How to Start Decluttering Your Life: 5 Simple Steps

How to Declutter

“It is not a daily increase, but a daily decrease. Hack away at the inessentials.”
Bruce Lee

I love decluttering.


Because a life with less clutter makes it easier to:

  • Reduce the daily stress and find inner peace.
  • Focus and to do a better job (and often do it quicker too).
  • Keep your attention steadily on what is most important and meaningful in life.

Clutter creates distraction. It can create stress and confusion that you may not be aware that it’s creating.

But after you have decluttered there is usually a sensation of feeling calmer and lighter, a bit more upbeat and being able to think more clearly.

Decluttering a drawer, shelf or some kind of space in your life can be an unexpectedly positive experience not just practically. But for you as a person both emotionally and mentally.

This is the most important reason why I declutter.

But it, of course, also frees up space. It can help you to sometimes earn a bit of extra money. It can make someone else happier by giving them something you have no use for anymore.

If you have just 5 or 10 minutes to spare today and want to take a first step to simplify your outer and inner life then I recommend uncluttering just one small space in your house.

Here’s how I declutter in five quick steps.

  1. Pick a drawer or a shelf. Empty it out and clean it out. Put everything that was in that space in one big pile.
  2. Make choices about those items, one at a time. For each item in that pile ask yourself this: have I used this in the past year? If not, then it is often pretty safe to say that you won’t be using it in the future either.
  3. Give it away or trash it? If you are not keeping it then you may want to give it to someone you know that you think could make good use of it. Or you can give it away to your local charity.  If that is the case put it in a box or bag for that purpose. And if you just want to trash it then put it then put it in a bag where you’ll collect the trash items during this brief uncluttering session.
  4. If you are keeping it, then find a home for it. It could be at one of the front corners of your drawer or to the right in the top shelf of your bookcase. Having a home for each item where you put it back each time after using it will reduce the weekly clutter in your home and you will always be able to easily find the item.
  5. If you are unsure about the item then put it in a 6-month box. Put that box away somewhere where you can easily access it – a closet for example – if you need something from it. On the outside of the box write the date when you put the stuff in it. 6 months later get the box and see what is still in it. If you haven’t used those things in the past 6 months then you have no need for them and you can safely give them away or throw them out.

And that’s it.

By taking small 5-10 minute steps when you have some time to spare you can declutter a whole lot over a few weeks.

Or that first small step may lead you to uncluttering a whole room at once. Or inspire you to take 5-10 minutes tomorrow to start decluttering your work space.

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About the Author

Henrik Edberg is the creator of the Positivity Blog and has written weekly articles here since 2006. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Gothenburg and has been featured on Lifehacker, HuffPost and Paulo Coelho’s blog. Click here to learn more…

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Elizabeth Carter

    Clutter has been in the past a real challenge for me. I have done quite a bit of work in this area but feel I need all the helpful ideas I can get. For example, I can clean and organize an area and then in a week or so I find it cluttered again. I am most interested in information in this area.
    Thank you,
    Elizabeth Carter

    • Julianah

      Hi Elizabeth,
      Sounds like clutter has a party while you aren’t looking! Maybe there is a way to break down the “problem” to make it more manageable. For example,
      1) If you address the accumulating clutter mid-week, you might be able to forestall its inevitability. Notice how it feels to tidy up a small mess.
      2) Create the mindset of not leaving projects half-done. Completing projects includes the clean-up song. Notice any feelings of resistance to being neat.
      3) If a project requires that it be left half-done, give yourself permission to have a mess for one day. Notice how it feels to be flexible.
      3) Notice when the space is clean enough, and celebrate that you’re doing better than before. Notice how it feels to be kind to yourself.
      4) Sometimes a space has stuck energy there. It may be that it’s time to do some deeper clearing of the space. Burn some sage incense. Clean the windows. Dust the corners of the room. Play some music there. Notice how it feels to energetically clean the space. Sit quietly in the space and be aware of how you feel there. What would make you feel more comfortable in the space?
      I hope this is helpful.

  • Shaima

    I would love to thank you for your great articles that had been of a great help for years..this article just came in the right time

  • Carli

    My friend, who is studying counselling, shared that they are taught to recommend decluttering to people who are depressed (any “unfinished business” is considered clutter). Since then, whenever I feel “down” or stressed, I tackle a cleaning project. It works so well!

    Thanks, such great and simple advice: simplify.

    • I know I am stressed when piles of clothes appear on top of my dresser and the laundry bin is overflowing. Just organizing these 2 areas makes my stress more manageable. I love the idea of tackling a cleaning project when feeling depressed. Lake Girl

  • Laura

    Great information on decluttering , I will begin to implement strategies.
    Thanks so much!!!

  • Joe

    I had that we don’t only declutter our physical environment. We can declutter our emotional environment too. Are there any past experience that is affecting our life that we want to consider letting go?

  • The clutter environment leads to lot of suffocation in mind and the productivity goes very low. Thank for sharing the great article

  • God knows that I need to declutter my desk as I operate in chaos, but I operate like this as I don’t want a very orderly desk lol.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Amazing Post, I really want to do follow all steps that are mentioned in the post. Thanks for sharing..!!

  • kachinga

    Works just fine :)

  • I need time to work on this, I have lot of stuff to discard!