The 9 Best Lessons We Learned About Decluttering

updated Oct 16, 2022
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We’ve been hearing a lot from experts who say minimalism is trending right now. They point out that the more time Americans spend at home, the less stuff they want to have to look at. The key to having less stuff? Getting rid of more stuff. And so decluttering is also big. (Makes sense!) The issue is that decluttering is hard. Sometimes, even harder than organizing! You may struggle with getting rid of something because you hope that Future You might be the kind of person to use said item. Or maybe the item in question was a gift and you’re feeling sentimental about it? Or maybe you’re just not motivated to clear stuff out in the first place? Either way, we’ve got some tips.

These are the best decluttering lessons we learned.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

1. Everyone should have a decluttering caddy.

You’ve likely heard of a cleaning caddy before. This is similar, in that all of your supplies for decluttering are in one place, making it easy for you to get to work without losing steam while you look for Post-its. Read more about stocking (and using) your decluttering caddy here.

2. Your dish rack should probably get put away when you’re not using it.

A good dish rack is super important. It’s just that it should be put away whenever it’s not in use. A home stager told our friends at Apartment Therapy that she’ll put it away whenever she’s showing a house to give the feeling of more counter space. Why not give yourself that feeling?

3. Expired food should be the first to go.

If food is truly expired, then you have absolutely no reason to hold on it. In fact, it should be the first thing you get rid of. This will help jumpstart the process, open up a bunch of pantry space, and help you save money in the long run (you’ll actually be able to see what you have and won’t risk buying repeats).

4. We should declutter the same way we read.

Jill Yesko, founder and president of Discover Organizing, has been helping people of all ages declutter their homes since 2003. She asks clients to declutter as if they’re reading a book. Top to bottom, left to right. Going in order will help you get things in order.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

5. The “10 things” rule could be a quick fix.

This tip comes from a family of six and it’s kind of brilliant: “Anytime my family transitions between events or locations every single person — even (and especially) the kids — grabs 10 things to clean up. It doesn’t necessarily result in less stuff overall, but it does mean less visual clutter in the room.

Credit: Sylvie Li

6. If you pretend like you’re selling your house, things will look much better.

It’s a little dramatic, yes, but if you prep your house like you’re trying to sell it, you might just get it to Peak Decluttered Levels. Why’s that? Typically, it’s not until you’re selling your home that you make it how you’ve always wanted it to be. Pretend like you’re making it presentable to future buyers and then enjoy it yourself!

7. Declutter for the space you have — not the stuff you have.

Instead of looking at each coffee mug you have, and picking out what to keep, look at the shelf you have to devote to those coffee mugs. Fill it up with your favorites and anything that doesn’t fit, can be passed along. It’s called the one-shelf rule and it’s brilliant.

8. The “one-week” rule can keep us from having a to-sell box for months and months.

Let’s say you’ve picked out all the things that you’re ready to get rid of. Your first instinct is to probably try to sell everything, so that you can also make a bit of cash. That’s a great idea, as long as you do it. Too often, that box of to-sell stuff just sits around. So steal this tip and give yourself one week.

9. Don’t declutter things you might regret.

Turns out, there are three types of things you might really regret getting rid of. Here’s what you should keep.

This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: The 9 Best Lessons We Learned About Decluttering in 2021