How to Declutter Every Room in Your Home—Fast
If learning how to declutter were easy, every home would be clutter-free—and they would all stay that way. Alas, decluttering tips only truly work when paired with a little elbow grease and some commitment: Decluttering is hard work. But figuring out how to declutter your home can lead to a more soothing, less stressful space. It can mean fewer possessions, which means there’s less to clean. When it’s time to pack up and move (hopefully with the help of some solid moving tips), there’s less to pack.
Decluttering does more than remove clutter—and there are ways to make it easier. Some decluttering or organizing pros recommend waging a whole-house war on decluttering to knock out the excess stuff in one fell swoop, so no room remains untouched. This approach may take a whole weekend (or even longer), but it might also be more successful—and it’ll mean the chore is finished quickly, not left to drag on for months and months.
Decluttering the whole house can be broken down room by room, so it feels doable. A few new organizers or clutter management tools (think bins, crates, shelving systems, and the like) are suggested but not mandatory. Ideally, at the end of the decluttering process, there’s not much left that needs to be stored, but a little extra equipment can help tame whatever is left.
To use this room-by-room guide to its fullest potential, gather a trusty team—the whole family, ideally. (After all, they helped create the mess, right?) Give every family member a room to declutter, or work as a team to declutter one room at a time. This way, everyone will have buy-in on the success of the decluttering project, and will hopefully do what they can to keep spaces clutter-free for years to come. (A declutter app or two can help with that.)
- Use a boot tray to create boundaries for footwear. Whatever doesn’t fit should go in a bedroom or closet.
- Designate a hook, bin, or basket for each member of the household. If their area gets full, they’re responsible for returning items to their own closets (or a coat closet).
- Off-season items should be cleaned and stored out of the way; use a covered rolling rack in an attic or basement if you don’t have a spare closet.
- Establish drop spots right at the door: a change jar, a sunglasses tray, key hooks, and an umbrella holder.
Employ a large basket to corral in-and-out items, like store returns and sports equipment.
Get the look: HAY Kaleido Tray Small, $28; store.moma.org; The Little Market Hamper (similar), $158; thelittlemarket.com; Metal Boot Tray (similar), $40; crateandbarrel.com. Yamazaki White Tosca Umbrella Stand, $50; containerstore.com.
- Think of central cabinets and drawers as prime real estate. Only your most-used items should live in the quick-reach areas. The rest live higher up or farther back.
- Use divided inserts to separate categories within drawers. Apply museum gel to the base to hold them in place like built-ins.
- In your junk drawer, make use of multi-tiered inserts to compartmentalize the space and keep it from becoming a black hole.
- Bring order to the refrigerator by employing acrylic bins to corral awkwardly shaped packages on the shelves.
- Allocate 15 minutes each week to determine what stays and what gets recycled from the family command center.
- Everyday-use appliances can live on the counter. Others should be stashed in a cabinet, pantry, or nearby closet.
- Keep cooking essentials handy on a tray near the stove. Whatever doesn’t fit belongs in the pantry.
- Create a non-fridge spot for displaying art, homework, and schedules, like a magnetic board.
Bathroom and Linen Closet
- Discard toiletries you haven’t used in a year (unopened ones can be donated to homeless and women’s shelters). And don’t hoard hotel minis if you never pack them when you travel.
- Stash towels at eye level, since you’ll be reaching for them frequently. Hand towels and washcloths can be rolled and stowed in baskets to prevent toppling stacks.
- Illuminate the contents by installing stick-on, motion-activated lights.
Package sheet sets within one of the matching pillowcases to keep everything together in a neat stack.
Get the look: Throw Blanket in Pure Wool in Greige, $229; brooklinen.com; Classic Core Sheet Set, from $129; brooklinen.com;. Waffle Bath Towels, $39 each; parachutehome.com; No. 10 Fabric Fresh, $16; thelaundress.com; Spectrum Metal Wire Storage Basket in Satin Nickel, from $13 each; bedbathandbeyond.com; Gold Rope Basket, from $49; potterybarnkids.com;
- Set rules like at school: Once you’re done playing with something, return it to its rightful home.
- Use clear bins so kids can see what goes inside. Keep them small; bigger bins become dumping grounds.
- Place a hamper in their closet where they can toss clothes they’ve outgrown. When it fills up, make a trip to the donation center.
Make storing collections part of the room’s decor. Use a magnetic knife holder to corral Matchbox cars.
To buy: EKET Storage Combination with Legs, $150; ikea.com; Sterilite Large Flip Top Bins, $20 for 6; amazon.com; Our Tall Shoe Boxes, $5 each; containerstore.com; Dry Erase Board, from $40; threebythree.com; Mighties Magnets, $13 for 8; threebythree.com; Christopher Knight Home Harris Pouf, $90; target.com.
- Hang all clothes facing the same direction and arrange like items together so you can easily see what you have (and need).
- Use an acrylic letter file to stash clutch purses upright on a closet shelf.
- If you’re consigning pieces online and they haven’t sold in three months, donate them. Keep them separate from your closet in the meantime.
- Prevent discarded clothes from piling up on the bedroom chair. Place a basket next to it where those items should land (out of sight) until they can be sorted.
Style flat surfaces like dresser tops and bedside tables with a few objects you enjoy to discourage them from becoming landing strips for clutter.
- Sally Augustin, PhD, environmental and design psychologist
- Elspeth Bell, PhD, psychologist specializing in clutter issues
- Jacquie Denny, cofounder of the online auction site Everything But The House (EBTH)
- Molly Graves, cofounder of The Neat Method
- Isha Gupta, MD, neurologist at IGEA Brain & Spine
- Debra Johnson, Merry Maids home cleaning expert
- Ellen Madere, professional organizer in Old Lyme, Connecticut
- Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space
- Jordan Marks, cofounder and owner of It’s Organized
- Andrew Mellen, professional organizer
- Rachel Rosenthal, organizing expert
- Beth Penn, author of The Little Book of Tidying and founder of Bneato Bar in Los Angeles
- Gail Saltz, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the New York Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell Medical College
- Mimi Shagaga, Beverly Hills–based clinical psychologist