5 Baby Steps for Successful Decluttering That Don’t Require a Huge Time Commitment

IN THIS POST: It’s time to get super-specific about exactly which declutter steps will help you the most when you’re overwhelmed by the mess in your home. Distilled down from some of my favorite declutter tips, this post will help you find the confidence to begin successfully clearing the clutter today!

plants in silver and white vases on dresser against white wall with text overlay perfect beginner steps to help you declutter

Are you afraid of beginning the decluttering process because you think it will take too long? Or that you’ll never finish?

I get it. Taking on a big project/commitment can be a pretty scary thing, especially if you’ve never been able to succeed in the past.

Here’s the thing… your past does not have to define your future!

That’s right… YOU can make the decision to DO THIS THING. And you CAN succeed!

I know, because I’ve done it after years of failure. Once I figured out a simple, repeatable way to declutter, everything sort of clicked.

Which means I know YOU CAN DO THIS.

Here’s how…

Try these 5 simple baby steps to declutter your space easily and quickly! #declutteringtips #organizedhome Click To Tweet

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Your Key to Success: Declutter Steps

I love using step-by-step systems for pretty much everything. I make lists with little checkboxes, figure out what should come first, and add a gajillion things. (I call it engineering brain — honestly not always a good thing. LOL)

Then I’ll go through the process a few times, find out I have way too many steps, and finally pare it down to something manageable.

So here is the ‘pared down and manageable’ version of exactly what you need to do when you begin to declutter your home. Because when you really WANT to declutter, but you’re SORT OF AFRAID and overwhelmed at the same time, you need simple steps that will help you get down to business!

white couch in clutter-free living room with windows and white curtains

5 Baby Steps for Decluttering

1. STOP BUYING/ACQUIRING STUFF. This seems obvious, but it really is the first step. Stop shopping for recreation. Stop accepting everything people give you because they ‘think you might need it’ (although in reality they just don’t know what to do with it). Stop browsing eBay, Amazon, and the local sale groups on Facebook. Only search for and buy something if you ACTUALLY need it. This doesn’t mean you need to do a spending freeze, but it’s likely you’ll reap many of the same benefits by having more money in your bank account.

2. FIND YOUR MOTIVATION/SET A LIFE GOAL. Make this a compelling goal that is directly related to removing clutter. Perhaps you want to create a space for crafting. Or maybe you want to host more gatherings with friends and family. Of possibly you want the option to downsize your home and move to a new location. Whatever you want, you CAN have. Decluttering will help get you there.

3. DETERMINE WHERE TO BEGIN. This should be the space that bothers you the most or will make the biggest positive difference in your life. I recommend smaller areas (i.e., one shelving unit, one section of cabinets, one closet, etc.) instead of full rooms. A large room full of stuff can be too overwhelming, but one space is always do-able. If you can’t think of where to start, here’s exactly where I recommend beginning to declutter.

4. DECLUTTER EVERY DAY. Use the 10/10 rule — 10 items or 10 minutes. Start with the easy things… trash, broken items, etc.

5. REMOVE THE CLUTTER IMMEDIATELY. When you’re overwhelmed, you have to get to a certain point of clarity of physical and mental space before considering different options for clutter disposal. At first, your goal is to simply get it out of your house by whatever means necessary. If that means you can only see in front of you enough to toss everything into black trash bags and wave to the trash guy in gratitude as he hauls the stuff away, then you won’t hear a word of judgement from me. Once you can handle it, I always recommend donation whenever it’s feasible. Also, the last thing you need to take on is trying to sell your clutter, so just don’t even go there unless you have someone who can take on the ‘heavy lifting’ of storing and selling whatever may be worth the effort.

Do this consistently, and you’ll see great results very quickly!

Don’t give up! It’s only 10 minutes or 10 items at a time. You can do this!

decorations to be decluttered - elephant statue, planter, basket with pillow and books against white wall

Frequently Asked Decluttering Questions:

What about sentimental clutter?

Will these baby steps work for decluttering sentimental items even if right now you can’t let go?

Yes, but it will be more difficult. You will have to be very truthful with yourself and honestly answer these questions:

“Do I truly love this item? Or am I holding it because I feel obligated to take care of it?”

You are not a caretaker. Just because your grandmother adored something once upon a time does not mean it’s your responsibility to keep it forever.

