The Common Decluttering Trick That Actually Doesn’t Work


When you feel a decluttering binge coming on, you might be tempted to grab a bag or box and start filling it with things to toss or donate. That certainly is one plan of attack, and you may end up with a bulging bag of stuff that you need to get out of your house.

Which is great, of course. And if that works for you in the long term, then keep on going! But by decluttering in one marathon swoop, you may be missing out on the unique power of momentum — something which could snowball a small effort into many more decluttering stints.

The ultimate goal is a forever clutter-free space.

Why You Should Declutter a Little at a Time

A trunk full of donation bags can definitely feel inspiring at the time. But if that collection of stuff comes from different places throughout your house, the satisfaction factor is diluted once you get inside; there’s no one place you can look at and go ahhhhh.

However, if you focus your decluttering efforts in distinct areas, you’ll have a space to look at — inside your house, not a magazine or Pinterest board — that offers inspiration and a frequent nudge to do more. If you inwardly cheer every time you see your recently decluttered master closet, it’s only a matter of time before you decide to tackle the kids’ closets, the cleaning closet, the linen closet…. everything.

Another advantage to this kind of discrete, concentrated strategy is that you can fit decluttering efforts into small chunks of time and you’re not making a mess all over the house. Got 20 minutes between getting ready and your doctor’s appointment? Hit two dresser drawers. An hour on the weekend between activities? Oh yes. The linen closet.

Decluttering by category — a method Marie Kondo likes to suggest — is another variation on this technique. If you go through all your dresses at once, you have a finite section of your closet to go through and, afterwards, a purged-out place you can see that will spur you to move on to sorting through your pants, sweaters, shirts and underwear drawer.

In addition, decluttering by category allows you to asses your real situation when it comes to, say, your candle hoarding problem. Gather all your candles from around the house and you might embarrass yourself into keeping only five of your favorites. (As opposed to seeing one here, one there, and never even encountering the ones in the cabinet in the garage with the go-around-the-house-with-a-bag-to-fill approach.) In this way, decluttering by category ultimately encourages you to get rid of even more things.

Ideas for Things (and Areas) to Declutter

Here are some sections in your home or categories of items that you could declutter — areas that you will give you a space you can look at and feel good in order to really ride the wave of momentum:

  • A kitchen cabinet
  • A kitchen drawer
  • The spice shelf
  • Your pajama drawer
  • Your makeup drawer
  • Under the sink in your guest bathroom
  • The linen closet
  • All your cleaning supplies
  • Your empty plant pots
  • Bathing suits and cover-ups
  • Winter coats
  • The junk drawer
  • Your car trunk
  • Empty picture frames
  • Candles
  • To-go mugs
  • A desk drawer
  • The surface of your desk
  • Magazines
  • Your craft supplies
  • Your pens

KonMari That Junk Drawer With the Master.

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