The Definitive Room by Room Decluttering Guide

By Nicole Louw from kennards.co.nz

How to declutter every room in your house

Congratulations! If you’re reading this it means you’re one step closer to decluttering your house and creating a calmer and more organised life for yourself.

In this guide we’ll take provide you with the tools, tricks and handy information you need to declutter every room in your house - in the most efficient way possible.

The guide is divided into the following sections:    

  1. Skills you’ll need for every room
  2. Decluttering the Kitchen
  3. Decluttering the Living Room
  4. Decluttering the Dining Room
  5. Decluttering the Entrance Hall
  6. Decluttering the Bedrooms
  7. Decluttering the Bathrooms
  8. Decluttering your Home office
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1. Important Tips For Every Room:

How to become good at throwing things away

It’s not just hoarders who find it difficult to throw things away. Objects can have all sorts of meanings and emotions attached to them which make them difficult to part with.

The trick it to be able to identify why you don’t want to part with something and decide whether that’s a good or bad reason to keep it.

Marie Kondo, author of the Life Changing Magic of Tidying, suggests that you hold each item in your hands and ask ‘Does this item bring me joy?

If you are able to give a definite and truthful affirmative answer, knowing that every time you see or interact with this object it brings you joy, then - obviously - keep it. If it’s something you need and use often (and it works well for you each time) then this is another object you should keep. These items may not bring you outright joy, but they’re things that certainly make your life more joyful for having them around.

If an item doesn’t bring you joy, ask yourself why you’re keeping it. In many cases the reluctance to throw something away stems from the feeling of ‘I might need it some day’.This feeling is often a side-effect of a need for security, but it’s not logical.

Other feelings you might experience include guilt - either because the item was a gift, has some connection to someone else or you feel wasteful by throwing it away.

In these cases Kondo recommends you acknowledge that the item has done its job for you: either it made you happy when you bought it, made another person happy when they gave it to you, or was happy itself when serving its purpose. With the knowledge that it has performed its duty you can simply be grateful for the joy it once brought and can let it go without guilt.

For more advice on master the art of throwing things away, read this.

Give everything a home:

A tip from expert tidiers is to always ensure that everything has a defined home - even things as small as hair clips or a bottle of sunblock.

When everything has a place to be, your brain no longer has to make a decision about where to return it when you use it. Even a split second of uncertainty increases the chances of the item being placed anywhere.

When you’re tidying each room think carefully about where each and every item should ‘live’.This will make it so much easier to keep your space tidy as you move forward.

2. Decluttering Your Kitchen:

Having a neat and organised kitchen helps plays a big role in your overall health - not only because a neat kitchen is easier to clean, but also because people are inspired to eat healthier, enjoy preparing their own meals more and take longer to eat their food in a clean kitchen space. 

Decluttering your cabinets & drawers:

Step 1: Allocate

First, decide which cabinets you want to allocate to what items. You may have a system already, but if not, now’s the time to get a clear picture of which items you’re going to place in each drawer and cabinet.

Step 2: Empty

Now you’ll need to empty your first few cabinets completely. Bring everything out and set it on the counters and floor.  You can do your whole kitchen at once, or do this area by area.

Step 3: Clean

You might want to take this opportunity to clean the inside of your cabinets and drawers as they’re seldom empty and get a thorough clean.

Organisation experts advise cleaning your newly decluttered space as thoroughly as possible, as this acts as a visual cue that reminds you to keep it clutter-free moving forward.

Step 4: Throw away

Once your cabinets are clean, turn your attention to the things you’ve just taken out of them. You’ll immediately see a few items that are old or you don’t want to keep - throw or give these away.

This includes food items and any utensils you no longer need or want (and any tupperwares that no longer have lids!)

It also includes duplicates. No one needs two can openers or four cinnamon shakes. Choose your favourite and give the rest to a friend or charity.

Step 5: Reorganise

You’ll probably also notice a few items that shouldn’t be in this drawer or cabinet. Move these into the place you’ve designated for.
 

Step 6: Repack

Now that you’ve got rid of the items you don’t want and that don’t belong there, you can replace the items you want to keep.

Remember that the neater you manage to make things now, the more inspired you’ll be to keep them that way.

Decluttering the refrigerator:

Treat the refrigerator in the same way that you treated the cabinets:

Step 1: Take everything out

Remove every last thing from inside the fridge and freezer

Step 2: Give the inside a clean

Take this opportunity to give the inside a good and thorough clean

Step 3: Throw away anything you don’t want

Throw away anything you don’t want or won’t use in the next few weeks

Step 4: Reorganise the items onto the correct shelves

Generally speaking, meat and fish should be at the bottom of your fridge, with fruit and veg stored nearer the top.

For more information on storing food you can visit this guide.

