Start to Stop the Clutter

Need a reason to start uncluttering your home? How about a holiday dedicated to just that? It’s Organize Your Home Office Day this Tuesday, March 9th. Celebrate the day by following these easy tips.

Uncluttering is the act of restoring balance to your life by eliminating unimportant things—and doing it will free up time, energy and space for the things that really matter. You can get rid of clutter. No matter how much you have, how small your home, or how little spare time you have, you can transform chaos into order, and here’s how to start.

There’s no right way to unclutter and no one way that works for everyone. What’s important to remember is that getting started is far more important than how you get started.

Figure out where to start. Begin by taking that first step. Start with the easy stuff. This will get you into the act of uncluttering with little or no pain or anxiety. Get a large garbage bag and walk through your house. Place in it anything that you will clearly no longer use:

  • Expired medicines.
  • Expired coupons.
  • Outdated clothes.
  • Makeup that’s more than a year old.
  • Sunscreen that’s more than 2 years old.
  • Things that are broken unless they are valuable and fixable.
  • Odd socks.
  • Grocery bags.
  • Old restaurant menus and shopping guides.
  • Outdated calendars.
  • Spoiled food.
  • Rusted utensils and tools.
  • Old travel literature and maps.

Take the bag and sort through it. Recycle what you can, donate what you can, and dispose of anything that is left over.

Next: More tips to unclutter your home.

When you start to really organize a room, you can start with a single drawer or shelf. Empty the contents, so you can see everything. Pick up each item and make a decision. If you haven’t used or needed that item in the last year, put it in a donation or recycling area. Continue to tackle one drawer or shelf every day. This is the slow but steady approach.

Do not try to unclutter your house all at once. Work one room at a time and don’t switch to another room until you are done. Seeing progress will motivate you to keep up the good work.

Plan on spending no more than one hour each day on uncluttering activities. After an hour, you won’t be so fresh, and your decision-making ability may falter. That said, commit to spending at least 20 to 30 minutes on uncluttering each day.

Start out fresh. Don’t start out tired after a long day.

Make sure to commit to a daily plan. Set simple goals such as: “Tonight, I’m going to clean out my junk drawer and then I’m going to stop.” Or: “I’m going to clean up for 20 minutes and then I’m going to stop.” Then do it.

Finish what you’re doing before you move on. To avoid getting sidetracked, make a note to remind yourself of things you want to do later like organizing your sock drawer or photographs.

While you’re tackling the months and years of accumulated stuff, try to stay current with today’s stuff. Open, sort and file mail daily. Hang up your clothes when you take them off. Clean up the kitchen every night after dinner. And for every new thing you bring in the front door, send five items packing out the back door until you get your belongings down to a more manageable level.

Excerpted from Unclutter Your Home by Donna Smallin (Storey Publishing, 1999)

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Mercedes P.
Mercedes P.3 years ago

Thank you!

Debra J.
Debra J.3 years ago

About 25 years ago, after five family deaths, three pregnancies (and 4 children, yes twins), and moving four times in five years, I needed help. A friend of mine introduced me to "Sidetracked Home Executives" . It helped me, step by step, to get organized and clutter free. A couple of years ago, after a number of life changing events, I realized that the clutter was back as bad as ever. I turned back to that book, and a couple of supportive websites ( & ) to get me started back on the path to organization and a clean living space. Just wanted to share in case this might be of help to others.

Margaret F.
Margaret M. F.3 years ago

Thank-you for the interesting article with its useful tips. I use to be extremely organized & orderly. Then somethings happened & I lost those qualities I need along the way. The clutter has clutter. Much of it are things I have purchased for others but then don't get to deliver them. I was doing fairly well with at least keeping my bedroom uncluttered & were there to be some clutter I was able to keep it organized & hidden behind a chair, etc. Now even my bedroom is out of control which definitely impacts on the quality on sleep one gets. I'd really like to start emptying out the boxes & sorting things for whom they were purchased. However, the question of where to put things removed from their boxes is a bit of a quandary as I'm in dire need of space. Saying I'm overwhelmed is accurate yet also an understatement. I'm tired before I've even started & while I know the sight of a much less cluttered & organized abode will be quite the accomplishment & much more soothing I truly need a boost to get started. All in due time I guess.

Trudy Killa
Trudy Killa3 years ago

Thanks for the article- I am trying to declutter, seems to make the space less hectic feeling & energy more calm. It really is amazing when you get in the kitchen or bedroom to find so many duplicates of things you never even really used. Also great idea to keep the activity to a timeframe.

Anne F.
Anne F.3 years ago

Great encouragement here to find new homes for my stuff. "for every new thing you bring in the front door, send five items packing out the back door"

Patricia Hughes
Patricia Hughes3 years ago

I'm overwhelmed with a project. I like your idea of 20 minutes and stop or one drawer and stop. That is a doable goal. Thanks.

Geneva Fowler
Geneva Fowler3 years ago

Please help me!

Sheri Schongold
Sheri Schongold3 years ago

I am very able to declutter. I recycle regularly and watch the expiration dates. The only problem in decluttering is my husband who leaves things where they are. I put the office mail on his desk and don't worry if it doesn't get filed. He has a difficult problem getting rid of things he hasn't used in 5-10 years and expirations dates, don't ask. He had a box of cereal that went out of date in 1999. I finally was able to get rid of it in 2006. He kept telling me it was crunchy so why throw it out?

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola3 years ago

Thanks for the interesting article.

Bethany Donaher
Bethany Donaher3 years ago

Thanks for the advice. Another good site is