10 Steps to Start Decluttering Your Home Right Now.

The biggest question I get asked is how to start decluttering a home. Today I am going to give you my unique approach to decluttering. Small quick tasks that you can do without freaking out and will, in turn, remove the clutter like magic! Sometimes in order to declutter you just need a few steps that you can do as a part of your daily routine. Once you clean out the extra stuff you will see your home in a new light. This will help you to find things more quickly and also put your things all the way away just as easily.

start decluttering

I know it can be so overwhelming when you have a project this size. Especially one that is in your face day in and day out.

But here’s the thing about having stuff lying out all over your home, it can be contagious.

If your home is cluttered, that chaos can easily spill over to your finances, your job, and even your thoughts. Yes, your head can be cluttered with to-do lists, chores, and unfinished projects nagging at you to get things done.

Another side effect of a messy home is that things can get buried under the clutter, important things, and that, in turn, can cause stress in your relationships, in your home, and even your life.

HOW TO START DECLUTTERING YOUR HOME

With so many things affected by clutter, it is not surprising that clutter can make you sick. Both physically and emotionally.

Don’t worry, though, I have been where you are right now. And I have made it to the other side. Yes, I went from super messy and cluttered to organized. And you know what? If I can do it, you can too. I promise!

Confession time. I used to hide dirty dishes in my oven.

I know, right?!

Then one night, my boys decided to make a pizza. They turned the oven on without checking inside, and I am sure you can guess what happened next.

They just about burned my house down!

That was the slap in the face that I needed. My clutter issues were endangering my family. Dramatic? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

I knew I needed to get things cleaned up and quick.

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I forced myself to clean things up and clean things out. I walked into our most lived-in room and just got started. I put on headphones, played upbeat music, and tuned everything else out.

It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary for my family and myself.

 And you know what? It is the best thing I could have done. I love my home now! It is my sanctuary, my zen. I love to be here and I love to have people over.

Today I am going to share with you the steps I used myself to get my home back under control. Yes, you will still need to do the heavy work but in the end, you will find a home you love to be in. One that is a joy and not a stress inducer. One that is easy to keep neat and tidy and put away.

How to Start Decluttering Your Home

These steps are more like hacks. Incorporate as many as you can to help keep the clutter put away for good. When you do, you will have a home that is not only easy to keep organized but will just take you a fraction to clean it freeing up even more time for you to do things you love.

Step #1  Take out the trash

I like to call this one of the Three Steps to Uncover the Cutter. More often than not what we think is clutter is buried under stuff that needs to be thrown away. This is a super easy step and will remove more than you might realize.

How it works:

  • Take a trash bag and walk around your home.
  • If you see any trash at all grab it and keep on going.
  • Don’t touch anything else, and do not get distracted. Just remove the trash and move on.
  • Papers, napkins, tissues, pop/soda cans, newspapers, magazines, whether you recycle it or trash it the point is to remove it.
A woman in an orange apron holding a crinkled up piece of paper

Step #2  Dishes Belong in the Kitchen

Many times the stuff that is lying out is not clutter but things that need to be put away. Clothes, dishes, shoes, toys, papers, books, so many things that if we can work to put them away, will transform our rooms like magic.

This little tip takes just a few minutes and can go a long way to clearing out some of the visual clutter in your home.

How it works:

  • Use a laundry basket to gather up any items you see that belong in another room.
  • Walk your room looking for these things filling up your basket as you go.
  • Once finished, you can walk your home putting those items away where they belong.
  • Repeat until you have found every last random thing.
a white basket with a label that says put away on the front filled with clutter

Step #3  Make a Weekly Planning Basket

This is a tip I learned years ago and I just love how it works to keep papers from cluttering up my home.

What is a weekly planning basket?

A weekly planning basket is a basket where you can toss any papers or reading material as they come into your home. You can use a clothes basket, a plastic bin-style basket, a hinged woven basket, or even a paper storage box.

Keep all papers that need to be read over or dealt with in this basket. This will help to keep the paper clutter off your counters and corral them into one safe place so you never misplace an important document again.

How it works:

  • As soon as you come across any papers that cannot be thrown away, such as mail, toss them in the basket.
  • Set aside a day each week to go through the papers inside of your weekly planning basket.
  • Be sure to take the next step, file, shred, toss, or take action.
  • You can also use a Post-it to add any notes that you want to remember later.
a blue woven basket filled with mail and paper

Step #4  Set Up a Command Center

Whether your kids are young or they are grown and on their own like mine, having a family command center is a lifesaver.