Allow yourself one pretty storage bin per family member for sentimental items. I’m not talking about a giant bin that takes two people to lift. Use one that is 18-gallon or smaller, whatever size you can easily handle and store in a closet or on a shelf.

Likewise, it’s understandable that you want to keep memorabilia from a beloved lifelong career. For these things, create a limited collection and set boundaries that work for you and the people with whom you share living space.

How do I handle other people’s clutter?

Unless you have their permission, you shouldn’t handle it at all.

If you run across a few random things here and there, simply toss them into a storage bin. Place the bin in their personal space and let them deal with the stuff.

If you’ve decluttered your own things and then discover their clutter is the actual problem and filling the space in your home, you have a couple of options:

1. Offer to declutter WITH them using the baby steps in this post. Perhaps they are just as overwhelmed as you were before you began decluttering.

2. If that doesn’t work, you may need to stage an intervention

One thing you absolutely must do is respect their wishes about who has the final say on getting rid of their things.

plants in vases next to mirror on dresser in clutter-free white bedroom

More Helpful Information for Decluttering

Stop Being a Victim of Clutter [Mindset Transformation] – Filling the Jars

9 Awesome Ways Your Life Will Become Simpler When You Declutter – Filling the Jars

Pro Organizer Tips: What NOT To Do When Decluttering Your Home – ApartmentTherapy

Where to Donate Your Stuff After Decluttering – Filling the Jars

Supplies for Easier Decluttering

Storage bins — If you don’t have enough extra bins (with lids!), check out these clear teal bins or these heavy-duty solid-color bins.

Heavy-duty wire shelf – Unless you go uber-minimalist, you’ll always need at least some storage. I love this type of shelf, and adding heavy-duty rubber wheels makes it super easy to move for cleaning.

Trash bags — Always black. I prefer the flex variety in either 13-gallon or 33-gallon size.

Thick paper or printable sticker paper to label bins, etc.

Markers for labeling — These thick, chisel-tip markers will make your words easy to read.

Empty boxes for donations — If you can’t find what you need from stores or friends, these cardboard moving boxes would work for holding donation items.

Tape — Clear, wide tape on a dispenser always comes in handy when decluttering.

Gloves because clutter can be unexpectedly messy.

For quick cleaning after the decluttering, I love this wood floor cleaner and multi-surface cleaner. I use these two products every day.

Quick-Start checklists and additional printables from Your Successful Decluttering Field Guide.

Next Steps:

Now that you know the baby declutter steps that will help you become successful at decluttering, it’s time to get to work!

Don’t let this be just one more motivational post you read… instead, TAKE ACTION!

1. Resolve to stop buying.

2. Determine your decluttering motivation.

3. Decide where to begin.

4. Grab a bag and start tossing stuff – at least 10 minutes or 10 items.

5. Remove the bag of clutter TODAY.

Get up and start NOW. You’ve got this!

Did you enjoy this post? Know someone else who might like it? Please take a moment to share on Pinterest, Facebook, or your favorite social media… (Click the sharing buttons at the bottom of the post.) Thank you!

plant in white post against white brick will with text overlay simple decluttering baby steps

2 thoughts on “5 Baby Steps for Successful Decluttering That Don’t Require a Huge Time Commitment”

  1. I just discovered you today, started a binder for your printouts, read a lot of your articles, and then started to declutter one small space on my dining hutch. I ended up decluttering 3 drawers on the hutch that have been jam packed with junk and trash for years, and I even decluttered two of my kitchen counters, and it didn’t take long at all! At 10 mins or 10 items per day I can do this and sometimes a lot more if I have the time and am motivated. But I need and love the Baby Steps to Decluttering because, even if it’s just in my mind, I need to know I only have to spend about 10 mins on it. I can manage that. And then I end up doing more. This whole website is a game changer for Highly Sensitive People who get overwhelmed easily like me. Cleaning and decluttering have always been on my wishlist but I never thought I could do much of it because it takes so much time and energy, but the way you put it in bite size increments it can be done even by me! I’m finally going to become a minimalist which I crave so badly but I’m so sentimental and I build clutter before I know what’s happening! Now I know exactly what to do and I don’t feel so lost and alone. Thank you Julie for sharing your knowledge and advice with those of us who desperately need it! 😊 Now, back to another 10 min declutter project for me!

    1. Congratulations on finding a way to move forward! Beautiful! I’m encouraged as I have a lot to do and will work on small steps to equal large progress! Thank you for sharing.

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