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how i decluttered my house…

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

I'm one of those people who is generally clean and organized. But I am also one of those people who has a lot of stuff. I wish I could have one pair of shoes, one simple, classic tee shirt that I could wear 25 ways, and that I could have my kids play with just 3 toys. But when I get things, they accumulate. I get attached, and I have a hard time letting go…especially if it's a thing that I can use to make something (you know…"Oh, I can use that if I'm ever making a Cleopatra costume" sort of thing). Our home has been feeling smaller and smaller everyday after adding a second babe in the mix, so I just needed to declutter and dehoard to feel like I could function and live in a space that was getting filled up with too much stuff.

So, I enlisted my friend Beth from B-Neato Bar to help me. Could I do it myself without help? Yes. But would I have kept putting it off week after week if that was the case? Yes! When there are things I don't really like to do, I need accountability to get those things done (ie. like getting a friend to meet you at the gym otherwise you won't show up and instead you'd sit on your couch eating a bag of chips and watching reality TV instead). Once a week for the past couple months, Beth has been coming over help me go through every room of my house. Sometimes we worked for six hours, sometimes it was only a couple hours. The point was that I learned a lot about how to really get rid of stuff (it's not just about throwing it away), and now I'm much better at decluttering on my own.

Here are a few things I learned…

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

1. Set up the right environment. This is something we don't always think about because usually when you're doing it, you just want to get rid of stuff as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that mindset can actually make the process harder. After thirty minutes of going through things, you might find yourself with piles upon piles. And since they aren’t labeled and aren’t being sorted in any way, you get more frustrated than when you started. So, before you start, make sure you have: 

        – Multiple bins or containers (laundry bins, brown paper grocery bags, collapsable bins, etc.)

        - Label the bins: Recycle, Shred, Donate, Trash

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

2. Pre-sort. This step was mind-blowing to me. Usually, when I try and get rid of stuff, I look at each piece one-by-one and decide what to do with it as I go. But if you pull out everything of its kind, lay them out together, and look at them as a whole, you can get a better grasp of the full picture. For example, if you're sorting through jewelry, lay out all the earrings, all the necklaces, all the bracelets, etc. each in their own group. Then you might be like, "Crap! I have so many necklaces I forgot about and have never worn!" Then you can decide which to keep after seeing every necklace you own all in one place.

And same goes with piles of paper from your desk…sort all of the business cards together, all of the receipts together, all of the cards and correspondence together, bills, unopened mail vs. opened mail, and so on and so forth. Not only does a high-level pre-sort speed up the process, it also makes the choices on what to do with any given category much easier (which is super important since you have lots of decisions to make in what stays and what goes). 

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

3. Treat each article with respect. Even if something seems like trash, treat a receipt the same as you would a piece of jewelry. Look at them both to see what value they have before tossing something simply because it's a scrap of paper (that scrap might be an important receipt you need for your taxes).

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

4. Enlist a friend. Can you do this on your own? Absolutely! Will you save yourself time and major frustration if you enlist the help of a friend, family member or even a professional organizer? Umm, yes! When organizing, it’s hard to let things go because of your own sentimental attachment. By having someone there to help, you have a less attached person either telling you that you really don't need it. Or, they're also there to hear about why you even have that weird cat sculpture from 1992 in the first place. This not only helps release the object but it cements the memory of it which you’ll have forever.

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

5. Let it go! Like Elsa once said, let it go! It’s important that the items that you have decided to let go of leave the house immediately. It will be the icing on the cake and the ultimate reward for you and your space by getting the area clean and clear. It also feels really good to be helping out other folks with your donations which will add to the high of your newly organized space. This is where having a helper really pays off; you will be super tired after all the decision making so getting an extra hand (or two) to help load the car and take trash, recycling and shredding out is quite the treat. (And if you get rid of those things right away, you're less likely to look through them later and reconsider 😉

Oh Joy / Six Tips for Decluttering Your Home

6. Make the time for it. I say this a lot to people when they want to start their own side business or do some side project. Anything you say you'll do in your "spare time" never happens unless you set aside time to do it. Since I work from home on Wednesdays, I made that the day that I could work on going through this stuff. Whether it's for 2 hours or 6 hours, pick a day/time when you know you are generally free (or can be free). And stick to it. Unless you are moving, it doesn't have to happen all overnight. It worked well for me to stick to weekly dates until we got through every room of our house. And each week, I felt so great afterwards seeing the newly decluttered and organized room.

