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25 Tips for Tackling Your Toughest Clutter

A woman organizes a closet.
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to clutter, there’s the regular kind and the tough kind you dread dealing with. So, you put it off until it’s a mountain that seems impossible to climb. Need some help cutting through the mess? These smart tips can set you off on the right path!

There are a few areas of the home that tend to attract the most clutter. Whether you’re struggling to organize your day-to-day items or those sentimental pieces you can’t bear to part with, decluttering can be a real challenge. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help you decide what to get rid of and what to keep.

Kitchen Clutter

The kitchen is one of the most-used rooms in the home, so it’s no surprise it also tends to collect the most clutter. That’s also why keeping it clean is incredibly important.

Try these easy tips to maintain a warm, welcoming, and usable kitchen:

  • Sort pantry items so the furthest expiration dates are in the back: This way, you’ll automatically use them up in the order of their expiration and avoid food waste.
  • Sort your dishware: Pull out all those cups, mugs, plates, and bowls. Place items that go together in the same area, so you can see where you have duplicates. Then, you can donate anything you don’t need. (Does anyone really need three mugs featuring the same college logo?)

Mingfanity Plate Holders Organizer

Keep your dishware organized once it's decluttered.

  • Unbox dry ingredients: Consider putting dry ingredients, like pasta, flour, sugar, coffee, and so on, in uniform or coordinating clear containers. This visual streamlining also helps keep your food organized and easy to grab.

  • Store small appliances in a cupboard: Give the toaster, blender, and can opener a permanent home in a cabinet, rather than taking up precious space on the counter.
  • Get rid of the knife block: Instead, invest in some reliable blade covers and store your knives in a drawer.

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Keep those counters clear.

Sentimental Clutter

Someone writing a date under a wedding picture in a scrapbook.

Clutter that has emotional significance is the hardest to get rid of by far. To keep a cleaner home with more free space, though, you’ve got to make some tough decisions.

Not everything that seems sentimental actually is a great representation of your memories. Try these tips when clearing out mementos:

  • Save only a few key items: Choose those that represent an event, rather than every scrap of memorabilia.
  • Take pictures of anything you’re getting rid of: This way you can keep the memories, but not the junk. You can take this a step further and create a scrapbook filled with pictures and other memorabilia, like postcards and letters, that you decide to keep.

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Sentimental and organizational? Yes, please.

  • Thank each item: A key component of the KonMari method is to thank each item for its role in your life before you get rid of it.
  • Repurpose some items: If you’re creative or crafty, try turning some of your old items into something you’ll actually use. For example, you might turn a bunch of old T-shirts into a quilt.
  • Pass them down to someone who could use them: Before you throw anything out, see if anyone else could use them, especially if they’re heirlooms.

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What you do decide to keep can be stored in a memory box.

Bedroom Clutter

A woman folding sweaters on a bed.
Irina Lev/Shutterstock.com

It’s easy to allow the “I’ll deal with it later” clutter to migrate to the bedroom. After all, between closets and dressers and space under the bed, there are tons of places where clutter can hide in there. And once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind—until you need that space for something else.

To keep where you sleep relaxing and welcoming, organize it with these easy tips:

  • Easy closet purge: Hang all the clothes in your closet backward (that is, with the hanger facing outward). After you’ve worn an item, hang it up the regular way. After six or 12 months, donate or sell everything that’s still hanging backward.

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  • Use space-saving folding techniques: These are especially helpful with things sweaters, socks, and T-shirts.
  • Store out-of-season clothing: You can fold these and store them in airtight containers under your bed until it’s time to pull them out again.

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It's an easy way to save space.

  • Invest in furniture with storage: A bench that opens at the end of your bed or nightstands with some shelves and/or drawers can go a long way when it comes to adding extra storage space.
  • Develop an organization system: Whether it’s by season material, or color, when you have a system that works for you, you’ll always be able to find exactly what you’re looking for.

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Paper Clutter

Someone shredding a piece of paper.
Amazon Basics

Everyone has that one file or drawer, filled with mismatched or creased scraps of paper. Is there something important in there? Is it all just junk? These tips can help you figure it all out:

  • Sort through it: If you find anything important, file it away.
  • Use the box test: To overcome that urge to procrastinate your paper junk drawer, put everything in a box and label it with the date. After a predetermined amount of time (six to 12 months), toss anything that’s still in there you haven’t used.

ABC life Accordian File Organizer

Keep that paperwork organized and easy to access.

  • Check the box often: Sort it weekly or monthly, and then file, toss, or shred as necessary. This way, you won’t have a huge stack at the end of your six or 12-month time limit.
  • Get a paper shredder: It’s wise to shred anything with personal or identifying info, like your name, address, date of birth, or social security number. This prevents thieves from finding it if they go through your trash.
  • Go paperless: Consider paying your bills and viewing all bank statements online. If all that paper never even comes to the house, it can’t become clutter.

Bathroom Clutter

A bathroom caddy sitting on a bathroom sink.

While most of us clean the bathroom on a pretty regular basis, there are still some areas in there that can easily become cluttered, like the medicine cabinet or the area under the sink.

These tips can help you tackle these dreaded bathroom clutter magnets:

  • Pull everything out: Try sorting things into categories, like makeup, shampoo, first aid, and so on.
  • Toss or properly dispose of any expired items: Ordinary expired cosmetics can go in the regular trash, but be sure to check in your area to find out if there’s a medicine disposal program. Never flush leftover medications.

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Don't let your sink become cluttered again.

  • Toss any dupes: If you have a ton of the same (or similar) items, ask yourself if you really need that much. Will you really be able to use four bottles of nearly identical red nail polish before they go bad? Have you ever actually used that novelty towel or that super-specific makeup brush?
  • Clear your countertops: If anything must stay out, pick up a few organizational caddies to keep everything tidy.
  • Look for other ways to save space: If you can, take things out of bulky boxes and/or put them in smaller containers.

If you’re ready to declutter and refresh your home, these tips will help you get started. Before you know it, you’ll have reclaimed a ton of space! The trick is to avoid just filling it up again—but one step at a time.

Amanda Prahl Amanda Prahl
Amanda Prahl is a freelance contributor to LifeSavvy. She has an MFA in dramatic writing, a BA in literature, and is a former faculty associate focusing on writing craft and history. Her articles have appeared on HowlRound, Slate, Bustle, BroadwayWorld, and ThoughtCo, among others. Read Full Bio »
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