To declutter a room properly, you need more than just a ruthless attitude, storage solutions, and a good organizing method - you also need reliable decluttering rules to fall back on. I learned this the hard way when it came to moving home just a few weeks ago. Having packed my belongings in a rush, I ended up moving all the junk from my drawers, closet and cupboard with me. When it came to unpacking on the other side I knew it was time to finally let stuff go, but I didn't know where to start. That's when I heard about the six month rule.
This simple yet effective rule is by far the best way of getting rid of junk you've accumulated over the years to help declutter a room. It might not have reached compulsive levels, but we're all guilty of hoarding things we don't need, use or want. Gadgets, gizmos, and unwanted gifts, - even Christmas cracker prizes - all get stuffed in 'the drawer' just in case they might prove themselves useful one day. But alas, they never do. Instead, they sit gathering dust and taking up space in your home.
After reading about the six month rule, I was determined to give it a try. As someone with so many tools, gadgets and utensils littering my home that I often even forget what I own, I knew I needed something that would help me ditch the junk for good. This rule was the answer. Here, decluttering experts explain why it's so effective.
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 tested out the 6 month rule to help get rid of all the stuff she no longer uses
What is the six month rule for decluttering?
I would rather deep clean my home 10 times over than declutter. The problem is, I get irrationally sentimental over things I own, and when it comes to throwing stuff away, I always find a way to convince myself I need whatever it is I'm about to donate. That's why the six month rule is my favorite decluttering tip: it's about tackling that 'what if?' mentality.
'At the core, the six month rule basically states that when you are organizing your space and decluttering, anything you haven’t used in the past six months can probably go,' explain Ben Soreff, a declutterer at House to Home Organizing (opens in new tab). 'The rule allows for exceptions including holiday decorations and keepsakes.'
According to Ben, the six month rule is all about quelling that fear of regret we often feel when throwing things away. Think about the stuff you've thrown away in the past - how much of it do you miss, or even remember? Probably not a lot...
Where is the six month rule best applied?
While it can be applied anywhere in the home, as a maxim that targets practical items rather than decorative ones, the six month rule lends itself best to certain areas.
'It's especially effective in rooms like the kitchen, where clutter can quickly build up,' explains Phi Dang. director of home services company, Sidepost (opens in new tab). 'That said, it can also be applied to rooms like the living room, where clutter might not be as obvious but can still create a feeling of chaos.'
Start with the rooms in your home that have the most storage. This might be a living room with lots of shelving, or a kitchen with drawers so full they're jammed. I used it when unboxing my belongings while moving which was especially useful seeing as nothing I owned had a designated spot yet.
When you start organizing a room with too much stuff in, with every item you pick up, ask yourself 'have I used it or found any value in it in the past six months?' If the answer is no, let go.
Why is the six month decluttering rule so effective?
I managed to throw out a whole load of clothes from my closet using this method as well as a box of kitchen items. When paired with the 20/20 decluttering rule, I found it was the most effective decluttering attempt I'd ever made. But don't just take it from me.
According to Phi, there are a few reasons why the six month rule is so effective, the first one being preventative. 'It forces you to be more mindful of the things you bring into your home,' he explains. 'If you know you'll only keep something for six months, you're less likely to impulse buy or hold onto things you don't need.'
He continues: 'Second, the rule helps you focus on the things you actually use and enjoy. When you declutter your home, you can surround yourself with the things that make you happy and that are truly useful to you.'
Finally, it gently eases you into letting go of things. I always found it hard to part with stuff. I held on to unnecessary things, just in case I happened to need that portable solar phone charger with the torch attachment. When traveling Europe, I used it no end. But having been collecting dust for more than six months (closer to 26...) I knew I wouldn't miss it once it was gone. If I do, I can just buy a new one.
Tips for using the six month rule
The most important thing to remember when using decluttering rules is to be kind. The six month rule should allow for exceptions. You don't 'use' the decorative objet on your shelves, but they contribute to your decor nonetheless. You don't 'use' the silver set, but it's a family heirloom. You don't have to get rid of things if they still hold value to you.
It's important to stay realistic when applying this rule. 'Be honest with yourself,' says Phi. 'It can be tough to let go of things, even if we don't use them very often. But if you want to declutter your home effectively, it's important to be honest with yourself about what you really need and what you can live without.' Once you know the reason why you're holding on to something, it could make it easier to let go of it.
'Instead of focusing on not using something for six months instead ask yourself why you haven't used it,' says Ben. 'Perhaps you couldn't find it or perhaps someone else in the house put it away in the wrong place? Ask how expensive is it? How hard is it to replace? If you don't know what to do with an item, put it on probation and now you have a date on it. Just come back six months later.'
Organizing your home just got 10 times easier. Dare I say it, but I feel like a more minimalistic lifestyle could be the way forward for me with this decluttering idea. Check back in six months' time to find out...
The best books for decluttering your stuff
If you really want to kick the clutter for good, this book might be for you. Written by the Queen of organization, Marie Kondo, this book lays out the core principles of The KonMari Method, the revolutionary category-by-category system that promises effective decluttering results.
Probably the biggest thing holding you back from decluttering is your sentimental attachment. With empathy, expertise, and humor, Keep the Memories, Lose the Stuff, by Matt Paxton helps you to let go of what all the stuff that no longer serves you, helping you to live in the present moment
If a decluttered home seems like a distant reality, this book by Dana White will help you get the job done. The decluttering expert identifies the emotional challenges that make it difficult to part with stuff we own, and provides workable solutions, like the six month rule, to break through and see noticeable results.
Lilith Hudson is the Junior Writer on Livingetc, and an expert at decoding trends and reporting on them as they happen. Writing news articles for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration that you need in your home. She 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. Lilith now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London (a degree where she could combine both) and has previously worked at the Saturday Times Magazine, ES Magazine, DJ Mag and The Simple Things Magazine.
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