Using a decluttering checklist can be super helpful to clear out unwanted clutter around the home. If you need the extra motivation, let me be the one to tell you… There are a few things that parallel the feeling you get once you are done clearing things out and mindfully organizing what is left, based on your own needs and preferences.
Best of all, that feeling never gets old! For me, it comes back whenever I tidy up my home after things have gotten a little hectic from living life. And when I’m done, and walk up to my tidy desk, into the kitchen, or into my bedroom this most wonderful sense of contentment floods in once again – rewarding me for taking the time to clean up and get reorganized.
I assure you, it is well worth the effort of decluttering once and for all! Bonus, decluttering makes every day cleaning up much easier too!
That said, there are lots of wonderful reasons to declutter so let’s get into what you need to know to conjure up some of the best vibes decluttering has to offer. But first, what is decluttering really? But also what is ethical decluttering? And where does one start decluttering when overwhelmed?
What is decluttering?
Let’s start with what is decluttering? If you are here you may have also seen some minimalist decluttering checklists designed to help reduce the number of things in the home. But decluttering is not just reserved for those who want to live with less.
Decluttering just means “to remove unnecessary items” which seems to be something we all need once in a while.
Over time, things we don’t really need any more just seem to start accumulating in our homes and spaces. Cue the ubiquitous junk drawer or that junk mail you’ve been meaning to sort, or those old shoes, old bras or old pillows you just aren’t sure what to do with. Or maybe those old jeans and other clothing items you’ve been meaning to donate or try thrift flipping?
We actually go through quite a lot of stuff as time goes by, and this is very noticeable in well-lived homes, full of old stuff in drawers and closets, and boxes stored in attics or the basement, or maybe the garage? This is also very visible when moving so some decluttering seems bound to be necessary.
What is ethical decluttering?
When we finally get around to checking out what is in these old boxes and storage containers (or have to take everything we own to a new home) we sometimes find ourselves staring at mounds of stuff we don’t want anymore (some of which have never been used in some cases) and it can feel quite overwhelming to deal with. Tossing this stuff right in the bin might feel like the easiest thing to do (and we can totally relate) but it’s awful for the environment.
People not knowing what to do with their old stuff is the reason why dumpster diving can be so fruitful for those who dare to do it – but throwing away things that can be reused or recycled is horrible for the planet, and extremely wasteful.
That’s because – for starters – not all the useful things that get thrown out wind up in the hands of some lucky human in the right dumpster on a perfect day. A lot, if not most of it winds up in landfills.
In fact, that is the case for a lot of electronics, like broken cell phones, which wind up as e-waste, contaminating the environment and wasting valuable resources. Resources like precious metals are very environmentally straining to mine and could otherwise be recovered and reused in new products.
So while decluttering can be wonderful for peace of mind (and we highly recommend it), it kind of kills the vibe if useful things just get tossed out into the garbage mindlessly.
The same thing goes for potentially harmful items like old batteries and light bulbs! Make sure to dispose of these items responsibly by looking up “how to dispose of [item]”. Where lightbulbs are concerned there may be LED recycling drop-off locations near you so be sure to give it a search.
People also ask:
Where do I start decluttering when overwhelmed?
The best thing to do whenever you are feeling overwhelmed is to start small. The same principle applies here. Start with a drawer, a cabinet, or a closet maybe? Odds are, once you get started you might just want to tackle another drawer or dare I say… An entire room?!
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to finish the task at hand. Even if you don’t think you will be overwhelmed, having to come back to a job half done is not ideal.
It feels quite uneasy in fact, though it must be said that for some of us, this is the only way we can actually get big jobs done due to time constraints.
But, if you are feeling overwhelmed by decluttering as a general concept, definitely make sure to leave yourself enough time to finish the task you set out to do. Pick a day where nothing pressing needs to get done and start your decluttering then.
Consider putting on some music or having your favorite movie or tv show playing in the background. Make sure you are armed with a recycling bin (or designated recycling spot), a trash bin, and an assigned location for the things you do want to keep – that isn’t the home you are taking them out of (i.e. not the drawer, cabinet, closet, or surface you are working on).
You are going to want to clean the emptied space too so grab some cleaning supplies while you're at it. I have a great DIY all-purpose cleaner from my zero waste cleaning guide or maybe grab an eco-friendly product that disinfects. Taking advantage of this overhaul to clean things out is a major key.
Once that’s all set, go ahead and dive into that bathroom cabinet you’ve been meaning to get to!
What should I remove first when decluttering?
Start by removing the easiest things first. That is things that are closest to you then work your way through to the farther reaches of that drawer or closet. If you’ve ever seen a decluttering TV show you know that even the pros just kind of empty everything out into piles, and sort through them once everything is out so don’t overthink it.
Part of the idea is to take stock of everything you have and sort through it all at once so nothing is left behind. This also helps to avoid any unnecessary repetition.
Though we encourage decluttering by getting rid of stuff you don’t use, decluttering is actually not all about throwing things away. Part of the process is to neatly organize the things you do use and want to keep.
Storage bins, shoe boxes, and jars work super well for organizing all sorts of stuff on a budget. Whatever you decide, just give things a permanent home and consider the best spot for those who use them the most. For example, if you are tall, consider putting shared things that are commonly used (like glasses and dishes) somewhere where everyone can easily reach them. Not just you and your long limbs!
