The Best Way To Declutter Your Home And Keep It That Way

Some of the best tips to declutter your home and keep it that way include not thinking of it as a one-and-done thing and starting small with one thing at a time and in small intervals.

By Kari Apted | Published

declutter your home

It’s a New Year’s resolution for many: declutter the house and keep it that way. But why is it such a challenge to declutter your home and maintain it over the long haul? Many of us are our own worst enemies when it comes to keeping our spaces neat and clean, but adopting this five-step decluttering philosophy may be the answer we’ve been looking for.

Star Hansen is a renowned professional organizer who has appeared on over 30 TV shows and teaches classes on how to declutter your home. Hansen believes that it’s a mistake to think of decluttering as something that only happens once. “Organizing is not a one-and-done task to complete,” she said, emphasizing that each of us must take the time to create systems that work for us individually.

Hansen’s philosophy encompasses five different steps in overcoming the clutter monster. The first step to declutter your home is to realize that your clutter tells your personal story. “What becomes clutter and where your clutter accumulates can say a lot about what’s going on with you,” Hansen said.

For example, holding on to clothes that no longer fit may represent a longing for your pre-motherhood figure or the career you held years ago. An overstocked kitchen could be a reluctance to let go of expectations to cook more often than what’s realistic with your hectic schedule. Addressing the hidden issues behind the chaos makes it easier to declutter your home of things that no longer serve you.

The second step is to remember the old joke about how to eat an elephant: one bite at a time. Start small—much smaller than you think you should. There’s nothing worse than starting to declutter your home and ending up drowning in the middle of a bigger mess than you had to begin with.

Setting reasonable goals is key to eating the clutter elephant one bite at a time. Don’t dive into a whole closet; just organize one shelf or one section of clothing. FlyLady, another organizing whiz, suggests setting a timer for 15 minutes and just doing what you can in that short amount of time.

After you’ve worked for 15 minutes, add another 15 if you have time, or wait until later in the day for another mini-decluttering session. Hansen suggests setting aside an hour and dividing it into three, 20-minute intervals. Use the first segment to gather and throw away trash, the second to separate things you want to donate, and the third to put things back where they belong.

The third step is to check out emotionally while you declutter your home. Take inventory of what’s in a drawer or cabinet, then decide what to keep without attaching sentimentality to each thing. It’s understandable to want to keep the quilt your grandmother made, but for everything else, Hansen says to go through them, “as though you’re helping a friend and none of your stuff means anything to you.”

Step four involves making use of what you already have to declutter your home. You don’t have to buy expensive storage containers, drawer organizers, or closet inserts—although if they get you excited about decluttering, feel free to buy them. Old gift boxes, baskets, or even food storage containers work equally well for organizing your culled-down belongings.

Finally, you need step five to maintain a tidy home. This last step involves creating new daily habits that keep you from undoing all the hard work you put into decluttering your space. If you’re not sure how to do this, FlyLady provides a list of simple baby-step routines to help you maintain your new clutter-free home.