4 Simple Ways to Declutter (from a Recovering Hoarder)

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How to declutter your home

I say I’m a recovering hoarder but the recovering part may be a bit of an exaggeration. Here’s the real deal: when I’m pregnant, I organize and organize and organize. When I’m not, I hoard.

Now that I am in this decluttering stage of my pregnancy, I am taking advantage and getting everything in order. Here are some tips I am putting to use.

How to declutter your home

4 Simple Ways to Declutter:

1. Be Ruthless

When it comes to getting rid of clutter, be ruthless. My rule of thumb is if we haven’t used it in a while, it needs to go. This goes for everything; clothes, knick-knacks, toys, body care products and kitchen gadgets. Although that vintage style egg beater is pretty, I never use it since it is such a pain to clean. Therefore, it needs to go.

As for paperwork, save only the important stuff that you can’t find a copy of easily online and get rid of those magazines once you are done reading them. Although I save most of the recipes I use on Pinterest, I still save some that I find in magazines. Instead of saving the whole magazine, I rip out the recipe I want to keep and file it away in a designated recipe accordion file.

My children’s art isn’t exempt from this rule, either. Although I am their biggest fan, I realize I cannot save every masterpiece. Therefore, I save our favorites and any art that may depict a memory. I am also pretty partial to hand-drawn family portraits.

2. Be Realistic About Duplicates

Let’s be honest about the quantity of certain items we truly need. I love to bake, but do I really need seven mixing bowls or ten serving spoons? The answer is no. The same goes for pens, bed sheets, socks, hairbrushes, towels… the list goes on.

It is useful to have some duplicates. In my kitchen, I keep two cookie sheets, two glass measuring cups of different sizes, and two cake pans for the perfect birthday cake. On the other hand though, duplicates of other items are a bit unnecessary. For instance, once I upgraded to a KitchenAid mixer, I promptly gave away my old hand mixer.

You can visit the “Kitchen Essentials” page here at Live Simply to find the kitchen tool recommendations for a real, simple kitchen.

3. Practice the One In, One Out Rule

This “rule” is pretty simple. Each time someone receives something new (whether it be a shirt, a toy, or socks) pick something in the same category to toss or donate.

When my 10 year old son receives a new toy, I’ll usually gently remind him a week afterwards that it’s time to pick a less wanted toy to give away. Sometimes he picks a toy to give to a friend so that he knows it will be used and wanted elsewhere. For my younger daughters, I typically pick an unused toy to donate for them. Once they are older, I will have them pick a toy themselves.

4. Donate or Toss Items Immediately

Once you have a pile of items to donate, do not allow it to sit around for days waiting to go to nearest thrift store. Chances are, if something is left to sit around, it may be rediscovered and may never find its way out of the door.

As for items that have no place at the donation center, like junk mail, paid bills, and broken toys, toss them immediately. I have gotten into the habit of pitching any junk mail in the trash can the minute it enters our home.

How to declutter your home

So remember, get rid of duplicates and unused space wasters immediately and put the “One In, One Out” rule to use.

Since I am a decluttering novice, I am sure I am missing some tips. Do you have any decluttering tips up your sleeve? Feel free to share in the comments!

How to declutter your home

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20 Comments

  • When thinking of getting something new, I remind myself that every material object in my life will take a little piece of my time in some way or another. Also, “collect memories, not things” comes to mind. It takes a mind shift. I know because I vacillate between decluttering freak and collector of every possibly useful someday object. (Think, obsessively cutting buttons off a stained shirt to save for another project.)
    I know some friends that have a “three per surface” rule. There can be a maximum of 3 decorative objects on any horizontal surface. (Doesn’t include books on bookshelves.). Also, there can be nothing touching the floor except furniture. Makes dusting and vacuuming easier.

  • Thank you for these simple great tips. I know when I am decluttering, I still hold on to stuff I don’t need “incase” I will need it. I will definately use your tip on being realistic about duplicates. Thanks so much.

    • I’m glad you’ll be using the tips! I am the same way most of the time (read: when I’m not pregnant or otherwise decluttering). I usually like to determine how easy/expensive an item is to replace before tossing it.

