Decluttering your home can be a great way to reduce stress and create more order in your life.
Unfortunately, many people make common mistakes when decluttering that can actually make the process more difficult and stressful.
While I don’t like to put rules to everything in life, there are certain decluttering rules that are more like guidelines. These guidelines are based on my experience of seeing what works and what doesn’t when it comes to decluttering.
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The following are 13 of the most common mistakes people make when decluttering their home. By following these simple rules, you’ll have a clutter free home in no time!
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- 13 Decluttering Rules and Guidelines
- Decluttering Rule #1: Set a goal
- Decluttering Rule #2: Don't organise before you declutter
- Decluttering Rule #3: Never put things in a storage space for later
- Decluttering Rule #4: Don't keep nostalgic items for no reason
- Decluttering Rule #5: Don't make more purchases
- Decluttering Rule #6: Let go of duplicates
- Decluttering Rule #7: Remove stuff you may need in the future'
- Decluttering Rule #8: Don't declutter somebody's else's stuff
- Decluttering Rule #9: Don't waste time trying to sell things
- Decluttering Rule #10: Throw out all the trash
- Decluttering Rule #11: Bring everything to the donation centre immediately
- Decluttering Rule #12: Don't forget the paper clutter
- Decluttering Rule #13: Build a habit
- Bonus Rule: Keep it fun!
- Final thoughts on rules for decluttering
13 Decluttering Rules and Guidelines
Decluttering Rule #1: Set a goal
Before you start the decluttering process, it’s important to set a goal. This will help you stay focused and motivated, and it will give you a clear end point to work towards.
There are a few different ways to approach this.
You can either declutter one drawer at a time, or you can focus on one type of item (e.g. clothes, books, etc.). Alternatively, you can declutter by room (e.g. the bedroom, the living room, etc.).
Whichever approach you choose, make sure your goal is specific and achievable. For example, “I’m going to declutter my wardrobe” is a better goal than “I’m going to declutter my entire house.”
And once you’ve reached your goal, remember to celebrate before moving onto the next goal!
Decluttering Rule #2: Don’t organise before you declutter
One of the most important things to remember when decluttering is to avoid organising your belongings before you have cleared out the clutter.
This may seem counterintuitive, but trying to have organised clutter is often a recipe for disaster.
Not only will it be more difficult to find things, but you will also be more likely to hold on to items that you don’t need.
Instead, focus on decluttering first and then worry about organisation.
You may be surprised at how much easier it is to find things once your space is tidy and decluttered. Plus, you’ll have more room to store the things you actually need and use.
Decluttering Rule #3: Never put things in a storage space for later
One of the cardinal rules of decluttering is to never put things in a storage space for later.
The thinking goes that if you can’t find a place for something in your home, and you don’t use it often, then you don’t need it.
Of course, there are also times when it’s perfectly reasonable to store something away for a season or for a specific event.
Take holiday decorations, for example. It doesn’t make sense to keep your Christmas tree up all year round, but that doesn’t mean you should throw it out. The same goes for Halloween costumes, Easter baskets, and other seasonal items.
If you have the space to store these sort of things away, then there’s no harm in doing so.
The key is to be intentional about it and to make sure that you’re not using storage as a way to procrastinate on making decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of.
Decluttering Rule #4: Don’t keep nostalgic items for no reason
We’ve all been there: you come across an old t-shirt from a concert you went to in college, or a trinket from a ex, and you can’t help but take a trip down memory lane, feeling a pang of nostalgia.
It’s only natural to want to hold onto items that remind us of happy times in our lives. However, when it comes to decluttering, it’s important to be ruthless.
Just because an item holds sentimental value doesn’t mean it belongs as clutter in your home. If you’re holding onto something for no other reason than nostalgia, it might be time to let it go.
After all, sentimentality can be a bit like clutter itself: it can weigh you down and prevent you from moving forward. We don’t need to feel guilty about decluttering sentimental items; we can simply be grateful for the happy memories they evoke, and then let them go.
More often than not, we keep boxes and boxes of old photographs, kids artwork and school notes stored away, but we never look at them. It can be difficult to throw these out, especially if there are photos of people who have passed.
One option is to scan the ones you really want to keep to your PC so you can still look at them later if you choose to, but they don’t clutter up your home.
Decluttering Rule #5: Don’t make more purchases
As you go through your belongings, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to get rid of a lot of things. And that’s great! But there’s one thing you need to be careful of: don’t make more purchases.
It might seem like a good idea in the moment, but try to resist the urge. More stuff will only mean more clutter.
So before you buy that new trinket or piece of clothing, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I really need it?
- Do I have space for it?
- Do I already have something similar?
If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, then it’s probably best to pass on the purchase.
Of course, there are always going to be things that we need to buy. But if we’re intentional about our purchases and only buy stuff that we really need, it will help to reduce the amount of clutter in our homes.
Decluttering Rule #6: Let go of duplicates
We all know the feeling. You’re rummaging through your closet, looking for that perfect shirt to wear out tonight, and you finally find it…or do you?
You pull out the shirt and realise that it’s not the one you’re looking for; it’s an identical twin that you somehow forgot you even had.
We often end up with unnecessary duplicate items because we forget we already have it, stuffed in the back of the wardrobe because of all the clutter.
