Looking for the best ways to dig out of your cluttered house? Here’s a list of the 8 most popular decluttering methods (along with a few extreme decluttering tips), plus my take on which ones work best and when!
Ready to Get Your House Decluttered?
I’m impulsive. And I change my mind frequently.
I’m married to a (reforming) packrat and also birthed another (reforming) packrat.
We do huge Christmases.
I love thrift shops and yard sales.
Why Am I Telling You All of This?
No, this isn’t True Confessions of a Scatterbrained Mom. This is me explaining why I’m kind of a decluttering professional.
With all that going for me, I pretty much have to be.
I also have a very low clutter threshold (a term I got from Dana White of A Slob Comes Clean).
Having individual clutter thresholds explains why some people can keep a house stuffed with 15,000 elephant knickknacks…
My dad – and I’m not kidding.
He’s actually closing in on 16,000 I think. And he has each and every one organized and clean.
And possibly named.
I’m afraid to ask.
…and some people (me) can’t even handle having an extra pizza cutter without their house falling apart.
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Smorgasbord of Decluttering Methods
As someone with a super low clutter threshold, I’ve tried sooo many decluttering methods through the years.
If you think you can only declutter one way, you’d be surprised at how many decluttering methods there actually are.
I’ve listed all 8 of the ones I’ve tried below plus their pros and cons.
Flylady’s 27-Fling Boogey Declutttering Method
This decluttering method is #1 on my list because it’s the one that gave me hope when my house was at its worst.
The “27-Fling Boogey” is best if you’re completely overwhelmed by your house and life in general.
I was there once and had fantasies of setting my house on fire and starting over. It was all just too much.
When I found out about Flylady’s 27-Fling Boogey, I was in despair of ever digging out.
That sounds dramatic now, but I remember how bad I felt back then.
If you want to hear just how dramatically this affected me, check out this post about how Flylady probably saved my life. The lessons I learned from her and still use 20 years later may make a huge difference in your life, too.
This decluttering method is just like it sounds – you get rid of 27 things a day.
That might sounds like a lot of boogey-ing. But if your house is super stuffed, like mine was at the time, it can be pretty simple to find 27 things a day to chuck.
And, for the record, you can choose any number you want. I’m not sure how Flylady came up with 27 things, but if that number sounds like way too much, go with 10. Or even 5.
As always, do what you need to to make it work for you.
Remember – you’re counting every tiny thing so you can get to 27 pretty quickly. You can even count straight up trash if you have a ton lying around your house.
Even if you don’t have garbage lying around, you probably have empty containers, Amazon packing materials, expired coupons, old batteries, etc.
The first day I decluttered mostly pencils.
27 pencils may not sound like it made much of a difference, but it was a good feeling to know I had a plan to make progress.
A few other no-brainer things to get rid of:
- Anything old and dried-up: chemicals, nail polishes, magic markers, your great-Aunt Bertha
- Broken crayons
- Excessive numbers of coffee mugs
- Mismatched Tupperware
- Chewy boxes (I bet some respawn when you’re not looking though)
- Tattered gift bags
Before I heard about this little-bit-at-a-time method, I had only hard-core decluttered. The only decluttering methods I’d tried were slash-and-burn-take-no-prisoner methods.
Those more in-depth decluttering methods are definitely gratifying, but not great for anyone who’s just got way too much going on (either with life or physically or even emotionally).
#2: The Calendar Declutter Challenge Method
Next is the Calendar Decluttering Challenge.
This decluttering method works like this:
You print out the month’s calendar. Then you declutter according to the date.
The point is to start slow and build momentum. On the first day of the month, you throw away one thing.
The second day you throw away 2, and so on.
By the end of the month you’ll have gotten rid of nearly 500 things. Without even realizing it (in theory).
For me, this method is tough for two reasons.
- I feel like I can’t start it any time after the first of the month.
I know that sounds crazy but I have a feeling I’m not the only one.
- I also don’t love it because if I get on a roll, especially during the first half of the month, I feel like I have to hold back.
