My mother always used to say that “a cluttered space means a cluttered mind“! I’m not sure if that’s completely true, but I know a cluttered room does stress me out, and I’m guessing it does you too. (Or else why would you be reading this?!)
Decluttering an entire room can feel overwhelming, especially if that room is a big mess! But don’t worry! These 5 simple steps will help you declutter your room… fast!
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Why Declutter A Room?
For years as a Professional Organizer, I helped many people regain precious space in their homes. These 5 steps below are the exact same ones that I used to walk my clients through as we decluttered and organized their room.
A lot of people find the process of decluttering a room very difficult because they hate the idea of getting rid of something and think of it as a ‘waste’.
However, think about it from a different angle. You pay a lot to live in your home (either through rent or your mortgage), do you want to ‘waste’ your precious space on things that you don’t truly need or love?
Your home should be a reflection of who you are and make you feel cozy and protected. When you have a room full of clutter does that make you feel cozy and restful? Probably not!
I’m not going to sugar coat it… decluttering an entire room is a big task! It’s completely worth doing, but it is going to take some effort. The steps below are going to help you do it quickly and efficiently, but it will still take some time and energy.
When you decide to declutter a room you want to make a few preparations in advance so you can maximize your time.
First, you need to be realistic about how long it is going to take you. For an average size room, with an average amount of clutter, it will take you at least a full day. Ideally, you want to allow a whole weekend so you can make sure you get the job done, start to finish.
Next, you need to make sure you have space to sort your stuff. As you will see below (spoiler alert!), you will be completely emptying the room. So you need somewhere to put it all! Think of this as your ‘staging’ area. It’s going to look messy and it’s going to be difficult to walk around, so plan accordingly!
You will also want to make sure you have the supplies you need. I recommend you get some (or all) of the following ahead of time:
- Empty cardboard boxes for donation items
- Large, strong trash bags for… well… trash!
- Ziplock bags or smaller bags to keep pieces together (this is good for your things or for donation items too)
- Cable ties (if you are moving furniture around, you might as well get those cables neat while you’re doing it)
- Label maker for labeling things! (This is my favorite one)
- Cleaning supplies (so you can clean under the furniture when you move it)
One thing you will notice that I didn’t mention above is storage containers! The problem with buying containers BEFORE you declutter, is that you don’t know the size or how many you will need. If you already have a stash of boxes and bins, then get those out. But otherwise, wait until AFTER you have decluttered the room to buy some storage solutions.
And lastly, you will need some willing helpers! OK, so you can do this on your own, but it will go much quicker if you have help. “Many hands make light work” as my mother used to say!
If you don’t feel ready to tackle an entire room, then check out my 30 Day Declutter Challenge. It will give quick and easy tasks to do every day to help get your home (and life!) more organized.
So you have your donation boxes and trash bags ready…. it’s time to get started!
Step 1: Clear Out The Room
This first step in how to declutter an entire room is a biggie, but it’s the most important! I promise!
You want to empty out the room! Yes, completely remove all your stuff from the room. You can leave the furniture in there if you want (we’ll talk about that in the next step), but everything else must come out.
Yes, things are going to look much worse before they get better!
If you have a dresser, you can just remove the entire drawer and put it in your staging area. The same with any boxes and bins. Just pull the whole thing out.
Don’t get sidetracked at this stage and start sorting your items! Your first step is JUST to remove everything from the room.
Step 2: Assess the Furniture
Now that your room is empty, except the furniture, you can take a really good look at the space, size and how you plan to use the room.
Is it a spare bedroom that has to double as a home office? Or a child’s bedroom? Maybe it’s your living room?
You want to think about all the ways the space is used. Do you need an open space on the floor for playing or exercise? Do you want it to be cozy and comfortable?
Spend some time planning the position of your furniture to make the most of the space and how you plan to use it. There is no point in going to the effort of decluttering an entire room if you then can’t use it the way you planned!
Things to consider:
- Position of electric or cable/internet outlets.
- Position of windows (will you get bright light on TV or computer screens).
- A welcoming view as you enter the room.
- Space to move around, play, or exercise if needed.
Once you’ve assess the layout of your room, you can start moving the furniture around.
