Easy Ways to Declutter Every Room Without Guilt

De-cluttering isn’t just time consuming. It’s emotionally stressful too. Like that kind of emotional where you end up ugly crying in a pile of memorabilia. That kind of stressful.

Are you a terrible mom for not saving those baby clothes? If you give away the pants that are too loose will it (GASP) jinx you into jumping back up a size? It was a gift–you can’t get rid of it! What if the kids ask where that toy went?

The short answer is: It’s all OK. And here’s how to get the clutter gone quickly and guilt free.

The 80/20 Rule

First, let me tell you about this nifty little thing called the 80/20 rule. Basically, we wear about 20% of the clothes that we own about 80% of the time. We play 20% of the games that we have 80% of the time.  We read 20% of the books that we own 80% of the time. You get the picture. Now how do you use that rule to change the current state of maximum clutter?


This approach is your plan of action. A a great way to keep decluttering simple. In every room, you can make these three piles and totally slay some clutter.

Inch By Inch

My parents always said, “Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. Yard by yard, it’s really hard!” There’s no better way for decluttering. Set your timer for 20 minutes and use the keep/donate/toss rule to go through a space.

You’ll be surprised how much you get done in that time. Have 20 minutes for you pick up the kids? Knock out a room (or a bad corner of a room) in that time. Keep at it for several days (or weeks) and before you know it, your whole home will feel less crowded and more cozy.

Need some tips for the really high-clutter areas? Here’s what I do in my most clutter-packed spaces.

Toy Room

Toys are like magic beans; you think you are buying just one, but you look back a week later and every room is filled with them! It is time to go through the toys and toss what you can (well… donate what you can).

Start by plucking out that 20% of the toys that you just know your kids can’t possible live without. How do you know? Here’s what I do. If I can answer yes to ALL THREE questions, then it can stay:

  1. Do the kids play with it at least twice a week?
  2. Do they clean it up and take care of it?
  3. Is it relatively easy to keep track of (no really small pieces, no missing parts)?

Now what to do with the other 80%? If you have any big money-making toys that you can consign, go for it. If you are OK with donating, go ahead and make a less fortunate kid’s day. After all, going through the process of selling things is just another To Do anyway. And those dolls without an arm? The foam dart gun without darts? That board game missing half the pieces? Let them go to the garbage.


OK, all you paper-keepers, listen up: YOU DON’T HAVE TO KEEP IT! Can it be tracked down on the computer or somehow? For example, if I used my debit card, I can see my purchase on my bank statement or the store can search and find the product that I bought using my debit card).

If the answer is yes, you don’t need to keep your copy. And yes, you could scan each transaction to make things electronic, but doesn’t that just make clutter on the computer? Do we really need one more thing to organize?

Next question. Can I transfer it to an electronic file easily? I send myself important things via email instead of printing things out, like receipts or confirmations. Then I can access it anywhere from my phone.

Can I write it down in one place and throw away the copies? When our kids bring their calendars home, I go into our playroom, where I keep the home command center, and I write it on the giant calendar. I check it to make sure that I added it correctly and then I throw it away. And man, is it a freeing feeling.


This spot can be extra tricky because there may be things out there that you can’t even identify. (Is this a plumbing tool or part of hubby’s homebrew equipment?) This kind of stuff also doesn’t fit the 20/80 rule. Of course you don’t use snow shovels 80% of the time!

So while the 20/80 rule isn’t the best for this space, the keep/toss/donate strategy is a total gem. First, make your three piles: Keep, Donate, Trash. Now go through your garage, one section at a time and put things into the piles.

Next, organize your piles. Take your trash pile and either put it into the garbage can (if it will fit) or put it in your car to take to the dump the NEXT TIME THAT YOU ARE OUT (don’t let this just sit around. It may stay too long).

Put your donate pile into your trunk to take to a charity or call a local charity to pick it up. Most are happy to!
Last, put things away where you want them, making sure to label as you go (keep it as simple as tape and a thick black marker)! Label each and every bin, especially if you have many that look that look the same. I try to mark the top and all sides because then I don’t have to worry about how I am putting it back.


Start with a clean bedroom. You can’t organize clutter, but you also can’t see a plan through a mess. Start by collecting those 20% of your clothes you always wear. Donate or toss the rest. Can you get rid of any furniture? You may not need so much now that you’ve slimmed your wardrobe.


Clear flat surfaces like the countertops, refrigerator (front, side & top) and the kitchen sink. Empty the dishwasher and put everything away. Now you can declutter. Go through each drawer, one at a time and sort: keep, donate, toss. Go through each cabinet and do the same. One at a time. It may take a few days (or weeks if you take your time), but it’s worth it!

Living Room

Start with flat surfaces, like tables or desks. Clear that clutter with the three-pile system (keep, donate, trash). Move to the desk drawers next. Found that remote from the last TV?  Throw it away like the clutter-busting boss that you are. Before you know it, you’ll look around and feel the calm of a clutter-free space.

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