How to declutter a house

What does all the unused stored stuff in your house say about you? How might excess stuff be impacting you in negative ways causing you to feel frustrated about life? I undertook a 30 day declutter challenge to test my theory that a well-ordered uncluttered house makes for better living, better family dynamics, more happiness and personal peace. In this post I want to share what I learned with 3 tips on how to declutter a house in the most simple stress free way possible.

Why declutter?

First of all, lets be clear on why you might want to de-clutter . Clutter in your living space drains you of vital energy and mental clarity. It has often been said that ‘everything is energy’, and the physical contents in our living space is well-known to cause us to feel certain ways. If this were not the case, architects and designers would clearly be out of a job. We arrange our furniture and belongings in certain ways which are driven by our emotions. Emotions and feelings are a form of energy, and neuroscience states that we make pretty much ALL of our decisions in life based on our emotions rather than pure logic.

And speaking of science in relation to clutter, a study at Princeton University looked at people’s task performance in an organised versus disorganised environment. The results of the study found that clutter competes for our attention and results in decreased performance and an increase in stress.

Clutter study at UCLA

Another study at UCLA observed 32 families and found that all of the mothers stress hormones spiked during the time they spent dealing with their belongings .

Well, I’m a mother and I can completely relate to this!

Not only will de-cluttering your house feel better, but you will save money (or make money) as well as save time when it comes to your belongings. You will find things that you’d forgotten about and be able to sell items you have no use for anymore but are still in good condition. You will also have a much clearer idea of what things you have so you are not buying the same things again thus wasting money, as well as  take stock of what is most important to you in relation to how you spend your time and money and you will be better at making decisions when it comes to living with more flow in your life.

So, whether you believe in the age-old practice of Feng Shui, or just want order in your house to feel better, either way, where do you start?

Tip #1 Take stock of all the areas in your house you want to de-clutter.

Each day for 30 days, you will take some time to de-clutter a small area of your house. Get a blank piece of paper and write down 30 areas you want to de-clutter. Decide how long you will spend each day de-cluttering each area. For me, I decided I would take 15-30 minutes. I’d recommend a shorter amount of time rather than a longer amount because you want to make it feel achievable each day. For example, one day of de-cluttering could be as simple as emptying the contents of a single draw.

Tip #2 Decide where your temporary clutter storage area is.

In addition to your list of 30 areas to de-clutter, decide which area of the house you will move the clutter to where you will separate the belongings into different piles such as ‘donate’,’sell’or ‘discard’. As you go along, you don’t have to decide right away what you will do with the items and feel as if you need to take action that day to get them out of your possession immediately-you just have to decide what the items are and move them to the designated area where at the end of the 30 days, you can begin to take action to move them out of your house permanently.

Tip #3 How to decide what will go out.

  • As you go through your belongings, the key questions to ask yourself are:
  • Do you love it?
  • Does it spark joy in some way in your life?
  • Do you use it?
  • When was the last time you used it?
  • Have you been keeping it for a ‘just in case’ scenario which has run the course of years?
  • Do you have more than one of these items?
  • When are you likely to use it next?

If you can’t quite answer these questions, it might be a clear indication that the item has to go.

Here is a list of things that moved out of my house:

  • kids toys
  • clothes
  • shoes
  • linnen
  • furniture
  • expired food packets
  • kitchen appliances
  • recipe books
  • other books
  • gas bottles
  • electronic goods
  • a bike
  • cookware
  • old paint tins
  • old chemical cleaners
  • sheet music
  • old broken tools
  • DVD’s
  • gaming consoles
  • baby items (prams, cot)
  • old Mattresses
  • Pet accessories

As I was going through my 4 year old daughters things, she naturally wanted to hold onto a lot toys she no longer plays with. I took her to the donation store near us and showed her the toy area. She quickly found things that she wanted immediately. I said to her ‘well, in order to get a new toy, you have to donate a toy’. She quickly agreed, and now she has toys that are much more relevant to her age and ones she actually plays with (and ones that really only cost me a few dollars to buy because they were all second hand). The next day she took one of her new second hand toys to kindergarten and did a ‘show and tell’ in front of her class. She proudly announced the way she got this toy was to donate another of her toys. Needless to say, I was proud of her. I think it is important to teach kids about giving and receiving, as well as finding use in used things as this is more sustainable for the environment, rather than always buying something new.

My results

I can confidently say that our household feels more at ease and peaceful. I feel like I have released old energy that was just pent-up and stagnating and was frustrating me. I also feel this 30 day de-clutter challenge has helped me be a better decision maker and more mentally switched on. It occurred to me that there are several areas of my life and thinking that were…sloppy. It is not that we were living like slobs or anything, but many things around the place were being held on for no logical reason other than ‘we might need it’, or ‘I’ll get back to that hobby or creative project sometime’, of which has not happened in years.

I also feel the family dynamics are more restful and enjoyable, and I am excited to see how the energy within the environment will continue to shift and change into the future. I also feel that because old things are being cleared out, it is making room for more creativity and ideas around ways to add to our environment which support productivity as well as more enjoyment, and more sustainable lifestyle ideas are revealing themselves.

Have you ever done a big de-clutter of your house? If so, how did it make you feel? If not, what is holding you back? Do you feel that breaking down the task over 30 days is a good way to approach it? Feel free to comment below and let me know!

