How To Declutter: 7 Proven Decluttering Techniques

Sam FarringtonDecluttering, Minimalism

How to declutter your home.

On the surface, decluttering is purging the unnecessary to give us a sense of peace and freedom. Yet, decluttering our home this past year also created an unexpected benefit. The simple act of decluttering provided us with our first step in living with more intention and purpose.

Living Someone Else’s Life

We love our parents, and we love spending time with our extended families.

Yet, our travels have made us realize that if we started life with a clean slate, we would not live in the neighborhood, city, or even the state where we currently live.

If we wouldn’t choose to live where we currently do, then why in the world are we living there now?

Similar to many families, our parent’s chose the city we grew up in. More often than not, as we age, we will find ourselves living in the same city we were raised. This isn’t because we chose this location because it’s the best fit for who we are, but rather it’s easier to stay in a place we already know!

Many of us don’t embrace change which leaves us feeling stuck. The good news is changing our circumstances is often as easy as being willing to embrace change! The good news is we can live where we really want to live. We can work where we really want to work.

The challenge is we need to live life on purpose and with more intention!

It’s Time To Live Life On Purpose

Our family enjoys spending time outdoors together, specifically hiking in the mountains. The serenity and spiritual connection we feel when exploring God’s incredible creation is a feeling that is difficult to put in words.

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It’s not unusual for vacationers to dream about living somewhere other than where we currently are.

For us, Colorado is that place. It’s close enough to our extended families (one day drive), and is in the heart of places that simply makes us feel alive and at home.

Our year of living with less is causing us to live life with more intentionality. Intentional living that opened up the door of making our dream of moving become a reality.

Minimalism and decluttering made us realize we don’t need more space in Colorado where homes are more expensive. We actually want less space. Less home means less to maintain and more time to build new relationships and experience the beautiful outdoors.

The process of getting rid of the unnecessary in our lives has been our catalyst for change. Where we once thought moving to a more expensive place was unattainable, decluttering our home is paving the way to live in the perfect location for our family!

How To Declutter A Home

As we move forward with downsizing our home, we have decluttered our space multiple times. Through this process we’ve figured out seven techniques that truly work when decluttering a home. These decluttering tips opened doors that were unimaginable to us just one year ago.

If you’re even slightly debating living with less, I encourage you to give these tips a try.

1. Focus On One Area at a Time

Focus is extremely powerful whether you need to declutter your space, achieve a goal, or complete a project. Without focus, distractions pry our valuable attention away from the task at hand.

We learned the power of focusing on one goal at a time when we were becoming debt-free. For instance, while it is possible to save up in an emergency fund, pay down debt, and invest for your future simultaneously, it leaves us feeling like we’re not making any progress when funding all three at once.

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The power of focusing on just one of those goals at a time creates a sense of accomplishment as progress appears much faster.

Decluttering a home is similar to our finances. Yes, it’s possible to declutter your home all at once, but it won’t feel like you’re making the necessary progress to make your efforts worthwhile. You’re more likely to stick with the decluttering process if you see the short-term progress made by decluttering one room or area at a time.

Cutting your ultimate goal (decluttering your home) into bite-size goals (decluttering the linen closet) prevents being distracted by all the other areas/rooms needing your attention. Focusing on one room at a time creates a sense of accomplishment.

Focusing on one room or area at a time prevents feeling overwhelmed when all you see is more clutter.

2. Start Where You Are The Decision-Maker

It’s easier to see other people’s clutter, but it’s easier to purge your own. This is especially true if you naturally keep less clutter than people you live with.

For instance, I naturally want less clutter in our home than my wife, but I realize we’re a team and need to work together. Tossing out my wife’s clothes is asking for a major argument. So, I don’t do it!

I recommend starting in your closet for two main reasons.

First, you are the sole decision maker. If you want to purge half of your sweaters and t-shirts, there is no one there to stop you.

Second, this is an area that usually needs a few rounds of purging and is an easy area to revisit on your own again in the future.

