I tried the SIMPLE method to tidy up – and restore order from chaos

Overwhelmed and struggling, the SIMPLE method helped me reestablish order

Someone organising a bathroom drawer with drawer inserts
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After a month of slacking on my housework, I started to feel incredibly overwhelmed by everything my house had to throw at me. 

Instead of diving headfirst into decluttering with the vague aim of cleaning up the house, the SIMPLE method helped me form a plan of attack and set myself up for a successful decluttering session

This is how the SIMPLE method helped me tidy up and reset my home without distractions – even when I was most overwhelmed. 

The SIMPLE method

Created by professional home organizer Kathy Jenkins, founder of Come To Order, the clue is in the name – the SIMPLE method helps to simplify the process of decluttering and organizing so that you don't get distracted. This makes it perfect for decluttering when you feel overwhelmed

The acronym breaks down each part of the process so you are never left making haphazard decisions that might later lead to decluttering regret:  

  • S: Sort like with like
  • I: Identify what to keep
  • M: Make a home for it
  • P: Put it in containers
  • L: Label it
  • E: Establish a routine 

white tulip table with wooden dining chairs and dresser

(Image credit: Future PLC)

I certainly found myself slacking on my housework and home organizing over January – and with the constantly gray, rainy weather and long dark nights, who can blame me? Trying to find the motivation to declutter and organize seemed impossible. 

The result was piles of Christmas decor yet to be returned to storage, a seriously disorganized kitchen that had been simply used and abused as I slugged through weekly meals, and a closet with barely anything hung up. Something seriously needed to be done. 

The SIMPLE method helped organize my mind and the decluttering process so that I could begin clearing the clutter. 

Sort and Identify

A lady sat on the floor folding and organizing clothes

(Image credit: Alamy)

One of the most valuable decluttering lessons I have learned from professional organizers is that I should never start cutting back categories without being able to see everything from that category. Sorting like with like (collecting all of my clothes from various drawers, laundry hampers, and bedroom chairs, for instance) meant I could make more informed decisions about what to get rid of. In the case of organizing a closet, I could decide what to hang up, fold, and donate to charity. 

In the kitchen, I gathered all the pieces that had been strewn across drawers to help decide what I had used over the last few months and what was collecting dust, helping me to make space in my kitchen storage.

Seeing everything together made it far easier to make decisions quickly, cutting the time to tidy up in half – especially when I used the three-second decluttering rule

Much like the CORE 4 method for organizing, the focus of the SIMPLE method is to pick out what to keep first, leaving the maybe stuff until last. I liked this approach as it helped to clear away the vast majority of items back into storage quickly so they were out of sight, helping to reduce my feelings of being overwhelmed.  

Make a home, contain, and label

mud room with screened closet and storage buckets

(Image credit: Chad Mellon at Studio Mellon / Styling Kara Perlis)

Most of the items I was organizing already had homes and containers to go to, so it was just a case of putting things back with little need to label them. The main exception was my Christmas decor – much of which was new, and I didn’t have space for it in my rented home. The only solution for this was to find an external storage unit to relocate the seasonal items (I didn't want to declutter my Christmas tree, after all). 

I ensured that it was all packed away safely in dedicated boxes so that it could survive being lugged back and forth in the car at the end of each year and labeled everything so that it was easy to grab from a room full of storage when December next rolled around. I also wrote down a list of the items in a document on my phone. This was especially important when using storage that wasn't in my home as it will give me something to refer to when planning my Christmas decorating next year to stop me from spending on pieces I already have but may have forgotten about. 

My verdict

Beige soft bathroom with freestanding tub and ottoman

(Image credit: Charlotte Lea)

The SIMPLE method really helped me to get my act together when I was stressed about the state of my home. If you are new to decluttering and organizing, this method is ideal as it forces you to assess your belongings before you consider buying containers for them to go in, helping to ensure you don't overspend and add more clutter to your home. 

Try to keep the categories you established in step one together in containers to make things easier to find and simpler to put back away — overall helping you to establish a clear-cut routine for everyday maintenance. 

FAQs

How do you declutter a whole house in a day?  

When trying to tackle a big decluttering session around your whole home, try to break the tasks down room by room and set yourself a time limit for each space. Although this might sound limiting, it is important to ensure that you do not get burnt out halfway through an area and have to leave a room a mess. It can also help to establish a plan with the most important spots you want to sort, identify, and write down. This can help you to stay on track as you work your way around your space. If you spot another area that needs dealing with, write it down to come back to it once you have finished your priority spots, or do them another day. 


With everything reset back to level zero, my home was much easier to navigate, and with brighter weather approaching and big holidays and festivities far in the past, it should be easier to maintain my routine of putting things away on the day I have used them through my closing shift routine.  

Chiana Dickson
Writer

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.