The word alone might instill feelings of panic, but decluttering your home needn't be a dreaded chore. The truth is, nearly all of us have extra stuff in our homes that we don't need or want, collecting dust in our homes and detracting from our interior design style. And yet, getting rid of it is far easier said than done. That's why professionals rely on a host of valuable tips, tricks, and customs that make decluttering far simpler.
In the space of a year, I've gone from sentimental hoarder to ruthless minimalist after applying these rules to my decluttering efforts, and my home has thanked me for it. It's improved my mental well-being, too. Living with less has changed my mentality toward materialistic 'stuff', and I have a far healthier relationship with my belongings now.
Never one to gate-keep, I've shared the eight most effective tips for how to start decluttering that I've learned from experts in the past 12 months.
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 and declutter their spaces through sharing practical tips and guides. For this piece she listed the most effective decluttering rules she's come across this year.
1. The 20/20 rule
How often do you find yourself plagued by indecisiveness while decluttering? If this sounds familiar it's like even the smallest of spaces becomes a time-consuming task, in which case the 20/20 decluttering rule might be for you. This simple decluttering tip challenges you to ask yourself whether you actually need a particular item.
As Maureen Nuccitelli, professional declutterer and consultant at The Organizing Diva (opens in new tab), explains: 'All the 20/20 rule involves is deciding if we can let something go by asking if we can replace it for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from our current location.' That's it - just one simple question that helps reassure you that most of your stuff is replaceable and thus making it far easier to part with.
2. The Marie Kondo method
If you haven't heard of the Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo, where have you been? Her successful decluttering methods have been hailed by professionals ut are extremely simple. Most famous is her KonnMari Method which encourages tidying and decluttering by category rather than location for more effective results.
One of the hardest things when faced with how to declutter a room is figuring out your plan of action. While your automatic response might be to start in one corner working your way to the other, the KonMari method is far more strategic. Why? 'Well, decluttering by category (eg clothes, books, papers), rather than room by room, allows you to make more confident decisions about what you discard as you’ll know exactly what you have that’s similar,' explains Sue Spencer, professional declutter at A Life More Organised (opens in new tab).
3. The six-month rule
Again, this is a useful rule for the more indecisive among us. The six-month rule is all about quelling that fear of regret we often feel when throwing things away, which often makes us hold onto things for longer. So how does it work?
'At the core, the six-month rule basically states that when you are decluttering your space, anything you haven’t used in the past six months can probably go,' says Ben Soreff, a declutterer at House to Home Organizing (opens in new tab). Compared to more ruthless rules, like the 20/20 tip mentioned earlier, the six-month rule is a lot kinder. In most cases, it should only be applied to practical items, allowing exceptions for things like holiday decorations and keepsakes, for example.
4. Use QR stickers
Okay I admit it, this one might be difficult to get your head around but it honestly changed my life when it comes to storage. That's because during decluttering storage containers become your best friend, and while there's no denying their utility, it can be difficult to keep track of what you've stored and where. Well, imagine a world where you don't have to rummage through boxes - these organizing QR code stickers make that possible.
All you need is a QR printing kit, costing less than $10 from Amazon (opens in new tab), which allows you to store a visual inventory of what's inside your storage boxes to help you save time (and energy). 'To label your boxes, you scan the code and create a name for the box that sticker is going on,' says Samantha Dickens, owner of Get Organized by Sam (opens in new tab). 'With the Elephant Trax brand I use, you can tag keywords in the description on their app so that later when you want to find it, you can search that in the app and it will tell you where it is.'
5. The hanger test
The task of organizing your closet can prove a living nightmare, but it's one area of the home all of us should declutter more often. That's because most of us use just 20% of our wardrobe, but 80% of the time - the rest just takes up space and gathers dust. To prevent feeling overwhelmed, we recommend applying the hanger test when sorting out your clothes.
This simple little trick involves turning all your hangers around so they face the same way. Then, every time you wear something, just turn the hanger around so it's easy to spot. This way, you'll be able to see how many items of clothing are still facing the original way giving your a clear indication of what you ought to throw out (give or take for seasonality, of course).
6. The 80/20 rule
This decluttering rule is one of the oldest tricks in the book... well, nearly. The 80/20 rule, otherwise known as Pareto's Principle, actually originated outside the world of home organization, but it makes a good case for decluttering.
In short, it's all about identifying our most valuable assets and using them efficiently. When applied to our homes the rule suggests that we roughly use 20% of what we own around 80% of the time (sound familiar?), highlighting the value of those household items. For fans of minimalism, this principle is a great way of learning to live with less.
7. Make use of multi-functional storage
It's 2022, and that means our furniture has come a long way. One of the most useful pieces of decluttering advice that also doubles up as a smart space-saving solution is making use of multifunctional furniture storage. From under the bed to window seat storage, there are plenty of ways to hide your stuff out of sight for a more clutter-free home.
‘My top recommendation for organizing a living room is ottomans because they are multi-purpose,’ says professional organizer and decluttering coach, Kenika Williams (opens in new tab). Personally, I've found my ottomon especially useful for spare towels, bedding or pillows that you don't need frequent access to.
8. Invest in purpose made organizers
Professional declutterers are big fans of purpose-made organizers. Be it a kitchen drawer, your closet, or even the inside of your pantry, there are certain spaces that are just more likely to become cluttered. That's why they use the likes of drawer organizers, shoe racks and lazy Susans to tidy up those spaces.
You'll probably find a gadget or gizmo for any space you need, even if you didn't know it existed, but a safe place to start is by organizing your kitchen drawers using bamboo drawer dividers like these ones, from Amazon (opens in new tab). You don't need to limit them to your kitchen, either. 'These are absolutely essential everywhere you use drawers, from closets to bathrooms to kitchens to offices,' says Lucy Milligan Wahl, founder of LMW Edits (opens in new tab).
So, if decluttering was top of your New Year's resolutions for 2023, now you know exactly where to start. I guarantee you won't let these ones slip either - dare I say it, but decluttering my home has become quite fun...
The best decluttering books to get you started
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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