As you can imagine, I like to stay up to date on all things organizing related. I recently came across this article The Art of Tidying Up and thought many of you would appreciate its detail and graphics (especially if you are a visual learner). With permission from the author I’m sharing pieces of it here (or check out the full article). You’ll get some great nuggets to help you get motivated, stay motivated, and actually do some decluttering!

It’s easy for even otherwise very organized people to accumulate too many things. Clutter generally accumulates around you when you aren’t paying attention. Not having a strong organizational system can make us easy victims of clutter, since our hobbies, goals, and the fine touches of our lifestyle add up.

Clutter refers to the things around your home that don’t add value to your life. While decluttering means that you’re technically getting rid of your stuff, it can be a positive experience as it makes more room for things that matter to your life. Many find decluttering to offer stress relief and a sense of accomplishment, clearing the mind and freeing space. Additionally, decluttering is a great opportunity to evaluate what you really care about and enjoy, which can help you save money in the long run, as you avoid purchasing items that you don’t need or enjoy.

Decluttering Mistakes to Avoid


  • Starting too big with your decluttering project. Going straight to your worst clutter spots can make you feel overwhelmed. Instead, start small with a basic desk or workspace. Starting small offers direct results from your tidying practices. These smaller accomplishments will help you feel good and keep you going.
  • Procrastinating your donation, trash, and recycling removal. It’s easy to let procrastination stall us at all levels of the process, making us slow to get started and follow through. Try to take anything that you intend to donate directly to your car so that you will remember to drop it off when you are on the road.
  • Trying to organize before decluttering. It’s impossible to fully organize excess. In other words, buying organizational tools and drawer dividers won’t help you feel more organized if you still have too many things. It’s best not to try organizing before you do the lion’s share of your decluttering process.
  • Starting by going shopping for organizational equipment. Buying your storage containers and new organizational systems before really spending time in the space can lead to overspending and more things that you don’t need. It’s best to declutter and strategize your organizational system before purchasing the equipment.
  • Getting too touchy with items we intend to get rid of. The more we touch and hold onto something the harder it will be to get rid of it, even if we haven’t picked it up in years. Be mindful of this tactile attachment.
  • Forgetting that decluttering is a process. Your first go through with tidying may just scratch the surface, and that’s okay. You may not get picture-perfect organization results your first time, or ever, unless that’s really what you want. Remember that decluttering is meant to make your home comfortable and more relaxing for yourself.
  • Not prepping yourself with garbage bags and recycling bins. Getting rid of your stuff means that those items need somewhere to go. It’s best to have you designated bins ready so your decluttered items don’t migrate to somewhere else in the house. This will also help save you from losing your organizational progress.
  • Letting the ‘one-year’ rule run your life. The one-year rule is a staple for decluttering. The idea behind it is that if you haven’t used something in a year, it’s time to get rid of it. In some cases, this way of thinking works really well, as we grow out of some of our hobbies and interests or find that some things just aren’t for us and we don’t intend to return to them.

However, when it comes to the one-year rule, you have to trust yourself. We have some necessities in our homes that don’t surface every year, such as tools and first aid supplies. Furthermore, only you know the pattern that your life and the past year has taken. If you’ve found yourself in a slump or have been focusing your energy on other things, decluttering doesn’t mean giving up on your hobbies. The decluttering process offers you time to reevaluate and reorganize your time and goal management. For example, let finding your abandoned DSLR be a reminder to start carrying it around again and shooting pictures everyday.

Decluttering Tips and Ideas


      • Make a plan for your decluttering and organizing process. If you know that you have a long decluttering process ahead of you, it’s useful to set goals or make a plan. Depending on your personal style, you might set a deadline for yourself or mark the calendar with particular dates for tidying. If you think that decluttering a space will take more than a few hours, give yourself more time to deal with it.
      • Begin with a starter zone. Declutter one space or room at a time to avoid the general feeling that mess is everywhere and overwhelming. Your starter zone can be a counter or workspace. After decluttering the starter zone, you will know where everything that pertains to this zone goes, making it a great place to start your other decluttering projects.
      • Try to visualize the room. When it comes to picking your organization and any decoration elements, remember to keep only the ones that bring you joy. Maintain a calm decoration scheme by imagining what the room will look like after you finish.
      • Create an Inbox to cut down on the paper mess. In most homes, paper mess makes up a majority of clutter, including mail, bills, magazines, and other documents. It can be helpful to have a designated inbox where paper clutter like this goes until you are able to fully sort, read through, and reallocate these materials digitally or into files.
      • Use a three-box method. As you declutter and clean, separate your items into three boxes. The first box is for items that you plan to keep, the second for items that you plan to toss or get rid of, and the last box is for items that you intend to put into storage containers. Those who are reluctant to get rid of their stuff might also consider a ‘maybe’ box. ‘Maybe’ boxes can be a more gentle way of evaluating how much you need something.
      • Categorize items across rooms as you go. Categorizing as you go will help you promote organization throughout the house. This allows you to store your items near where you will be using them and keep like items together.

Questions to Ask When Decluttering


      • Will your daily life be affected if you let go of this thing?
      • Is it worth the space that it takes up?
      • Does it add value to your life?
      • Does it bring you joy?

What Should You Get Rid Of?


      • Use the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 tells us that we only really use and enjoy twenty percent of our things for 80 percent of our time. Consider what falls into that twenty percent, your favorite clothes, your most-used pots, pans, and knives, the books you prefer to read. Prioritize this 20 percent, and get rid of anything that you can’t remember using or haven’t used in over a year, especially if you have duplicates.
      • Sometimes we keep items around purely because they were expensive or we remember how much they cost. This can make us keep clutter on account of guilt. Actually using the items would make good on that investment, but there are some items that we buy that we never use. While you can sell these items, it’s best to let go of those costs and think about what you really want to keep.

For more great tips and to see the tips for room by room decluttering, read more.

Image Credit: Groom and Style