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Comments (12)

  • Avatar

    Tim Bennett

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    I live and work in my house. It is a home and an office.

    Both have their own junk.

    I have boxes of receipts and documents for tax purposes. At the same time boxes of personal belongings for me and my wife.

    When we came to move last year we thought it would be a perfect time to throw out stuff we didn’t want and declutter.

    So that was the plan…

    Logically it was easy…

    We divided everything into two lots, business and pleasure.

    We then divided them again in to ‘keep’ and ‘throw!’

    Everything was going well until we got to ‘personal’ and ‘throw’!

    Hormones didn’t spike, they erupted!

    About 80% of everything we decided to throw, moved to the new house!

    The good thing is we did get a clean out! However it was not according to plan!

    Logically easy…

    Emotionally impossible!

    I sure don’t want to move again in a hurry!

    Tim

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      Lol Tim that’s funny! 🙂 When it really comes to the crunch with some things it just seems too hard even though you know logically you probably don’t need it. I keep finding more things that I am letting go of even though my 30 day challenge is over. It has been an interesting experience!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    freddie

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    This is just right for me

    I am  always saying I better keep this. Then my keep this pile just keeps growing.Then I hav way to much stuff when you have to much and you know you got to go through it and and get ri of it .Then you start to put it off and don’t do anything, 

    I like your method the thirty day declutter challenge because your not rushing to get everything done in one day.

    Thanks a lot great advise

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      No worries Freddie! Yes I have found in the past when I try and get it all done in one day, I never finish it, because as soon as you get started you just keep finding more and more and before you know it, the day is over and you haven’t done much. The 30 day declutter challenge worked well for me, and it has also gotten me more in the habit of regularly doing small declutters so I never have to do another intense challenge like this again!

      Reply

  • Avatar

    Christina

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    I did the whole KonMari “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” thing a few years ago. Kind of. With that method, instead of going from space to space, you declutter one group of things at one time, like clothes, books, papers, etc. It’s good because you get a lot done at once. It’s not good because it can be overwhelming. 

    Your 30-day method is good because it’s less intense. But, it’s not as good because I lose motivation quickly! I think any method can work if you follow through. I have an issue where I declutter, declutter, declutter and I still feel like there’s so much!! Or we bring more into the house and it’s like we go nowhere. 

    I love taking time to declutter, I just wish I felt like I was getting somewhere with it! Having kids, a husband and pets doesn’t help! Maybe I should ship them all off for a while so I can get it done. lol

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      Hi Christina! Oh I feel you. Having a family and pets can feel like brushing your teeth at the same time as eating chocolate biscuits when you are trying to keep the house in order. it is definitely hard to keep the balance between being obsessive and being relaxed. When I read ‘The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up’ I knew straight away that there was no way I was going to be able to realistically do it. It seemed too much. This is why I created my own 30 day challenge and just do 15 minutes a day. It’s a challenge for a reason-and breaking things down into manageable chunks feels easier, so that’s why you only make it for 15 minutes a day and for only 3o days and you make yourself a tick and flick chart so you can feel you achieved some thing each day, and then leave it and do something else.

      I have already found since doing this challenge that it is my partner who feels he can now bring new things into the house of which I KNOW at some stage will end up as something else that will just gather dust. But, at least he keeps them in his space AND when they have found their way into a shared space (e.g. the new X Box he recently purchased (groan) at least he sets it up in a way that is neat and drills holes in select places so as to hide the cords and make it look like it is not clutter. Before I did this challenge, he’d just set up something like this (e.g. the Nintendo play station that had not been used for over 4 years) with cords going everywhere and it would just look terrible. So, I feel I have at least made some impact on him lol!

      Reply

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    jeysatified

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    This post also totally works well for me. For one, I love a nice, compact house. We had to move after my dad’s death and somehow I love the new look. Compact and less crowded. We however kept our really close to the heart belongings. Somehow you never can dispose them even if they looked so old! There is my dad’s camera for example. Though I intend to put it to good use sooner. Perhaps go into photography uuhu? Hahaha.

    I love challenges.

    Great post.

    Cheers.

    Sharon Jey

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      Hey Sharon, ah yes…it is things like your dad’s camera that are particularly hard to know what to do with. But I think it is these things that are best being displayed somewhere because they have real sentimental value. So rather than putting it away somewhere in a cupboard, bring it out to display as a centre piece in your house somewhere purely because it has special meaning. If you feel you don’t want to display, then that might be a sign it is time to sell it so someone else can put it to good use. Hard decision to make! But just depends on how much it bothers you in terms of the space it is actually taking up in your house. 

      Reply

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    AnxietyPanda

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    The information provided here is absolutely correct. My gosh, I am a big sinner when it comes to clutter, but it’s true – one feels SO much better when everything is decluttered and organized around you. Decluttering also helps rid of any negative energies and allows for freshness to fill your space again. Good for mind, body and soul!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      Yes it is!

      Reply

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    Emmanuel Buysse

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    This is a great post and it is perfect for me.

    Why, I love to save things, also, everything that I used in the past I don’t throw away, like my boxing bag which is already old, but many other things.

    I should really start to clean up, since I feel by myself and also by my wife that our eneegy and focus isn’t always there because of everything here.

    So I’ll follow the steps you said, and hopefully both of us will feel better.

    Thanks for sharing it with us!

    Reply

    • Avatar

      Liz

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      No worries! Glad you got something out of the post!

      Reply

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