Become Marie Kondo With These Easy Decluttering Tips
Get stuff. Bring stuff home. Forget about stuff. Get more stuff. Bring more stuff home. Forget about new stuff.
If this cycle sounds familiar, chances are your home is ruled by clutter. Toys, clothes and bills rule the roost, and you’re probably either frantically trying to get on top of the mess or stressing about how you should be. Your family's stuff has begun to consume your life, leaving less time for your kids, your relationships and yourself.
If you feel constantly behind, stressed and fatigued, clutter may be to blame. A study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that people who had cluttered homes full of unfinished projects were more tired, depressed and had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who described their homes as “restful” and “restorative.”
In short? More stuff = more clutter = a tired, depressed, stressed-out version of you. So, how do you beat the stream of stuff trying to make it into your home? And how do you organize the things you do need? Don’t worry, we (and Marie Kondo) are here for you.
Be the Gatekeeper
If you let them, your family (especially your kids) will bring endless amounts of junk into your home. From plastic Happy Meal toys to lunch leftovers that will only rot in your fridge, everyone tends to come home with some sort of daily “treasure” that will be forgotten within hours and left to add to the clutter.
Be strict about what stuff passes the threshold into your home. Then, get your family on board.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing": “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
Notice What Makes Up the Clutter
Do you have a stack of endless artwork from your third grader? Are there 40 pairs of shoes in the entryway? Take note of what things make up the clutter in your home, then come up with a solution. It may mean you only keep one of the nine pieces of artwork your kid brings home each week or rethink purchasing new school shoes for your family.
Once you know what items typically make up the clutter in your home, you’ll be better prepared to keep those items from building up and taking up space.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “But when we really delve into the reasons for why we can’t let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.”
Give Everything a “Home”
If every regularly used item has a home, it will help you and your family stay organized. The reason your kids throw their jackets on the floor or on a nearby chair might be simpler than you think. If there’s no clear, obvious place for it to go or no hook they can reach themselves, this may seem like the simplest option.
This scenario may be a sign that each person in your family needs a designated coat hanger and cubby that is accessible to them. Once every item has a special spot, it will be easier to maintain order.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “The point in deciding specific places to keep things is to designate a spot for every thing.”
Designate an Entryway Drop-Off Zone
The entryway to a home is a notorious clutter-catch. As you walk into your house while juggling a stack of mail, your car keys, a bag of groceries and the remains of your two-day-old breakfast, you probably dump everything on a strategically placed table in the entryway and figure you’ll sort it out later.
To combat this tendency, take the time to come up with an entryway drop-off zone. A ceramic bowl is perfect for keys, loose change and your phone. Install wall pockets by the entryway door or put a large basket on the table for mail. As for the two-day-old breakfast? There’s really no excuse for that…
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “Visible mess helps distract us from the true source of the disorder.”
Gift Yourself a Junk Drawer
Even the most organized people still need a place for loose ends. Things like rubber bands and gift receipts often float around the house causing unnecessary clutter, and believe it or not, a junk drawer may be the solution.
One clutter-heavy place beats dealing with clutter throughout your home. Just keep it confined to one drawer.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “Storage experts are hoarders.”
Have a Tray for Incoming Papers
One of the biggest clutter culprits is paper. Bills, newspapers, subscriptions and holiday cards will happily take over your kitchen counter if you let them. If you have the space near your entryway, look into buying a compartment organizer.
The individual compartments will allow you to either divide things out by family member, so each person has their own mini “mailbox,” or separate things by type, which will ensure a bill doesn’t get lost among the junk mail or letters.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “I recommend you dispose of anything that does not fall into one of three categories: currently in use, needed for a limited period of time or must be kept indefinitely.”
Create a “Drop Box”
You know when you pull out a pair of jeans you haven’t worn in years and think, “Next time I do a clothing purge, I’ll get rid of these,” but then you throw them back where they’ll sit for months (if not years)? To keep your home free of things you don’t need, start a centrally located “drop box” for your family.
Whenever any of you see something that you no longer need or want, you can simply throw it in the box. This will clear up space and ensure the unwanted items aren’t forgotten during your next purge. Once the box is full, drop it by the Salvation Army or wait until you do spring cleaning and can do one, big drop-off.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”
Have a Bi-Annual Get Rid of Stuff Day
Get in the habit of throwing a bi-annual purge day when everyone in the family goes through and gets rid of clothing, toys, books and knick-knacks they no longer need, use or want. Doing this act as a family, will instill the idea that less is more and that things are not important.
