Kitchen with open shelving with organized plates, cups and bowls displayed

10 easy ways to declutter your home

LIVE brighter | 11 MIN READ | 2020-02-03

While the saying may be “out with the old, in with the new”, we’d prefer to say “out with the old” full stop. The holidays, with their conspicuous consumption and overindulgence, have a way of making us want to start fresh, simplify and take a good look at all the stuff that’s weighing us down, both physically and emotionally. We’ve put together a list of the 10 easiest ways to declutter your home – and make 2020 the year of the lighter load.

Before we dive in, let’s talk about all of the benefits of purging, shall we? We found this list from Becoming Minimalist we think you’ll appreciate: 

• Less to clean. That’s right, less stuff means no more cleaning around the things you’re not attached to. 

• Less to organize. So much easier to find things, and oh the space you’ll gain!

• Less stress. A big one, since clutter is a big source of anxiety – and loving the way your home looks feels so much better.

• Less debt. No more buying things you don’t really need.

• More positive energy. You’ll be happier, and in turn have a lighter spirit – allowing you to focus your energy on what you have, not what you think you need.

You might also want to take a moment to identify your clutter personality, because it’s always a good idea to know why things are piling up in the first place. The NEAT Method founders believe most people fall into one of these personalities:

Too busy = Too many extras. In other words, you buy things you already own because you don’t take the time to take stock of what you have. 

Constant worrier = Must save everything. This is you if you think you “might” need something in the future so you hold onto stuff just in case. 

Overwhelmed in life = Overwhelmed at home. You don’t know where to begin so you just live with the chaos. 

Do any of these sound like you? Now that you have a sense of why you have clutter in your home and all the good getting rid of it can do, take a deep breath and follow these easy decluttering tips. It’ll be good for your home – and your wellbeing! 

Tip #1. Do a little at a time 

Woman organizing jeans

Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

One of the biggest mistakes people make is jumping right in without thinking things through. If, say, you rip apart your closet and realize it’s a bigger mess than you thought, you might think “what have I done?” and walk away feeling stressed. We recommend doing a little at a time, even for a few minutes here and there, and tackling smaller areas of your home that feel more manageable. The collective result over time will be a tidy home that didn’t feel like a humungous chore. If designating a “decluttering weekend” is more your thing, you can still approach it from a bite-sized task perspective, just condensed over a shorter period of time. The objective is to get through it without giving up.

Tip #2. Give your dresser and nightstand a once-over 

Dresser with sunglasses and makeup on top

Time commitment: 30 minutes 

Can we talk about the “stuff” that accumulates in that tiny drawer beside the bed? Everything from eyeglasses to novels to lip balms, notepads and phone chargers seem to find their home here. Thing is, it can only hold so much, and if you have a shelf or cabinet below that drawer, it piles up even more. 

Give yourself a half hour to go through everything and set aside three piles: keep, throw away/recycle and relocate. 

• Keep: essentials like eyeglasses, prescriptions, lip balm, phone charger, a pen, notepad

• Throw away/recycle: “notes to self”, receipts, old business cards, magazines

• Relocate: books, artwork and keepsakes from your kids, extra pens, extra anything

Tip #3. Clean out your car

White sneakers on the dashboard of a car

Photo by Victoria Bilsborough on Unsplash 

Time commitment: 10-20 minutes

If you spend any amount of time in your car commuting or running daily errands, it’s easy to stash wrappers and receipts in the door pockets and arm rest, leave empty coffee cups in the holders and jam paper in the glove compartment. How great will it feel to take a few minutes to give it a clean sweep? 

Grab a garbage bag (because it’ll likely all be garbage) and fill ‘er up. When you’re done, give the dashboard a wipe and your car will feel just like new – and your next drive will be much more enjoyable. And while your car may not be a part of your home per se, the clutter in it definitely has an effect on your wellbeing – and that in turn has affects your home. 

Tip #4. Go through your mail, magazines and newspapers 

Kitchen table with magazines on the wall

Photo by Jason Briscoe on Unsplash

Time commitment: 15 minutes

Another easy decluttering tip is to get on top of the mountain of paper that so easily gets out of hand. The reason is we tend to put each of the bills, school forms, newspapers and flyers in different spots, from the counter to the front entrance to the junk drawer (that could probably use a purge, too). 

The folks at Zenhabits suggest designating one spot and one spot only for incoming papers. This is your opportunity to take a trip to Homesense to find a handy (and cute) mail organizer to hang on the wall, or visit Staples for an office-like inbox tray. This one little addition to your home can really make a difference – and it’s fun to give each member of your family a slot of their own that’s their responsibility to keep up. 

Tip #5. Pick up stray toys 

Little girl holding a toy camera pretending to take a picture

Photo by Tanaphong Toochinda on Unsplash

Time commitment: 30-60 minutes

Oh, Lego, how do we love thee? It’s difficult to count the ways when they’re strewn all over the floor (bare feet + tiny edges = ouch). Add to that the hundreds of other parts and pieces from piles of toys that add up over the years in every corner of your home and you’ve got yourself a heck of a lot of clutter.

