The most valuable decluttering lessons I have learned – as someone who talks to pro organizers every day

These four decluttering lessons fundamentally changed my home – and I learned them all from the pros

An entryway with green built ins
(Image credit: Olive & Barr)

My job means that I talk to professional home organizers and declutterers every single day. As a result, I pick up some pretty good tips that I then implement around my home. 

After a year of separating what works from what doesn't, I have settled on four firm decluttering lessons that have completely changed how I live in my home, and how I deal with the clutter that used to leave me in a constant cycle of feeling overwhelmed.

These are the four decluttering tips I now swear by as someone who works with expert organizers, and why they changed my home.

The most valuable decluttering lessons I've learned

From knowing what to do with the items you are decluttering to understanding how to declutter when feeling overwhelmed, professional organizers have done it all which is why their advice can almost always be trusted.


(Image credit: Ted Todd)

1. Guilt is a sign something needs to go

Guilt was something I really struggled with when it came to decluttering – and it wasn't just when decluttering sentimental items either, it was for everything I had ever spent money on, be it decluttering my closet, or clearing out my kitchen.

One of the most important things I learned from organizers is that this feeling of guilt that I haven’t used something or that something doesn't fit is a surefire sign that it needs to be decluttered. After all, the item will only continue to make me feel guilty and remain unused.

After starting to stick to this rule and forcing myself through the difficult moments, I feel a lot happier with what I do keep around me.

2. The memories are more important than the object

Sentimental items are one of those home items people never want to declutter but need to – and I certainly used to be guilty of hanging on to every ticket and travel map with the intention of putting it in a scrapbook but never did.

These items are hard to let go of, but experts reminded me that I can still reminisce on those trips and events without having to have a physical item to remind me of them. Besides, the fact I never put it in a book or digitized the memory suggests I would never look at it again if I had anyway.

The memories stick with me and don't take up space in my essential home storagemaking letting go of stuff easier.  

3. A reliable system is life-changing

When it comes to the process of decluttering, I used to wait until I got overwhelmed by a space or physically couldn't use a storage unit before I gutted it out as a matter of necessity. This is the furthest thing from a practical solution imaginable.

When I started talking to the experts, I discovered that every one of them has a system that they depend upon and works for every space in every home. I have tested out a fair few of these around my space for work but settled on the ski-slope organizing system as my ultimate favorite for reestablishing order around my home and decluttering without making a mess

Finding one that works for you can be trial and error, but it is worth the time you invest to sustain a calm home.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up | View at Amazon

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up | View at Amazon
Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. 

4. Planning might be boring but it is essential

I never used to be a big planner when it came to cleaning and decluttering my home, opting to dive in head first instead. This was a huge mistake, however, as it meant I frequently got distracted and never ended up getting rid of very much at all. 

It turns out that, while it may be time-consuming, planning where I wanted to tackle and writing out my goals (be it on paper or my phone) does set you up for a successful decluttering session – and not much else beats it.  


How do I learn to declutter?

When starting with decluttering, it helps to read tips from professional organizers to learn more about their process. From there, you can start to try out different approaches to clearing out your home to work out what works best for you and helps you to achieve your goals. You might also want to hire a professional organizer to get a head start and learn from them directly.

What is the golden rule of decluttering?

The golden rule of decluttering is to always put things back where they belong when you have finished with them to prevent visual clutter from accumulating around your home. This helps you to keep things organized while also making it simpler to find things when you need them – helping you to avoid feeling overwhelmed at home.

There are plenty of other decluttering rules and approaches that professionals love for keeping order in a home, so it is a good idea to try different things out to see what works best for you. They are professionals for a reason, after all.

You might want to combine approaches, for instance, to make decluttering fun or learn how to encourage family to declutter with you to take the load off. 

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, 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.