Gentle Decluttering Tips For a Stress-Free Home
Decluttering is hard and can be emotionally challenging. But the benefits of a clutter-free space are worth it.
Diving into a decluttering journey isn’t something that has to be done in large chunks. You don’t have to declutter your whole house in a weekend. Honestly, that’s probably not going to happen. Not to mention- decluttering isn’t a one time thing. Decluttering is something that will have to be done for the rest of your life.
I don’t want to scare you off. You are here, today, because somewhere deep down, you want to declutter your home and relieve some stress in your life. I want that for you, too. My approach to decluttering is loving and gentle. Here are some gentle decluttering tips and answers to the big questions you might have.
What is “Clutter”?
Clutter refers to the things in your home that aren’t being used and don’t serve you anymore. It can refer to trash or broken items, clothes that no longer fit you, toys your kids have outgrown, expired foods and medications, and anything that you don’t use anymore.
Clutter isn’t necessarily the things you love and adore. Like valued collectibles or items that hold a strong memory for you. When you start to declutter, I’m not going to tell you that you have to get rid of the handwritten birthday cards that your late grandmother gave to you. Instead, we’ll do things like set an appropriate place for these items and look through them to see if there are any that we would feel okay to let go of.
What Decluttering Means
Before we get to the tips, we have to start with the basics. You’ve got to understand what clutter is and what decluttering means. Decluttering means letting go of items that no longer serve you. It means letting go of things that you no longer use or that no longer serve a purpose to you and that are causing an area to be untidy and messy.
Decluttering doesn’t mean getting rid of all of your things. Decluttering doesn’t mean minimalism. I’m not a minimalist by any means. I very much enjoy collecting crystals and looking at my pepper dog from the Enesco Homegrown figurines collection. Look how freaking cute.
Decluttering means getting rid of the things that you don’t have the space for and making space for the things you love the most.
What is the Decluttering 80/20 rule?.
Research states that people use 20% of their possessions only 80% of the time.
That’s a big deal. So what happens to the other 80% of your things? It sits untouched, unused, and typically forgotten about.
This goes for clothes, kitchen items, outdoor gear, pet products, cleaning products, pantry items, and the list goes on.
What Should You Not Do When Decluttering?
I would say that there are more things that you shouldn’t do when decluttering than what you should do. Since decluttering can be such an overwhelming and emotional challenge, there are gentle ways that you should approach it.
I don’t want you to overwhelm yourself. Don’t start with big areas. I want you to feel accomplished with your small victories. Instead of deciding to declutter your entire kitchen go ahead and start with your junk drawer. Or your towel drawer.
Take on small areas at a time.
Don’t start in an area that is rarely used. I want you to feel encouraged and realize that the small area you managed to declutter is functional and making things easier for you.
So, look around at the heavily used areas in your home. Decide on the area that brings you the most anxiety with its disorganization and lack of functionality. For me, it was my kitchen “coffee counter”. This is just an area that has lower cabinets, two drawers, and a flat countertop.
I keep my coffee pot, coffee, coffee cups, and our daily medication there.
This is probably my favorite area in the house. But it is also our dumping zone. Meaning, when everyone comes home the bags, lunch boxes, mail, keys, water bottles, and any other random item gets thrown on this countertop.
The Solution to my Cluttered Countertop
After realizing that it wouldn’t matter if I designated an area for our bags or mail in another spot in the house because we were naturally dropping these items here, I decided to make this space an appropriate spot for these items.
The drawers here contain kitchen towels and our junk drawer, which was overflowing with useless stuff.
The two cabinets contained pet medications and supplies and big kitchen appliances, like the Kitchenaid, a grill, the can opener, etc.
Decluttering the Kitchen Drawers
The first spot I took on was the junk drawer. I cleared it out of trash and broken items that I had planned to fix but never got around to and sent items that got tossed in the drawer to their appropriate homes and created homes for the rest that didn’t have a home.
I then got some drawer organizers and designated each container for the common items we tend to throw here, like pens and pencils, mail, paper pads, and tape. When something doesn’t fit in the assigned container, I know it’s time to go through it again and declutter it.
After going through my kitchen towels and reducing the number of towels in the drawer, I was ready to move on to the cabinets.
