5 Steps to Reduce Clutter in Your Space

We know that clutter looks unsightly, but did you know that a cluttered space can stress you out and reduce productivity?

We’ve all got at least one “junk drawer” in our homes. You know what I mean. Maybe it’s in the kitchen or in your office, but it’s a black hole where you toss things that don’t exactly have their own “place.” That drawer is probably not the only place that clutter is invading. Over time, we tend to just accumulate stuff, and taking some time to declutter a space can give it a fresh look and an make you feel more organized and less stressed out.

When you’re working or living in a cluttered space, it can be hard to find things that you’re looking for, and it’s tough to focus when you’ve got that nagging voice in the back of your head telling you to tidy up. Instead of ignoring the clutter in your life, you can empower yourself to do something about it!

Here are 5 simple steps to help you reduce the clutter in your life, one junk drawer at a time.

>>Next: Getting Started

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Samael Kreutz

clutter in a junk drawer

Start Small

It can be overwhelming to tackle the whole house or even a whole room right off the bat. Rather than psyching yourself out by starting with a job that’s too big, start small. Even if you only tackle the clutter on a single shelf or in one junk drawer, that’s one more organized space than you had before.

You’ll probably find decluttering sort of addictive! After purging and organizing that first drawer, you might want to tackle a closet next. From there, you’ll probably be ready to dedicate a day or two to decluttering an entire room!

The key is to feel good about what you can do, not focus on what you didn’t get to, so pick something that feels manageable and beat that clutter!

>>Next: Clear and Clean

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Wonderdawg777

empty cabinet

Clear and Clean

Whether you’re cleaning out a drawer or an entire room, you want to pull everything out. Every single thing. You might be tempted to rummage through your space and just remove things that don’t belong, but part of what makes decluttering satisfying is deep cleaning.

Once you’re emptied out the space you’re working on, clean it. If it’s a room, grab the duster and a vacuum and get rid of dust bunnies. Wipe the baseboards, while you’re at it. For smaller projects, like a drawer, grab a damp rag and wipe it down so you’re starting with a fresh space.

>>Next: Start Sorting

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Wonderlane


Start Sorting

For the first round of sorting, you’re going to divide all of that stuff you just pulled out into four categories: keep, donate, recycle, and trash. Marvel at how much stuff you were storing that you haven’t used or thought about in months. Whether you’re dealing with a shelf or a whole room, the rule of thumb for sorting is that if you haven’t used/worn/looked for something in a year, it’s out.

You want to donate as much as you can, put broken recyclable items in the recycle pile, and put real junk into the trash. Of course, you want that trash pile to be as small as possible! Before you toss the recycle items into the bin, you might even give it a once-over to see if there’s anything you could repurpose into something else.

Now that you’ve got everything sorted, it’s time to focus on the keep pile and sort one more time.

>>Next: Advanced Sorting

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by nedrichards


Advanced Sorting

It’s tempting at this point to toss everything from your keep pile back into the drawer and call it a day, but to make this decluttering last, some advanced sorting is in order. Sort through the keep pile, and separate it into categories. For example, our kitchen junk drawer had a lot of seed packets, batteries, and paper clips.

Once you’ve got your categories figured out, you want to compartmentalize your space accordingly. Hunt around the house for small containers to keep everything organized, like small boxes, baskets, or Tupperware. If you don’t have what you need at home, hit the thrift store for cute, little containers on the cheap. Before you head out shopping, make a list of what you need to store so you don’t come back with yet more stuff that you don’t need.

Some of the keeps might not really belong in the space where they were living. Make sure you put those things away where they fit in your house. Those paper clips from my kitchen, for example, really belonged in my studio, so we didn’t put them back in the kitchen drawer.

Are you decluttering a larger space? You can scale this step up to deal with a closet or room. If you’re tackling a room, rearrange furniture to accommodate your keeps along with whatever activity you do in that room, and use what you have before you shop for anything extra. In closets, designate different shelves for different items. If you have smaller items, use baskets or boxes to keep things organized. The idea is making sure everything has a place.

>>Next: Put it Back

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Rita H Cobbs

tidy cabinet

Put Your Sorted Keeps Back

You did it! Your space is clean and you’re ready to put away your keep pile. As you put things back, ask yourself one more time if they really belong in this space, and maybe even consider whether you want to keep them at all. There’s something really liberating about getting rid of stuff, and at this point in the decluttering process you’ll probably be more likely to want to let things go.

As you put things back, you may want to add labels to any containers you use to make things easy to find. The labels will also make your life easier next time you do a round of decluttering!

It can be hard to get rid of stuff, especially if we’re feeling sentimental, and that’s okay. Maybe those sentimental objects don’t belong crammed into a closet or a drawer. Could you display old photos in a collage or arrange mementos in a shadow box on the wall instead of stuffing them into a cardboard box in the attic? Why hang on to memorable items if you’re not going to enjoy them, right?

This process has worked really well for me from uncluttering junk drawers to reclaiming whole rooms that were becoming overrun with stuff. What about you guys? Do you have any other uncluttering tips to share?

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by veganheathen

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Diane C.
Past Member 5 years ago

Trying to de-clutter is always an ongoing project for me, but a little headway is made each time I read and act on an article like this, so thanks.

vijayan t.
vijayan t5 years ago

Great ideas.Think twice before throwing things away

Jeanne Rogers
Jeanne Rogers5 years ago

Thank you.

Alicia Moreno
Alicia Moreno5 years ago

Not easy at all. I'll try, anyway.

Gabriela Baldaia
Gabriela Baldaia5 years ago

This is the perfect guide for me !! I just love this kind of thing, mostly that part when the shelves are empty !!

Winn Adams
Winn Adams5 years ago


Magdalen B.
Magdalen B5 years ago

Thanks, Norma. I laughed aloud at that!

Kynthia B.
Cynthia B6 years ago


Susan S.
Paul Stephan6 years ago

Very helpful, but i get tired just thinking about where to start ;-)

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you