6 Rules for Knowing What Things to Declutter

You have to recognize what things to declutter before you can clean up your home. Learn how to recognize the clutter in your home for what it is.

Clutter is getting on my nerves.  Seriously.  Some days I think I could literally scream.

And then I go fix a cup of tea and hop on Facebook, or flip through a cookbook, or check my email, or something…anything to avoid facing the cold hard facts that the mess and piles need dealt with.

Wallet, camera, sunglasses, and other random items with the words "6 rules for knowing what to declutter"

I tell myself I’ll get to it “later”, and I actually believe it.  I actually think that after I sit down for five minutes (which usually turns into fifty minutes – who am I kidding?!?), I’ll feel like sorting through the mail pile that’s taller than a small child, or cleaning off the kitchen table that hasn’t seen the light of day for three weeks, or weeding out the clothes that should have been taken care of when they were still in season.

And that’s really how it all starts and keeps right on piling up.

How Clutter Takes Over Your Home

Just a little bit of clutter….a single decision to “take care of this after while”….the fear that we might possibly need this someday….and suddenly we have more piles of I’ll-get-to-it-later than we know what to do with. Then, we get so used to walking around it or avoiding looking at it that we almost don’t even know it’s there.

And we start giving our clutter pet names like “The-Mail-Pile-I’m-Going-to-Take-Care-of-This-Weekend,” or “That-Stuff-I-Might-Need-For-Fixing-Something-One-Day,” or “The-Craft-Supplies-I’m-Actually-Going-to-Use-This-Time.”

Ahhhh….doesn’t it all sound so cute once we give it a name?

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But maybe we should call it what it is. Perhaps we should say, “The-Mail-Pile-I-Keep-Avoiding-Because-I-Don’t-Want-To-Deal-With-It,” or “The-Stuff-I-Think-I-Might-Need-But-Won’t-Be-Able-to-Find-Because-of-the-Mess,” or “The-Craft-Supplies-I’ll-Never-Use-and-Feel-Guilty-for-Wasting-Money-On.”

Of course, it doesn’t matter if we name it, or walk around it, or promise to take care of it later. It’s still clutter. And in order for us to get rid of clutter, we need to be able to see it, which is sort of hard when we’re so used to ignoring it.

We need to understand what things to declutter in order to take action to kick it out. So, how can we recognize clutter when it’s staring us in the face, especially since one person’s clutter is another person’s “carefully-placed-pile-of-treasured-possessions”?

A woman looking at clothes hanging in a closet

6 Rules for Knowing What Things to Declutter:

It makes you cringe…

Anything that gives you a knot in your stomach needs taken care of now, not sometime “later.” Things like the sewing project you abandoned four years ago. The jumbled pile of receipts that makes you feel so stinking guilty. The pile of clothes in the hall that drives you insane.

These cringe-worthy messes sit on your kitchen counter and litter the top of your desk. And they make you feel crummy every time you walk past them. It’s time for them to go.

It isn’t something you like, wear, or use…

Having things you’re not going to use only makes it harder to find the things you really do want to use. You know that deodorant nobody wants because it doesn’t work and the scarf you paid good money for but looks sort of ugly to you now? That stuff is now clutter.

It doesn’t matter how much you originally paid for it, or if you really thought you’d use it. If it’s just sitting around collecting dust (or even worse, getting in your way), then it’s time to cut ties and let it go. In two weeks you probably won’t even remember it anymore. Trust me on this one.

It hides important things…

If there’s junk that keeps you from finding the things you really need, then the junk needs dealt with ASAP. Think about the newspapers that got stacked on top of your kid’s missing permission slip. The mail that’s hiding the almost-late bills. The mis-matched socks you have to sift through to find a wearable pair every morning.

When you have things you don’t even like or use keeping you from easily accessing the things you really do need, then that clutter needs sorted and gotten rid of right away.

It insults you…

Things that make you feel like a failure or dredge up painful memories should’t have a place in your home. You don’t have to keep the gifts that remind you of a hurtful relationship or the clothes that no longer fit because you’ve put on a few extra pounds.

It’s okay to let those things go, and with them you’ll be releasing the guilt and pain that’s piled on you, too. Let. it. go.

It causes you to procrastinate…

If something makes you use words like “later” or “someday” or “when I get around to it,” it’s most likely holding you back and needs addressed sooner rather than “later”. Think about the things you need to do or sort through before you can do other tasks you know need done, too.

The dried out paints you have to sort through before you can complete that craft project. The clothes you have to try on before dropping off the dry cleaning. The piles on the end tables that need cleared before you can dust the room. Take the time to get rid of the mess so you can move on and get things done.

It inconveniences you…

All the things that make you go out of your way or keep you from accomplishing tasks easily are hindering your ability to be an efficient home manager. The the papers you have to work around to use the desk. The stale food in the pantry that makes it impossible for the kids to find a snack.

The stuff that gets in the way of the things you need or makes it hard to put things back away is costing you time every day. It’s worth taking a few minutes to get rid of the junk so you can find and use the good stuff you need.

Get My Top 50+ Super-Simple Cleaning & Decluttering Tips

Subscribe to SMALL DOSE DECLUTTERING and get simple tips every week to turn your house into the uncluttered home you didn’t know was possible…and it’s 100% FREEEEE!

Your email is safe with us. We wouldn’t dream of sharing it with anyone else!

Call it Clutter and Get Rid of It

Clutter can be things that need given away or thrown away. It also can be things that need put away, filed away, or otherwise dealt with. Whatever the case, once you finally recognize it for what it is, you can do something about it.

The next time you have to step over a pile or scoot something out of your way, acknowledge it for the clutter that it is and make a plan to deal with it. Either get rid of it right then and there, or make a note on your calendar to get it done soon.  

Then add “declutter for fifteen minutes” to your Morning Checklist and discover how good it feels to stop ignoring the clutter that’s weighing you down and finally start eliminating it.

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3 Comments

  1. Shelia Huey says:

    There is something that helped me when it came to laundry: 1. Get some LARGE safety pins and have each person pin their socks together before putting them in the hamper to be washed, and never lose a sock again! I did this when my children were old enough to do it to their own socks and never had to sit and find sock mates or find out a sock was missing…it worked for me (I had 3 boys). 2. The other thing I did was as they were old enough I purchased a laundry basket for each child put it in their closet and when they had dirty clothes they just dropped into their own laundry basket. I would go around a few times a week and collect the baskets and do that laundry THEN put that persons CLEAN clothes back in their basket and they could put away their own clothes instead of me doing it all. THEN when they were even alittle older they were taught how to do their own laundry and then they did their own and it took that load off MY shoulders.
    I wanted my BOYS to know how to take care of themselves when they left home and maybe be able to help their mates when they married!
    I also taught them some simple meals to make as well so they could cook SOME THINGS after leaving home! Now my young men love to cook and can help with household chores along with their spouses!

  2. Kathyren Beverly says:

    I appreciate your time and effort in helping us deal with our cluttered homes. It helps to calm the overwhelm somehow when you realize you aren’t the only one with clutter. I DO NOT enjoy cleaning house. Your tips, & tricks, & advice help me figure out where to start and what to do when I get stuck in that procrastination game. Often the biggest step is the one step it takes to get started, and I am encouraged that I CAN work through all this with my family!! Thank you so much!!

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