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.

  • Anita Lehman

    What a timely reminder. As I’ve been attempting to declutter, these are good reminders that it doesn’t mean just moving things around. Out the door they go! Thanks!

  • hi! i thing the First step, is : find/set the time!
    if not, there will be something else that will make us procrastinate!

  • Cathy

    Thank you for the motivation to start! I like the idea of doing one small space at a time. This makes decluttering more manageable and less stressful.

  • Thank you, thank you for helping me.

  • Mia

    Thank you for the easy to follow. I actually did what you suggested. I tacked a corner of papers that became a frustrating pile that seemed to be never ending. But since then I still feel exhausted but that corner I will not put an item there ever again. I feel free.

  • savinder pal singh jaggi

    I agree with author,steps mentioned to de cluttering are effective,

  • charity Wessel

    Thank you -I needed to hear every word of this :)

  • roberta anthony

    40 years of holding onto memories was creating a habitat for mold… so, for 3 days I let go with an attitude of thanksgiving to all the things that brought me joy in my past. My cellar smells good, looks great and I feel a sense of accomplishment! Getting rid of clutter is liberating… on to shelves and drawers!

  • Magdalene Li

    This is really a timely piece of advice. I also have just experienced the power of decluttering.

  • Sanjay Kumar

    I became motivate with your tips…. I feel peace and getting inner power my self… I charged with knowledge.
    I want to become a good speaker and motivator about an human confidential knowledge.


  • sujji

    It helps me to identify what is truly needed ,rather than being with negative things.

  • Dwayne Wright

    You are spot on. Decluttering your surrounding and your life is very essential in living a positive life.

    • santhosh thomas

      It is really reminder to me to get organized. Great….

  • Barbara Stacey

    I love the idea of a 6 month box! I have a 30 day list for purchases, but hadn’t thought of doing that with items I’m unsure about. Thanks!

  • matheka mwanzia

    So in formative

  • I’m in the process of getting my home ready for an open house. After a month of going through a thorough decluttering process the house is so orderly. Right you are Henrik, there is a peace to having less. :-)