If you’re anything like us, clutter tends to accumulate throughout the year, despite all our efforts to keep things tidy. But we have good news: after the holidays and in anticipation of the new year is the perfect time to declutter. Planning to declutter is different than actually decluttering, though, and we often find that once we’re in the thick of things, we fail to clear out as much as we initially planned.
This year, in an effort to get ahead of things, we turned to organizing expert Holly Blakey of Breathing Room Organization + Styling. With Blakey’s help, we learned what we can do now to help our refresh efforts later—and what items people hang onto when they shouldn't, even with the best of intentions.
Meet the Expert
Holly Blakey is an organizational expert and the owner of Breathing Room Organization + Styling, helping clients get their spaces tidy and less cluttered one step at a time.
Before You Begin
If you’re struggling to toss something, it helps to ask yourself why. There are usually three reasons people struggle to declutter, according to Blakey: emotional attachment, money, and guilt.
“When we don't take the time to keep up with what we have in our homes, we forget what's there—and then, we get overwhelmed when decluttering and don't know where to start," Blakey shares.
If you can overcome these hurdles, it might be easier to begin decluttering your home, and we're here to help. Here are the items you may be having a hard time letting go of and how our expert suggests solutions.
Culprit #1: Clothes
According to Blakey, if you’re not sure where to start, start with your closets. Your clothes are likely the first culprit when it comes to clutter. People tend to hold onto clothes far past their expiration, Blakey shares with us.
“Clothes can easily get out of hand simply because we forget what we have, we don't know what fits, and we keep buying things that just sit,” she tells us. “A good closet edit is extremely satisfying and often shifts the energy of the entire home—as well as the homeowner."
Culprit #2: Too Many Toys
Blakey tells us parents are often the biggest victims of clutter—but in part thanks to their kids. If your home is filled up with too many toys for their little ones, this should be the next area of clutter you tackle. Obviously, this cluster of toys can be particularly messy after the holidays, which makes the new year a perfect time to do a clear-out.
“Toys pile up so quickly, and a lot of the time, we can't keep track of what our kids have outgrown or don't even play with anymore,” Blakey says. “Typically, children are very satisfied—and even happier— with fewer things, as long as they get to keep the items they truly love and use.”
Culprit #3: Children's Art
Along with toys, children’s art is another item that’s hard for parents, carers, and family members to toss—it’s a category that even Blakey herself struggles with.
“I used to be really good at it, but as they get older, I am holding onto more—probably because I see them growing up too fast,” she says. “Don't get me wrong, I have a pretty great system that keeps the paper clutter down. But, I sometimes can't refuse another sweet little handprint.”
Clearing clutter doesn't mean getting rid of all of these sentimental pieces. Store the pieces that are most meaningful in chic ways, like lidded boxes or plastic bins.
Additional Tips from Our Expert
If you’re still hemming and hawing, Blakey says this is common—but it needs to stop.
“The most common mistake is when people wait too long, or until the last minute, like before a move or before an organizer comes over. Then, they get really overwhelmed by the process and either donate haphazardly, or they don't edit through their items enough to make an impact.”
If you’re thinking that decluttering is just about throwing out half your stuff, Blakey tells us it’s far more nuanced than that. As you declutter, focus on the quality of what you save, not the quantity of what you remove.
“Decluttering isn't about simply tossing or getting rid of your things,” she says. “It's about eliminating things from your home that you don't use, love or need. Anything in those categories is just causing more clutter for the efficient, effective systems that you could have.”