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How to Declutter: 6 Habits Tidy People Have In Common

I’m not a tidy person by nature. Growing up, my mom used to tease me that my bedroom often looked like a tornado went through it. Things didn’t miraculously get better as an adult. I didn’t suddenly learn how to declutter.

But over the years, I’ve picked up a few simple habits that help my home stay clean and organized despite my messy nature. When I consistently apply these habits not only does my home stay tidy, but my mental health gets a great boost as well.

Clutter and chaos in a home can create a negative impact on our overall well-being. It can lead to decreased focus, tension, confusion, and even depression. Staying clean and organized can improve mood, increase focus, and give you a sense of control over your environment.

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Use These 6 Tips to Learn How to Declutter Your Home Effectively:

Learn how to declutter by adopting these six simple tips and you’ll make a big impact on the tidiness of your home.

1. Have a Place for Everything

“Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

One of the simplest ways to learn how to declutter and keep things organized is to have a space for everything. Each time you bring something new into your living space, you need to find it a home. Once everything has a designated space, make sure you return it there as soon as you’re done using it.

This seems super simple, and it is, but it can be a hard habit to develop. It may seem easier to drop your clothes on the floor instead of walking them to the hamper. But with consistent practice of putting things away where they belong, you’ll develop a much more organized house and corresponding life.

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You may need to invest in some storage solutions to make this happen. Old shoe boxes or repurposed baskets are great for this. Storage doesn’t have to be expensive to work well. You can even wrap old boxes in wrapping paper, or have your kids decorate them to make them more appealing.

With practice, simply putting things away where they belong makes a huge impact on day-to-day clutter and messiness.

2. Clean as You Go While Cooking

“Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of disorder.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Before you start preparing your meal, make sure your sink and dishwasher are empty. As you cook and finish with things like cutting boards or mixing bowls, give them a quick rinse and toss them in the washer before moving onto the next step.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, then give the items a thorough rinse and stack them neatly for hand washing later.

If you clean as you go, by the time you’re finished cooking, you’ll only have a few messy pots or pans to clean. This practice makes after dinner clean-up a breeze.

It also keeps food from sticking to items, which decreases the amount of elbow grease and time needed to get them clean. And who doesn’t want to spend less time cleaning dishes?

Not only does this method save time and energy, but it often inspires other kitchen clean-up habits like daily counter or stove wipe downs. Any delicious meal is going to come with a mess, but cleaning as you go will help to keep the mess in check.

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3. Declutter Once Per Season

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” – Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

Even with all our belongings having a designated space, things can begin to get a bit tight around the house, particularly if you’re an avid shopper. It’s a good idea to declutter regularly to prevent things from getting out of control.

Decluttering with the changing season is a great option. As you change out your seasonal items, see if you can gather a bag of stuff to donate to help keep your clutter under control.

It’s okay to keep sentimental items even if they aren’t used regularly. But if you find a sweater you haven’t worn for two seasons, now is probably a good time for it to find a new home. Get rid of things that aren’t serving you anymore or that don’t fit with your current life journey.

You’ll feel less weighed down with less clutter around, and ready to tackle what the next season brings your way.

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4. Stick to a Cleaning and Laundry Routine

“Housework can’t kill you, but why take the chance?” – Phyllis Diller

This quote always makes me laugh and reminds me of a small sign my mom had hanging in her kitchen when I was younger. If you develop a weekly cleaning and laundry routine, it’s less likely to feel like a full-contact sport or that the chores are trying to kill you.

It doesn’t matter what the routine is, just find one that works for you. Larger families may find it beneficial to do one load of laundry each night. Singles or couples may find it best to pick one weeknight for laundry.

There are merits to both systems. What’s important is to find something that you can stick with.

As you’re developing your routine, make sure that you clean high traffic areas once a week and other places monthly. Tackle things like vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, sanitizing counters, and cleaning living and bedrooms weekly.

Other items like removing expired food from the fridge, dusting light fixtures, and cleaning windows and baseboards can land on a monthly cleaning list.

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5. Develop a Paperwork System

“Successful organizing forces you to look at the big picture, not one small section of the frame, so that the system you design will be complete.” – Julie Morgenstern, Organizing from the Inside Out: The Foolproof System for Organizing Your Home, Your Office, and Your Life

Setting up a paperwork and filing system can be a struggle and may take a bit more effort than setting up a cleaning schedule. A good system will be easy to use and maintain as well as have a process for eliminating unnecessary papers.

The first step is to gather all your paperwork together. Once you know what you’re dealing with, then begin to sort papers into categories. Common categories are:

  • Action Items: such as bills that need paid or documents that need to be finished
  • Shred: anything that is no longer needed but contains personal information
  • User Manuals and Warranties: staple your receipts to the instruction books for easy reference if needed
  • Archive: things that you need to keep but that you don’t need to reference often, such as tax documents
  • Medical and Insurance: papers that cover medical history, insurance policies, and medical bills paid
  • Junk: things you can throw away immediately and don’t contain any personal information
  • File: items or papers that you need handy
  • Kid’s Art, Schoolwork, or Miscellaneous Sentimental Items: you don’t need to keep every fingerpaint art that your kid creates, but it’s a good idea to hang onto a few from each year or pieces that go along with developmental milestones
  • Assets: such as vehicle titles, maintenance logs, home mortgages, and banking records

 

Once you have your papers sorted, then it’s a process of labeling and storing them or disposing of them accordingly.

To keep your system going, you’ll want to set up a central inbox for all incoming paper. Things like mail, receipts, insurance papers, etc. can wait here until it’s paperwork day.

Once a week, go through your inbox, pay the bills, complete any other needed actions, sort out the junk, and then immediately file what you’re finished with.

6. Do a Daily Quick Pick-Up Before Relaxing or Bed

“Finally, as you clear a place for yourself by becoming organized, you may well begin sensing your true aspiration. It’s easier to hear your calling when there is less pandemonium.” – Marilyn Paul, It’s Hard to Make A Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys

Make it a routine to spend five to 10 minutes either before relaxing or before bed to do a quick pick-up. Even with everything having a place, sometimes we get distracted, and things don’t go back where they belong.

Take a few minutes and put away these items, or anything else that’s made its way onto counters, tables, or couches. Wipe down counters, pick up discarded shoes or toys, or empty the trash.

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Learn How to Declutter for a Cleaner, Simpler Life

It doesn’t take much to learn how to declutter, and spending just a few minutes every day can make a big impact on your home.

Staying tidy might not be the most exciting part of your day, but sticking with these habits will have a profound effect on your daily life and home environment.

Give it a try for a couple of months, and you may be surprised at all the ways it benefits your life and family.

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