At least if I find too many things in one day during the “27-Fling Boogey” method, I can easily count them toward any days I don’t feel like decluttering.
But doing this when each day is a different number feels too complicated.
It also gets harder, not easier, to find things later in the month which is also when the requirements start to increase.
Just not my favorite.
But it’s a really popular method in the ADHD organizing accountability Facebook group I belong to (email me if you want the link to request membership – it’s not my group but I love it).
I think the variety of changing numbers appeals to some people, along with the ability to start with a low number.
It doesn’t get much lower than 1 or much easier than starting with 1 thing.
Well, maybe zero. But watching HBO Max and ignoring clutter altogether isn’t exactly a legitimate decluttering method.
Both the Calendar Challenge Declutter Method and the 27-Fling-Boogey Decluttering Method work well if you’re:
- Easily distracted
- Only have short spurts during the day to work
- Don’t like doing all your decluttering in one session.
Because with both, you can just grab stuff here and there to throw out throughout the day.
#3: Declutter By Small Space
If you’re not totally overwhelmed but just noticing that your house is getting harder to keep clean, you may want to try the Small Space method of decluttering.
For example, one shelf in the pantry or one drawer in the kitchen.
This is also good for people who do feel a little overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start getting rid of clutter in their house.
For me, though, it works best when I already have a pretty good handle on my house and have just started to notice spaces getting too full, cluttered or messy.
Back when I first really started making progress on my house, decluttering methods that involved one tiny space just didn’t work well with my brain. I think because nothing was organized, so the contents of my cabinets and drawers were always changing, depending on what miscellaneous crap got stuffed into them that week.
It would have been hard to see progress that way.
#4: Clean Sweep Declutter (or Declutter by BIG Space)
I was (and am) a fan of the Clean Sweep decluttering method though. This is where you empty the entire room or area and only put back what you want to keep.
I couldn’t handle a Clean Sweep at one point (when I was too overwhelmed and an extreme decluttering was beyond me), but it definitely comes in handy if you have an entire room:
- Junk room
- Kid’s room
- Walk-in closet
…that’s just a complete and utter, unusable mess.
Especially if it’s really dirty underneath and you want to get everything out to vacuum and scrub it down.
For rooms like that, a clean sweep might serve you well.
A few notes of caution though:
- This one may take way longer than a day or two, especially if you have limited time to work, or are easily distracted or overwhelmed. Or if you lack follow-through.
Good thing we don’t know anyone who fits those criteria, am I right?
- If you want to try this decluttering method, it helps to have a friend or “body double” (the kind that keeps you on track when doing a chore – not the cool kind in the movies where they substitute someone else’s nice firm buttocks for your own) to be with you and help, plus cheer you on and keep you accountable.
If you don’t have someone, find a private, online, non-judgmental community where you can post photos.
Having other people watching your progress really works to keep you going. If you need help finding such a place, let me know and I’ll help you find one.
- It also works better with a deadline.
The Clean Sweep is one of the decluttering methods I usually turn to when I need to overhaul a kid’s room. Usually because I tend to deny how bad the room is until I get to the point where I have to:
- Remove everything
- Re-organize from scratch
If you do this, make sure you have another room to put mountains of junk in. A room that you can live without for a few days. And that you have plenty of time to work on it.
If you have small kids who will get into stuff, a room with a door you can close is a plus.
I’ve actually started using my living room, which is usually my nicest room, to do this. I choose that room because it’s the first one people see, and it’s extremely motivating for me to finish quickly!
I would not recommend this if it’s your first time though.
I like to use baskets and tubs to make it all easy to move around while sorting and easy to mark progress.
Here’s how I approach this all-in method:
- Remove every single thing from the room.
- Put anything that’s important or might be needed in the next few days to the side or in a different area of the house so it can be easily found (Scout uniform, school clothes, etc)
- Clean the room
You can clean it either now or after you’ve done the sorting, whichever makes sense. I usually like to get to the sorting first but if you’re sorting back into the room, you might want to get this out of the way first.