Decluttering the Kitchen Cabinets
I went through the cabinets one by one. In the appliance cabinet, I had so much stuff. Stuff that I hadn’t touched in years. I had a George Foreman Grill, even though we stopped buying meat over two years ago. We had an espresso machine that we didn’t even know how to use. I had an extra coffee pot for “just in case”. There was a grilled cheese sandwich press in there.
It was total chaos and I was wasting so much space.
After reducing the items down to what I was actually using, I was able to pull things off of my kitchen countertops for a nice open space since the cabinet was nearly empty.
Did you know you don’t have to keep your toaster on the counter if you don’t use it every day? Neither did I. I was mind blown. I thought this was a law of the people, but I was wrong.
The next cabinet was the one with all of my pet meds and accessories. I have a lot of pets. A lot.
So I had a lot of stuff. None of it was organized so I had multiples of a lot of things. I went through all of the medications, treats, collars, leashes, clothes and grooming supplies and anything that was broken or expired was tossed. I was able to reduce this stuff down to a pretty reasonable amount of stuff and then I was able to combine it with my chicken things into one cabinet in the laundry room.
This left me with an empty kitchen cabinet. I took this empty kitchen cabinet and made it into a zone to put all of our bags and lunch boxes. Even if someone tosses their stuff onto the top of the counter I can easily and quickly grab it and toss it into the cabinet and now the stuff is out of sight- which makes me a happy woman.
Nothing gathers on the counter there anymore. It’s glorious and just what I needed to give me the motivation to get the rest of my house running this smoothly.
What Should I Remove First When Decluttering?
You should always remove trash first when you are decluttering. Trash is the easiest thing there is to let go of. You may look around right now and only see one or two items but I promise you if you walk through your house with a trash bag you can fill it up.
Trash can be broken crayons and markers that the kids left the top off of. It could be a broken magnet or some junk mail that accidentally got put in with the bills.
Removing trash, alone, can make your decluttering journey that much easier. And at the end, even if you’ve only removed trash from your home, well, you’ve removed trash from your home and that is a win for me.
Where do I Start Decluttering When Overwhelmed?
It’s so easy to become overwhelmed with decluttering. The overwhelm can come from the emotional strain decluttering can put on you and it could come from the huge mess that decluttering can result in when someone tells you to pull everything out and toss it in a pile..
It doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You can take it one thing at a time if you want. Decluttering your home isn’t one size fits all. We are all different and we all handle things differently. Some of us are attached to our items and some of us just see it all as “stuff”. Just as we organize differently, we also have to declutter differently.
Sometimes you can only do so much at a time because your mind won’t focus long enough on one task to finish a room. That is okay.
If you want to declutter five or six items a day, go for it. That’s five or six less items in your home when you go to bed. Can you only manage five or six items a week? That’s okay, too. That’s five or six less items in your home at the end of the week.
Don’t get overwhelmed with the thought that you have to declutter to someone else’s standards.
To avoid the overwhelm, start with small areas in your home. As I mentioned earlier, I chose the smallest area in our busiest room. Seeing how great this area was working was what I needed to push forward and do the rest of our home.
Gentle Decluttering Tips and Advice
Now that you are ready to jump in, here are some gentle decluttering tips for you to consider:
- Create a plan. Don’t go in blind. Write down your goal and look at it every day.
- Identify the difference between your used items and your clutter.
- Start small in a heavily used area of your home. This way you can see how well the area functions without the clutter.
- Don’t plan to declutter an entire room at a time. You want to declutter areas. The small areas eventually add up to rooms. To keep the overwhelm down, stay small.
- Take before and after pictures so you have motivation and you can see how far you have come.
- Always start with trash. No matter what. Throw out the trash, then work up to broken items you planned to fix but never got around to. Move up in item importance. For instance, don’t jump in and do your pictures first.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away if you need a break. Decluttering is emotionally challenging. You absolutely can walk away and go back when you are ready. Don’t make decisions during times of extreme emotional stress. I want you to declutter and be proud of your functional home. I don’t want you living with regrets.
- Take your small victories and be proud of them. Decluttering is hard. Be proud of yourself because at the end of the day, even if it’s just one thing, you have one less thing in your home causing clutter and making your life more difficult.
For free decluttering support, reach out to me and let me help you build a plan and walk you through your decluttering journey. I’ve been there. Your struggles are my struggles.