A family command center has really helped us to keep the important parts of our family streamlined in a way that is easy to keep and use routinely.

What is a family command center?

A family command center is an area in your home where you can house and organize the running of your home and the schedules for your family. It is a great place to sort out mail for your family members, ensuring that things do not get lost or misplaced.

I am constantly coming across things that I no longer need, but I know my boys will want. Being able to put that item into a basket that is specifically for them keeps the clutter down in my home and keeps me from forgetting to give it to them.

This also works well with the mail which you will continue to get for a while even after they have moved out. Whatever it is, if it’s for them, put it in their designated spot. Try these super affordable baskets for your own command center.

a bookshelf with a basket on it with a label that says Kevin

If you have younger children, this tip can be a lifesaver. Lunch money, permission slips, and report cards can all get lost in a cluttered home. Having a system set up for these items will help keep the school clutter under control better than you think. You can read just how easy it is to set one up here.

Read: How to Create a Family Command Center.

Even if you don’t have children, a home command center is too important to skip. Having a central hub in your home is a game changer for anyone that struggles with things falling through the cracks.

Step #5  Use Hampers to Hold Clutter

Lightweight hampers are not only great for organizing random things in your home but they are super affordable as well. I just love how great they work at keeping clutter down.

What can you Organize with Hampers?

  • Kid’s stuffed animals.
  • Blankets in the family room.
  • Pillows
  • Dirty clothes-so easy to carry to and from the laundry room.
  • Linens-if you do not have a place to house sheets and extra blankets this works perfectly.
  • Pet toys-use a small one for your pet’s toys and keep in the corner of your room.
  • Check the baskets out here and find your own awesome way to use them!

Step #6  Trunk it

Many times we work hard to declutter. Filling up boxes and bags with things we are finally ready to get rid of. The problem is, many times, those donations sit in our homes for so long that we forget to take it to the donation center and after a few months, we are forced to go through those items all over again.

Remember filling bags with donations and setting them in a corner of our home is not decluttering, it’s relocating.

Instead, whenever you fill a bag or a box, no matter how small it is, take it and put it into the trunk of your card immediately.

boxes and toys in a trunk ready for donation

Each time you are out running errands, stop at the donation center and drop off any items in your car.

This one tip alone will remove more stuff without too much effort.

a cardboard box with a big label that says donation filled with clothes

Step #7  Stop the Paper

If you are having a problem with paper clutter, you may want to find a way to eliminate all that comes in.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Go paperless for as many bills as you can.
  • Read magazines online.
  • Subscribe to online newspapers.

If you have a small collection of newspapers, you can use them in your garden or send them to your local recycling center.

Step #8  Nothing New

If you have an overstuffed closet, maybe it’s time for a tough-love no, clutter rule.

Nothing new can come into your closet until you remove three items. Let’s think about it for a minute. Clothes are so expensive today. When you pay $30 (or more) for a nice top, why bring it home and hang it in a closet that is so overstuffed any clothes on hangers end up stretched, snagged, or buried.

Clothes need to be treated with care, so make sure your clothes can hang freely without being crushed. Purchase no slip hangers that keep shoulders from stretching out.

Need more clothes decluttering help? Try the hanger trick!

How it works:

  • Go into your closet and turn every hanger around so it faces backward on the rod.
  • As you wear an item, correct the hanger it is on.
  • At the end of 30 days you will be able to see the clothes you wear often (hangers on the rod the correct way) and the clothes you routinely pass over (hangers still on the rod backward).
  • Repeat this tip every 2-3 months to ensure your closet is only filled with clothes you love to wear.

Step #9 Tough love time

STOP!

Do not buy anything else. If you are serious about decluttering and truly want to make a change, THEN STOP BUYING THINGS.

Yes,  it’s really that simple. Make a commitment to yourself and your home.

Nothing new comes in until you have the clutter under control.

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Step #10 Set up systems

If you want to ensure your home stays free of clutter, then make a habit of always putting your things away.

All the way away.

The more you do this one step, the less you will have lying out and the more organized and tidy your home will be.

Without any sweat, tears, or extra work.

Train yourself (and others) to respect the systems you worked so hard to establish. By using them actively, you will slowly see the clutter dissipate. If you want a crash course in system creation, you can read more about how that works here.

