Ever feel a bit hung up on the fact that you don’t live in a minimalistic domestic haven?

Let’s face it, between our actual interest in de-cluttering and the amount of time and energy we expend earning the money to acquire all this stuff, why on earth would we want to get rid of it all?

Pair this with the time, energy and emotional drains perceived to be associated with going through the de-cluttering process, I don’t find it at all difficult to understand, when my clients eyes glaze over, or vaguely start to roll back into their heads, as soon as the topic is raised.

If you are planning on selling your house, or even moving to a new rental, this process is a necessary evil and all the eye glazing and rolling has prompted me to come up with a plan to help people move through this process and I would like to share it with you here, so here we go:

1)    Don’t get overwhelmed

Yep, I know, easier said than done, right? Well actually, it is a lot easier to control how overwhelming and big the process of de-cluttering feels, as long as you follow a few simple rules.

a) Allow more time than you think you’ll need to complete each area you are working on and the whole house.

b) Break the process down into small, manageable pieces and never think about the next area to be tackled until the current one is complete.

c) Starting to feel out of control mid-process? Revisit a) and b).

 2)    Write down your plan and diarise time

You don’t need to spend a mountain of time on this step, but as with all things, having a good plan at the start will get you where you want to go a lot more quickly, simply by keeping you on track.

Start by listing each area or room you want to work on and then break each area or room into a sub list of what needs to be looked at.

Next, re-order your list into a logical sequence. Start with the least used or least cluttered rooms to build confidence and set a pattern before moving on to larger, more cluttered rooms.

Finally, mark time out in your diary to tackle the items on your list. By setting aside specific time, you will always be moving forward toward your goal, even if it is sometimes only a short amount of time you can dedicate to the task.

Remember, in 10 minutes you can deal with the contents of one drawer and that’s one drawer you can cross off the list!

3)    Gather your equipment

Before you start, make sure that you have everything you need to do the job. It will save you a lot of time in the overall process, if you don’t have to stop what you are doing mid-way through.

Sturdy, reasonably sized moving boxes are perfect to protect the belongings you choose to keep and store. Remember, as it is actually the items you want to keep that will be going in these boxes, their practicality for the purpose is important.

A selection of different coloured garbage bags are perfect to use so that you can easily identify the items that you wish to give to family or friends, donate to charity, advertise for sale and throw out, once you have sorted them.

A cleaning kit including all the basic essentials such as cloths, all-purpose spray and a vacuum cleaner will enable you to give each area a thorough clean as you go.

Finally, having a good quality permanent marker on hand to label all those boxes and bags will save you having to open each one when the time comes to retrieving something.

4)    Start sorting

Now for the fun part! Referring back to the plan you made earlier, start at the beginning.

Remove everything from the cupboard, drawer or surface you have chosen to work on and give the area a good clean and dust, wipe or vacuum, as the situation requires.

Turn your attention to the pile of items you removed from the cupboard, drawer or surface. At random, pick up each item, one at a time and place it in a packing box or garbage bag according to its ultimate destination. The only items that should be returned to their original place are those that are regularly used (no – you cannot keep it all and claim that you are de-cluttering!).

Now here is the Secret…Handle each item only once.

Do not put anything down until you have made a decision about what to do with it and definitely do not pick anything up again once you have put it down.

If you are really struggling with the decision making process, this ‘rule’ will become your best friend. It’s funny how quickly we can reach a decision when faced with the frustration of carrying around the 4000th kinder artwork produced by child number 3 for two hours, whilst trying to cook dinner for the family and obviously, there is nothing to be gained from second-guessing your decision once it’s made.

 5)    Deal with it

As soon as you have completed one area, deal with the boxes and bags you have sorted. Move the items you have elected to store to a central point (the garage or a storage facility), take the charity items to your preferred charity bin or drop off location, deliver or arrange collection of items your are giving to family and friends and immediately throw out rest.

Don’t give yourself any room to change your mind and undo the wonderful progress you are making.

6)    Celebrate!

Get out your list and diary and cross off the time you have spent and the items you have completed.

Give yourself a pat on the back for the progress you are making and maybe even consider giving yourself a little reward, just don’t make it something of the clutter producing kind!

Do you have any other decluttering tips that work for you? Please share in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com

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  • I have a room that I want to declutter. Each time I start on this room I would find that others would junk it up again and I would end up giving up. Now im living alone but im scared to go into that room after discovering a 7ft python in there once…LOL


  • These are great tips, thanks for sharing :)


  • Great ideas, thanks for that Jo.


