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10 Things to Remember While Decluttering in the New Year

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for fresh starts. If you’re planning to take advantage of that new year burst of energy and motivation to tackle the clutter around your house, this guide can help. Read on for 10 essential things to remember when purging clutter — including making an exit strategy for your stuff, taking a low-pressure approach to decluttering, surviving a shopping freeze and more.

1. Remember Why You’re Doing This

Maybe you want to be able to find things easily, entertain more or simply experience your home as a more peaceful place. Or perhaps you have a move on the horizon, and you’d love to pare back before you have to pack up everything (and save some dough by downsizing the moving truck). Figure out the reason for decluttering that resonates with you, and keep that purpose top of mind as you get to work.


2. Make an Exit Strategy

One of the biggest hurdles we face when decluttering isn’t necessarily deciding what needs to go — it’s getting the stuff out of the house. Big piles of unwanted stuff are disheartening to look at: The longer they sit there, the more likely you are to give up on the whole project.

Which is why it’s a good idea to plan an exit strategy for your stuff before you start clearing clutter. Keep it simple: Find one or two places in your town where you can donate or sell used items. Write down the address and hours, and give each business a call to double-check the sorts of items they accept.

3. Big Stuff First

News flash: Getting rid of a big piece of furniture will instantly make your home feel more spacious. It will also free up space that can be used as a staging area for further decluttering. So before you get into small items like clothes or kids’ toys, see if there is anything bulky you’ve been meaning to get rid of — like furniture, bikes, sports equipment or jogging strollers. If you’re donating furniture, many charities do free pickup.

4. Save Shopping for Later

If you want to create more space in your home, it’s a good idea to hold off on shopping for new items until you’ve completed your purge. If you’re tempted by shiny new things, try putting the desired items on a wish list (or create an ideabook on Houzz) and save them for later.


5. Eyes on Your Own Clutter

A strange phenomenon can occur when you begin clearing clutter: Suddenly, your partner, child or housemate seems so much more of a clutter bug than you. This is natural and normal, and may in fact be true. Nevertheless! Nothing good ever comes from attempting to “help” others see their clutter issues. Lead by example, and hope they follow suit.

6. Start Somewhere (Anywhere!)

You know yourself best: Do you like to start with a bang, or would you do better with baby steps? There is no one-size-fits-all way to start decluttering, so go with your gut. Have tons of New Year energy? Devote an entire weekend to plowing through several rooms’ (or closets’) worth of clutter. Feeling completely overwhelmed? Start with your spice drawer.

7. Keep the Pressure Off

Marie Kondo may advise decluttering all in one go, but in my experience that’s just not how it works: Your eyeballs can’t even see all the clutter on the first pass. So instead of feeling frustrated by your inability to completely declutter your space in one try, decide from the get-go that there will be a round two. After capturing and letting go of obvious clutter on your first round, you will be primed to remove even more during round two.

8. Be Intentional About ‘Just in Case’

It’s one thing to have a thoughtfully considered, easily accessible stash of emergency supplies. It’s another thing to save random plastic spoons and worn-out blankets “just in case” of some unspecified future event. So if you discover you’re trying to talk yourself into saving something just in case, get specific: just in case of what, exactly? If it’s for your emergency kit, put it in the kit. If it’s for another clear purpose, save it in a place that makes sense. But if you find yourself scrambling to justify keeping a juicer you’ve used once, it’s probably time to let it go.


9. Love Your Stuff

You’re the boss of your stuff. So whether you crave an austere minimalist space or a bustling artistic one, how much you keep is up to you. There is no magic number of belongings; there is no objectively “perfect” way of being in your home. Does your home make you happy? If the answer is yes, you’re golden.

10. Remember There’s More to Life Than Decluttering

Once you’ve decluttered some, it’s important to move forward — not with more decluttering, but with more living. Circle back to your purpose for decluttering, and start a new practice that lets you revel in your refreshed space. If you were hoping to entertain more, put a gathering on the calendar. If you have been craving more peace, make a nightly date with your teapot and candles and freshly cleared coffee table. The best way to keep your home clutter-free is to savor what you have.

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