What to Never Tackle First When Decluttering — 'Avoid These Tasks First to Help Your Organizing Projects Succeed'

Decluttering is never an easy task to take on, but it’s even harder when you start with the biggest and most complicated jobs first. Find out what to avoid doing at the beginning and how to hold your focus

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If you’re heading for a big session of decluttering in the near future, then firstly, good for you – it can be a daunting chore and potentially quite a mission.

Motivation is half the battle when it comes to how to declutter your home, and success in your projects might be as simple as starting in the right place. According to our experts, there are some areas to avoid at the start of the process to keep that feeling of productivity peaked. Depending on the room, the clutter and the state of cleanliness, the tips below will point you in the right direction of how to begin.

1. With documents

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From receipts, forms to fill out, mail and bits of paper with important information scribbled on it, we are constantly dealing with piles of papers and it has become one of the most time consuming things to keep in order at home.

If you’re about to start a big decluttering session, starting with paperwork is not the done thing purely due to the amount of time it will take to make your way through it all. Let’s face it, you’ll want to tick things off quickly at the beginning to feel the motivation to keep going.

With how to get rid of paper clutter successfully, you’ll need to examine every piece of paper and file it away, it’ll be an arduous job to hit up when you’re feeling in the right mood.

2. Sentimental items

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When reviewing keepsakes people tend to get a little lost down memory lane as they start reminiscing. A lot of the time, you don't really need to declutter sentimental items, they just need putting them together into one container. ‘Sentimental items are often the hardest to declutter because, of course, they mean something to us. I leave sentimental items for last, because usually I can get rid of random items that actually make room for sentimental items to stay. I guarantee you can find something to get rid of before getting rid of a sentimental item.’ says Amanda Wiss, Founder of NYC-based home organizing company Urban Clarity.

3. Clothing

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You may not need to declutter clothes first, because generally they're not going to be your homes biggest problem.

Amanda suggests tackling tasks in plain sight at first, any clutter that’s piled up on the surfaces cleared away. ‘Getting through these tasks will lead me to approach my dresser and closet with a good launch pad,' she says. 'If my room is clean, for example, it’s easier to pull clothes out later to sort and not get them confused with other things in my home.’

4. Containers

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There's a few reasons why trying to sort containers out first isn't the best idea.

’Some bins may have large items that make for quick review such as pool toys, whereas a lot of small items of different categories will take time and slow down the whole process,' Ben Soreff, professional organizer at House To Home Organizing suggests.

‘It may be better to clean around your containers and bins, leaving them for last so that you can organize and containerize in one fell swoop,' Amanda adds. 'We follow four steps: Purge, Sort, Organize, Containerize. This method helps us get rid of and organize everything in a room so that we can confirm the best possible ways to store your things. If you start by decluttering containers and bins, you may believe you no longer need a bin and throw it out.’

It’s not great to have empty bins sitting around because they collect clutter.

Where should you begin?

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(Image credit: Design by Lisa Staton)

So now we know what to avoid tackling first, where is best to begin decluttering? Organizing is not about stuff, it is about manual labor and putting aside enough time to have things properly cleaned and organized. You’ll want to set aside the appropriate amount of time before tackling any organizing project, otherwise you may end up leaving a bigger mess than before you started.

‘The reason certain items don't make good places to start is that they destroy momentum and focus. We need to start with quick easy items like 100% trash (think rusted oil can in the garage). True no-brainers that won't lead to anxiety, guilt or regret.’ advises Ben. The more you see tasks of smaller consequence completed, the easier it will be to then tackle the harder tasks.

Portia Carroll

Portia Carroll is an interior stylist, writer, and design consultant. With a background in interior architecture and design, she has a plethora of creative experience in the industry working with high end interior brands to capture beautiful spaces and products and enhance their qualities.