My house is cluttered, and I don’t know where to start. Does this sound familiar?
The truth is…
Clutter can have an unrelenting impact on your physical surroundings and mental psyche.
You can scour the Internet for days and days and not even read 1% of the articles and blogs dedicated to how to declutter your home and create additional storage space.
However, this guide is different. This guide will provide you with more than just decluttering tips because many tips are simply Band-Aid solutions. In this guide, we’ll try to get to the root of your clutter/hoarding problem, so that when you do declutter your home, the items don't pile back up, right away.
How Does Clutter Happen?
Clutter happens because we simply have more household items than we need. To support this fact, the self-storage industry is booming - Americans spend around $39 BILLION a year on renting storage containers because they have too many things to keep in their house. Many self-storage renters should have the space to accommodate items because:
- 67% of self-storage renters have a garage
- 33% of self-storage renters have a garage AND a basement
So, what really causes clutter? Well, we buy way too much stuff. Only 41% of our purchases are actually made for logical reasons. Yes, we know the old ‘but what if we need it?’, but we’ll do you one better… What if you don’t?
How many times have you bought something on impulse and regretted it? Well, 87% of Americans feel the same way after impulse buying. Think twice about buying and don’t buy something just because it’s on a discount like the other 40% of Americans… Buy it because you need it.
But yes, if we feel such regret, why are we still hanging onto these household items even though we know we shouldn’t?
Well, because cleaning causes pain.
According to a study done in 2013 at the Yale School of Medicine, researchers studied both hoarders and non-hoarders, and hoarders showed an increase in activity in two areas of the brain when they were forced to get rid of their own household items. According to the study, the subjects said they felt ‘something wrong’ about tossing something out.
The two areas of the brain that lit up are known to be associated with conflict and pain. When we have a fondness for any object, for any reason, even the thought of getting rid of it causes discomfort.
Additional Professional Organizing and Decluttering Tips from Experts
People who don’t love to bargain shop don’t realize that bringing stuff home can be a habit, but people who do love to shop know how difficult changing this way of life can be. I can abandon a good habit without even noticing, but a bad habit will wrestle me to the ground to stick around.
How Clutter Affects You
While people might find some comfort in their clutter, there is evidence that a messy space impedes performance. According to a study done in 2011 at Princeton University, “physical clutter in your surroundings competes for your attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.”
Clutter affects us in other ways too. Sometimes clutter can make a house so messy that people don’t want to go home. It can directly affect your stress levels too, it is observed that female homeowners with a high density of household items experience high cortisol (stress) levels.
- Most Americans spend 2.5 days every year, just looking for misplaced items
- 60% of Americans are late to school or work
- 49% of Americans miss appointments or meetings
- 22% of Americans miss bus rides, trains, or flights
The results of an online poll conducted by About.com suggests that more than one-third of their readers avoid going home because of the overwhelming mess of household items. A cluttered environment is prone to make you feel less productive, highly irritable, and easily distracted.
5 Steps on How to Declutter Your Home to Create a Clutter-Free Home
Divide Your Stuff Into 3 Categories and a maybe Pile
The first step we suggest you undertake to declutter your home is separating your stuff as early in the process as possible. This helps establish what you want to keep, donate, or throw.
Anything that you keep should be something that you have used in the past 6 months and be strict with this rule. If the item under consideration has significant sentimental value that you’re absolutely heartbroken, you may put it in the maybe pile and if it isn’t used in the next 6 months, there are no second chances.
Anything that’s still in usable condition should be donated. If you wouldn’t mind still using this item, donate it! Someone else may find great use of it.
Lastly, anything that can’t be used anymore should be thrown away. Don’t reminisce about the good old times because the good ol’ times will still be there with or without your stuff! Don’t hesitate, if your first instinct is to toss it, then toss it!
You guessed it, the next step is to take that donation pile and DONATE it. If you want to make a quick buck, you can save some household items that you think will sell for the next step. Everything that you donate should be in usable and reasonable condition, please don’t donate unusable items. Here are some places you can donate to:
Have A Garage Sale
Now here’s the kicker, get rid of some things in your KEEP pile! You surely don’t need all that stuff and you’re probably only keeping that clutter because you feel guilty for spending money on it… Well, let’s make that money back, partially. It’s unreasonable to think you’d be able to get full price on certain household items but you can make some money back from unused and lightly used items. It's time to take those items out of their storage boxes and host a garage sale.
Keep your mind open! It doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional garage sale. There are tons of online shops where you can list your items and sell them. Here are some websites that allow you to sell your secondhand goods:
- Facebook Marketplace
- Craig’s List
Find Professionals to Dump Your Trash, Safely
We’re so close to being done! The most emotional step is upon us, and that’s parting ways with your clutter. You’ll need to find a way to get rid of all the stuff in your toss pile and everything left over from your garage sale.
There are two main ways that people get rid of their clutter, dumpster rental or junk removal. If you’re looking for a more affordable way to get rid of your household items and don’t mind moving the items yourself, a dumpster rental is for you.