Now, this doesn’t mean getting rid of everything that comes in pairs (we hope you don’t plan on getting rid of your shoes anytime soon!). But if you have more than one of something and you don’t really need it, get rid of the extras.
This rule also applies to things like books and kitchen gadgets. If you have two of something and you only ever use one, get rid of the other. It’s as simple as that.
Decluttering Rule #7: Remove stuff you may need in the future’
We’ve all been there: staring at a drawer full of clothes we never wear, feeling the pang of guilt that comes with getting rid of them.
After all, what if we need them one day? Well, it’s time to let go. And here’s why:
First, the chances of us actually needing that item in the near future are slim.
Second, even if we do need it one day, you can probably find an alternative you already have.
And third, holding on to things we don’t need creates clutter, which can lead to stress and anxiety.
So next time you’re feeling worried about the possibility of needing something in the future, ask yourself: is it really worth hanging on to? Chances are, the answer is no.
Decluttering Rule #8: Don’t declutter somebody’s else’s stuff
One of the most important decluttering rules is to only get rid of your own stuff. It might be tempting to declutter your spouse’s closet or your kid’s toy box, but resist the urge!
Not only is it not your stuff to get rid of, but it can also lead to some serious conflict. If you’re not careful, you might end up decluttering sentimental items or something that’s important to somebody else.
When decluttering, only focus on your own stuff. This will help to avoid any conflict and ensure that everyone is happy with the final result. If your partner or kids have a lot of clutter around the house, speak with them and encourage them to do some decluttering too!
Decluttering Rule #9: Don’t waste time trying to sell things
We’ve all been there. You come across an old piece of furniture or a garment that still has the tags on that you no longer need, and you think “Hey, I could make some money off of this!”
So you spend hours taking pictures, writing descriptions, and dealing with potential buyers who flake at the last minute.
Is it really worth your time?
In most cases, the answer is no.
Usually, unless you’re selling something rare or unique, it’s unlikely that you’ll get top dollar for your item. Also, the time you spend trying to sell your stuff could be better spent on other activities, like decluttering the rest of your home!
Decluttering Rule #10: Throw out all the trash
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people hold on to certain things and don’t realise they’re actually trash.
These are things such as:
- old food
- used makeup
- expired medications
- broken appliances
- overly stained clothing
If you can no longer use these items or they’re no longer safe, it’s time to let them go. Don’t hold on to them just because you feel like you might be able to use them one day
Decluttering Rule #11: Bring everything to the donation centre immediately
Let’s be honest, we’ve all been there. You’ve just spent hours decluttering your home and you’re feeling on top of the world. But then you turn around and see a giant pile of donations sitting in the middle of your living room.
Suddenly, the euphoria of decluttering is replaced by the dread of having to schlep everything to the donation centre.
But before you start making excuses, remember this: The sooner you bring your donation box to the centre, the less likely you are to change your mind and bring them back into your home.
Make sure you take the donation trip before you start to feel overwhelmed by the task.
Decluttering Rule #12: Don’t forget the paper clutter
One of the most daunting tasks in decluttering is dealing with the paper clutter.
It seems like every day the mailman delivers a new stack of bills, advertisements, and magazines, and before you know it, your dining room table is buried.
To help you get a handle on the paper mess, here are a few tips:
First, set up a system for sorting your mail as soon as it comes in. Have a bin for bills, one for junk mail, and one for items that need to be shredded.
Second, go through your stacks of paper once a week and recycle or toss anything that you don’t need.
And finally, make sure you unsubscribe to any unwanted magazines or junk mail. This will help to reduce the amount of paper clutter coming into your home in the first place!
By following these simple tips, you can conquer this clutter and keep your home clean and organised.
Decluttering Rule #13: Build a habit
As anyone who has ever tackled a decluttering project knows, getting rid of stuff is only half the battle. The real challenge is keeping your house free of clutter in the long run.
That’s where the last of our decluttering rules comes in.
Establishing some simple routines can go a long way towards preventing clutter from creeping back into your life.
Make it a point to put away your belongings as soon as you’ve finished with them, sort your mail as soon as you walk through the door, and take a few minutes at the end of each day to tidy up loose items.
Schedule time for regular decluttering sessions or, to avoid having to declutter continuously, adopt the one-in-one-out rule whereby every time you buy something new, you donate something else at home.
Bonus Rule: Keep it fun!
When it comes to decluttering, the best rule of thumb is to keep it fun. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself feeling overwhelmed and bogged down by the process. Some ways of keeping it fun are to:
- turn on your favourite playlist and get moving
- have a decluttering party with friends or family
- give yourself a reward for completing each task
The bottom line is that decluttering should be a positive experience. So, do whatever you need to do to make it enjoyable!
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Final thoughts on rules for decluttering
While you may prefer not to call them decluttering rules as such, by following the above tips during the decluttering process you’ll be well on your way to a clutter free home.
And once you’ve decluttered, you can enjoy the benefits of a tidy home and more organised living space. You may even find that your life is less chaotic and stressful as a result!
Do you use any of these decluttering rules when you have a decluttering session?
Read also: 9 Ways I’ve Developed a Decluttering Mindset