Decluttering Strategies


katie lee in her dining room as featured in domino

Was decluttering and organizing one of your new year's resolutions? We're still in the first half of spring -a perfect time to make fresh changes! Here I've outlined the basic steps I like to take and have found are applicable to decluttering and organizing most spaces.

1. Define Your Vision
  • Write it down. How do you feel in the space (i.e. frustrated, anxious, claustrophobic)? How do you want to feel (i.e. peaceful, relaxed, comfortable)? Imagine the life you want to live. This will help you in the editing process by giving you a criteria to judge whether or not a particular item helps or interferes with your vision and how you want to feel in the space.
  • Determine what dedicated purpose(s) you want the space to serve. Do you want it to be used as a place to rest? work? eat? play? prepare? Do you want it to be used as a place for storage? If so, what type of storage? linens? files? food? This will help you edit out things that don't belong.
  • Get inspired. This is where all the beautiful images featured in your favorite blogs come in handy. Use them to get excited about how you could make your space look.
2. Set up your workspace

Clear some space and designate areas, boxes and/or bags, for piles your items will be sorted into:
  • Donate -You can donate just about anything that still has a useful life -there's probably someone out there that would be happy to have it. See my Guide to Donating Your Clutter
  • Recycle -A lot more things are recyclable than most people realize. See my Guide to Recycling Your Clutter
  • Sell -This is for items that have monetary value AND you decide its worth the time and trouble to list and manage the sale. Set a timeline for this -put the Sell items in a box labeled with a date a few weeks or months into the future. If you haven't sold the items by the date you set, donate them instead.
  • Return - This is for items you want to return or exchange at a store or that don't belong to you and need to be returned to someone.
  • Trash -Use a trash bag for items you don't want and don't fit into any of the above four categories. Think items with stains, rust, mildew, etc.
  • Repair -This is for items you want but need to be fixed, mended, etc.
  • Move to Another Room -This is for items you want to keep but don't belong in the particular room you're organizing or could stand to be stored elsewhere because they're infrequently used (i.e. the Christmas ornaments could be stored in the garage instead of the living room).
  • Keep -This pile will have sub-categories -see step 3.
You may or not want to create an Undecided pile. Some people find it useful as it allows them to make the easy decisions first and gain momentum when sorting.

3. Sort
  • Remove each item from its current spot and decide which of the above listed piles it should go into. This is a time to pick favorites and get realistic about what you use and don't use. If you don't love it and/or it doesn't serve a functional purpose (i.e. it doesn't help you live your best life), you probably don't need it in your home. Also keep in mind how much space you actually have. If your closet was completely stuffed and you're deciding you want to keep everything, realize you won't be making any real changes.
  • Start creating logical categories for your Keep items by placing each item next to other like items. If you're doing your closet for example, some logical categories might be: pants, jeans, shorts, skirts, dressy tops, casual tops, workout clothes, dresses, swimwear, etc.
  • Once you've put everything into piles and categories take one more look. Do you see duplicates or too much of any one item? Can you edit these out?
4. Assign a home
  • Assign a home to everything and use containers and labels where needed.
  • It's best to know where things will "live" before you go out and buy any containers since that way you'll know the correct sizes to get.
  • Place things based on where you're most likely to use them (i.e. coffee, sugar, your favorite mug, etc. near the coffee machine), and frequency of use.
  • Keep like things together (if you did this already in the sorting step this should be easy!) in containers if it makes sense and put infrequently used items way up top, down low, or in the back.
  • Think about where you usually leave specific things and consider designating that spot as its "home" if it makes sense.
  • Use containers not only to keep things in their place, but also to make the space aesthetically pleasing (my favorite part!). If it looks great, you're more likely to maintain it that way.
  • Use labels on containers whose contents are not obvious.
5. Maintain
  • Be conscious not to bring any unnecessary items into your home (i.e. skip on the free gift with purchase you're never going to use or the souvenir cup from the theme park).
  • If it takes just a few seconds to do something, don't get into the habit of waiting until later to do it (i.e. filing a paper, putting junk mail in the recycle bin as soon as you bring it in).
  • Make sure anyone in your household that shares the newly-organized space with you knows how everything is set up and is on board with keeping it clutter-free.
In future posts I'll go more into depth on some of the above steps and share room-specific tips and inspiration. Stay tuned!

P.S. If you have a beautifully organized space you'd like to have featured on this blog, send me a few photographs at for consideration.


ashlina April 28, 2010 at 1:51 PM  

fantastic post girl! i need all of this advice.

Jessica April 28, 2010 at 4:31 PM  

Great tips - and motivating!

Lillian Chang April 28, 2010 at 5:06 PM  

Ohh, thank you Arianna!! I'll be saving this post to use when I get around to organizing :)

THE ALTERNATIVE WIFE April 28, 2010 at 5:07 PM  

Such great tips! I'm going to use a lot of them :)

LifestyleBohemia April 28, 2010 at 7:36 PM  

This is excellent advice! I try to declutter my home and office once a month.

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime April 29, 2010 at 3:45 PM  

Great tips and your new layout is SO beautiful!! :)

Cinnamon April 30, 2010 at 1:56 PM  

Great tips, these will really help me out now that we're downsizing from a house to an apt. Sigh. Lots to think about.

::levina:: May 2, 2010 at 10:41 AM  

great post and love the new look of your refreshing.

Jen of Made By Girl May 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM  

Loved this post...soooo TRUE ..I always try to be careful not to bring things into my home that I dont need. If for any reason I have something i dont want, i usually end up selling clutter is a good thing.

Jen Ramos

Katie May 5, 2010 at 1:00 PM  

Thanks for the advice - my home needs some serious spring cleaning.

Mocha Frugalista December 19, 2010 at 11:04 PM  

BLESS YOU! My New Years (and new wife) resolution is to maintain a cleaner home! I will be putting this practice to good use on the 26th!!!

Colleen at Forty Something Bride March 30, 2011 at 5:35 AM  

Thanks - great article! I need to declutter - well, I have been in a constant state of decluttering for close to a year since my hubby moved in (before the wedding) and basically added a 3 bedroom house worth of stuff to my 4 bedroom house that was already full of stuff.

One of these days we will get everything weeded out...but until then, decluttering will be a way of life!

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