Home improvement: Declare a declutter day

A closeup view of a tea mug being held by a smiling person.

Getting rid of clutter is a common New Year’s resolution, sparking questions like “Do I need six spatulas?” and “Is there really a desk under that pile?” or “How can I clean my house when I can’t even find it?”

The idea of tackling those mountains of items can be overwhelming, but the benefits are well documented: Experts say it can clear your mind, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, increase productivity, reduce allergens and generally make you happier.

But where to start? There are a zillion different decluttering methods to choose from. You can start small by setting daily goals: 15 minutes a day, or one drawer, or two cupboards. Or go big by setting aside an entire day to see how far you can get.

The important thing is that you start – don’t overthink it. Here are six tips to get you going:

The one year rule

Start in your kitchen. Fill a box (or boxes) with what you haven’t used in ages, from random utensils like a cherry pitter to special appliances like a bread maker.

Put the box (or boxes) out of sight for a year. If after 12 months you haven’t used it, donate it, put it aside for your next garage sale or sell it online. Bonus: With that extra room in your cupboards, you can store some of the items that typically sit on your counter.

The same goes for your clothes. Turn all your hangers backward and only turn them back when you wear something. After one year, get rid of anything on a backward hanger.

A man looks at a computer screen while writing something down. He is sitting at his freshly decluttered desk.

The desk dilemma

Face it, you’re going to have to sort papers one by one. You know there’s an important document in there that you will need exactly one day after it’s gone.

Gather your files (or start a filing system if you don’t have one) along with a recycle bin and paper shredder and get going.

Afterward, come up with a system to cut down on future clutter. Keep that recycle bin by your desk, open your mail over the top of it and let junk mail, envelopes and catalogs go straight to the bin instead of piling up on your desk.

Treat yourself to a special basket or box on the desk for papers you need to address, and figure out which statements and documents you can see online and go as paperless as possible. Get yourself a tablet and do the same with newspapers, magazines and books.

A collection of decorative glassware is waiting to be thinned out during your declutter process.

Treasure or trash?

Most people have that one shelf, curio cabinet or hutch that is overflowing with their collections, whether it’s figurines, trinkets or books. Each item brought you joy at one time, but maybe that time is over. Plus, it’s a pain to dust.

Be brutal and ditch what’s not special anymore. Off it goes to another family member, a charity, an online sale or maybe even the trash.

Too harsh? Try the one-year rule: Put them away in a trunk or bin and revisit them after a year to see if they still evoke those special memories. If the pull is gone, so are they.

Say goodbye to ‘someday’ projects

Needlepoint, furniture refinishing, quilting. You’ve started all those projects and many others over the years – started but not finished. Now they are taking up valuable space waiting for “someday” when you have time.

It’s time to admit the hard truth: They will never get done. You are not a project person, and that is OK. Forgive yourself. Get rid of them. You are free.

Containers are your friend

For those things that do bring you joy but don’t need to be displayed, invest in some clear plastic bins. They are more durable than cardboard boxes, and you can see what’s inside without having to open them. They also stack nicely or are designed to slide right under your bed.

Short on storage space? Try trendy stacks of old suitcases or vintage trunks. They are perfect for stowing your treasures and can double as side tables or coffee tables. Ottomans with storage capacity serve the same purpose. If you can’t get rid of it, simply hide it!

Start small, reap big benefits

Whether you embrace a whole-house declutter or start small with your junk drawer, celebrate your success and start reaping the benefits of decluttering.

At the very least it should be way easier to clean your house!

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