3. Remove ALL items and only put back what you use.

This is equally powerful regardless of the chosen declutter area. Removing all the items from a drawer, your closet, or even an entire room is the only true method of ultimately keeping what is necessary.

It’s easier to keep unneeded items when simply glancing in a drawer or in your closet than it is when being forced to physically put each item back in.

This is also a good time to give your shelves, walls, and floors a good wipe down!

Only return items that you believe are absolutely necessary. Keep all of your favorite clothing items, and don’t be afraid to be harsh with decluttering items you don’t wear, don’t fit well, or you’re keeping because you got it as a gift.

Have a goal of only keeping your favorite things!

4. Cut Duplicates In Half

One of the easiest ways to rid your space of unnecessary clutter is to get rid of half the items you own two of. The kitchen is the main beneficiary of this decluttering technique.

It’s not that uncommon to buy a new kitchen gadget because your old one never seemed to work as advertised.

Yet, we often neglect to purge the old item we hate because we “might” need it some time in the future. We think, “What if the new one doesn’t work so well, either?”

In other words, we hold on to things just in case. The problem with just in case items is we can just in case just about anything! It’s better to let the item go, especially if there aren’t any other reasons to keep it besides just in case.

How many times have we utilized ALL our GladWare containers at the same time? I don’t think we’ve even used half of them at the same time!

Spatulas, mixing bowls, pots and pans, silverware, and glassware are all areas that many households could easily cut in half without wishing we kept it around.

Remember to take all the items out of the cupboards and drawers so we can visually take inventory of what items we have multiples of.

5. Give Yourself a Deadline

I personally put a dollar limit on my just in case items. If it is under $20, I get rid of the item because it won’t break the bank if I truly need to repurchase it in the future.

If it is over $20, I place the item in a box in my basement and give myself 60 days to use the item. If the item(s) aren’t used within the set time, they get donated, sold, or trashed.

Use whatever deadline works for you, but I highly recommend keeping it within a 6 month timeframe.

The shorter the timeframe, the better because it prevents forgetting about the box(es) and keeping unused items around. After all, the point of decluttering is to rid yourself of these distractions permanently.

6. Admit Where We Struggle

The more we declutter our home the more obvious it becomes that we all seem to acquire something. That “something” is different for everybody, but we all usually have our downfall.

Decluttering made it apparent that I like to collect light bulbs, t-shirts, and hiking gear.

My wife likes to hold onto old high school pictures and the extra buttons you get with clothes.

My daughter likes to keep stuffed animals, blankets, and jewelry.

Finally, my son likes to keep old lego sets, multiple pairs of slippers, and soccer jerseys.

Remember, there is no problem with keeping any items if they serve a useful purpose. More often than not, these items simply get in our way.

Knowing the areas we struggle is the first step in moving in the direction of living more intentionally.

Even though I am aware I still own too many t-shirts, I am aware of my problem. My awareness has prevented me from bringing any new ones into my home for over one year!

7. Small Steps Over Time

Preventing new shirts from entering my dresser drawer is a small step. Yet, these small steps compounded over time will have dramatic effects in our lives.

I struggle with patience, but patience and persistence is key to any journey. It’s natural to get off track and take one step backwards every so often, but living with intention rewards those who continue taking small steps in our desired direction.

As Leo Babauta of Zen Habits said in his book titled, The Power of Less, “Sticking with something for the long term is the true path to anything worthwhile.”

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What Doors Will Decluttering Open For You?

Clutter is a visual distraction. Decluttering and simplifying our living and work spaces provide stress-reducing benefits.

The encouraging thing is, decluttering might actually benefit us much more than our original intentions and has the potential to open doors we didn’t even know existed!

I encourage you to start the process of decluttering your home with these 7 useful tips.

Let me know what unexpected doors open for you in the process!

About the Author

Sam Farrington

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Sam is a minimalist and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ passionate about valuing experiences, like hiking in the mountains, over things. He's a financial expert who’s been quoted in such publications as Forbes, USA Today, Money, Yahoo! Finance, Nerdwallet, and Nasdaq.