It will also help you confront any emotional attachments you have to certain possessions head-on. Most people clean house in the spring and fall, but in reality, anytime is suitable for a purge. When you notice your pantry is full of uneaten, unwanted food or your bathroom cabinet is filled with lotions no one uses, it may be a sign that a purge is in order.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then, take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
Dump Out All Your Toiletries
Clutter is more than clothing, toys and mail. Chances are your bathroom cabinets are full of half-used bottles of shampoo, broken bars of soap and more tubes of barely used mascara than you’ll need in a lifetime. Get rid of what you don’t need and use the newly available space to get organized.
Then, moving forward, focus on quantity over quality. You may only spend $6 on a bottle of lotion, but after you’ve accumulated four bottles, it adds up to the cost of one high-quality product. When it comes to toiletries, going higher-end is not only good for your skin and body, but may also help you avoid the clutter that comes with cheap, readily available products.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
Rid Yourself of Toys
One of the most-common complaints mothers have is the unending accumulation of toys and the constant nagging it requires to keep them picked up and organized. Unfortunately, the playroom bulge is a war you’ll likely never win.
Allie Casazza made headlines after she purged her kids’ toys in a moment of desperation and frustration. What she gained was more time with her family and less time cleaning up. As she says on her website, “Life felt lighter, intentional, and I was no longer ‘getting through it.’”
Your family (and you) may also benefit from a regular playroom purge.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: 'Does this spark joy?' If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest, but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.”
Work on One Room at a Time
Decluttering, rethinking and reorganizing your entire home is a huge ask, we get it. Decluttering your house doesn’t need to be done over a weekend; it can be done over time, one room at a time.
Start with the room that you feel takes the most man-hours to upkeep. Then, pick one drawer or cupboard in that room. Within just 10 minutes of time, you can start to declutter the room little by little. Once you’re done with that room, start on the next.
Work on the decluttering project while you catch up with a relative on the phone or during naptime. Those tiny gaps of time add up.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “When we disperse storage of a particular item throughout the house and tidy one place at a time, we can never grasp the overall volume and therefore can never finish. To escape this negative spiral, tidy by category, not by place.”
Make Your Bed
People tend to either be bed-makers or not. But while a survey of 68,000 people by Hunch.com found that 59 percent of people don’t make their beds, the consequences may be more serious than you’d think. Making your bed actually has the power to impact your mental health.
The bed is often the landing pad for dirty PJs and unfolded laundry. Making your bed goes a long way in keeping your bedroom tidy and clutter-free. If the top sheet is the bane of your existence, or you really just don’t ever see yourself having the time to make your bed, try nixing the top sheet and using a duvet with a duvet cover instead. Rather than tucking the top sheet under the mattress, all you need to do is shake out and fluff the duvet and arrange your pillows.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “Tidying is just a tool, not the final destination. The true goal should be to establish the lifestyle you want most once your house has been put in order.”
Look for Ways to Maximize Space
If you’re in a small house or have a large family, chances are space is constantly an issue. Notice what closets, drawers and rooms are bulging at the seams and consider downsizing and getting rid of things. Once you’ve purged all you can, take a moment to consider if better storage might help solve the problem.
In the playroom, toy-specific drawers will save space and keep things organized. In the pantry, airtight labeled jars will not only streamline the space, but will keep your snacks fresher. Using containers in your pantry will also allow you to shop in bulk and reduce your use of single-use packing plastics and cardboard.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that have outlived their purpose. To get rid of what you no longer need is neither wasteful nor shameful.”
Revamp Your Closet
It’s easy to dump clean laundry, lost socks and shoes in your closet, close the door, and swear you’ll deal with it tomorrow. But this only puts your clutter and disorganization behind closed doors.
Revamp your closet and reduce your need to dump clothes on the floor by keeping your clothing staples visible and easily accessible. Pack things like formal wear and rain jackets in the back of the closet or on a high shelf. If you never seem to have enough closet space, consider packing away clothes by season. In the fall, put all your sundresses, shorts and flip-flops in a plastic bin and pull out your heavy jackets and boots. Do the opposite in the spring to prepare for summer.
Advice From Marie Kondo's Book: “Clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong. Therefore, storage should reduce the effort needed to put things away, not the effort needed to get them out.”