By: Vanessa

We’ve all looked around our home at some point or another and encountered it. You know, the pile of extra magazines collecting dust, the overflowing file cabinet with useless papers in our home office or the drawers and closet spaces that are stuffed to the point of spilling over:Clutter. Sometimes it can be out in the open and at other times it can be tucked away discretely, waiting to topple over once you open that hallway closet. Beyond being simply unsightly, clutter can stifle a space and negatively affect the flow of an area. By keep your home clutter-free you make room for new things to come in and create a balanced energy in your home. So just how do you start the decluttering process?

Have A Game Plan,

Before you throw yourself into the task headlong, take some time to sit down and form a plan of action. At times when you find yourself surrounded by clutter sprinkled throughout your house even knowing where to can make you feel overwhelmed and completely discouraged by the whole process. By sitting down and giving yourself a set plan you can follow, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to break up the work into smaller doable tasks that will help alleviate those initial feelings of overwhelm. The idea is to not to punish yourself along the way for having the clutter, but rather to declutter and feel good about it. So how do you start?

•Create a list of the rooms or areas in your home with clutter to serve as a guide for where your attention is needed.

•Once you have your list, rate the rooms or areas based on where they fall on your priorities. Some people may do this by the amount of clutter, while others may choose to rate it based on how the areas make them feel. Whichever way you choose to rate them is fine as the point is for you to get the work done and feel good about it.

•Now that you have rated your rooms/areas start with the one that was most important to you and stick to it. Don’t jump from room to room…stick to the target area. The jumping around is often what will make you feel crazy and overwhelmed.

•Give yourself a deadline to get the work done. This is important! Without a deadline it is easy to leave things halfway done. By giving yourself a deadline, however, you are holding yourself accountable. Now don’t go overboard and give yourself a ridiculously long deadline and vice versa, don’t give yourself an outrageously undoable deadline. Be honest about the time it will take and create a deadline accordingly. This will allow you to not only get the work done, but to also feel accomplished when you finish.

•If you notice that the work is going to require more than two or three hours, such as in a large space like the garage, be sure to also set aside the time to do the work. Don’t be afraid to break up the work. Rome sure wasn’t built in a day and if you have been allowing clutter to accumulate for a long while you cannot expect to snap your fingers and have it disappear.

Be Ready To Let Go

If you caught my last blog with the amazing Jill Daley, then you’ll remember that letting go is one of the things people struggle with the most when it comes to decluttering. They say one man’s junk is another’s treasure, but sometimes we really have to dig deep and honestly consider whether we really need all that ‘treasure’ or not.

Some things will be easy to let go of, while others you’ll find will bring up feelings of resistance. Actually letting go of your stuff can be one of the hardest parts of decluttering, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We hold on to things sometimes for different reasons and attach certain feelings to those items that make it hard to simply let go. Sometimes it can be an item that you spent a large sum of money. At other times it may be something that holds great sentimental value to us. Understand and acknowledge that these feelings are, in fact, very real, valid and completely normal to have during this process. That being said, you should mentally prepare yourself to really take stock of what is important for you to keep and what you have been keeping that no longer serves you. A great rule to go by is the 80/20 Rule.

So how does it work? The 80/20 Rule is most commonly applied to clothing and it works on the assumption that we generally tend to wear 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. Think about that favorite sweater or that pair of jeans that fit better than anything you own. Well, this also applies for a bunch of other stuff you may not have thought about like books, DVDs, toys, and more. The idea is to really minimize the amount of things you have that you no longer need or use.

Create a Sorting System

So you made a plan, picked a room and are ready to let go…what next? Many people find that when it comes down to actually doing the work having a system set-up to help them sort through all their stuff makes a big difference. One popular sorting method that works well is the “Three-Box” Method. Basically, as the name suggests, you use three boxes or storage bins to divide things up into:

Here to Stay: this is the stuff that you’ll be keeping. Once you finish sorting through everything you’re going to wan to make sure you place the items in their new homes.

Give Away: These are items that are no longer serving you, but can still be of good use to others. You may find that some items would benefit someone you know or perhaps a family member could benefit from something. You can also take these to your local church or donation center, such as Goodwill or any of the various shelters throughout your community that take in donations.

Rubbish Bin: These are items that are no longer useful and can’t be salvaged. Make an effort to separate those items that can be recycled (this includes electronics) from the regular garbage. For items such as electronics you can simply look up electronics recycling for your city online and you’ll find a listing of locations. If you find that you have a lot garbage or perhaps a lot of bigger items to get rid of, such as furniture, a dumpster bin is an affordable option to help you get all the clutter out of the way.

Another great tip for sorting is to keep like things together. You can sort based on type of items such as clothes in one grouping and books and paper. Get as detailed as you want, but remember the end result is to get everything decluttered so it starts to get too complicated go back to basics. Don’t overcomplicate it. Find ways to make it fun for yourself by making a game out of it. Reward yourself. Whether it’s a small reward every time you finish completely clearing out a space or a big one for completing your whole home, giving yourself a reward gives you a great incentive to get the job done.

Once you’ve gotten your clutter cleared out and your home is looking great create a system to keep clutter at bay. This can mean setting aside time at the end of the week to ensure rooms are staying tidy or you can do seasonal decluttering and clear things out at the end of every season. Whatever works for you just make sure to stay consistent and remember that it’s easier to maintain something than it is to have to start from the ground up again.

This content is not the product of the National Association of REALTORS®, and may not reflect NAR's viewpoint or position on these topics and NAR does not verify the accuracy of the content.