How do you declutter a room by a checklist?
For us, the ultimate decluttering checklist is a step-by-step guide on how to declutter a room. You can use it as a checklist to guide your decluttering process. We will also go over a checklist of items that you can look out for to help identify things you might want to get rid of—as well as things you want to keep out of the trash.
1. Make it a vibe!
Decluttering doesn’t have to be a heavy lift all around. Consider turning on your favorite podcast, playlist, or preferred form of entertainment to keep you company as you work your way through the room.
Pro Tip: If you want to put on a movie or tv show avoid anything that you’d actually like to watch with your eyes! The idea is to have this playing in the background rather than stopping and staring into the screen sporadically. This will definitely slow down the process!
2. Decide where you will start
Strategically choose the room or space you’d like to tackle. This will depend on what your needs are and how much time you have on your hands but I’d recommend starting either with the most difficult task or the most pertinent task. So, if you really feel overwhelmed with a particular part of your home and finally have the time to get to it, start there. The most visible spaces are a good option too since you see them most often and will feel so good every time you walk past once you are done.
3. Decide where you will put your things for sorting
You can work in piles or get some boxes, containers, or bins. Used cardboard boxes are great for clothing or shoes that you intend to donate, sell or store away. However, you choose to go about it, pick a designated spot for things to keep, things to throw away, things to recycle, and/or things to donate. Make sure all these containers or piles are relatively close to each other (but not touching to avoid any confusion/repetition).
Here are some piles to consider:
- Put in storage
- Repair (that is ASAP!!! Not until the next time you declutter!!!)
- For filing
4. Start emptying the room but work in bite-sized chunks.
Do not empty everything all at once. This is a quick path to overwhelm and there is no need for that. Start with the closet, the drawers, or a corner of the room even. From there you can either dump everything out on a designated surface or sort through the items as you are emptying things out. Dumping them all out all at once might be faster but sorting them as you go might feel less like you’ve unleashed a tornado in your house.
5. Clean the space you’ve just emptied.
If you opted to empty everything out without sorting as you go, I’d recommend taking the opportunity to clean empty closets, drawers, or surfaces before sorting so it is ready to welcome the things you’ve chosen to keep.
6. Sort through your things (if you haven’t done so already)
There are different ways of going about this but it’s really up to you. If you are having trouble deciding what to keep or are finding yourself with more things than you were hoping for, here are some questions to ask when decluttering:
- Have you used this item in the past 12 months?
- Would someone else get more use out of it?
- Does it still fit/work?
- If it is broken will you actually fix it? If so, how long have you been planning on doing that, and will you actually do it?
7. Take out the trash/recycling
And put your donation box where you will see it so you can take it out with you as soon as possible. If you have a "fix it" box, schedule a day that you will actually fix the item(s) and place it somewhere visible.
8. Assign the things you want to keep a home.
And put them away. Things you use most frequently are best where they are most accessible.
9. Have a look at your handy work and do a little dance cause you just did that!! Go you!!
If you are just looking to declutter a closet I have a simple and much more painless little trick you may be interested in. For that check out this article on How I Instantly Declutter My Closet.
Things to consider removing from your home
If you would prefer to declutter using a checklist of items, I would still recommend you focus on one space or room at a time for the sake of efficiency. Have your designated piles/boxes/surfaces ready for sorting and then dive in! Here’s what to look for:
- Books and magazines
- Unnecessary papers like old receipts, junk mail, etc
- Miscellaneous items on surfaces like loose change
- Old/broken toys and games
- Old pens, markers, and other craft supplies
- DVDs or VHS you don’t plan on watching
- Old electronics you don’t use
- Extra cords you don’t know what to do with
- Expired food, baking supplies, and spices
- Extra dishes, cups, and utensils
- Stained Tupperware, miscellaneous lids
- Rusty/never used pots, pans, and trays
- Appliances you’ve only used once since you got them
- Plastic bags
- Old or unused beauty products
- Expired medicine
- Ripped linens (consider turning into rags for cleaning or donate old towels to animal shelters)
- Clothes, underwear, and shoes that are worn out or don’t fit
- Out of season clothing and shoes (put them in storage until the appropriate season arrives)
- Missing pairs like socks, gloves, or earrings
- Broken jewelry, sunglasses, purses and other accessories
- Things you haven’t used in the last year like clothing or decorations you no longer like, etc.
- Things that are broken, cannot be repaired, are not worth paying to have repaired or that you don’t actually plan on repairing yourself
- Duplicates you never use from your kitchen, makeup kit, bathroom or medicine cabinet
What should you not throw out when decluttering?
If you are worried about throwing away things you should probably not be throwing away here is a list of items to keep an eye out for while you declutter:
- Important documents
- Duplicates you actually use (like scissors or chef’s knives)
- Things with sentimental value
- Family heirlooms
- Expensive or hard to replace items you do use occasionally
- Things that can be recycled or donated like old cell phones, electronics, batteries, etc.
A final word on decluttering
Decluttering can be quite the task and we totally feel you if you are staring into that dreaded drawer, closet, or room in your home thinking “Not today!”. But I promise you, the peace of mind alone is well worth rolling up your sleeves, chucking everything onto a desk or bed, and finally sorting through it all using our checklist! And If you end up looking to donate old clothes or wanting to organize a clothing swap party with some of what you’ve decided to get rid of, we’ve got your back for that too.
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