Wednesday, 5 March 2014

My Top 5 Tips for Effective Decluttering

As promised previously in my Top 5 tips for effective storage, today I bring you my Top 5 tips for decluttering. Remember my definition of why clutter exists in the first place?

clutter, declutterer, de-clutterer, professional organiser, organising clothes

Therefore - in order to DEclutter, we need to address the decision AND action parts to make progress.

#1 Have a vision

Clearly define your end goal and desired result, so that you can go back to that vision to refocus and boost your motivation to push on. What are you trying to achieve by decluttering? Reduce stress, create more space, save time and energy spent looking for things, improve your performance and efficiency at work? Without knowing WHY you are doing this, it can quickly start to feel too much like hard work.

#2 Have a plan

As with most things in life, before you jump in to a decluttering project you need to have a plan. Decide what, where and when you are decluttering, and only work on ONE area at a time. Dedicate some time to decluttering in your schedule, otherwise it will always slip to the bottom of the To Do list and never get done.

#3 Prepare for the task at hand

If your floor is covered in clothes, or your desk covered in papers, clear the area first without sorting. Place all the stuff in a big bag or box, and then clean the surface below. Give the floor a good vacuum, your wardrobe shelves a good wipe, or your desk a good polish. Now you can start preparing for the next step by equipping yourself appropriately. If you’re doing your home office, have a recycling bin and shredder handy, and some sticky notes to label things for filing. If you’re doing your wardrobe, plan where the excess clothes are going before you create a big pile of stuff on the floor which you then need to figure out what to do with. Try using reusable shopping bags, plastic storage crates, or cardboard boxes - whatever containers you have available. Have as many as you need for the categories you’re going to sort into, and then label them accordingly. Some suggested categories include: Toss, Recycle, Donate, Sell, Repair, Archive (packing your winter woollies or Christmas decorations away is a form of archiving too), and Place (as in place the item where it belongs).

#4 Make decisions

This is where the real work begins, and it can get quite emotionally and mentally exhausting, so work in chunks of time you feel comfortable with. Work through your bag or box of items, sorting them into the categories you have set up. If you are really struggling to decide what to do with some items, you can allow yourself an ‘Undecided’ box, but when it gets full, make a decision on something else in there before adding another item.
To help with decision-making, think about the following:
- have you used it in the last 12 months
- is it serving its intended purpose, or could it be serving a better purpose elsewhere
- what value is it adding to your life, and is it worth the space it’s taking up
- does it have a home, and if not, is it sensible and possible to make a home for it
- if it’s something awaiting action (eg. an intended craft project), are you going to get it done within the next 6 months

clutter, declutter, de-clutter, decluttering, de-cluttering, organising, clothes

#5 Take action

Now that you've made the decisions, it’s time to take the required action. This is where the wheels often fall off! The secret is to keep the time gap between the decision and the action as small as possible. Take the ‘Donate’ items to the charity shop, list that stuff on eBay, return those borrowed items, and put things back where they belong - preferably within 24 hours. If that's not possible, set reasonable time limits and have a plan B in case you don’t meet them. You HAVE to take action though, otherwise it just slips back into the category of clutter – lacking decisive action. Remember you can check out the Resources page on my website if you would like to know what to do with the items you have decluttered.

Much like diet and exercise, once you have achieved your goal you still need to constantly work on it to keep it up. Going through a decluttering process like this is just the beginning of the process. Next month I will share my tips on how to maintain your newly decluttered state.
If you have any questions on decluttering (or what to do with the items) which I haven't covered here, I would love to hear from you!


  1. LOVE all of this! :-)
    I have two main problems - what to do with the 'don't keep' pile - love the resources for that!
    And the second is 'I'll get to that later……not sure anyone can help me with that - just toooo many projects on the go. Need to learn to finish one before I start one.

    1. Ooh yes, "later" is clutter's best friend! That is why the action needs to follow the decision as quickly as possible. It's a tricky habit to break, but you're half way there knowing that it's where you get unstuck!

  2. Your steps were so obvious - like a brick to the head. I now know why my declutter efforts fail constantly. Thank you Beverley!!

    1. Haha it's my pleasure Amber! So often when I'm working with clients they have a very simple "aha" moment and they're on their way - a fresh perspective is sometimes all it takes :)