Most of the time, decluttering is only needed in the odd spot when we realize we can't close a cabinet door fully anymore, or our closets are impossible to navigate. Sometimes, however, our whole houses can just become a little overwhelming and cry out for a good clear out.
Whether your house has become too overwhelming, or you are looking to try out something like Swedish Death Cleaning, decluttering every room in your house is a great way to achieve the ultimate reset – even if it is one of the hardest home organizing tasks to complete.
These are the experts' five decluttering tricks to make clearing out a home room by room less overwhelming for satisfying, stress-free results.
How to declutter a home room by room
As soon as you start to notice the signs it's time to declutter your home, it is time to start working on each room, one at a time. Starting when you first notice the tell-tale signs will help prevent your home from falling into chaos, therefore stopping you from decluttering when you feel overwhelmed.
With that in mind, here is how to work through your space room-by-room for the best results.
1. Start in the entryway
Although some decluttering tips will tell you to start small and work your way up, when decluttering a home room by room, it is best to start in the most problematic area so that you do not run out of steam before you get there.
Stephanie Deininger, home organizer and founder of The Organized Flamingo believes that it is likely to be somewhere like your entryway, where you come and go frequently and drop stuff off as you do:
‘Generally, I like to start with the entryway or the area where you first walk in to and walk out of. Those are the spaces that tend to accumulate the most amount of stuff because it's in the most frequented area. If the entry and exits are not clear, the clutter will spill over around it and to the sides,’ she warns. ‘Maintaining that area will set you up for success for the rest of the space.’
Start at the bottom and work your way up to make decluttering an entryway easier. Clearing the floor of shoes, bags, and fallen jackets will help you to move around the space more easily and open storage units with stuff getting in the way. Next, move onto side tables and baskets, before anything hanging on walls or in closets, finishing off by dusting your ceilings and cleaning an entryway top to bottom for a welcoming spot.
Stephanie has been helping businesses and people get organized for over 20 years. She is also a member of NAPO National and NAPO Colorado Chapter (National Association of Productivity & Organizing Professionals).
2. Move onto the kitchen and living room
With the entryway out of the way, it is time to move on to the next most-used area of your home. This will usually involve decluttering a living room, or decluttering a kitchen, says Kimberly Corey, professional home organizer and founder of Finely Sorted Organizing. The idea is to work backward to the least used space so that you leave the easiest spot for when you have run out of energy and lack cleaning motivation, she explains.
Although very different rooms, these high-traffic spots require similar pragmatic approaches. Millie Hurst, Solved section editor at Homes & Gardens recommends starting with your surfaces – be it decluttering your countertops or your coffee table and sideboard and working around the room from there. Clearing the spots in your line of sight will give you space to rest over items and containers when working through them while also giving you some satisfaction as you see the room come together, she says.
You can then move on to decluttering cabinets and storage units, getting rid of anything that you no longer use or removing things that need to live elsewhere, working one at a time to help declutter without making a mess.
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. Millie has written about and tried out countless cleaning and DIY hacks in the six years since she became a journalist, and has worked in both London and New York.
3. Try the ski-slope method for your bedroom and closet
Decluttering a bedroom can be overwhelming at the best of times. Unless you are highly organized every single day, these heavily used spaces often end up with items on the floor or piled on a chair, unorganized laundry baskets, and clutter accumulating under the bed that we swore we would put in storage but never did.
‘When attacking each room imagine a clean sweep like a car windshield wiper going from one side of the room to the other methodically so as not to miss any items,’ she suggests. When working in a bedroom, it can help to start in the corner furthest from your closet so that you can collect any miscellaneous clothing as you work and finish by hanging things back up and decluttering clothes you no longer wear.
Kimberly also suggests making a clear staging area (bed top floor center or mobile table) to sort the items you pick up for review until you are completely finished and can then edit each category, putting unwanted items by the door.
‘The key is to not go outside the room to put them where they belong unless you need water or bathroom or expect an important call, service person, etc),’ she adds. ‘After reviewing every item use available containers to house them in an area of the room that makes sense (closest to where it is used).'
Starting in 2000, Finely Sorted Organizing, LLC has been helping people declutter, downsize, rightsize, rearrange the basement, clean out a family home, with closet makeovers, garage resets, kitchen retooling, office optimizations, mudroom triages, file cabinet overhauls help to ease anxiety and feelings of frozen immobility caused by lack of systemization in a world filled with curve balls.
4. Work on bathrooms towards the end
Bathroom decluttering is one of the simpler home organizing tasks given that it usually comes down to sorting through your bath products, trashing empty bottles, merging multiples of the same product together, and setting aside things you haven't used and won't use for donation.
The trick to making decluttering a bathroom smooth is to ensure you stick to decluttering before you start organizing, says Jamie Hord, professional organizer and founder of Horderly:
‘Touch on everything and decide if it's needed. If it's a keep, you then want to determine how often it's used so you know what kind of real estate it needs. Once you know where everything should live, this is then when you can figure out exactly what system you need to put in place to maintain your organization.’
Upon finishing in your bathroom, you should only have care products that you genuinely love and can see yourself using left in your storage. Old, threadbare towels should be thrown out, repurposed, or on a list to be replaced within a month of decluttering, while unopened bottles you may have picked up from hotels or been given in gift sets that have been in there longer than one year need to be donated.
There are plenty of things you can do with the items you declutter, but thrift stores, animal shelters, and food banks will be most appreciative of unopened, unused products.
Jamie is the co-founder of Horderly, a professional organizing company that brings order to countless homes and offices, from the most cluttered New York City apartments to some of the largest homes nationwide. The team's goal is to make their clients’ lives clutter-free, streamlined, and more functional.
5. Finish with your hallways
Your hallways may not be on your standard decluttering to-do list, but you may be surprised what kind of clutter accumulates in this spot daily – especially when you have been so thoroughly decluttering every room in your house. Your final task will be to ensure that any bags for the trash or donation are moved to the bins or your car respectively while picking up any items that have been left in the hall or on the stairs to be moved elsewhere in your home.
Is it a good idea to declutter every room at the same time?
While you may feel motivated to declutter every room of your home, it is a good idea to space your decluttering sessions out and work on a different set of rooms on different days. This can help you to stay motivated and not become burnt out with decision fatigue. Set yourself a schedule and create a decluttering plan to help you stay on track, giving yourself rewards for completing each day.
What should I remove first when decluttering?
When decluttering your home, start by getting rid of anything that is obviously trash such as old packaging or items you know are broken beyond reasonable repair – this will clear away space for you to be able to move around and see the rest of your clutter more clearly, allowing you to make more straightforward decisions.
Although you’ll likely be exhausted by the time you finish decluttering your home room by room, it is always a good idea to finish decluttering and organizing with some cleaning tips. Your home is in its neatest state, so it is easier to run around with a duster and multipurpose spray now while your surfaces are clear.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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