Decluttering surfaces

Decluttered kitchen surfaces are not only easier to clean, but they also make your kitchen feel bigger and give you more space to prepare food.

Step 1: Discard

Go through every item you have on your kitchen counters. Do you need and use every single one? Do they bring joy?

If not, throw or give them away.

Step 2: Pack away

Try and relocate any remaining items into their assigned drawers and cabinets. This includes appliances. Is it really that much extra effort to open a cupboard when you want to use your blender? Your kitchen will look so much better if you keep as much free counter space as possible.

3. Decluttering the living Room:

Not only is it the ‘show room’ of the house, but the living room is also where you enjoy family time and entertain guests. Creating a neat and ordered living room improves the look of your home and encourages you to spend more time with family and friends.

Decluttering tables and surfaces

If you spend a lot of time in your living room, surfaces such as coffee tables and shelves can start to attract clutter. To banish this clutter once and for all, follow the steps below.

Step 1: Create a pile

The first step is to make a pile of everything currently in your living room. This includes items that are in drawers, bookshelves and cupboards. Don’t stop until everything, save for the large pieces of furniture, is in that pile.

Step 2: Decide

Once you’ve made your pile you’ll need to go through it. Pick up and hold every item and decide whether it truly adds value to your life. If it does, and you can answer that truthfully, then keep it. If it does not, let it go.

Step 3: Return

During steps 1 and 2 you will have noticed that there are a few items in the pile that don’t belong in the living room. Return these to their rightful place.

Step 4: Replace

Replace the items you’ve decided to keep in their correct places.

If you have some items that live on surfaces such as coffee tables and shelves, use a tray or bowls to keep like items together. This adds structure to the items on display and the visual barrier prevents these items from attracting other clutter.

Have a look at this for more inspiration.

4. Decluttering the Dining Room:

The dining room is where you share meals and centres around enjoying food together. A tidy dining room helps improve our relationships with food and encourages us to linger longer over social meals. 

Decluttering the dining room table

As a flat and inviting surface, the dining room table is a magnet for clutter. This is especially true if you have both a dining room and a kitchen table, as you tend to eat and one and store clutter on the other.

Step 1: Discard

Sift through the clutter and throw away any items that do not add value or joy to your life. Take note of the type of the type clutter that has accumulated here. How can you avoid this happening in future?

Step 2: Re-home

Once you’ve thrown out all the things you don’t want, you’ll need to find a home for all the things that don’t belong here. Once you’ve decided where everything should be, return it there.  

Step 3: Decorate

The trick to keeping your dining room table free of clutter is to discourage yourself (and others) from placing items on it. An effective way to do this it to simply set the table in a visually appealing way.

Place a vase of flowers in the centre and invest in some placemats and a tablecloth you really love. When the table looks lovely you’re far less likely to place incongruous items on it.

For more dining room advice, have a look at this article.

5. Decluttering Entrance Halls:

Your entrance hall is the first thing you (and your guests) see when entering your home - it’s this areas that creates your first impression. 

Decluttering the entrance hall:

Step 1: Sort

Go through every item in your entrance hall and decide whether it needs to be kept. In most cases the items here will belong in other rooms in the house, if you decide not to throw them out, return them to their rightful homes.

Step 2: Create a ‘landing strip’

Hallways and entrance halls can be clutter zones because it’s where people fling their keys/wallet/shopping/post as they come through the door.

Try installing a shelf or chest in your entrance hall that has a place for people to put their things. This landing strip should include key hooks, bag hooks, coat rack and boxes for post, shoes, umbrellas and other miscellaneous items.

This provides a convenient place for people to discard things in an organised fashion and prevents them from being carried in and scattered further throughout the house. Not only does it keep your entrance hall neat, but it goes a long way in preventing general household clutter as well.

For more hallway inspiration, read this.

6. Decluttering Bedrooms:

Your bedroom is the most sacred space in the house. An organised bedroom promotes calm, helps you sleep better and creates a space in which you kind fully unwind. 

Decluttering dressers and tables

Step 1: Sort

Make a pile of everything on top of and inside the dresser of drawers. Handle each item and decide whether it sparks joy or not. If not, give it away or discard it. If it doesn’t belong in your bedroom, find a new home for it. Be as ruthless as possible in the bedroom as this is a space you really want to keep clutter-free.

Step 2: Return

Return the items you’ve decided to keep. Try to keep the tops of tables and drawers clear.

The bedroom is a place for rest and relaxation, not for storage. If you find you’ve run out of space to put things without resorting to surfaces it’s a sign that you have too many items in your bedroom. Go through step 1 again until you’ve reduced the number of items significantly. 

Decluttering cupboards

One of the most difficult places to tackle is the closest - however, once complete, a clean and organised closet is a source of great joy.