- Set up sorting boxes
- Put away elsewhere
- Store elsewhere
- Back in the room
- Dirty laundry (if applicable)
- Start sorting out one pile or tub of junk at a time.
- As your sorted tubs fill up, put lids on them and move them to the side to start new ones.
- Save 10-15 minutes at the end of each chunk of time you have to work to deal with any messes. You can also put away house stuff or deal with trash or dirty laundry now (or wait until the end)
- At the end, move everything back into the room to put it away.
- And lastly:
- Put away everything that needs to be put away elsewhere.
- Sort out trash into recycling, bulk trash, shredding, and regular trash and deal with it.
- Sort out the donate/sell piles and make a plan to get the stuff to Goodwilll or on Ebay or to have a yard sale
As you can probably guess, the Clean Sweep method of decluttering your home is tantalizing and could possibly bring fantastic results. But you have to be super careful with this one, or you could end up way worse than before you started!
#5: The Round Robin Decluttering Method
Next is the Round Robin Decluttering Method.
The first time I ever looked for decluttering methods, this is the method that was recommended.
It’s similar to the Clean Sweep method but not as hard-core, extreme, or destructive. It also has a little bit of the Small Space decluttering method in it (but it feels better than only decluttering one drawer, because you’ll get an entire room to clutter-free status pretty quickly)
- You lay out the same 5-6 boxes as in Clean Sweep:
- Put away elsewhere
- Store elsewhere
- Back in the space
- Dirty laundry (if applicable)
- Starting in one area of the room, you just go through every single thing you see, section by section.
- Like if you start at the entrance to your house in your living room, you might start with the entrance table (if you have one).
- You’d go through the knick-knacks and junk on top, then whatever’s in the drawers or in the cubbies underneath. Then pull it out to make sure you get anything hiding behind it.
- After that, you can either wipe it down right then and put back anything that goes on or in it, or you can leave it dirty and replace the items.
NOTE: You don’t organize as you go, just get rid of clutter and possibly wipe things down.
Since you’ll be going space-by-space through your entire house over time, it’s best to deal with trash and laundry and anything that needs to get put away elsewhere each day as you finish sorting.
This one can be effective if you’re somewhat methodical. I, personally, tend to flit around so I struggle with follow-through on this decluttering method.
#6: The Timer Method to Declutter YOur House
Setting a timer to declutter by is my least favorite of the decluttering methods.
Normally, I’m a huge fan of timers and totally use them to get me moving on any project, especially regular cleaning.
And I’d use a timer to declutter a larger space. For instance, if I need to declutter a storage area, this method would work for me because I’d do it in 30-minute stints. Knowing I only need to commit to 30 minutes would help me get started.
But for the rest of the house, decluttering half a drawer because the timer goes off just doesn’t get it for me.
It works well for some people though.
To do it, set a timer and work on a specific space. Make sure to leave a few minutes at the end to finish up and clean up.
Method #7: The Marie Kondo Method of Getting Rid of Clutter
Unless you live in an internet/TV total dead zone, I’m sure you’ve heard of Marie Kondo’s decluttering method outlined in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
Marie Kondo’s decluttering plan is kind of like the Clean Sweep method, only it involves sorting through one entire category of your house at one time.
She has a specific sequence so you start with easier stuff and make your way to harder stuff (like memorabilia, the hardest of all).
To be honest, I read this book and totally didn’t get it. Then I saw her Netflix show and it made more sense. So I tried it.
But I probably wouldn’t do it again.
I didn’t like having my entire house in upheaval at one time.
But if you read the book and didn’t get it, try watching the show. For one thing, she comes across much, much better in person than in writing.
When I read the book, I slightly wanted to scratch her eyes out when she recommended emptying her purse completely at the end of every day and putting each thing away.
But when I watched her show, I decided to leave her eyes alone. She’s very nice and not crazy like she seemed to be in the book.
Plus she has kids now (she didn’t when she wrote the book) so I think she’s mellowed a bit…
I’d recommend watching the show if you want to know more.
You can also watch her show if you want to avoid decluttering.
And also if you want to eat popcorn.
