Have you followed through on your New Year’s resolutions or are you procrastinating? If your goal was to declutter your home, you may be feeling overwhelmed. You don’t have to be a hoarder to feel that the piles of stuff in your house are taking over, or to feel lost as to where to get started. Relax and take a few deep breaths. Decluttering your home is an achievable resolution.

Realistic Approach

The key to any change in behavior or environment is to be realistic. If you want to declutter your entire house, including garage and basement, in a day, on your own, that is NOT realistic. It may not be possible to finish even one room in one session. If you set such unrealistic expectations and fail, you are likely to get discouraged and give up. Or you may feel overwhelmed by the expectation and never get started.

A realistic approach is to break the process into small, achievable steps. For example:

  1. Start with one section of one room NOT the whole room. Pick one closet, one cabinet, or one corner of a room. Remove all the clutter there. Then stop. Take a break or wait until the next day and then move onto to the next section.
  2. Set a timer. Some professional organizers suggest that you work for 30 minutes or 15 minutes and then stop. Some even recommend that you only work for five minutes. Only after a long break should you tackle the next time block.
  3. Pick a number. During each session you will act on a specific number of items. This can be total items or categories. The 12-12-12 Challenge tells you that in each session you will identify 12 items to put away, 12 to throw away, and 12 to donate to charity.

Build a Process

As you attack the various rooms, or parts of rooms, in your home, you need a system. By following the same steps each time, you begin to form habits that will help you move quickly and efficiently through the decluttering process. It will also create a foundation for preventing future clutter.

Each person needs to find a process or system that works for them. Figure out what your own organizational style and aesthetic might be and build on that. Your system will begin with a plan of attack: which parts of your house do you want to declutter first? It will be different for everyone. Some people start at the entryway and work their way clockwise through their home. Others tackle the most cluttered rooms first or the rooms with the most daily use. Decide what matters to you and create your decluttering plan to suit your preferences.

How you will do the actual work is also important. Some organizers advocate a four box system while others use a six container plan. Do you want to sort with boxes, trash bags, laundry baskets, storage tubs? How many categories or sorting will work for you? Here are the most common ones:

  • Keep
  • Trash/Garbage
  • Give Away/Donate
  • Relocate (to another room)
  • Recycle
  • Repair/Mend
  • Not sure

Sort everything according to your system using your preferred containers. Then act on them immediately. Garbage goes to the trash can, recycle to the recycle bin, etc. Do not leave your containers sitting with things in them for days or all you have done is rearranged your clutter.


Once you have your system or process designed, set a schedule for when you will work. Create a regular time of the day or week that will be devoted to this project. Put it on your calendar. This applies not just to the initial decluttering. Once your home is clutter free, schedule five or ten minutes into every day for putting everything away and making sure new clutter doesn’t accumulate. Make clearing and decluttering a daily habit or ritual and maintaining a neat and tidy home won’t seem like work at all.

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