7 Rules for Decluttering & How to Decide What to Keep

If you find yourself overwhelmed by too much stuff in your home and your life, it’s time to declutter. These rules for decluttering along with my other decluttering tips will help you decide what to keep so you can begin – and accomplish – this project with confidence!

text tips for clearing clutter on white background over image of white storage box and flowers

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When it comes to decluttering, the very idea of getting rid of your possessions may cause fear and anxiety. While those are normal emotions to feel before starting a decluttering project, that’s the exact opposite of what I know you’ll actually feel once you really get into the decluttering process.

How do I know that? I’ve been there.

I know this because I’ve been through all. the. emotions. myself. I know exactly what it feels like. I’ve also gotten to the other side and know I’m not the only one who has experienced that feeling of terror and having no idea how to start decluttering

So I’ve worked to create some helpful rules for decluttering to simplify the process and make it easier (and way less scary) for you to dive into this wonderful journey of removing clutter from your life.

Here’s one thing I know without a doubt: clutter takes up space in our minds in our homes. Living in a cluttered space creates stress and anxiety that melts away when the stuff goes away.

Let’s dive in and declutter!

Clearing Out the Clutter: How to Approach the Decluttering Process

I’ve gathered together seven simple rules for decluttering to help you approach the process and easily make decisions as you go through it.

However, if you prefer having a step-by-step guide, check out my Declutter Plan of Action that you can follow to guide you through the entire process from start to finish.

And no matter which way you approach the process, it’s important to make sure you’re making the necessary mindset shifts for decluttering to ensure success as you move forward!

Rules for Decluttering: How to Deal With Clutter

If you do a quick Google search for decluttering rules or tips, you’ll likely find lots of pieces of decluttering advice telling you how to pick things to get rid of

Honestly, I find that approach counter productive in my goal of helping to reduce your anxiety when it comes to decluttering. That approach tends to produce feelings of deprivation rather than freedom.

Instead, I’m going to approach rules for decluttering in a different way. I’m going to show you how to decide which items to keep!

Before I dive in, I just want to give you a quick reminder. I have 7 rules (suggestions, really) for decluttering, but this process is YOUR journey. If there are “rules” in this post that don’t work for you, feel free to skip them. Take what you like and ignore the rest.  

I’m simply sharing tips that have helped me, and any progress you make is still progress!

white living room with white couch, blanket ladder, rustic metal milk can, brown cowboy boots

1. Remove Trash

If you have items sitting around that are trash, there’s no need to keep them, right? Having trash sitting around creates an extremely cluttered environment, yet removing the trash first makes a large visual (and emotional) impact on the room.

It’s an easy way to begin decluttering. My rule for decluttering trash simply means that you throw away items that are: 

  • Broken
  • Ruined
  • No longer able to be used
  • Normal trash items: old wrappers, lists, etc.

2. Clean Out Duplicates

I think that another very effective piece of decluttering advice is to remove duplicate items. More stuff = more clutter. Therefore, removing any unneeded duplicates acts in much the same way that removing trash does.

My rule for decluttering duplicates: keep the better duplicate and donate or throw away the other.

3. Keep What You Use Regularly

You have them. It’s ok to admit it. We all have them. I’m talking about items that we tell ourselves we’ll use eventually. However, in actuality, if you haven’t used (or touched) certain items within the past year, you will likely not need them in the future either.

My rule for decluttering items you don’t use regularly: free your home of items that you don’t use.

4. Convert Nostalgic Items to Digital Form

If you tend to hold onto items for nostalgic reasons, I have a solution that will allow you to keep those items while also ridding yourself of unnecessary clutter. 

My rule for decluttering nostalgic items: take pictures of these items and then get rid of them in an appropriate way. 

This method works wonderfully for kids artwork and many other items – especially large ones. You can still hold onto these items that mean something to you without taking up storage space.

5. Release Guilt

There are things that we all have and keep simply because we feel guilty about getting rid of them. Maybe it’s that sweater your aunt knitted for you or that pair of boots you spent way too much money on. Or maybe it’s something totally different.

No matter what the item is, holding onto it causes unnecessary stress while getting rid of it (even digitizing it first, if you want) will help you to feel stress-free.

My rule for decluttering items that you hold onto out of guilt: focus on keeping the items you use regularly rather than the emotions that are attached to items as you decide which ones to keep.

couch with white storage box ready for decluttering

6. Would You Buy it Now?

As humans, we are creatures that change over time. Our tastes and preferences change as we get older based on our experiences. 

Do you have items that you would never purchase now? If so, I’m guessing that they don’t mean as much to you now as they once did. And if you don’t care that much about it, you won’t use it so it sits there taking up space.

My rule for decluttering things that you wouldn’t buy: find a new home for these items by donating them so that someone else can get use out of them.

TIP: If you really are concerned that you’ll be ‘missing out’ on the stuff you get rid of, you definitely want to read 62 Things to Declutter and use the free printable list you toss clutter without missing it one bit.

7. Would You be Willing to Move This to a New Home?

We all know that moving is a TON of work, and that’s why it tends to be an excellent opportunity for reducing how much stuff you have. Moving is already a lot of work – why move more to a new house than you have to?

If you’re trying to decide what to keep when decluttering, ask yourself if you would be willing to move this item to a new house. Don’t forget to also apply the decluttering advice I mentioned earlier about letting go of guilt and keeping only items that you use regularly.

My rule for decluttering these items: consider only keeping items that you would be willing to move to a new house.

More Helpful Decluttering Posts

The Secret To A Good Declutter

When it comes to clearing out your clutter, the most common pieces of decluttering advice tend to center around how to decide what to get rid of when you declutter. 

However, I prefer to follow rules of decluttering that focus on how to decide what to keep when you declutter. I have found that approach reduces anxiety and helps to make the process much easier to handle emotionally.

You’ve got this!

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