If you’re planning to do some serious spring-cleaning, the first step is clearing out everything that’s been piling up around the house all winter. For those of us with a tendency to horde, de-cluttering can be daunting, but the real hurdle is just figuring out where to start. We compiled this expert advice to kick-start your journey to a clutter-free home:
Take it one room at a time. Unless you’re a housekeeping dynamo (in which case you probably wouldn’t be reading this), you’ll find tackling household clutter far more manageable if you don’t think of it as a mammoth basement-to-attic chore. Tackle one of the lesser problem areas first, then ease your way in to the more challenging rooms once you’ve gotten into the de-cluttering groove.
Reclaim your storage spaces. If closets, basements, and utility rooms are crammed with stuff you barely recognize, let alone use, clear those out first. Recycle or throw away anything you don’t truly need, and find a home for the items that you decide are really keepers. Once you’ve freed up space in your storage areas, you’ll be amazed at how much you can actually store in them.
Streamline your seasonal wardrobe. Once the temperature has warmed up enough that you can put away the heavy sweaters and down jackets until next year, clean and store your winter wardrobe to make room for spring and summer clothes. Before you do, assess your winter gear with an editorial eye and remove anything you wore less than twice. Donate, swap, or sell those pieces and repeat the exercise seasonally.
Make a monthly donation date. If those bags of items waiting to be dropped off at Goodwill never leave your house, they’re just adding to the clutter. Coordinate your schedule with that of facilities where you usually donate or recycle, and make dropping off your donations (or, even better, having them picked up) a recurring event on your calendar.
Don’t neglect the small places. Your desk drawers, the medicine cabinet, even the “junk drawer” are all places we tend to stash stuff and forget about it. Do you really need that dried up inkpad or that rusty protractor? You definitely won’t be taking that expired ibuprofen or the prescription allergy pills from 2007. Purging the junk from your small storage spaces will create room to stow away items you use but don’t necessarily want on display.
Go paperless (or at least use less paper). Bills, envelopes, and receipts can easily pile up over the course of just a few days. And if you leave them for a week or two (or twelve), chances are you’ll no longer be able to see the surface of your desk. Eliminate paperwork as much as possible by paying bills and recording your expenditures online. For those documents that you do need hard copies of, scan and save them on your computer first, then store them in a neat, well-organized filing system.
Create less to de-clutter. If clutter is all of the things that take up your space that you don’t actually use or need, then the best way to clutter-proof your home is to avoid collecting those things in the first place. Before you buy something—or even accept a hand-me down or a freebie, ask yourself if you’re really going to use it. If the answer is no, don’t let it past the front door.