Whatever you hope to accomplish at home (and with so many still in WFH mode, that’s probably a lot!), the neater the surroundings, the better you’ll likely do. Indeed, an overstuffed environment can undermine productivity and negatively affect the satisfaction people might otherwise derive from their work, according to recent research at DePaul University’s College of Science and Health. If this inspires you to declutter your domicile top to bottom, the following three basic rules can help:
- Approach the project one zone (room or area) at a time and give yourself ample time. Clean as you go, but since decluttering can be dirty work when you’re done dust surfaces and sweep/vacuum/wash floors as needed.
- Strive to restore the true purpose of each space—if items don’t fit or facilitate the room’s function, remove them.
- Gift, donate, recycle, and (as a last resort) trash anything that’s outlived its usefulness. Have large bags or boxes nearby to toss stuff into.
How to Declutter Your House by Zone
Ready to declutter the house zone by zone? Read on!
Attack the Kitchen
Clutter can seriously impede efficiency in the cook space, so start there.
- Tackle countertops first: Junk mail, book bags, electronics, and everything else not food-related—gone! Store small appliances that aren’t used daily.
- With open surfaces clear, go through one cabinet/drawer at a time. Bye-bye, broken, rusted, or otherwise inadequate space-wasting pots and pans! Also purge multiples (four corkscrews? come on!), what-was-I-thinking gadgets, mismatched storage containers, threadbare dish towels, and cookbooks you haven’t consulted in eons.
- Restore order with drawer and cabinet organizers (perhaps pull-out shelving for cookware or turntables, which are especially helpful in corner cabinets).
- Because a walk-in pantry might take an entire afternoon to declutter, allow a separate day for that.
- Hit the fridge last, since it’s likely to be the messiest job.
Brave the Bathroom
Because the bath is prone to germs, mold, and mildew, the less clutter, the easier it will be to keep such icky issues at bay.
- Remove everything from the medicine cabinet. Discard expired drugs and products properly.
- Empty the vanity, then survey the contents, grouping all “like” items together. Only replace things that are in good condition and get regular use. That means chucking the curling iron that hasn’t touched your tresses in years and the scented lotion that makes your partner sneeze.
- Improve storage functionality with organizers for the shower, wall, tight spaces (like next to the toilet) and above, as well as over the door.
- In the linen closet, lose towels that are no longer absorbent or otherwise past their prime. Fold and stack the rest neatly to maximize space. Place little-used or out-of-season items on the top shelf.
- Store everything you don’t use daily, limiting “in use” items to one each (one toothbrush, one hairbrush, one soap, etc.).
- Bathroom art is nice, but not at the expense of vertical storage. Work those walls, with open shelving or a combination medicine cabinet and towel rack.
- If this is your “reading room,” corral material in a slim magazine holder that can withstand moisture.
- Yes, it’s convenient to stow cleaning supplies in the vanity cabinet, but relocating them in a handy caddy elsewhere may be safer and smarter. Maybe your bowl cleaner and your body wash shouldn’t be next-door neighbors!
Un-stuff the social zone
Whether it’s the family room, living room, or den, the spot where folks typically gather to relax and entertain can easily get clogged with each household member’s belongings.
- Establish rules to restore the room’s purpose. This is not where you do homework, exercise, pay bills, fold laundry, or attend to similar affairs—so clear out any items associated with those tasks. Of course, if you must use the social zone for these activities, stow their supplies as soon as you’re done.
- Give each family member a receptacle for their stuff; neutral-colored baskets work nicely since they won’t impose on the room’s aesthetics. Got kids? Lodge these containers on the floor or a low shelf so little ones can access them.
- Furniture pieces with storage capabilities control clutter well. A lift-top coffee table or large chest, as well as a hassock or ottoman with a roomy interior, keep a lid on things. Nesting tables provide surfaces when you need them and then stack neatly away when you don’t.
- Review and reduce your entertainment collection. Why are DVDs and CDs still in reach when everyone simply streams?
- Exile the extras. A few pretty pillows and throws add color and texture while ramping up the comfort factor, but superfluous décor accents just take up space and detract from the sense of serenity. The same goes for dust-collecting knickknacks on the mantel, coffee table books you no longer peruse, and travel souvenirs that add no aesthetic value. Dump ’em!
Restore the bedroom
Various studies have found a correlation between clutter and stress, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Don’t let your stuff mess with your slumber!
- Collect every article of clothing that’s lying around, putting everything away or in the hamper.
- Weed trashed T-shirts, single socks, embarrassing undies, and the like from all drawers (the extra room you’ll discover means there’s no excuse for leaving clothes strewn about). Streamline dresser tops, culling small items like jewelry or makeup onto a tray or dish.
- Review your nightstand, banishing non-essentials like the novel you finished reading two weeks ago.
- Add and/or subtract furniture to suit the space. For instance, it may be best to lose a bulky armoire in favor of built-in drawers and cabinets that maximize square footage. Or simply situate a chest or storage bench at the foot of the bed to contain clothing or bedding.
- Floating shelves can keep everyday items in easy reach—cosmetics, for instance, can sit on shelving located next to a dressing table.
- Build a headboard with shelves or cubbies for books, a lamp, an alarm clock, and other bed essentials. Bonus: Open shelves inspire neatness.
- If there’s a WFH desk in the bedroom, tidy it thoroughly, filing papers, stowing supplies, corralling electronics.
- Purge the closet several times a year, and make rules you can stick to. Perhaps it’s “Fill at least one donation bag” or the stylists’ standby of “Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in the last six months.” Swap out haphazard mismatched hangers with uniform replacements, like these slim, swiveling, non-slip models. This will make the closet look much more orderly and may even give you more room.
- Whoever decided that a bed belongs under an avalanche of pillows was sadly mistaken. The same goes for an overload of tchotchkes and picture frames that collect dust, disturbing allergy sufferers.