I still have a couple areas left to do (like our kitchen), but we're making progress! I hope these little tricks help you guys out, too!

P.S. Check out B-Neato for more decluttering tips!

{Illustrations by Casey Brodley for Oh Joy} 


  1. Such a great piece with solid advice. I usually have a hard time getting rid of magazines. Oprah mags specially. I always feel i’ll need them sometime in the future. As a result i have piles of them in the house now. I have this weird attachment to those magazines and can’t let go 🙁 Will def. try your suggestion and de-clutter!

  2. I just decluttered the little closet studio off my bedroom so I could go back to working in there and WOW has it lifted off a weight I didn’t realize I had on my shoulders. I consider myself organized, but something about trying to run my own freelance business and house/personal life can put me over the edge of clutter at times. Great advice on a few of these things.

  3. We’re in the process of decluttering right now and you’re right–it’s so helpful to have bins or boxes to sort things into. I love to organize but seeing piles of things to go through just stresses me out. Much nicer to toss things into boxes as we go along. Thanks for these tips (and love the illustrations! :))

  4. Have you read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up? Her philosophy is quite similar to yours. I think you might like it!

  5. These are great tips that I definitely need to use. Start of a new season is always a great time to get things done, too, I’m always more motivated then.

  6. Hey Shruti!
    I did a big magazine purge last year and got rid of 75% of the mags I own. What I did instead was if there were any clippings, inspiration I wanted to hold onto, I took a photo with my photo and uploaded it to a board on Pinterest. That way you still have it labeled for it’s use, but you are not holding onto it physically.

  7. What do you do with unwanted gifts? I keep presents that have been given to me even if I don’t really like them because I wholeheartedly appreciate the gesture, and therefore I can’t seem to be able to chuck them out.

  8. According to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, if I remember correctly, the fact that you accepted the gift with joy and gratitude is enough. Did it make you happy when you received it? Then it served its purpose. You can let it go to be used and enjoyed by someone else. If it never has made you happy, then you truly don’t need it in your home and the giver wouldn’t want you to keep it under those circumstances, right? Get rid of it with zero guilt. Take a photo if you need the memento.

  9. I love decluttering. It is my favorite thing to do. As I get older I am finding the less things I have the less stress I have and the better I feel.
    Piking similar items together is so critical, especially in the closet. I am always amazed by how much I can accumulate and most of the time those things are pretty similar.
    “Let it go” – my trunk has become the equivalent of a mid-trip service station for clothes heading to salvo. I usually have a ton of things in thee. Actually getting to the thrift store to donate seems to be the hardest part for me.
    I totally understand liking lots of clothes options. I am so jelous of those people who can do that. For me I need a limited wardrobe which is why I have gone with a capsule wardrobe (33 items per season). I am also so tired of buying things that only last a short time so across the board I have stated trying to invest in quality vs. quantity.

  10. Hi Joy!
    This is great – I’m totally inspired to declutter and this approach makes it seem much more manageable and less overwhelming! I especially love your tip in the comments about taking photos of photos I love in magazines as a way to still keep them but physically get rid of them.
    I also love that you’re adding illustrations to your posts! I’m an illustrator and would love to illustrate for your blog or website if you’re ever interested! My style is colorful and clean, and I feel like it would fit very well with your brand. My website and portfolio are at
    Keep up the wonderful work!!
    Emi 🙂

  11. I want to declutter badly and could not wait to do it in the next few weeks! I’m getting Marie Kondo’s book to motivate myself too haha!

  12. My favorite de-cluttering tool (for clothes) is a textile recycling booth that I am lucky enough to work next to. The great thing about them is that they donate usable pieces but also process the unusable ones. Ratty towel? Gone. Decimated shoes? Outta here. I feel a lot better about that than just trashing them.

  13. You can also take used clothing, shoes, belts to any north face store and drop it off in their clothes the loop program! I wished every store would offer a recycling program for the products they sell.

  14. Good job with your post! Organization has always been my downfall! The idea of pulling out a whole collection of something – you used earrings as an example – really makes you realize how much you have of just that! Makes it easier to decide which pieces to keep and donate the rest! I am going to have to try this out myself. My clothes closet is absolutely packed and I haven’t worn things in years! Thanks!

  15. Thanks for the great post! We’re just starting to declutter and am struggling with working out what to let go of but you have inspired us to keep going. Thank you.


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