My husband hates this stage because I end up moving everything 20 times! But it’s worth taking your time and getting it right!
Make it easier to move furniture by getting a set of furniture sliders. These not only help you move furniture easier but also save you from a sore back later!
I have this set and they are perfect for moving different sized furniture on carpets or on hard floors.
Step 3: Sort
Once you have rearranged the furniture and figured out exactly how you plan to use the room, it’s now time to sort!
The best way to do this is to start by putting similar items together. So stack all your books in one pile, all your electronics in another pile, all your paperwork in another pile and so on.
The reason for making these piles is so that you can get a clear picture of exactly what you have and what you need to declutter. Do you own 15 cell phone chargers? 7 corkscrews? Once everything is piled together, you can truly understand exactly what you have!
Step 4: Letting Go
This is normally the hardest step for most people, because it’s the stage at which you need to start letting things go!
You will want to set up two areas – one for trash/recycling and one for items to donate. I normally use big boxes for this (those old Amazon boxes come in handy!), but you can use anything you have available.
Pick one of your piles and start going through it. You want to ‘touch’ every item. So no skipping and just keeping boxes or drawers full of things!
As you look at each item consider the following things:
- Do I use/need this?
- Do I LOVE it?
- Can I easily buy it again for less than $20 within 20 minutes drive, if you can then get rid of it (this is called the 20-20 rule)
- Am I saving it to use ‘someday’? How likely am I to use it then?
- Am I keeping it for someone else (like when your kids are grown)? Will they REALLY want it then?
- Will someone else make better use of it than me?
KonMari is wildly popular and a great way to declutter your home. The basic premise is to hold each item and ask yourself “Does this spark joy?”. If it doesn’t then you get rid of it!
If you are finding this step difficult, then make sure you take some breaks. Don’t abandon the task, but if you are feeling overwhelmed, then step away for a quick cup of coffee and then return with some fresh energy.
Make sure once you’ve finished sorting through everything that you take the trash out right away! Don’t leave it sitting in the corner of the room for days! The same with any items to donate. Throw the box of donation into the truck of your car, so it’s ready to drop off next time you are driving by your local donation center.
You might also have a pile of things that belong in different rooms (how does a spatula end up in your guest room?). Make sure you put those items away too! Don’t leave anything in piles or you are likely to forget about it!
Step 5: Organize
This is the fun part! No, really it is!
By the time you get to this step in your whole room declutter, you should be left with only things that you actually love or need.
Start in one area of the room and return all the items that belong in that area. For example, grab everything that needs to live on or near your desk, and move them back into the room. Find a place for everything. I think I need to say that again… FIND A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING!
Rooms (and houses!) get untidy because there isn’t a place to keep everything. If you don’t have a shelf for your books, then they will end up stacked on your table or floor. If you don’t have a drawer or cup for your pens, then they will end up… well, I don’t know where! They disappear!
It might take a few attempts to get everything into a ‘home’, but it’s worth taking the time. After all, you’ve put so much energy into this project already, don’t take shortcuts now!
I love using baskets and bins to keep things together and organized. They don’t have to be fancy or expensive. You can even just use some cheap fabric to cover a cardboard box (yet another use for those Amazon boxes!).
However, you decide to organize your space, make sure it works FOR YOU! Your lifestyle is completely different to everyone else, so design your room for your own life!
Keeping It Tidy
Phew! Feeling exhausted yet? Well, even if you are tired, I hope you also feel very, very pleased with yourself!
Now that you have your room looking amazing and tidy, it’s time to keep it that way. This can be a challenge because you might have developed some bad habits (like always dumping things you don’t know what to do with into the guest bedroom). But the good news is, you can break those habits!
When I was a professional organizer I would always recommend to my clients that they take a few minutes each day to tidy up the space. It literally can take less than 2 minutes to grab anything that is out of place and put it away again.
If it’s the living room, you can do this at the end of the evening as you are turning off the TV and lights. If it’s your bedroom you can do it first thing in the morning while you are waiting for your shower to heat up. Doesn’t matter what the room is, or when you do it, just pick a time every day and start developing that new habit!
You can check out my post about building your own weekly cleaning routine for more ideas!