  • Great tips. I find getting stared the hardest part. Then once im into it i tend to put things in different spots with the intention of putting them elsewhere. Organised and right idea but creates double the work :(

    • Hi mom140193, I think many of would agree that getting started is the hardest part. Double handing things certainly adds to the time it takes to get the job done, so I really believe that this is the most significant tip in the article. Good luck!


  • Good tips especially before spring cleaning!

    • Hi mom19782016,

      I’m glad you found it helpful, thanks for commenting.


  • This is a similar approach to that book the magic of tidying up. Makes sense!

    • Hi mom19782016,

      “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising” by Marie Kondo is an excellent book. Thanks for sharing.


  • These are fantastic tips. Thank you.

    • Thank you Ella12, I’m glad you find the article helpful. All the best.


  • I do love a de-clutter, and once I start… look out! I tend to put something away or move to another room and then start in there as well. So the trick is obviously one room or thing at a time! I do love a list, too. So I like to make a list of what I need to do and then stick to it, and/or add to it along the way. It’s great to cross things off and feel that you’re getting somewhere.


  • Good thinking ! I’m very much a one-thing-at-the-time person, I always keep in mind that I might not be able finish something in one go, but it doesn’t walk away and every bit helps.

    • Hi mom134803, I’m glad yo found the article helpful. Every step, however small, is a step in the right direction! Thanks for taking the time to comment.


  • Easy in theory but putting into practice is not so easy for me. I am a will keep this for “just in case” type of person. Not that long ago I gave away a piece of clothing I had not wore for a while and then came the day I could have really used it.
    Interesting read though ..thanks.

    • Hi cheer, I know what you mean, it is ‘Murphy’s Law’ sometimes that the one thing that we decide to part with is soon after seen as useful, however, if you are applying this to your broader possessions, I think you will find that you are productively clearing more that you miss. I’m glad you found it interesting, I hope the ideas are of some assistance to you & I appreciate that you left some feedback.


  • Fantastic tips – getting started is my real problem. Once I overcome that, I’m OK. Don’t have the problem of keeping things if they are too small/big or don’t fit quite right – they would go, problem is I don’t change weight very much so it all still fits. Just need to shake myself up and get started.

    • Hi mom101628, I know what you mean! I think if you read Sarah93’s tip below, this might really help you out a lot. I thought it was a great idea for deciding what was really worth keeping. I’s love to know what you think (and I bet Sarah 93 would too!). Thanks for sharing.

      • I like the idea except when I do it I find this lovely clothing item and find a new use for it because it still fits. If only I would go up a couple or sizes [or down] then I’d throw it out. The last time I had a complete reshuffle of my wardrobe was the tsunami in Indonesia. I don’t want that catastrophe to happen again, but I do go with the if you buy something then something has to go and do that. Still need to unclutter though.


  • It does sound easy in theory but decluttering also heart issue especially if you are attached to all your stuff.

    • Hi jodiev1980,
      I totally agree with you, one of the biggest hurdles can be the emotional attachment we feel to our possessions. My best advice is to start with a small area that doesn’t have too many precious items in it ( a junk draw for example), take a deep breath & try to focus on just tackling that one area. The more you are able to complete, the easier it will become.
      All the best, Jo


  • This is invaluable information and it sounds easy in theory but in practice it’s really not that easy. This is something I am currently struggling with and this advice may make my experience easier ( I hope). I am going to try and follow this advice and I hope at the end of my task I will be happy with the outcome, thank you.

    • Hi mom114005,
      I’m so happy that you think this advice might be helpful to you. Don’t forget, there are professional decluttering services available if you need them, perhaps even just to get you started. I wish you all the best. Jo


  • Yep, No #1 “Don’t get overwhelmed” is the deal breaker for me! As soon I as even start to think about what to do, I immediately see unsurmountable hurdles – mainly lack of time! I think your point of breaking the process down into small, manageable steps is a fantastic idea – while ever I try to see the big picture, I know it will never happen! Thanks for such a great article!

    • Hi nadine_hill,
      Thanks for your comments, it’s interesting to read how we all find difference aspects of this task difficult, but the enormity of it is can seem like a big issue, that’s for sure. Thank you for commenting. I hope that you get the encouragement you need from the article and look forward to hearing how it all went. Kind regards, Jo


  • I’m a horder, lucky with have a big house, just need to keep it neat

    • Hi mom111632, I love your positivity and optimism! I hope that you found the article interesting and in some way helpful. Thanks for leaving a comment.


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