Last Updated on March 16, 2021 by Katie Barton
A cluttered house can be such a mental drain.
Not only is it harder to find things – clutter is distracting.
It’s hard to concentrate on anything worthwhile when you feel like you *should* be doing something about the messes in your home.
Trust me; I know how you feel.
After giving birth to my last child in 2017, I dealt with a nasty bout of postpartum anxiety that lasted over eighteen months. During that time, I let my house go to crap.
While I thought lowering my expectations on the house would be better for my mental health, it ended up having the exact opposite effect. The clutter only added to my sense of overwhelm.
I finally decided to get my house back in order, and I’m so glad I did.
After going through the process, I can look back and see what things made the most significant difference the quickest.
If you’re dealing with a cluttered house, start by getting rid of these six things. Your home will feel so fresh and clutter-free afterward.
Number One Instant Boost: Get Rid of Surface Clutter
Sometimes the best way to motivate yourself is by experiencing some instant results.
This is true when it comes to losing weight…
Trying to learn a new skill…
And true when it comes to decluttering your home.
The quickest way to see results is to clear off all your flat surfaces. Each flat surface in your home should have NO MORE than three items on it.
(The only exception to the three-item rule is in the kitchen. You can leave out the things you use regularly. However, if you’re leaving appliances like a blender or air fryer out that you use only once every three months, you need to put them in a cabinet!)
If you want to motivate yourself, work on decluttering all the flat surfaces in your house. This will make your home look so much cleaner and more organized, instantly.
Paper is such a nuisance in a cluttered house and can be hard to organize if you have too much of it.
Luckily, there’s usually no need to have too much of it.
You can break down paper clutter into two parts: bills and kid’s schoolwork. Here’s how to deal with each kind.
How to Declutter Your Bills/Tax Documents
If your paper clutter is the result of bills and documents you’re keeping for taxes, let’s develop a better system.
First, it’s essential to know what you should keep.
According to the IRS, you should keep supporting business documents – receipts, invoices, asset information, etc. that are directly related to your business income and expenses.
What you don’t need to keep are your personal cable bills, phone bills, etc. You can access all of these bills online, and there is zero point in keeping them. All they’re doing is cluttering up your home.
(In fact, it’s a good idea to switch to paperless billing anytime you can.)
Once you’ve sorted out what to keep and what to shred and recycle, it’s time to come up with a system.
Find a folder or box where you can immediately place all of the paper documents you need to keep. Whenever you bring a document, you need to file it into your home, put it into your system.
Whenever you pay a personal bill, immediately shred/throw out the paper bill. You don’t need it.
How to Declutter Kid’s Schoolwork
I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: The amount of papers kids bring home from school is ridiculous.
So. much. paper.
Years ago, when my kids first started school, I felt guilty about getting rid of anything. Everything they did seemed so special, and the last thing I wanted to do was hurt their feelings.
But the papers quickly overtook the shelf I kept them on.
And so, eventually, I had to face the gigantic stack I was holding on to and come up with a better system.
Here’s what we do now:
I have a few binders for the elementary years, and I place my kid’s most special papers in them. My two oldest daughters share a binder, and I try to get 1-2 years of school in each binder.
I hang some of my favorite artwork they’ve completed at school in the basement playroom.
The good (and kind of sad) news is that once your kids get past third grade, there’s not a whole lot of papers worth hanging onto anymore.
If you have small kids, I’m sure you’re familiar with toy excess.
It seems like no matter the rules you set, toys still seem to accumulate and take over.
And it can be hard to determine what to get rid of – especially if you’re afraid of hurting a family member’s feelings who bought your kids the toys.
But, again, your mental health is more important than holding onto inanimate objects.
While you’ll need to come up with your own guidelines, here’s how I like to get rid of toys:
- If it’s broken, it’s thrown away.
- If it has a bunch of little pieces my kids don’t pick up, it’s thrown away.
- If it hasn’t been played with in more than six months, it’s given away.
After making those decisions (which are mine and mine alone), I get my kids involved. I currently only have one child who plays with toys, so she’s the decision-maker.
You can watch my TikTok below on how we store toys in the living room.
Small Kitchen Appliances You Never Use
I’m really exposing myself here, but I hope you can relate.
A few months ago, I started working out with a personal trainer. She had me watching documentaries on juicing, and lo and behold; I bought a juicer.
I used it three times.
Then it sat on my counter. I intended to use it a bunch, but in reality, it was a lot of work and a lot of cleanup – more than I’m willing to do right now.
And so, I’ve decided to gift it to my friend who will use it.
Admitting that I shouldn’t have purchased it and giving it away is hard to do. But, it’s also the right thing to do.
This is one reason decluttering can be so hard – we’re forced to admit that we made terrible purchases, and it can feel like “wasted” money.
I get it.
And small kitchen appliances seem to be an area where it’s easy to purchase things you don’t end up loving or needing.
Do yourself a favor – go through those appliances and gift the ones you never use. Free up the cabinet and counter space, and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Clothes More than 2 Sizes Too Big or Small
We’re probably all guilty of it – I know I certainly am – keeping jeans that are 2-3 sizes too small, thinking I’ll get back into them one day.
Are you guilty too?
Here’s the thing – maybe we will be that size one day again. But if we are, will we even want to wear those same clothes? Probably not.
Women’s bodies can fluctuate a lot – especially for those of us in the baby-making years. That’s why I don’t think you need to get rid of *ALL* clothes that don’t fit.
However, keeping clothing that is two sizes too small or too big is as far as you should take it.
Anything outside of those parameters isn’t worth keeping.
Excess Home Decor/Knick Knacks
I love home decor.
But I also love an uncluttered look…which takes a delicate balance.
If you want to declutter and go for a streamlined look, but you have knick-knacks everywhere, it may be time to get rid of the ones you only “kind of” like.
This is a super beneficial process.
Going through your home decor pieces and little knick-knacks can help you see where you’re making purchasing mistakes.
Maybe you go after quantity over quality.
Maybe you buy too many seasonal items.
Or, perhaps, may you’re buying just to buy.
Make a pile of all the home decor items that no longer fit your style and that you don’t want. Take a mental note of what drew you to purchase the item in the first place so you can avoid repeating your mistake.
Get Your Cluttered House Under Control
Getting your cluttered house under control is a long yet super-rewarding process.
Start by getting rid of surface clutter for an instant boost of motivation. After that, begin working through the other items on the list.
You’ll be surprised at how much progress you can by tackling only a few categories of belongings in your home.
Katie Barton is the owner of Cabin Lane. She's also a home improvement writer for Bob Vila and Homedit. Her cleaning and organizing advice has been featured on Realtor.com, Yahoo News, GoBankingRates, and more. In her spare time, you can find her with a paintbrush in hand, searching for her next project.