I know you are overwhelmed; I get it. The thought of decluttering can paralyze anyone!

Bonus Step – Five Things

Here is a bonus tip for how to start decluttering your home, a challenge for you to try, right now.

Find five things you can get rid of this very second. Don’t over think it, just grab five random things. Go ahead, I will wait right here until you get back.

Yes….I…..am…..waiting.

a pink watch on a woman's wrist

Did you do it? I hope you did!!

Every big project, even one this big, has to start somewhere, and if you just removed five things, then you got your start. And that means the rest will be easy.

Follow these tips, and between each tip, remove 5 more things. By the time you are done, you will have removed 50 things from your home, all the while setting up workable systems to keep your target areas under control!!

And, finally, remember why you are doing this.

The finish line is a streamlined, organized, and tidy (or at least close to it) homeโ€”a place where you can recharge your batteries and relax. Your home will be cozy, and it will be peaceful, just like it should be.

And the best part? Decluttering is contagious!

a basket sitting in front of a stack of paper clutter copy

6 Things You Can Do Right Now To Stop Clutter.

A few final thoughts, I get it….really seriously get it.

I was a HUGE clutter bug, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be one. Follow these steps, read all my other posts both here and over at our sister site, Declutter in Minutes, and you can finally begin to see light at the end of the tunnel.

These tips are all the ones I used to take back control of my house. These are the same tips my own boys use in their homes. Why? Because they are super simple, and THEY WORK.

Don’t wait. Take the first step with any of these how to start decluttering steps and take back your house and make it a peaceful home again.





28 Comments

  1. I love tip #3! My large desk is overrun with paper. It’s so overwhelming that I just ignore it. This is an excellent idea to tame that beast! Thank you!

    1. It was amazingly hard to find 5 things i am willing to let go, considering i have so much stuff. I will console myself that its because i have been doing some decluttering recently ( and we had to tidy the kitchen so we could have my birthday tea on it a few days ago. ). Funny that you made me get a few things right now from a different country. Ps, that cover picture needsat lest 5x more stuff. Where are the layers? You could actually put a pile of something being organized on that couch.

    2. Oh my gosh! I just started reading this and I hide my pans in the oven! I thought I was the only one. I do want to change for the better tho. ๐Ÿ™‚

    3. Thank you so much for your tips. I have a lot of clutter and have really wanted to get rid of most of it. However, everytime I look at it I just get paralyzed and overwhelmed and just can’t do anything, and so it sits.
      I am going to start my little side table tomorrow, as it is late at night here.
      Thank you so much for you tips and encouragement!

      1. Hi, Beth!
        I totally understand being stuck and just unable to do anything at all! And that can be so frustrating as well. I just started a new blog that walks you through step by step on how to remove the clutter. It’s called Declutterinminutes.com and I hope you will check it out! It is still growing but I have big plans to help anyone that is overwhelmed by clutter.
        Keep going, you can do this!
        Tracy Lynn

  2. Thank you for helping me get started, again. I used to have my clutter in process of being controlled, and it slowly began slipping out of control again. When I stopped and picked up 5 things, it turned into 20, in just 10 minutes, maybe less. That makes it all seem doable again. Thank you!

  3. Great tips! Baskets really do help, especially a mail basket. I also have a shredder and a recycle bin next to the mail basket so that what doesn’t go in the basket goes in one of the other two. This has really reduced the clutter on the kitchen counter or table.

  4. Irene Hynes says:

    Great common sense advice….in an organized delivery.

  5. I kept reading until #3 – a basket for paper? You don’t know what is real clutter, with all due respect.
    If all my dirty dishes could fit into the oven and all my papers to read into a single basket, I wouldn’t need any article how to tackle it.
    Good luck.

    1. You know what? You are exactly right. Thank you for reminding me that everyone is at a different level of clutter and not all of my tips will work for every single person. When I began putting my papers into a basket to sort through I had 5 clothes baskets full and to be honest I think there was a few bags and boxes as well. It took a long time to get through it all but I made sure every weekend I set aside enough time to get at least 1 basket sorted. Yes, it took a while but as those papers dwindled down so did the rest of the clutter in my home. I worked really hard and even though I did not have clutter that was out of control it was still in my eyes a severe situation that I felt needed to be dealt with. This is how I did it and for me, it worked amazingly well.
      I wish you all the best as you travel on your own decluttering journey.
      Tracy Lynn

      1. Anonymous says:

        You are lovely. Thank you for handling even negative comments with grace and respect. You have won me as a reader.

