Decluttering and organizing a home without a set plan is like trying to climb a mountain without any shoes – you can do it, but it will be far more difficult.
While there are plenty of approaches to home organizing, none are as simple or as practical as the CORE 4 method, professional organizers say.
One of the best decluttering tips for those of us who are easily distracted, the approach forces you to focus on four key steps to help cut back clutter to help you declutter when you feel overwhelmed.
The CORE 4 method
As the name suggests, the CORE 4 method (also known as Decluttercore™️), created by professional organizer Kayleen Kelly, focuses on the very basics of decluttering and tidying – Clear Out, Categorize, Cut Out, and Contain, and is designed to help you think like a professional organizer.
‘For many people, the CORE 4 method is perfect. You clear out obvious trash, categorize the items into categories, cut out (declutter) the items you no longer need/want, and then contain them (organize). These are simple, clear-cut steps that don't overcomplicate things,' begins Caroline Roberts, professional home organizer and founder of This Simplified Island.
Caroline Roberts is a KonMari consultant and founder of the home organization company The Simplified Island. She and her team help clients declutter their belongings. Then they find the best places for your items so that their family members can find things and put them away. She is also a contributing expert at Homes & Gardens.
One thing Caroline adds, however, is the need to create a plan of attack for which rooms and areas you want to start in and end in, especially for those who need to declutter a lot. ‘These individuals need to be clear on their vision and how they want to use the space,’ she says. ‘If someone has a lot to declutter, it's easy to get overwhelmed and keep things that don't actually fit into their vision. A strong vision will keep them grounded and motivated to declutter.’
With that in mind, you can begin to break the four steps down.
1. Clear Out
Clearing out is often the easiest of the four steps, says Ashley La Fond, founder of home organization company Of Space + Mind:
‘This is similar to the process most organizers follow, but with an easy-to-remember name and four key steps, it makes the idea of decluttering more manageable,’ she says. ‘Their first step, “Clear Out,” suggests that you remove everything from the space that doesn’t belong there - that might include trash, dishes, items that have another home or things that don’t belong in the space. This is a great first step for a space that is really messy and cluttered, as it immediately will make it feel better, providing you with some momentum to keep going.’
If you find yourself getting distracted when putting items back in other rooms, a great home organization secret is to use a basket or container to keep items in and take them back only when you have finished in your first space. That way, you won't find yourself lingering in another room procrastinating on the task at hand.
Ashley La Fond founded the successful organizing business Of Space and Mind. The professional organizing company makes clients' life 100x more efficient and obviously "organized". From moving and unpacking to organizing your current home, Of Space and Mind can help with everything.
When decluttering a home room by room, it can be helpful to break items down further into similar categories. This helps you visualize what you have and easily spot duplicates that can be thrown out or donated. ‘Only then can you tackle the hard editing decisions to remove excess clutter,’ says Marissa Hagmeyer, home organizer and co-founder of NEAT Method.
It’s important to start by emptying the space and sorting everything by type to fully understand what you own.
Ashley Murphy and Marissa Hagmeyer are the organization-obsessed co-founders behind NEAT Method. Started in 2010, NEAT Method is the result of the duo's inspiration to bring a fresh perspective to the industry. Originally servicing the Bay area of San Francisco, NEAT Method began to build a small, passionate group of organizers. Murphy, the CEO, led the team from localized markets to expanding across the US and Canada, while Hagmeyer, COO, advises on designs, builds spreadsheets, and implements efficiencies.
3. Cut out
The first two steps are designed to set you up for a successful decluttering session, meaning that it should be easier to decide what to declutter in step three. With everything categorized and laid out in view, work on picking out duplicates or similar items that you do not use as often or do not like as much.
If you struggle to make decisions when decluttering, consider trying something like the three-second decluttering rule to challenge yourself to declutter quickly while minimizing decision fatigue.
How much you declutter will depend on when you last cleared out your home and the size of your home storage. Getting rid of even a few items can help to make containing and organizing everything easier.
With the decluttering out of the way, it is time to contain the remnants (organize), says Gabriella Dyson, Solved section editor for Homes & Gardens.
‘Try to keep the categories you established earlier together when organizing to create a simple logical system in your home storage,’ she suggests. ‘Using bins and containers can help with this, but try to avoid buying storage products before you have decluttered to avoid buying more than you need,’ she adds.
It is good to remember that not all storage has to be aesthetic or pretty so long as it is functional for you and your family – especially if you are trying to organize your home without spending any money. Prioritize making things neat.
Gabriella Dyson is Head of Solved at Homes & Gardens, editing and writing practical advice for homeowners in the process of cleaning, decluttering, or attempting home improvements and DIY projects. Gabriella previously worked on Homebuilding.com, writing features about issues surrounding historic and listed building projects.
What is the fastest way to organize a cluttered house?
The fastest way to organize a cluttered house is to start by decluttering and getting rid of trash – this will immediately reduce clutter and leave you with less to organize and find storage spots for. Working with someone else, be it someone you live with, a friend, or a professional will also help to speed the process up – especially if you find decluttering hard.
What is the best order to organize your home?
When organizing your home, it is best to start in a room or area you use the most, such as your living room or kitchen, both to re-establish order in an important area quickly and because you are already likely to know what is in that room, what you use, and what you do not – making decluttering and sorting a lot easier. Once you have finished this spot, you will be more motivated to move into the next room and the next.
The CORE 4 method may not be the most aesthetic organizing trick, but it is by far one of the most practical – especially if you are new to decluttering and want to avoid some common home organizing mistakes or need a quick and easy reset.
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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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