To get control of it and put toys in their proper place, grab a large bin and walk around with your kids filling it. Once everything is collected, choose one spot to keep them so everyone knows exactly where they go. This is a great opportunity to give kids a bit of responsibility to take care of their favourite things, while realizing the ones they’re no longer interested in – which in turn, can be donated. Win/win!

Tip #6. Give your pantry a purge 

Organized shelves in a pantry

Photo by Martin Lostak on Unsplash

Time commitment: 60-90 minutes

This one is a bit of an “ugh” but we promise it’ll feel so good. Depending on how deep your pantry is, it’s very easy for expired packaged and canned foods to hibernate indefinitely. Do yourself a favour and go through it shelf by shelf – maybe even break this up by doing one shelf per day – and decide what to toss, keep or donate. If you have duplicates or items you know you won’t use (think gift basket goodies), Food Banks will happily accept donations of unexpired food. 

As you empty out each shelf, be sure to wipe it clean – and consider placing things back in an order that makes it easier to find what you’re looking for (whether that’s by type of food, label colour or alphabetically). Your inner control freak will do cartwheels!

Tip #7. Sort through your vanity 

Makeup products on a vanity

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplashh

Time commitment: 60 minutes

Another behemoth that easily becomes unruly is the bathroom vanity. Hair dryers, bottles, tubes, cosmetics, bath products, extra toilet paper… and did we mention cosmetics? So many things, so little space. 

Things to keep in mind:

• Makeup and perfume have a shelf life – so think about how long you’ve been holding onto things, then decide if they’re safe to keep. For instance, mascara and eyeliners should only be kept 3 to 4 months, blush for 2 years and lipstick 1 year.

• Gently used products can be donated, but expired items cannot.

• Bulk items like toilet paper and tissue can be relocated to the laundry room, basement, linen closet or other storage closet to free up space.

• Expired over-the-counter (OTC) medications should be tossed. 

• Consolidate half-empty bottles of shampoo and lotions.

• Throw out samples you know you’ll never use.

To keep things nicely organized, Self Magazine suggests these tips:

• Edit, edit, edit – get rid of the junk.

• Compartmentalize everything – pick up handy trays and containers (you can repurpose jars, too).

• Add a magnetic strip – keep bobby pins and small tools like tweezers in their place.

Your best bet is to subscribe to a “use it or lose it” way of thinking. If you don’t use it within the year, toss or donate it. 

Tip #8. Do a closet drive-by

Hanger with clothes neatly hanging from it

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Time commitment: 60 minutes

What we’re recommending here is not a full-scale closet edit, but instead a mini cleanout based mostly on quick decisions. That is, open your closet, acknowledge the things you really don’t wear anymore and quickly place them in a “donate” bin. Leave it for a couple of days, then revisit it – and if you feel a gravitational pull to keep any of it, then do. We suggest doing this periodically throughout the year, so you continuously refresh your closet and keep it from becoming overrun. 

While you’re pulling out the pieces, it’s also the perfect time to straighten up! Fold things properly, organize drawers by type of clothing (t-shirts in one drawer, sweaters in another), and throw out or repurpose anything that’s worn or has holes – these won’t be suitable for donation.

When you routinely audit your closet, you’ll choose clothing more carefully when you shop and buy quality over quantity. Even better, there are surprising health benefits to having a clean closet. We’re all about that!

Tip #9. Have bins at the ready 

Mom organizing box of stuff with her son

Photo by HiveBoxx on Unsplash

Time commitment: minimal, year-long

Now that you’ve made a dent in your decluttering, we think it’s a good idea to have bins at the ready all year long, labelled “Donate”, “Ditch” and “Decide later”. As you go about each day, try to be thoughtful about what you have in your home and what you actually need. That way, staying on top of potential mess becomes easier – and clutter doesn’t stand a chance.  

Tip #10. Know what not to do 

Candles neatly organized on a shelf with a plant

Photo by John Mark Arnold on Unsplash

There are lots of great tips out there, but sometimes it’s helpful to know what not to do. Organizing and decluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik has some great words of advice that can help you harness the chaos in your home:

1. Organize first, buy second. After you’ve sorted through your home and know just what you’re keeping, buy only the storage bins you need so you don’t have a bunch of empty ones hanging around (it’ll save you a trip to the store to return them, too).

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you only have a few minutes to work on it, that’s fine! 

3. Complete each task – completely. Once you’ve decided where things are going to go (charity, to a friend, recycling), take it there. Right away. Before you change your mind.

4. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Expect regular upkeep even after you’ve organized your spaces. Clutter has a way of creeping up on you – and it’ll make it easier in the long run.

5. Good enough is good enough. Perfection is not the goal, so tidy up your space so that it works well for you and only you.

See? That wasn’t so bad. And we bet it feels pretty great! When you take things little by little, day by day, what can seem insurmountable is actually pretty manageable. Here’s our last tip: Take before and after photos. Post it. Brag about it. And show off just how organized your beautiful home is.