    2. replying to San: If you are really buried in clutter, just start. I used to follow “Fly Lady.Org” She recommends 15 minutes a day. That doesn’t sound too hard for anyone. You will be surprised at how much you can get done in 15 minutes. Don’t get down on yourself.
      Celebrate every little victory. If you slip back into old habits, just start over. Good luck!

    3. Oops! in replying to San, I mentioned a “flyLady” site. The address is .NET, not .org. Sorry

  6. Thank you SO much for this article! It is very simply put and forces me into immediate action. Getting older, we tend to acquire items from parents and grandparents as they pass away which cause “a whole nother issue” – sentimental attachment to items you really don’t want or need. I am blessed with seeing “worth” or “value” in discarded items from others and gifted with flipping them for a profit; however, there are very few rooms in our 3 story home that have not been affected by all the above. It’s not so bad yet that we can’t function in everyday life but it makes for difficult upkeep because nothing really has a home or a place it belongs. Your simple tips are easy to follow and even though I may always enjoy ” flipping junk” I think with time and following your tips consistently I can conquer the clutter instead of it controlling me.
    The MUST follow rule for me is nothing else comes in!
    If I could stop bringing it in and stop procrastinating and flip everything that I have, I could afford a professional organizer hahaha!
    Thanks again!
    Stacy
    *Check out my small but SOON to be growing Etsy site, Vintage4UsAll

    1. Hi, Stacy,
      I am so glad you found some value in my tips. I also have a MUST follow rule for Hubs (the biggest pack rat right now ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Nothing new may come in until something old of comparable size goes out!
      haha, I drive him nuts!
      Good luck with your shop,
      Tracy Lynn

  7. I have just gone back to work after being a stay at home mom for almost 5 years. I am really struggling to manage my house! After reading some of your articles I feel like it is much more manageable. I have filled 2 bags of trash and have a laundry basket full of paper stuff. Thank you so much for your time and effort on these articles! My house already feels better.

    1. Hi, Liz!

      I am so glad you are making progress and I just know you will get your home where you want it to be. I was struggling once myself and now that I am on the other side of clutter I can honestly say I like it here better!!
      Tracy Lynn

  8. I am gonna sure try your way, because it is soo hard for me to get rid of anything. I don’t want to be like this but i can’t help it.

    1. I understand your frustration Linda, and that is why it’s so important to change the way you see your things before you remove them. Remember your things are just tools that are meant to help you live a better life. Nothing more and nothing less. If you remove them you will not change in any way, but you will get rid of the chaos that comes along when you have the clutter. Start with the easiest to remove first. Trash, recyclables, torn clothes, broken things, anything that means nothing to you at all. Then slowly work your way to the other stuff that you feel is just to hard to let go of. It will get easier, I promise!
      Tracy Lynn

  9. My tip for reducing paper clutter is to stop keeping receipts unless they are tax deductions. I used to hang on to and file receipts after paying bills. Had a file cabinet full of old utility, insurance, credit card bills, etc. Now I trash all that with a very few exceptions. I have one file folder that holds the yearโ€™s tax deductible receipts.

  10. I’m a procrastinator… I will do everything tomorrow! Problem is, tomorrow is never today. So I decided to spend 1 day and clean my kitchen. While I was cleaning I said to myself something has to change. So I took an after picture which became my before picture and i sent it to my friend. And from that day forward I set a rule that everyday before 9 pm I will have the kitchen cleaned up. As the days have gone by the kitchen has become the easiest room to clean. I no longer dread the morning… Because the kitchen is clean. I won’t lie sometimes a dirty pan still gets into the oven but as soon as the dishwasher is empty I put that part into the dishwasher. It took about a week before I really felt the kitchen was clean. Then about a month later the picture was taken at 6:30 not 8:59. Now as soon as dinner is over the dishwasher is loaded and started. The sink is always clean. And let me say one more thing. I cook 3 meals a day for a family of 5 and I do it mostly alone. So it can be done. (Tip. My kids hate that I count my dishes but I know when I’m done or when to go hunting.) I hope someone will find this helpful as it has saved me.

    1. I am so glad you are finding your path to a decluttered home, Belle! Keep me posted on how it’s going! I can’t wait to see what all you get done!
      Tracy Lynn

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