Organizing a messy house is intimidating to most people, but it doesn’t have to be the insurmountable task it might seem like. With a well-defined approach—and a few psychological tricks—whipping your home into shape is easier than you think. The next time the weather puts a damper on your weekend plans, resist the urge to curl up on the couch with your favorite blanket and use these five tips to help you finally rid your house of unwanted clutter.
1. Start With the Big Areas
If you want to make the biggest difference you can in as little time as possible, you need to tackle the largest areas of your house first. The most common areas that attract clutter are the kitchen, living room, and home office. Purging these areas of the usual sources of clutter will go a long way to making your house feel less messy and more organized.
The kitchen is a problem area for many people since it’s often one of the first rooms they enter when they come home. As such, it becomes the de facto dumping ground for mail and whatever else they bring home with them. When the mail and other assorted paperwork finally makes it from the kitchen to the office, it usually winds up in a disorganized pile eerily similar to the one it was in in the kitchen.
To avoid this problem, establish a filing routine and stick to it, with no exceptions. Creating a universal inbox to hold everything that comes into your house is a common approach that works well. Forming the habit might take a few weeks, but you can set up the infrastructure in less than a half-hour this weekend.
It’s also common for people to keep old or broken appliances they don’t use in the kitchen, either out of habit or because they work just enough to warrant keeping. Consider disposing of broken appliances and only replace them if they add value to your life. If you decide to replace broken appliances, consider purchasing home appliance insurance, which will make it easier to replace any appliances that break again in the future.
2. Go Through Often Overlooked Areas
Taking the opposite approach and looking for out-of-the-way areas you haven’t cleaned in a while is also a good idea. Medicine cabinets often harbor years-old pills that are likely inert, and we’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t have at least one hilariously old bottle of spice in their pantry. Cleaning out these areas doesn’t take long, and even if you only throw away a few things, it will improve your mindset and make you more likely to carry your cleaning momentum to other areas of your home.
3. Be Discerning
Unfortunately, getting out from under a pile of clutter usually requires making hard decisions. To be successful at de-cluttering your home, you’ll need to be discerning, and that means knowing when to make hard decisions and when to wait until you’re in a better mindset. If you’re feeling emotional or nostalgic, you’ll never be able to throw away the old stuff that you don’t use anymore. Recognizing this fact is vital to the long-term success of your organizational mission. The best way to establish a mindset ready to throw things away is to think logically about what you do and don’t use and get rid of anything that just sits in your house collecting dust.
4. Separate Into Keep, Discard, and Donate Piles
One of the best ways to organize your home is to sort your belongings into three piles: keep, discard, and donate. Many people understandably struggle with the idea of getting rid of things that are still good, and these items are perfect candidates for donations. Having only three options also makes it psychologically easier to sort things without a non-committal “save-for-later” option.
5. Toss Things That Have No Place
One obvious-sounding tip to reduce the clutter around your home is to throw away anything that doesn’t have a place. If you constantly find yourself moving something, maybe it’s because it isn’t important enough to have a set place in your house. Think about everything in your house that just sort of floats around and consider whether it’s important enough to keep. If it is, think about what other item might be unimportant enough to surrender its place and throw it away.