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You think you’re a clean person. You don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink—well, at least not often. You sweep occasionally. Heck, sometimes you even make your bed. But still the clutter piles up—whether it’s mail, books, or clothes. And it quickly becomes so overwhelming that it’s hard to know where to start.
Which is why we asked professional organizers for their top tips to get rid of clutter (for good!). They’re all super simple and won’t leave you picking up for hours on end.
1. Nip procrastination in the bud.
“Procrastination is what causes clutter. Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions. Set a modest goal to deal with the clutter in your life, and congratulate yourself on your success. Success will breed success. And if you keep making decisions, this time next year, getting organized won’t be one of your resolutions.” — Laurie Martin, Simplicity Organizers
2. Start small.
“Many people get discouraged because the job is just too big. Choose one drawer, take everything out, look at each item with a critical eye, and ask yourself: ‘What is this doing here?’ If you know the answer (and it’s a good one), the item gets to stay. If you don’t, the item needs a new home. Put back only what actually belongs. Every time you open that drawer, you’ll feel proud of your work, which is great motivation to tackle another drawer and then maybe a whole closet!” — Rachel Siegel, Spruce Girls
3. Ask: Would you buy this today?
“If the answer is no, throw it in the toss or donate pile. If you’re upset about the money that you paid for something that you never wear, deciding to keep it in your closet won’t put money back in your pocket. It will only frustrate you and clog up the works!” — Jeni Aron, Clutter Cowgirl
4. Use your hangers to your advantage.
“As you wear things, put them back in your closet with the hanger backward, so you can keep track of what you’re actually wearing. You’ll be amazed at how many things you wear over and over—and what you never touch. It may even encourage you to expand your options and use pieces you may have passed over.” — Anjie Cho, author, 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces
5. Follow the one in, one out rule.
“For each item that comes into your home, remove a similar item. For example, if you buy a new sweater, sell, donate, or discard one of your older sweaters.” — Nancy Haworth, OnTask Organizing
6. Don’t worry about perfection.
“I remember wanting my home to be like the pages of a magazine. I thought if things were perfect, I would be more inclined to maintain order. About twice a year I would pull everything out of my drawers and closet and attempt to organize. It was usually about a quarter of the way through when I’d burn out, give up, and shove everything back in. Forget about perfection, and take a hard look at what and where things are piling up and causing clutter.” — Shara Koplowitz, O.P.E.N.
7. Stop feeling obligated to keep things.
“Just because mom gave you a gift, passed on a family treasure, or showed up with a giant box of your old school papers doesn’t mean you have to hang on to them. All of those items retained out of guilt end up filling your valuable storage and weighing you down, when someone else might really need or enjoy them. Learning to gently say no (or donating what you don’t want, need, or use) will go a long way toward a clutter-free existence.” — Sara Skillen, SkillSet Organizing
8. Keep only what you can store.
“Clothing should fit into closets and dressers. Make sure cleaning and toiletry supplies can fit into your cabinets or closets. If there isn’t room, review what is stored, and purge excess by discarding things that are expired or worn and donating what you know you no longer use.” — Annette Reyman, All Right Organizing
9. Clean up mental clutter.
“Most of us are living anywhere but the present moment. We are either stuck in the past or anxious about the future. My number one tip for releasing mental clutter is to meditate. While there are lots of traditional meditation practices, I always tell clients to begin where they can and think outside the box. If you’re calming your mind, you are headed in the right direction. I love to mow the lawn—that’s meditation for me.” — Julie Coraccio, Reawaken Your Brilliance