How to declutter – step by step (a zillion methods… and the simplest of all)

How to declutter – step by step (a zillion methods… and the simplest of all)

Today, let’s talk about How to Declutter.

First of all, let me tell you that you’ll find a zillion different methods to declutter on the web and in self-help books about home organization. Each different decluttering method will have an exotic name or acronym, such as C.P.R (Categorize, Purge and Re-arrange) from Debbie Lillard, or S.T.O.P. (Sort, Toss, Organize and Put away) from Cynthia Ewer.

And this was even before the era of the Organizing Queen of All, our dear Marie Kondo, with her world-famous book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and her KonMari Method. Lately, the trend revolves more about The Minimalist Game, featured by, in which decluttering is gamified and shared on social media using the #minsfame hashtag.

Aren’t you feeling lost already? I certainly am.

So let me share my one little pearl of wisdom here: despite the zillion different ways to present it, when you consider how to declutter, it always revolves about 4 unavoidable steps:


As you may have guessed:

« Empty » is for starting with a clean state.

« Choose » is for deciding if an item will be kept in the space, donated, tossed or whether it belongs to another room: for this step, I use my handy set of labels, which I’m happy to share (here’s the link!)

« Re-arrange » is for organizing the items to keep in categories, and putting them back neatly in the space.

« Dispose » is the step where you actually get rid of the items you decided to toss or donate.

Sound easy, right? Let’s take a real-life example, and decompose the 4 steps:

Last summer I knew I wanted to do something about the clutter stifling my garage. First, remember my first blog post on this: always begin with a WHY. Why is it I wanted to declutter my garage? Because each day I would be looking at all the stuff and the gears and the outdoor toys gathered in this space, and I would feel guilty and stressed about it. I knew my family could benefit from an organized space to quickly retrieve what we needed! Ok, so I had my « why », my motivation. Then, my magic wand: planning! I decided to allocate 30 minutes when my hubby would come home, taking care of the kids at 7:30. This was an important appointment with myself: I wrote it down in my planner.

Ok. Now it’s 7:30, on that same day. My kids are playing with their father, and I’m heading to the garage with some garbage bags, my handy set of labels and my huge container labeled « Donation Box ». I set my timer to ring in 30 minutes and decide to tackle a small space near the door, to begin with.

Game on, I now apply my 4 steps method EMPTY + CHOOSE + REARRANGE + DISPOSE

EMPTY: I’m clearing the space near the door, the space I decided to tackle. Yes, I’m aware I’m making a mess in the rest of the garage. But at least now I’m seeing the floor again and I realize we have some handy hooks on this wall : )

CHOOSE: using my set of label, I’m making piles: Donate, Toss, Keep, Other rooms…you name it. How do I know what to keep? You have the « Does it spark joy? » from our beloved Marie Kondo. I prefer « Would I pay to move this item next time I move out? » – but this may be because I moved out waaaaay to often (my full story story here)

RE-ARRANGE: I quickly re-arrange items that do belong to this space and take notes and measurements if any container is needed

DISPOSE: I put the garbage bag with the items to toss in the trash. Then I place the bag with the items to be donated on the front passager seat of my car – so I won’t forget to go the charity shop asap (that’s the way to go here in Ireland when you want to donate items. When we were living in the US, I just used the yellow plastic bags from Vietnam Veterans of America, put them away on my front porch and scheduled online a donation pick-up.

And voilà! It’s been 30 minutes.

If I’m feeling motivated, I plan my next decluttering session in my planer. One step at a time, I know I can transform my garage into an organized and stress-free space.

That’s one decluttering process from the beginning to the end. It’s infinitely valuable for any storage space, and it perfectly fits the needs of most of the busy-bees amongst us. Needless to say, it’s a priceless method if you, like me, love quick wins and don’t have all day for decluttering! But these past years, with the many moves we’ve had to face and the growth of our family, I felt the need of setting up a toolbox to help me declutter more often. That’s why I created my “Declutter-kick-start toolbox” a toolbox to help you declutter any space of your house, with 4 pop-up baskets, huge labels and a cute laminated “Step-by-step Decluttering Plan” to be used as an instruction manual.

Here is a link to my Etsy shop where you’ll be able to have a closer look to the toolbox, and where I explain all you need to know about it.

My true wish is that this “Declutter-kick-start toolbox” is gonna be a big boost to your own declutter. As a mom and a Professional Organizer, this is my tried-and-true toolbox! It will help you tackle your own organization challenge at home!

Tell me what you think in the comments below!

This post is part of my series about decluttering and tidying up your space. Not sure WHY you should even consider decluttering? Check my introductory post here.

Happy organizing!


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