How to Get Rid of Clutter for Good

If you’re like most people, you probably wish your home, automobile or workspace was more organized and free from clutter. But how does one accomplish such a task, exactly? This step-by-step guide will take you from “oh dear” to “in the clear” quicker (and more painlessly) than you can imagine.


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    Breathe. That’s right – as simple as it sounds, the first step is simply to breathe. Clearing the clutter from your home can seem like an insurmountable task, and you may feel a bit overwhelmed at first. The key is to relax and remember that this is a project that will be completed over time – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. If you can just breathe and take one step at a time, you will see massive progress before you know it.
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    Imagine It Done. Does an artist begin painting without having a clear vision of the end masterpiece in mind? Never. Stephen Covey, author of the bestselling business book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” famously wrote “Begin with the end in mind,” and he wasn’t just talking about high-profile business projects.
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    Make a Plan. Before you tackle a single room (or box), it is wise to make a plan. Consider these key questions: what will you do with the items you plan to donate? To sell? To keep? What’s involved in making the donation? Will you have to transport the items, or will an organization come to your home to pick them up? Will you need to borrow a truck? For the items you can sell, do you plan to use an online service like eBay or Craigslist, or will you simply have a garage sale?
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    Prepare to De-Clutter. The de-cluttering process requires a bit of physical preparation in order to make the most effective use of your time.
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    Set Small Targets. This is a little-known trick that works absolute miracles (it’s also the reason we recommended having a kitchen timer handy in your de-cluttering supplies). There is an old adage that asks: How does an ant eat an elephant? One bite at a time. You can clear your clutter in the same way: by working in small, manageable chunks of time.
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    Take Time to Admire Your Progress. Human beings can easily become motivated when we see progress from our own efforts. Haven’t you ever noticed that when a person is trying to lose weight, they become even more motivated once they have evidence of their progress? Roomier clothes, a smaller number on the scale, and compliments from others are all motivating factors in continuing a diet and exercise plan, and de-cluttering your home is no different.
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    Finish the Job. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature not to finish things that we start. So you may feel a strong tendency to want to quit before the entire job is complete. But just think, if you quit before your whole home or office is de-cluttered, you won’t actually achieve that vision you created of living in a comfortable, organized, clutter-free home! Persevere until the whole job is complete and the rewards will far exceed your expectations.


  • Set a timer to keep you on track, and during that time, do not answer the phone or allow any other distraction to deter you from the task at hand. You will be amazed at how much you can accomplish in a short period of time when you are fully focused.
  • It is strongly recommended that you NOT keep anything that is broken, unless you intend to have it repaired and begin using it again (or sell it) immediately.
  • When the timer goes off, you can walk away. You may choose to reset the timer for additional time, but don’t feel you have to if you’ve kept your commitment and completed the initial time. It will surprise you how few of these timed sessions it will take to clear out an entire room (and soon, your entire house) of clutter.
  • Additionally, you can create containers for these items (a box for donations, a box for things to give away to family or friends, boxes for items you plan to keep or store, etc.)
  • Taking the time to admire all that you’ve accomplished will spur you on to continue working even more diligently.
  • When cleaning out closets and clothing: (including shoes and accessories): get rid of anything you haven’t worn in 2 years. If you just can’t part with it, move it to the front of your closet so it will be seen (and therefore get worn). Most people keep far more clothing than they could possibly use.
  • Imagine how much time you’ll save when you’re not constantly looking for things that are misplaced somewhere in the house.
  • Set criteria for each category in your mind – for example, what determines a “keeper”?
  • Celebrate when you complete each room, consider taking a before and after picture of the next room, or just take time to sit down and relax in this newly organized, uncluttered room.
  • Donations can include anything that is in good working order, or can be easily repaired, but that you no longer want or need.
  • When you take a few minutes to fashion a plan before you get started clearing, it will make it easier to decide what to do with items that will be leaving your home.
  • Take just a few minutes to set up boxes, bins or containers designated for trash, donations and/or garage sale items, and keepers.
  • If you can press onward until you’ve de-cluttered every room in your house, just think how much easier it will be to maintain that clutter-free organization from day to day.
  • When we can imagine the end result of any major project, it helps us to stay on task and to ultimately create the outcome that we truly desire.
  • Family heirlooms: ask yourself WHY you are keeping each item. Keep only what has sentimental value, what appreciates over time, and what you intend to bequeath to your children. If your children are adults, ask yourself if you can realistically pass it on now, instead of waiting. Consider taking a keepsake photograph of special objects that possess sentimental value if you no longer want or need to keep them.
  • Choose one room or workspace and do not move on until that entire space is completely organized and free from clutter.
  • Contact local donation services in your area to pre-schedule a time for convenient pickup of your items for donation – in many cases, you won’t even have to be home when they pick up.
  • Additionally, if you can imagine your home (or other environment) free of clutter, well-organized and comforting, that image can sustain you and keep you going when you are feeling particularly challenged by the process of de-cluttering.
  • Preparing yourself mentally for the magnitude of this project is an excellent way to put yourself in the right mindset before you begin.
  • Once your boxes, bags or bins are set up, you are ready to start going through your stuff and de-cluttering your space.
  • Choose a period of time that doesn’t feel overwhelming. It might be 30 minutes, or it might be an hour. Definitely keep it to one hour or less. Whatever time duration you choose, commit that for that time frame, you will do nothing else – you will only clear clutter and organize a space.


  • Although you are likely tempted to dive right in and start clearing clutter, you will get far more accomplished in much less time if you have a plan in place before you begin.
  • With regards to files and paperwork: check with your accountant to find out how long you should keep certain documents and receipts.
  • If you work to clear clutter a bit here, and a bit there, you won’t see any progress, and you won’t keep new clutter from accumulating in these spaces. This is a key mistake that many people make.

Things You'll Need

  • a disorganized, cluttered space to straighten up and de-clutter
  • a box of contractor grade (heavy-duty) trash bags
  • boxes or bins
  • a large outdoor-style garbage can
  • a fat permanent marker
  • file boxes or banker’s boxes (if you have paperwork to sort through)
  • a timer (digital or kitchen timer)

Article Info

Categories: Goal Realization & Problem Solving | Clutter Busting