There are so many ways to declutter that choosing one can seem daunting, but don’t let that dissuade you from your mission. Just by reading this you have already acknowledged that you have too much stuff. Part of the fear of getting organized is the idea of turning your entire house upside down and figuring out the first place to start.

That is why decluttering methods are helpful. They break up the daunting task into more manageable steps, instead of haphazardly tossing things into a donation pile. Once you settle on a decluttering process that works for you, then you’ll be just a few steps away from living a clutter-free life with less stuff in the way. Here, we cut through the clutter (sorry!) to give you the low-down on four decluttering methods that might work for you.

KonMari Method (Marie Kondo method)

What it is:

We’ll start with her because she’s part of the “decluttering” zeitgeist. Chances are good you’re familiar with her method, detailed in her book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up“, and her new Netflix show.

Essentially, the KonMari Method proposes that all your belongings should bring you joy. She advocates tidying by category. For example, all your shoes, no matter where they’re located. Then papers, drawn from the kitchen, office, and so on. As you go through them, you’ll decide if they “spark joy.” In other words, if you still find them necessary. Otherwise, get rid of them and you will “thank them for their service.” Goodbye, green dress that makes me feel fat.

Why it works:

Most of us have too many of the same thing….too many recipe books that we don’t use because, well, the internet. Too many black T-shirts that aren’t all great. Too many pairs of running shoes, some of which are past their prime. By collecting all these things into one pile, it’s obvious which items need to go. That’s how I pared down my own personal recipe book collection. Most of the black T-shirts? Truly only one of them sparks joy. Buh-bye others!

Why it might not:

The concept of “Is it necessary?” stops most chronically disorganized people in their tracks because many people see enormous possibilities in things Kondo would probably consider useless, says Katherine Trezise, Certified Professional Organizer and president of Absolutely Organized, LLC in Atlanta.

“Creative people, such as scrapbookers and artists, balk at the idea of letting go of things they could possible use in their work, as do people who like to repair things and are sure an old, dusty part stored in the garage or basement might come in handy,” Trezise says.

Furthermore, if your house is extremely cluttered, sorting by category rather than room can be challenging.


What it is:

If Marie Kondo is ruthless, “FlyLady” (AKA Marla Cilley) is nurturing. As the website says, “Your home did not get dirty in one day, and it will not get clean in a day, either.” She believes in “BabySteps,” where you establish daily routines throughout an entire month.

They start with shining your sink and getting dressed each morning and include laundry and meals, so you feel like you gain control over daily tasks. As you get more into it, you will tackle the “five zones” that she has for your house, paying special attention to “hot spots” where stuff accumulates.

 Why it works:

I dare you to clean your sink (do your counters too) and not instantly feel better. You likely won’t be surprised to find that clutter has been shown to actually cause stress, and a clean sink and counters can do wonders for your mindset if you start the day that way. The systematic method worked well for me to maintain on an ongoing basis and paying attention to my personal “hot spots” (table in the kitchen, drawers in the entry) helped me keep those clear.

Why it might not:

I’ll just say it: The website is ugly, very Web 1.0, and the jargon is kitschy (“27 Fling Boogy”), so that can be off-putting. Also, much of it is suited to a stay-at-home clientele with the way the routines are set out. However, that might make it perfect for you! I found it easiest to pick and choose the parts of the method that worked for me, including focusing on my zones and hot spots, and ignore her advice to “start my side dishes” and “take a few minutes to relax” in the afternoon.

Four Boxes

What it is:

This method, process really, goes by lots of different names, and what varies is what you call the “boxes.” Basically it’s a great tool for organization that urges you to make quick decisions. Choose for yourself what to call the boxes, such as “Trash Box,” “Recycle Box,” “Donate Box,” and “Move Box,” for things that should be relocated elsewhere in the house or moved to storage.

Why it works:

Using boxes helps you stay focused. Otherwise, you’ll have a tendency to interrupt yourself by putting things away immediately; for example, you find the living room TV remote in the bedroom and mosey away to return it. No, says Lauren Williams, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of Casual Uncluttering LLC in the Seattle area.

“When people leave the task at hand, they are apt to get distracted and never get back to the room they are focusing on,” Williams says.

That’s why she is a fan of the “Move Box” that separates those items so you can allocate the final 30 minutes to rehoming.

Trezise says the process will be easier if you establish criteria for why things are relegated to a certain box. For example, criteria for the “Give Away/Sell Box” for clothing might be:

  • I don’t like it
  • It doesn’t fit
  • I haven’t worn it recently
  • I have similar items I like better.

These clear-cut guidelines can help you decide what makes the grade.

Why it might not work:

Decision-making can be very hard for chronically disorganized people, says Trezise. She recommends her clients do some “headwork” before they start de-cluttering to be clear on exactly why they are going to all this trouble and what the payoff will be. It’s easier to decide to get rid of outdated dresses when you picture an organized closet as your goal.

The Minimalist Game

What it is:

Decluttering as a game sounds appealing, doesn’t it? That’s the theory behind this relatively new “method, The Minimalist Game. At the beginning of the month, get rid of one item on the 1st, two on the 2nd, three on the 3rd, etc. or go big at the beginning and get rid of 30 items on the 1st, 29 on the 2nd, etc.

Why it works:

Teaming up with friends or family members makes the game a lot more fun, says Certified Financial Coach Liz Carroll, who led a challenge in November with her clients. She is planning to downsize shortly and remembers the weight of going through household items when cleaning out her own parents’ home. You can also find an online community at #MinsGame which doubles as an awesome place to find inspo for what to tackle next.

Why it might not:

One at a time is no biggie…but 30? And right after you’ve done 29? Some days you are bound to get stumped (It’s 465 items in all…we did the math so you don’t have to.) For a quick haul, Carroll recommends tackling those plastic food containers with missing lids or cleaning out under the bathroom sink where you can find multiple items in minutes.

Cathie Ericson

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