I’m pretty sure the main takeaway most people got from her method is her insanely-awesome folding styles. I can’t seem to replicate them, but it definitely makes sense to stop folding things so that they lie flat. Here’s the best post I know of to learn the Marie Kondo folding method, even if her decluttering methods aren’t your cup of tea.
#8: Get Rid of Clutter by Category
The Decluttering by Category method is similar to the Marie Kondo decluttering method because she also removes clutter by categories. Only her way is extreme.
You can also declutter by category in a simpler, more basic way.
I find this way works best for:
- Other things that you have in multiple and need to thin out.
Basically, to declutter by category, you go through all of your glassware and get rid of what you don’t need.
Or all of your nail stuff. Or blankets. You get the idea.
It’s a quick way to declutter. And a faster way to make decisions because you really see how much of each thing you have.
When I declutter my house using this method, I don’t usually go find every single item in each category as recommended by Marie. Instead, I’ll go through and declutter all the glassware in the kitchen, or all the toys in the playroom.
Tips To Go Along With Any/All of the Above Decluttering Methods
For any of these decluttering methods, the actual letting go part might be hard.
- So one way to help with that part is to box up things you’re not sure of and put a date on the box, preferably 6 months or a year out. Then if you didn’t need it during that year, you know you don’t need it.
I’ll admit that even though I’ve seen this tip over and over, and I know for a fact it works for people who struggle to part with their clutter, this one gives me extreme anxiety.
Even just thinking about it.
And I’m not even one to keep things. I just need to know what I’m getting rid of.
I’d always wonder if I accidentally threw away a box of money.
And any time I was missing something, I’d wonder if it was in that box or just lost somewhere in the rest of my clutter.
I’m not sure why I’d box up a bunch of money, but just because my feelings are insane doesn’t mean they’re not real. Please validate me.
- Another decluttering tip is to take photos of stuff you get rid of.
We used to do this for tax purposes and I found it super helpful when I’d be looking for something and couldn’t remember if I decluttered it. If there wasn’t a photo, I knew to keep looking.
- And one final regular decluttering tip: If you struggle with clothing (I do – primarily because my size fluctuates and also because I buy 90% of my clothes at thrift shops so each one feels like a “find”), turn the hangers backward every January.
Each time you wear something, put it back with the hanger facing the right way.
If you haven’t worn something by the following January, it might be time to get rid of it.
I usually give it TWO Januaries before I talk myself into getting rid of the harder stuff.
Extreme Decluttering Tips
I also have a few extreme decluttering tips for when you’re sick of the clutter and ready to go all-in on a full room declutter or even a whole house decluttering session.
- Never start an extreme decluttering session, such as the Clean Sweep or Marie Kondo method, if you don’t have a large chunk of time to dedicate to decluttering your home all at once.
If all you have is small chunks of time, do yourself a favor and hold back on the more radical decluttering methods.
It’s okay, you’ll get there, even if it takes a little while longer to dig out from under the clutter.
- Be prepared before you start any intense type of decluttering.
- Have your boxes ready,
- Spend a tiny bit of time making quickie labels to tape onto each clutter-sorting container,
- And clear a spot to hold the boxes.
- Get a babysitter if at all possible. Or at least arrange a distracting activity for your kids.
Nothing harder than trying to do an extreme declutter session with:
- Your toddler redistributing your piles,
- Or your preschooler asking non-stop questions about the meaning of life while you’re attempting hard decisions
- Or (and this is the worst) your school-age child hanging onto each and every one-legged action figure or three-wheeled Matchbox car that hasn’t seen the light of day in 2 years, swearing each one is his “favorite toy ever.”
Do You Know of Any Other Decluttering Methods?
These are the most popular decluttering methods, and I’ve tried them all. I’m sure there are other ways to remove clutter that I haven’t heard of though!
If you’ve used any other decluttering methods to get rid of suffocating junk in your house (or have any other decluttering tips, extreme or otherwise), I’d love to hear about them.
I know there’s at least one other one – the Swedish Death Cleaning one that went around YouTube a couple of years ago. Have you tried that one?
Let me know!