6 Steps to Declutter Anything

Staying on top of the clutter, not the other way around. 

As moms we have become pretty good at the discard game. We’re finding a new home for the toys our kiddos no longer play with, the books they no longer read; and the clothes they have either outgrown, or just refuse to wear. Then of course there’s the never-ending task of changing their warm wardrobe out for cold weather, and vice-versa, every time the change in season hits. 

I found the systematic approach I needed for decluttering a few years ago thanks to renowned tidying expert and author, Marie Kondo. Her #1 New York Times Bestseller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing reveals the KonMari Method™️, a method “to help you never revert to clutter again” through “one-of-a-kind selection criterion —  if something brings you joy, keep it!”

If it doesn’t spark joy, then it’s time to discard. And discard doesn’t necessarily mean, throw away. It could mean donate or recycle into something else (like a quilt made out of all those tee-shirts your little one would always wear, and you still just can’t part with).

The good news is that you don’t necessarily have to read Marie Kondo’s book (although I do highly recommend it), or even binge her Netflix series to take on the art of decluttering because I’ve summarized the KonMari method into 6 simple steps. 

6 Steps to Declutter Anything 

    1. Define your target. It could be a dresser drawer, or just a corner of your bedroom that seems to possess a magnetic pull for the most odd-ended items. Just don’t start with the “front closet” because if it’s anything like my household’s, it’s a communal catchall for the most random of things, and not just your items but everyone’s!   
    2. Approach the subject. Yes, this is a step. You must be in the right mindset to take this challenge on. Be sure you have eaten and consumed caffeine before embarking on this journey. This is not going to be a quick, little task. It’s going to be an all-in effort because here’s what happens next…
    3. Empty it, ENTIRELY. Every single little thing. If you want to be super thorough you could use this as an opportunity to do some deep cleaning because let’s face it, when’s the next time you’re going to see the bottom of this drawer? You are not going to be done until every item is either placed back in said closet or drawer OR has found a new home.
    4. Make piles. They could have names like Goodwill, Trash or, I-Just-Can’t-Even-Right-Now. If it helps keep your anxiety in check, write out the names for each so you don’t have to decipher which is which based on the contents of each pile alone. You are now in the thick of it, you have categories for all this stuff – Progress!
    5. Sort. Pick up one item at a time and decide which pile it goes into. Ask yourself as Marie Kondo would, “Does this item spark joy?” And if this is way beyond the level of cheesiness, you’re able to exceed, try something along the lines of: “Will my older child actually use this next year?” or, “Will I really wear this next summer?” The answer will help determine which pile each item belongs in. And know, that it’s okay to throw it in the Goodwill pile and have a change of heart once it comes time to drop it off.
    6. Relocate. This is where your follow-through is key, don’t you dare walk away now! Bag up the items to donate, the hand-me-downs for your sister, and the remaining items in the I-Still-Just-Can’t-Right-Now. Label them. The last thing we want is for these items to be recycled right back into another blackhole of your house somewhere. Put the Goodwill bag in your car right away so the next time you drive by you can just drop it off.

Your reward for making it this far is being able to put all the items that get to stay for a little while longer, back into your drawer. It’s like a whole new space! You can actually see what you have, and you’ll (hopefully) have a renewed energy for keeping them tidy.

My final piece of advice before you get started, is to carve out enough time to tackle the area you’re focusing on. The satisfaction you gain from accomplishing these small, yet realistic goals will be all the motivation you need to keep decluttering, one drawer, closet, or corner at a time.  

Starting Young

While us mamas typically like to take on projects like these when we get “time to ourselves,” I believe there is a value in demonstrating how this is done for our littles, and there’s no time like the present to develop the habit.

We make it a team effort in our house by cleaning out the drawer each of my boys have in the kitchen for all their papers that come home from school; but that usually get filled with everything but papers from school. After we filter out all the Pokémon cards (insert meditative sigh), we sort by what they’d like to keep, and what we can do without. And sometimes we “take a picture with our minds because, we can’t keep everything.”

I’d love to hear from other parents — what tips or tricks do you have for keeping the clutter at bay? 

Katie, aka. "Felix and Gabe's Mom," was born and raised in the small town of Milton, Wis. She graduated from UW-Milwaukee, although spent most of her semesters studying and working abroad. Katie thrives on freshly squeezed orange juice, 80's jams, and all the uninterrupted, adult conversations she can fit in before the playdate is over.

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