Adjust Your Purchasing Habits
Finally, we’re done! But not really… This is an ongoing step and by far the most difficult to do but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it! In order to stay away from clutter and prevent it from happening, you’ve just got to stop getting and creating clutter. That means no buying stuff you don’t need on a whim, no buying things you can’t find, no buying stuff on sale for no reason.
Additional Tips on Decluttering Your Home From a Professional Organizer
Decluttering means decision time! Which household items do you keep and which items need to go?
Most people who are decluttering feel psychologically overwhelmed and tight on space. One great question that often helps people make swift decisions when deciding whether to keep or release an item is “what do I want more of right now?... more space? Or this household item?”
Most people are decluttering because they are starting to realize the wellness that comes from living within their special means. In other words, a lot of people are waking up to the energetically draining “cost” of having more household items that reasonably fit into their space.
It is wise to remind yourself while you are editing the household items that you are engaging in this task because you are longing for more, easy, clear surfaces and easy-to-find items.
The Best Ways To Prevent Household Clutter
There are two main rules if you want to prevent clutter, and they are quite simple. Simple enough that if you follow it, you’re 100% sure to reduce the amount of clutter you have and prevent it. The 2 rules are:
Don’t Buy Unnecessarily
If you can’t find something, or you’re not sure you need it, don’t buy something new! Around 68% of Americans make redundant or wasteful purchases. Once you’ve finished your initial decluttering session, you should be able to find everything you need. This will save you so much time looking for things but it will also help prevent household clutter. If you’ve lost something after your decluttering session and you don’t know where this item is, don’t give up until you do.
Purge Your Home Regularly
You’ll have to purge your home of unwanted stuff regularly, and the keyword is: regularly. Every time you notice something that you have no use for, get rid of it! This helps prevent clutter by clearing space for future items that you may need more. Keep in mind that 66% of Americans fail to return unnecessary household items after purchase.
Additional Advice From a Professional Organizer on How to Declutter Your Home
The stories are still there, with or without the “stuff”, and those favoured relationships and the memories of them will not disappear once you pare down your household contents.
To start winning this tug-of-war between your “stuff”... try picturing the positive. I’ve seen with my clients that it is helpful to view ourselves in the future. When thinking about downsizing to a smaller home or senior residence, think about the positives that would happen if it were to happen.
Why a Dumpster is the Best Choice for Decluttering
Recognizing the need to declutter is a big step, so congratulations on that, but what are you going to do with all that stuff you no longer need? If you can't donate it and you want to do the work yourself, renting a dumpster is your best option — even if you own a pickup truck!
When you choose a dumpster you can load a lot more trash and debris. Here's a great chart we've created that illustrates how many pickup trucks loads you can get in each one of our available Dumpster sizes. For example, in our largest 20-yard, you can fit the equivalent of 8 pickup truck loads — that's a lot of waste! It will also save you a ton of time.
Clearing Out a Two Car Garage
If you're convinced renting a dumpster is right for you, but you're not sure what size to go with, don't worry we can help with that. Consider a two-car garage loaded with junk you no longer need. For that type of project, we'd definitely recommend a 15 or even a 20-yard dumpster.
For Single Car Garages
You wouldn't need the largest Bin available if you're just clearing out a single-car garage though. In this scenario, we'd suggest a 10-yard container — maybe a 15 at the most if you really have things piled high in there.
Smaller Decluttering Jobs
When you're just cleaning up a couple of rooms in your house you should be fine with a smaller dumpster. A 10-yard should give you tons of space — that's still the equivalent of about 4 Dump runs in a pickup!
No matter what type of decluttering project you're working on we wouldn't suggest going with anything smaller than the 10-yard. It can be surprising how much junk you can actually fit in a small space. If you do end up with a bit of room left in your 10-yard rental after decluttering, have a look around your home. Chances are you'll find a few more items to fill it with!
Our Favorite Decluttering Tips For You To Use Today
- Good Housekeeping - This wonderful article has tips to help declutter your entire home from expanding kitchen cabinet storage to tossing expired products in your bathroom and by maximizing the space underneath your bed in the bedroom
- House Logic - This great resource from House Logic provides advice on how to get your home organized by only devoting one hour a day for a month
- Blurt - We discussed the effects clutter has on your mental and physical psyche and Blurt does a wonderful job detailing how decluttering lessens stress and boosts your mental health
- The Tiny Life - Follow the Tiny Life's guide to go from room to room to declutter your entire home with tips on when to throw away some of those old papers lingering around the house and how to keep your bathroom countertop clutter-free
- MyDomaine - 28 professional organizers collaborate to provide great decluttering tips like how to recognize when you need to start, how to formulate a plan and how to create 'landing stations' throughout the home
- Apartment Therapy - This article dives into how much your clutter is costing you and the questions you need to ask yourself in order to get to the root of your clutter issues
- The Life On Purpose Movement - Erica delves into the one simple idea for homeowners to install in their homes to keep clutter at bay
- Becoming Minimalist - America's favourite minimalist, Joshua Becker gets creative with these ideas, like donating one household item every day, to keep your home organized and clutter-free
Now you know where clutter issues may emanate from, how clutter impacts your psyche, and with tips from professional organizers in the field, how to create a clutter-free home.