  • My children left home before I got a computer, so I cannot say I have done this. I have an idea in this electronic world.
    The Idea:-
    Children’s artwork takes up a large amount of space. With all the electronics available, I thought that taking photos of the original artwork and then putting them into a “computer” album and saving this would be a great way to keep all the artwork the children do in their lifetime. Back up your computer and albums and the children should be able to access this to show to their own little babies in the future.
    Hope this makes sense.

    • This is great. Love the technology tip.

      There are 2 digital photo frames in my house and a bag of all my family photos on labeled jump drives. All my daughter’s artwork over the years scrolls across those screens waaaaay more often than if I were to keep it stored in a tub.

      She does have a few tangible childhood memories (baby blanket, special artwork and a few other top precious items) in 1 storage tub. The rest of every cute project or special play or concert or anything is on those drives and I get to see them anytime I want inside the space of a ziplock bag. This may not work for everyone but its been a blessing for us.

  • I read an article not long ago that gave some great advice about decluttering your child’s artwork. It recommended that you save it per school year, and at the end of the year go through all of it with your child to decide which ones to keep. I think it’s a great idea to involve children in the decision making process whenever possible, to help them get used to the decision making process.

  • STOP non-essentials entering the house!

    Do food shopping, mindfully: buy only the items that you need for the coming week’s menu plan and daily essentials.

    Re-gift or donate unwanted/unsused gifts. That sweater, lovingly knitted by Grandma, that you never ever want to wear, is only a source of guilty feelings, every time you catch sight of it, scrunched at the back of the drawer! Donate it, with the all other unwanted gifts, so it can bring happiness to someone else. The ‘giving and receiving’ of the gift are what count, not the keeping and not using!

    Constantly weed clothes, for the unworn and unloved.

  • I searched help for hoarders and your blog came up. You have great advice. My problem is doing it. Having the motivation to get started. I get so overwhelmed and don’t know where to even begin. I am in tears over this. I want a clean and organized home for my children but knowledge on what to do isn’t the problem for me. Its nothing to put the stuff in to throw out. I am a student so funds are limited at the time being. This is a awful thing to go through and people that don;t have this issue don’t understand how difficult it really is. I don’t even know where to begin. Each room is full of stuff! No garbage space and no storage space for tubs. Any tips on where to start? 🙁

    • Dear Brooke, I came across this idea that helped me start: choose the tiniest possible part of what you want to do and do that. Then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. Example: After I read that advice, I threw put a piece of scrap paper that was stickimg out of my piles. That felt OK, so I threw out some old catalogs. That felt OK, so I sorted through a pile of clothes; some I folded up and put away, and some were pretty ragged, and those got thrown out.

      I also came across some advice about donating and recycling: most donated clothes end up in the landfill anyway, which costs the charity money! And 98% of clothes donated to recyclers are unusable because they don’t have the right fiber content, and that goes to the landfill, too. So don’t let anyone guilt you into keeping your junk around in case you get the time and opportunity to get rid of it in some pc way; the pc crowd is lying to themselves, and they are lying to you. Go ahead and put stuff in the garbage; save the charities from the expense of having it done for you.

  • My dad recently passed away and we are trying to get rid of his clothes as well as clear out our basement. But my mom insists on seeing everything I try to get rid of, whether it be donation or otherwise. And I just really want to start clearing stuff out because I’m going to finish university soon and I don’t want to be stuck at home forever. But I think these rules might help, if she’s willing to listen.

  • I did one-in, 2-3 out when I was decluttering. Helped me get down to the bone on my possessions. Wicker baskets like in the top picture – I donated every one of mine. Big dust collectors and they invite more hoarding since they are designed to hold shit. I made a linen laundry bag and hung it on a hook in my closet, no more vacuuming or cleaning around a bulky wicker laundry basket on the floor. My rule is floors are as bare as possible – minimal furniture, no baskets, no extraneous stuff, I set up my place to be easy to clean, everything else fell into place from there. Empty drawers and cabinets, got rid of my bedroom dresser, capsule wardrobe and capsule kitchen and fridge, and vigilance and ruthlessness on stuff coming in.

  • I make a big dramatic show of just grabbing a junk drawer and not even looking through the stuff. I just tip it over the waste bin and DUMP. My mom is a hoarder, so for me, being FREE and not chained emotionally to stuff is VITAL to my peace of mind.

    Sometimes I smile while I am dumping it in there and just think, I am free.

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