Step 1:  Unpack

Remove every last item from your closet and place it on the bed. As you take out each item organise them into piles of ‘like’ items - trousers, dresses, shirts, jerseys etc.

Keeping the like items together will help you see which areas of your wardrobe are lacking and which are too plentiful.

Step 2: Decide

Pick, hold, touch or try on every item you own. When you touch it, does it spark joy? Ask yourself what this piece of clothing says about you, and whether that’s the message you want to send to the world.

If there are any items you don’t like or aren’t in line with your personality it’s time to pass them on. That shirt you’re not mad about could make someone else really happy.

Ditto for anything that no longer fits you. Unless you plan to get it to the tailor tomorrow (literally, tomorrow) then it’s time to give it someone else. Holding onto clothes that don’t fit you means you’re living in the past or in the future, when you should be enjoying the present.

Step 3: Organise

Neatly fold your remaining clothes and decide where in the closet you’re going to place them. A good system will help you keep your closet organised moving forward.

If you keep any of your clothes in drawers, organisational experts suggest stacking them sideways, instead of on top of one another. This saves on space and allows you to see each and every option, preventing you from messing other items when you’re looking for a particular one.

This video shows you how.

7. Decluttering Bathrooms:

Your bathroom is a place you prepare for the day ahead or get clean and unwind from the day before. Ensure your bathroom is a place you can enjoy spending time and helps you set your purpose for the day or evening. 

Cleaning out bathroom cabinets:

Step 1: Empty

Empty everything from your bathroom cabinets onto the floor and decide if you need every single one of the items you’ve just unpacked.

Bathrooms tend to be full toiletries that have one wash left in them - don’t fall into this trap. Use things down to their last squeeze and then throw them away. If you replaced them before they’re empty, get rid of the duplicates and try not to do this again.

Step 2: Replace

Neatly replace the items you’ve decided to keep.

A good trick is to use shoe box lids to divide shelves within bathroom cabinets into sections that keep similar items together.    

If you have a lot of beauty products that you use daily, consider installing a lazy-susan in your bathroom storage space to give you easy access to all your lotions and potions.

Another trick is to use clear plastic boxes or tupperwares to store products. Not only does this keep them organised, but it also allows you to place other items on top of them while still being able to see what’s inside.  

For more bathroom cabinet organising tips and tricks, give this video a watch. 

Decluttering your Medicine Cabinet

A medicine drawer or box is a necessary bathroom staple. Experts suggest you buy a separate container or use an individual drawer or shelf for your medical products to keep them out of the way and not mixed up with your regular bathroom items.

Step 1: Check Expiry dates

Go through your current medical box and throw out anything that has passed its expiry date.

Step 2: Organise

Create sections in your medicine drawer or box so that you can keep like items together. This makes them easier to find when you really need them.

Step 3: Label

Make a list of every item in your medicine box and write the uses/application next to the name. Stick this list to the lid of the box or back of the door so that you, or anyone else, will know exactly what each product is for.

For more medicine cabinets tips and tricks, give this article a read. 

8. Decluttering your Home office

A tidy and organised work space will help you be more productive, produce better quality work and will inspire better ideas.

Step 1: Organise your drawers

Declutter your drawers by throwing out any items that no longer work or that you don’t use or need. This includes duplicates - do you really need two staplers?

Use drawer dividers to help keep the remaining items neat and tidy. The small boxes that watches, cell phones and iPods come in work extremely well for this purpose.

Step 2: Declutter your desk surface

Sort through all the items and papers lying on your desk and place them in the appropriate drawers and folders. If you have documents you consult regularly, consider displaying them on your wall or pin board instead of leaving them on your desk.

Step 3: Scan

If there are any loose papers or folders in your office it’s time to put them online. Simply scan them and store them digitally to avoid having them cluttering up your physical space.  

If you’re not a fan of digital storage and rogue paper is perpetually a problem for you, you need to create a proper filing system. See below.

Step 4: Create a filing system

4.1. Collect all your loose papers and place them in one big pile. 
 
4.2. Go through each item, one at a time. If you can’t see yourself needing it in a couple of months, toss it or scan it and save it digitally. Get rid of as much as you can.

4.3. File. If a document is critical then it needs to be filed. David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, recommends that you use a simple, alphabetical filing system. Just use coloured folders with labels, and have a file for each client, vendor and/or project. It’s as easy as that!

4.4. Dedicate a drawer or shelf to these folders and make sure it’s easy for you to see each label.

To keep this filing system up to date the secret is to get into the habit of filing immediately. Just open your filing drawer (it should be close at hand), pull out the appropriate folder, put the document in it, and file it. That takes about 5 seconds, and then you’re done.

For more filing tricks, read this.

And there you have it. A simple but thorough way to declutter each and every room in your house. Remember, the better the job you do now the easier it’ll be to keep it neat and tidy moving forward. Enjoy!