The idea of living a minimalist, uncluttered life is one that many of us aspire to. We are willing to de-clutter our rooms, own fewer possessions, and simplify our lives so that we can have less to clean, less to organize, less to worry about, and more money to spend on the things that matter.
However, many of us feel like we don’t have the energy to de-clutter and often get stuck at where and how to begin. While it’s always tough to get rid of the “good” old stuff lying around our homes, it is possible to de-clutter your room with less pain than you might think.
Here are ten smart strategies to help you efficiently de-clutter your room, drawn from various experts.
1. Set aside a few hours to de-clutter and tidy up.
According to Washington DC’s organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik.org, you should clean out and de-clutter your house a little bit each day. Refrain from setting aside an entire day to organize your whole house. Few people have the energy and/or focus to spend 8 hours straight tidying up, she says. Instead, allocate a few hours—just 2 or 3—on one project or room at a time. That way, you will be motivated to start de-cluttering and escape frustration and burnout as the day progresses.
2. Sort things into categories and discard everything that does not “spark joy.”
Sorting out involves arranging things into categories, such as things to recycle, donate, toss, and give to friends. Marie Kondo, author of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” offers a simple and effective strategy for sorting out and discarding. She says discard everything that does not “spark joy,” after thanking the objects that are getting the heave-ho for their service.
“Sparking joy” can be a flexible concept. But, according to Ms. Kondo, that which is itchy, or too hot, is certainly joyless. So is anything baggy, droopy or with a flared leg. She recommends that you hold each item in your hands and have a dialogue with yourself to determine if it sparks joy.
3. Assess what containers you REALLY need.
Avoid going out on a buying spree to get a ton of storage supplies before you know exactly how much stuff you are packing. All those pretty boxes, baskets and bins at the Container Store won’t do you any good unless they fit the space in the closet, on the shelf or under the bed. In fact, Ms. Kondo is adamant that you don’t need to buy any organizing equipment—your home already has all the storage you need. As for containers to pack things to toss away, grab a large trash bag and see how quickly you can fill it. You may even fill a few trash bags specifically for Goodwill.
4. Finish each task—completely.
This is a crucial step: once you have sorted things out in your room and decided where everything is going to go, put them there. Don’t stack boxes or bags in your room for later delivery or for disposal at a later date. Finish the task now. That is to say, take the boxes and bags out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you are giving something to a friend or donating something to charity, put the items in your car or make arrangements for dropping them off as soon as you finish the process. You have done such a good job of tidying up, why leave it unfinished? Complete the task fully!
5. Think vertically.
In small rooms, maximize the space by thinking vertically. For example, could you hang shelves above your desk for extra papers or books? Maybe you can hang some utensils on the walls to save space in the kitchen. New York City prop stylist Erin Swift is actually a fan of displaying everyday dishes against a well-marked chalkboard wall. She says the dark backdrop allows her to clearly indicate a home for each of the items and encourages others to help restock once the dishwasher is finished. Her advice: “Draw outlines of shapely pieces if you’re the artistic type, or just say it like it is, with words.”
6. Shred the papers.
Ms. Kondo’s de-cluttering instruction concerning papers is most liberating. She says you should just throw papers away. “There is nothing more annoying than papers,” she says firmly. “After all, papers never spark joy, no matter how carefully you keep them.” Shred sensitive papers, file important ones (if need be), and throw the rest away. You don’t really need most of the papers that you are keeping in your room anyway. Papers generally only make your room stuffy and unattractive.
7. Hang clothes—they look happier hung up.
Ms. Kondo proposes the agreeable technique of hanging clothes. She advises that you hang up anything that looks happier hung up, and arrange like with like, working from left to right, with dark, heavy clothing on the left. And she explains why: “Clothes, like people, can relax more freely when in the company of others who are very similar in type, and therefore organizing them by category helps them feel more comfortable and secure.”
8. Clear out your medicine cabinet.
Don’t forget to go through your medicine cabinet and discard outdated medicines and any other stuff in there that you don’t use, including outdated creams and ointments that you discovered don’t work on your skin. The fewer things you have in your medicine cabinet, the easier it is to find (and replace) what you need and the more clutter-free your room will be.
9. Create a tidy tub for all the “unfindables.”
Stuff that you use in different seasons like goggles, sunscreen, and bug spray in the summer and gloves, hats, and mittens in the winter can quickly pile up and clutter your room. Design blogger Benita Larsson suggests that you find a galvanized tub and divide it into discrete compartments using “walls” of foam core for the unfindables. Place the tub at a convenient place near the entry to your room so you can arrange your stuff for grab-and-go convenience at different times of the year and for different purposes.
10. Give away one item each day.
Don’t think that once you have organized your room, you are done. You will need to create an efficient and logical system for processing and managing incoming and outgoing items, or you might find yourself forced to clean up another mess of clutter again a month later. Colleen Madsen of 365LessThings.com gives away one item each day and recommends that you do the same. Over the past several years, she says she has experienced quite a transformation simply by reducing her stuff one day at a time.