidy home is a tidy mind'. Hoarding unnecessary items and hanging onto stuff not only makes your home untidy and disorganized, but it makes it hard to feel at peace in your space. So how should we go about tackling a cluttered room?

We all need a clearout every now and then, but usually we only commit to it once the task has become so overwhelming, we don't know where to start. In our modern world, we're too well-accustomed to buying material things that we just don't need. While it's good to treat yourself every once in a while, all of this unnecessary stuff starts to accumulate in your home and before you know it, your stylish interior has become a cluttered and disorganized home that you no longer feel proud of. 

The thing about cluttered spaces is, the longer you put off the job, the more time you have to accumulate more stuff. As hard as it might be, you need to start somewhere, so here we've gathered some expert tips to help you know where to begin. 

Lilith headshot for bio
Lilith Hudson

Lilith is an expert at following news and trends across the world of interior design. A strong believer that a tidy home is a happy one, she's committed to helping readers organize their spaces through sharing practical tips and guides. For this piece she asked professional declutters how to let go off stuff to declutter a room quickly and efficiently

1. Start small 

White sheer curtains around corner sliding doors in a living room

(Image credit: A Rum Fellow)

There's nothing more overwhelming than facing a large room filled with stuff without a game plan of how to declutter it. While it might be tempting to get it over and done with, one of the best decluttering tips is to avoid diving in randomly.

Instead, Sue Spencer, a professional declutter at A Life More Organised, suggests starting small. 'Start with a sock, underwear or cutlery drawer – it’s not overwhelming, can test out your method and then you can enjoy the benefits when you get dressed every morning,' she says.

Rather than setting yourself a big challenge from the offset, choose spaces in your home that you feel more inclined to declutter. This might be areas that aren't actually so cluttered. 'It's smart to start in an area of the house you know will be easy to organize,' says Dave Holliday, designer and organizer at ShelfGenie. 'Starting with the easier rooms will give you a quick and easy win, which will encourage you to carry on.'

By dividing the job into manageable stages you're less likely to feel overwhelmed at the job at large - but be sure to stick to your individual tasks rather than become sidetracked. 'We recommend fully decluttering a space before you move on. Doing so will build up confidence because you will be able to see the results of your work,' Dave adds.

2. Have a clear view of what you want to achieve

A modern bedroom with large bed

(Image credit: Mellon studios)

Talking of game plans, before decluttering your home, sit down and think about why you think it's necessary and what you aim to achieve.  'Before jumping in with the bin bags take some time to have a think about how you want your home to look and feel,' says Sue. 'This is an opportunity to hit pause and consider how you'd like to be living your life going forward.' 

Sue suggests asking yourself key questions such as, 'What’s the real reason that you want to declutter and organize your home?' and 'How would you like your home to look and feel.' 'These will give you a clearer view of your ideal lifestyle to help motivate you,' Sue explains. 'It will also help in your decisions about what to keep or discard as there’s no need to keep items that don’t fit your vision of your future home and life.'

3. Categorize your throw away items

a neutral kitchen in an apartment

(Image credit: Marco Ricca. Design: SISSY+MARLEY Interiors)

Once you're on a roll, it's easy to find yourself throwing items over your shoulder, forming large, disorganized piles in your wake (yes, we've all been there). When you're organizing a room with too much stuff in it, in order to approach the job more methodically it's a good idea to designate certain bags or boxes for your throw-away items. Dave recommends these five categories: 

It's important not to let these categories hold you up. They're there to make the process quicker, so don't spend ages deciding where to put an item. 'Move on quickly making decisions, and come back to that pile at the end if necessary,' says Sue. 'More often than not once you’ve made all the positive "keep" decisions you’ll know exactly what you’ve got and will feel confident to work through the unsure pile making decisions you are happy with.' 

4. Use the six month rule to be more ruthless

a living room and hallway in shades of grey

(Image credit: Paint & Paper Library)

There's no denying the fact that getting rid of stuff is hard. We've all been in a situation where we've felt a sentimental attachment to something we don't really need to keep. To help overcome this, Dave suggests trying out what he calls the six-month rule. 

'A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t used the item or even thought about it in six months or more, it's either time to donate it or throw it away if,' he says. 'It can be hard to get rid of items that you used to love, but things like this come and go and new memories will be made in no time.' 

5. Try the Marie Kondo method

Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo encourages tidying by category rather than location for more effective decluttering, know as the KonMari Method. 'You start by focusing on your goals (ideal lifestyle) and what you’re aiming to achieve as a result of any decluttering that you do,' says Sue. 'Declutter by category (eg clothes, books, papers), rather than room by room – this is much more effective as you can make confident decisions about what you discard as you’ll know exactly what you have that’s similar.' 

According to Sue, it's all about keeping possessions that ‘Spark Joy’ rather than look for items to declutter. The aim is to finish with something we all long for: a home that's filled with things that you love. 

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.