The 5 Golden Rules of Decluttering Any Space

  • 01 of 06

    5 Golden Rules of Decluttering

    Golden Rules of Decluttering
    Louise Morgan/Getty Images

    There’s a boat-load of decluttering advice out there, and if you have a lot of clutter to sort through it can all seem pretty daunting. But the basics of getting rid of clutter are really quite simple. To help you remind yourself of those basics, here are five rules of decluttering.

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  • 02 of 06

    Start with Storage Spaces

    Use little boxes for bathroom storage
    Use little boxes for bathroom storage. Photo / Angle in the North

    Start with storage spaces so that your stuff has a place to go. If your desk is covered with papers, all your good decluttering intentions won’t mean anything if you don’t have a file cabinet or box to sort them into. Before you start an organizing project, make sure you have the proper tools.

    The flip-side to this rule is that buying shelves and stacking boxes won’t force you to declutter, and buying too many organizing products that you don’t really need can become clutter itself. So shop...MORE carefully.

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  • 03 of 06

    Love It Or Leave It

    Flowers in the Kitchen
    Flowers in the Kitchen. Photo / La Dolce Vita

    Don’t allow anything into your home that you don’t either need or love. To save yourself from future clutter, take care when acquiring new items. Ask yourself if the item you want is filling a real need. For example, if you have friends over frequently but only own two chairs, some more will be a good investment and make your life identifiably more enjoyable. But if you have plenty of chairs and want to buy another because it’s a nice color, that’s not filling a need. Instead, think of how you...MORE can incorporate that color into your home without taking up a lot of space. If you don’t need something, bring it home only if you really love it, and can realistically see yourself loving it for a very long time.

    As an addendum to this rule, try to teach yourself to love small items. You’ll remember your trip to Europe just as well if you bring home a beautiful handmade tile rather than an armoire. (Or if you exceed your airline’s baggage allowance by returning home from the Middle East with two enormous pillows. Ask me how I know.)

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  • 04 of 06

    Recognize Your Clutter

    How to delcutter your shoes from It's overflowing
    Photo / It's Overflowing

    Learn to recognize what clutter really is, and how your space came to be cluttered in the first place. Clutter can be made up of things you buy because you want to be the type of person who uses them, but it never happens. (Think treadmill collecting dust and clothing.) It can also be perfectly reasonable household stuff that simply lacks a proper storage system (see #1.) Maybe your clutter takes the form of mementos that you can’t bring yourself to get rid of. Or maybe you love to shop so much...MORE that you buy more than you can use, and it piles up. Once you understand why you personally accumulate clutter, you’ll be well on the way towards cutting it out of your life.

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  • 05 of 06

    Accept the Process

    Know that decluttering is a constant process. Don’t feel like a failure if you declutter your whole house and then somehow some more clutter creeps in. That’s normal. Think of decluttering sort of like eating healthier. You don’t eat a green salad once and expect to never have to do it again, right? Decluttering is the same. Your goal is to prefer to live without clutter all the time, and act accordingly, rather than to occasionally completing a huge and arduous organizing project. There are...MORE times for that (when you move, for example) but for every day, make decluttering a sort of lifestyle choice.

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  • 06 of 06

    It's OK To Just Do A Little

    Sunglasses on a board from The Spicy Stiletto
    Sunglasses on a board from The Spicy Stiletto

    Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I am at times so organized that people mock me for it, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had a cardboard box that I haven’t gotten around to recycling lying on my living room floor for two weeks. If you’re interested in decluttering, you might tend towards wanting everything to be perfect at all times. But that pressure can become overwhelming, and stop you from decluttering at all.

    To return to the healthy eating comparison above, you don’t have to...MORE be the healthiest person on the planet – if you can manage it 80% or even 60% of the time, you’ll be better off than most, and probably better off than you were before.