Creating a Life Free From Chaos

The 5-Step Guide to Decluttering Any Room

I know we all have that one room (or, ahem, multiple rooms), that seriously bug us. It’s probably full of clutter, random stuff we don’t know what to do with, piles of junk we do know what to do with but we just haven’t gotten around to it yet. I know, I’ve been there. I’m there right now, actually. For literally years, that has been my office. Years.

I tried to say it wasn’t my fault the office is like that. My husband and I share the room after all. And he has contributed a lot to the hurricane of horrors going on in here…but if you look closely, a huge chunk of it is either mine or kid-related (which means it’s mine to deal with, you know what I mean, fellow moms!) My little desk corner is clean and organized, but pan the camera out and it’s a travesty of epic proportions.


So how do you approach a room like that? It’s so easy to stand in the doorway feeling overwhelmed, and then just give up and go watch Netflix instead. But today I want to share with you five simple steps to declutter any room, whether it’s just a little messy or seriously crazy chaotic.

  1. Determine your vision and make a plan. Before you do anything else at all, take a few minutes to visualize what you want the room to look like when you’re finished. Write it down, and be specific. Here is my vision for my office — I want a clear desk with only my computer and a spot for my coffee cup. I want my craft supplies housed on just this bookshelf, no overflow on the table. I want that chair cleared off with a side table for a book so I can read there. I want my Doctor Who collection on this shelf. I want the work table completely clear so the kids can do crafts there while I work at my desk. Goals such as “I want the room clutter-free” or “I want this clean” are just too vague. You need a plan, a map of where you’re going, so you can stay focused while you’re up to your elbows in outgrown kid clothes and 10-year-old scrapbook paper.
  2. Gather a few tools. You only really need three things to get started. Trash bags for garbage, a large box for collecting discards, and a laundry basket for items that don’t belong in the room that need to be taken back to where they should be.
  3. Sort into categories. Quickly go through the room and sort items into like piles. Clothes in one pile, books in another, craft supplies, papers, CDs, toys, and whatever other categories fit the room you’re working on. Don’t try to make decisions yet — just gather all the items in each category together so you can see what you have. If items don’t belong in the room, chuck them in the laundry basket so they can be taken back to their proper locations. Garbage needs to go into trash bags, pronto.
  4. Discard the excess. Now that items are in categories, it’s time to get to the actual business of decluttering. One category at a time, go through each item in the pile and ask yourself “Do I use this? Do I need this? Does it bring me joy?” If you can’t answer a solid yes to any of those questions, it’s got to go. Don’t hold on to things out of guilt, because they were gifts, because they were expensive, or because you might need them someday. If you can’t answer an enthusiastic yes to those questions, it must go.
  5. Give every item a home. Don’t try to put things away until you’re done discarding. You can’t know how to organize your books if you don’t know how many books you’re keeping, right? As you finish each category, assign each item a home of its own. If an item has a specific spot where it goes when not in use, then there is no question when it’s time to clean up where to put it. It has a home, that’s where you put it. Without a home, the item is destined to be on the craft table you wanted to keep clear for your kids, or on the kitchen table where your family should be eating dinner together, or heaven forbid, back in a pile on the floor. Set yourself up for continued success by giving each item a place for it to belong.

In the comments, tell me: what room are you going to declutter this week? Share your befores, afters, even in-progresses on Instagram or Twitter to @modernsimplicty using the hashtag #5stepdeclutter

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7 Replies

  1. Our office is the one room in the house that goes untouched. It’s currently so unorganized that I have made my bed and a chair in my bedroom my office. Thanks for these tips. I may now be brave enough to tackle the room.

  2. My bedroom has everything in it that won’t fit somewhere else. I’m starting today to decide what to keep and what to remove. Wicker trunk, a lamp, the last of my giraffe collection. FREEING! Thank you.

    1. Love this! Way to go Beverly!

  3. Yes, I think that you are right. I also believe that it is important that you have a plan before you make any move to declutter your room. I also think having plans will be very helpful because you’ll be able to do it faster and you’ll know what you want it to look like at the end of the process. Thanks for sharing this article.

  4. Summer

    I knew you know what I’m talking about when you said “elbows-deep in outgrown kids clothes and 10-year-old scrapbook paper !” Yep I’m there .

    1. Summer

      And thank you exceedingly much for this real and insightful perspective and great inspirational prompting .

  5. Jen

    We downsized our home almost 5 yrs ago to 1/3 the space we used to live in as a way to be financially free and live a minimalist lifestyle. Having said that, it has been more challenging than I expected to organize and declutter. There’s unpacked boxes of things that used to have a place in our old home. It’s overwhelming! I have donated quite a few things, mind you, but there are still a lot more. What would you suggest as a staring point!

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