The 5 Rules That Will Help You Declutter Anything, Anytime, Anywhere in Your Home

published Oct 8, 2020
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Credit: Liz Calka

Decluttering is a mental exercise more than a physical one, if you ask me. Taking a random charging cable out of your junk drawer and placing it into a donation box isn’t a big challenge for many people. But getting over your mental roadblocks is tougher: After all: What if you need that cable?

The solution is becoming a ruthless, confident declutterer. And that transformation starts with a solid set of rules. Which brings us to this tip.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

Tip: Learn our five decluttering rules, then use them on a drawer.

I’ve put these five questions through the wringer, in my own home and the homes of friends and Apartment Therapy readers. These rules quiet all sorts of what-if and just-in-case excuses, leaving you with no choice but to make decisions that serve you and your home in equal measure. And to prove it to you, we’ll declutter one small drawer together today.

Decluttering Tip: When you’re decluttering, ask yourself five questions: Have I used it in the past year? Will I use it in the year ahead? Would I buy this again today? Is it worth fixing if it’s broken? Would I keep this if I moved? If you answered “no” to every question, get rid of it.

  1. Have I used this item in the past year? This one’s easy. Try to remember a time when you used the thing you’re weighing on. If it hasn’t been used, worn, or appreciated since last fall, let it go.
  2. Will I use it in the year ahead? Try to resist any thoughts about how you “might” use it, and find something more concrete: Will you use it? If you don’t have a real need or plan to do something with it, the answer is “no”.
  3. Would I buy this again today? Does it work? Does it fit? Do you have another thing that does the same job? Do you even like it anymore? Try to be present and mindful about your current tastes, habits, and priorities.
  4. Is it worth fixing, if it’s broken? Consider whether you would use the broken item if it were in good shape (see question number 3 above). And weigh the cost of fixing the thing against the cost of replacing it. And will you actually get it done? Soon?
  5. Would I keep this if I moved? Would it be worth packing up, moving, and unpacking in a new space? We tend to be a little more ruthless and honest with ourselves about what stays and what goes when we’re moving from one home to another.

If you answer “yes” to any question (even the first question), that item is an automatic keeper. But if you can run through all five questions and have to honestly say “no” to every one, that item needs to go into the donate or sell boxes you set up on day one.

Now that you know the rules, your assignment today is to use them to declutter one tiny spot at home. Choose a drawer in your kitchen, a bin under the bed, or a cabinet in the bathroom. Take everything out and put each item through the five-question assessment. Keepers go back in the drawer, bin, or cabinet, and the tossers go into your boxes.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: These 5 Rules Will Help You Declutter Anything, Anytime, Anywhere in Your Home