Learn ways to declutter and organize the “hot spots” in your home

Two women are packing boxes to declutter the room

Many of us have a little clutter around our homes — whether it’s paperwork stacked on the kitchen counter, or boxes stacked in the basement or garage. So when does clutter become a problem? When you spend too much time looking for things “you know you have somewhere.”

While you can declutter and organize your home any time during the year, you may find it easier to do so during the colder months — when you’re usually indoors. Seeing the clutter more often may motivate you to get organized.

Start with a plan.

One of the most effective ways to declutter and organize your home is to create a plan. As with most things in life, if you don’t have a plan, it will likely not get done. Here are a few tips for creating a plan of action:

  1. Write down exactly which spaces you believe are “hot spots” in your home (areas with more clutter than others). Some common spaces include your closet, pantry, refrigerator, attic, basement, and garage.
  2. Give each hot spot a grade (A, B, C, D, or F) based on the severity of the clutter. A messy closet or pantry may get a higher grade than the boxes stacked up in your basement. Begin with the space graded the highest and move on from there.
  3. Set up a timetable of completion for each space. That way, you’ll work toward a deadline and may get things done faster. Just be realistic with your completion dates. You should expect decluttering of some spaces to take a few hours, while others may take a few weeks (or longer).

Ask questions to help you declutter.

Once your plan is created, it’s time to get to work. Here are some questions to ask yourself as you begin to declutter your home one hot spot at a time:

  • When was the last time I used it? If you haven’t used something within the previous six months, it may be time to get rid of it.1
  • How often do I use or wear an item? Usually, we wear only 20% of the clothes we own 80% of the time. This same rule may hold true with other items, such as DVDs, toys, books, and video games. When you declutter, you should get rid of anything you don’t use 80% of the time.1
  • Does the item work? If you find something that doesn’t work, fix it or get rid of it.
  • Do I absolutely love it? Many of us have things we purchased at one point, but no longer love them. Maybe you thought you’d return an item, or you bought it for a specific purpose and have never used it again. Remember, if you’ve had something longer than six months and you don’t use it (or wear it), get rid of it. If you love it, find a place for it.

If you do need to get rid of something, there are several options to consider: throw it away, donate it, sell it at a yard sale, or recycle it. It’s up to you to decide what to do.

Start small and move forward.

Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with clutter. For example, maybe you plan to start purging your pantry, but it’s so messy you don’t know where to start. The best plan is to start small and build from there. So start with one shelf. Set your timer for 15 or 20 minutes and work as hard as you can during that time. By breaking up your spaces this way, you may enjoy the process and start to accomplish more.

Organize after you declutter.

As you declutter each hot spot, get organized. A good rule of thumb is to keep things that are similar together — and close to where you may use them. For example, you should keep all your tools together in a safe place in your garage. Or maybe when you’re finished cleaning out your attic, you can find a convenient place to store all your holiday decorations on a shelf or in clear containers (so you can see what’s inside).

You may also want to talk to an expert at a local home store or meet with a professional organizer to help you find unique ways to use your “new found” space. You may be surprised by what you can do with the space in your home.

Most people need space to feel comfortable, so decluttering and organizing your home can have a significant impact on your life. While you may not feel a sense of accomplishment immediately, you’ll enjoy more freedom and joy as you continue to declutter and organize each room in your home.