Many of us are in a constant battle against daily clutter. In many cases, we become so used to living with it that we no longer even notice it, but rest assured that your guests certainly do. We're talking about the likes of magazines, paperwork, and day-to-day items that have simply become part of your furniture, and perhaps it's even reached a point where you no longer recognize them as clutter at all.
One thing organizing experts want us to know, however, is that the key to cutting clutter for good is being able to recognize when it's getting out of hand. Identifying the primary culprits and either throwing them out or organizing them will probably cut your clutter in half within an instant, but the trick is knowing which items are the worst offenders.
'Some people accumulate more of one item than others which is normal since we all have different needs and lifestyles,' says professional organizer Di Ter Avest. 'However, we usually see a pattern of items that are definitely cluttering your home without you even noticing.' To find out what they are, we spoke with experts in the field who shared the most common culprits they see in their clients' homes. Here are seven items that are almost certainly filling your space right now and could be the easy answer to decluttering your home.
1. Cords and cables
We all have an unnecessary number of cords and cables that can quickly clutter our homes. Trailing chargers and extension cables around your living room or bedroom will soon make your space look messy, and they should all have a designated place to be kept when not in use, too (and no, keeping them plugged into the outlet isn't the answer).
'I look forward to the day when there is a universal cord, but until then, we all have way too many of them and it can feel incredibly overwhelming to know what to do with them,' says Califonia-based decluttering expert, Melissa Gugni. 'I highly encourage culling them frequently and at least putting the ones that you don't think you need anymore in a box in an out-of-the-way place. For cords that you need semi-frequently (for me it's the one that charges my makeup mirror) cord labels like these ones from Amazon can be very helpful.'
2. Old electronics
In a similar vein, hoards of electronic devices and gadgets often become part of your furniture, so they're a great way to start decluttering. There's nothing that ages quicker than out-of-date tech, so if you still have an unused speaker or radio lying around, let it go. It's fair to say these items offer nothing in terms of aesthetic contributions (unless, of course, they're vintage pieces) so saying goodbye will really help to cut the clutter.
Di Ter Avest, owner of Di is Organized, says it's good practice to clear any other old electronics you have hidden away while you're at it. 'Old electronics like phones, chargers, and cables that are no longer in use can take up space, and old computers, printers, and other tech seem to accumulate over time,' she says. 'Find an institution near you that accepts electronics or recycles them.'
3. Reusable shopping bags
We all have the best intentions when it comes to keeping reusable grocery bags and all those novelty totes, but how many do you really need? 'This is a "too much of a good thing" situation,' notes Melissa. 'It's awesome that there's so much more awareness about using reusable bags, but if you have too many, it kind of defeats the purpose of cluttering the earth and your home. Just say no.'
For those you do decide to keep, try a compact grocery bag dispenser. We love this one from YouCopia, available at Amazon, but bear in mind it's intended for small plastic bags rather than fabric ones.
4. Old magazines and newspapers
This is certainly one of those ones you've become blind to. Old newspapers and magazines you've already read front to back can soon stack up by the side of the sofa, so make sure to add them to your decluttering checklist. Yes, you might want to keep the odd one or two if you read an especially interesting article, but there's no need to keep them all, and definitely not within plain sight. 'Collect all the magazines and newspapers you have lying around the house, and be ruthless,' says Di.
These tattered magazines can be easily overlooked, especially if you're not the most organized of people. Di says that having a second pair of eyes is always helpful to help you evaluate your space. 'If you can't hire a professional organizer, consider inviting a friend over and asking their opinion,' she says. 'Another good exercise is to take a picture of your space and evaluate it yourself.'
5. Letters and paperwork
We're all familiar with the pile of opened letters that soon becomes a permanent feature of the entryway console. No matter how many promises you make that you'll sort them out later, they're still going to contribute to a cluttered and messy look in the meantime. 'Outdated bills, receipts, and documents can pile up and clutter desks and flat spaces,' notes Di. 'Create a filing system that's easy to maintain and at the end of the year, archive the documents you will need for tax purposes and recycle the rest.'
When something finds its way into your home for free, be it a gift or a work perk, you can fool yourself into thinking it's harder to get rid of but really, the opposite is true. 'All of those convention freebees like water bottles, hand towels, frames, bottles of bubbles - you name it - they can really take over your home,' says Melissa. 'Just because it's free doesn't mean that it's useful to you.'
As a long-term solution, she recommends being selective about what you take and what you keep. 'If you don't think you need another water bottle (and seriously, who does at this point!) leave it for someone else,' she says. In the short term, use a technique like the six-month decluttering rule to help you let go of the things you don't need.
7. Craft supplies
It might sound like an outlier on this list, but if you are partial to a bit of crafting, you'll know the struggle. Balls of wool, bobbins of thread, and boxes of paint often get left out in the open on your coffee table or open shelves and soon become part of the clutter problem.
'The key is to set a home or space to organize them, and let the space determine how much you will keep,' says Di. 'Once that space has hit the max capacity (in an organized way), it's time to let go of old projects you won't finish or have duplicates. That's also a valid system for kids' supplies, too.'
Look out for these seven items next time you're decluttering and see how much difference it makes. If you ask us, now's as good as time as any!
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Lilith Hudson is the News Editor at Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. 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.
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