Clearing The Clutter

6 Awesome Tips for De-Cluttering Your Home {The Big Spring Clean Series} Okay, so technically Spring doesn’t start for another 12 days but I figured I needed to start now to give you (and myself) a little time to gear up for The Big Spring Clean.  This year I thought it would be fun to do a spring cleaning series for a little extra motivation, breaking the process into manageable steps so that by the end of the month, our homes all sparkle.  You with me?  Good!

We are going to start by clearing the clutter.

But first, a riddle:  What do you get when you take one shopaholic-turned-coupon fanatic and one guy who hates to get rid of anything, then add 2 houses worth of stuff, a hurricane, 3 cross-country moves, 2 kids, a major remodel, the death of a semi-hoarding parent, and a daily schedule filled with homeschool, crafts, & too many other activities to mention?

Yep, you guessed it:  A mess.

Oh don’t get me wrong, on a day-to-day basis our comfortable little 3 bedroom, 2 bath house appears relatively neat and clean and clutter-free.  Organized, even. The dishes are washed and the beds are made and the clutter is picked up and put, well, somewhere.

But all that STUFF is lurking in the background, tucked away behind closed doors, in closets and cupboards and containers.  And in the garage.  Especially in the garage.

garage clutter

Over the past year I really have been trying to weed out the excess, a carload here, a few boxes there.  It has been a painfully slow process.  You see, Husband and I are pretty much polar opposites when it comes to the acquisition and loss of property.  For me it has always been easy come, easy go.  The shopaholic in me loves to bring it in, but the neat freak in me loves to see it go.

Husband, on the other hand, hates to shop and buys nothing most of the time, not really because he is cheap, but because he would literally do almost anything rather than go to the mall or even to Home Depot.  But once it is in our house, courtesy of me, he can’t stand to see it tossed out.  To him, it is wastefulness.  He’s not wrong.

But do you see our problem?  Once something is here, it never, ever leaves.  

But not anymore.  You see, I think we have finally had some sort of coming together moment.  It started last summer with taking all the toys away, and then our spending freeze and finding financial peace.  I [finally] stopped shopping, even for so-called bargains.  And I think once Husband was able to stop worrying about me just buying another one, he stopped clinging to the things we already have but don’t need.

We have been clearing the clutter like a couple of crazy people.

It feels so good!

The more we get rid of, the more we want to get rid of.  De-cluttering begets more de-cluttering!  It is a beautiful thing.  There is still a lot of good-old-fashioned deep cleaning that needs to happen, and this spring cleaning series will have several more parts to it, but for now we are focused on doing some serious purging.  This clutter has got to go!

If you’d like to join in, here are some tips for getting started:

Do an initial sweep

Grab a box and a large garbage bag and starting at one end, do a walk-through of your entire house.  Scan each room,  quickly grabbing anything you see that you know is either garbage or no longer needed.  Place items in either the donation box or the garbage bag.  Keep going until you’ve made your way through the entire house.  See how easy and painless that was?  Even if you don’t make it through the rest of the steps, you’ve already made a ton of progress!

Clear out one area at a time

After your initial surface purge it is time to dig a little deeper.  At this point it is not a good idea to start randomly delving in to more than one area at a time; you will quickly become overwhelmed.  Instead, start with one manageable area–a room, a corner, a closet, a cabinet, or a dresser–armed with a box for goodwill, a laundry basket for things that need to be returned to their proper place, and a garbage bag for the trash.  Then get to work and don’t leave your area until the job is done!

tidy garage wall

Ruthlessly purge

Give yourself permission to only keep the things that are currently useful, despite who gave them to you or how much they cost.   This can be really hard, especially at first.  That’s where the ruthless part comes in.  As you sort through your things, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do we use it, wear it, or play with it?  If it is clothes, does it still fit?
  2. Is it in good working condition?
  3. Does it enrich our lives in some way?
  4. Does it have sentimental value?
  5. Could someone else use it more?

It  is helpful to make 4 categories:  1.) Things to keep in this area,  2.) things to donate,  3.) things to throw away, and 4.) things to put elsewhere (keepsake box, seasonal items, or things that belong in a different room).  Once you’ve cleared an area and put away all the items that belong elsewhere, move on to the next area.  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Get it OUT of your house

Once you’ve determined something needs to go, get rid of it as quickly as possible.  Don’t let those boxes of donation items sit in your garage or basement for months on end; inevitably someone in your family will start digging through it and the clutter will be right back where it started.  As soon as you’ve filled a box, put it in your car so that you can drop it off at the nearest donation center as soon as you can.

goodwill boxes

I personally am not a huge fan of hosting garage sales–to me they are too much work for too little payout–but if you do want to throw one, do it right away.  I do usually sell bigger items on Craigslist, and occasionally we will also just take a picture of multiple small (but) nice items, list all the items, and sell it all for one flat price.  Those type of listings always go really quickly! (For more tips on selling your stuff, check out this post)

Work together

It really helps if you and your spouse are both on the same page when it comes to clearing the clutter, especially if you can tackle it together or divide and conquer different areas.  Our kids are still a little small yet to pitch in this year, but if your kids are older, get them involved and excited about the process.  (Try letting them keep the money from the stuff you sell!)  It is so motivating to have a partner or team to cheer you on!

Husband and I have each been tackling different areas in our own time, and honestly he has been leading the charge.  But seeing him work so hard and get so much accomplished has encouraged me to do the same, which then in turn motivates him to keep going.  It is fun to feel, for the first time, like we are in this together.  It is us vs. the clutter, and we are determined to win!

Stop bringing in more

For us bargain shoppers especially, this is the step that can be SO hard.  But if you want to have a house that is truly clutter free, you must STOP BUYING MORE STUFF.  During this spring cleaning series, I challenge you to take a break from buying anything beyond the basic necessities of life.  Once you’ve purged and purged and purged some more, simply allow yourself to bask in the glow of less for a while.

While I’ve made vast improvements in the past six months, buying less is a discipline I am still learning.  Honestly, I have found that the biggest “cure” for me comes from avoiding temptation.  If I go to Target (or the craft store, dollar store, etc.), I will find something to buy.  In fact I will usually find multiple somethings.  So I just don’t go.  The same goes for thrift stores, garage sales, & online shopping.  Remember,  just because it is a “good deal” doesn’t mean you need it!  Buying nothing is still cheaper than buying something on sale.

The Big Spring Clean is ON.  Let’s go clear some clutter!

The Big Spring Clean {Spring Cleaning Series}

Miss something?  Check out the entire Big Spring Clean series:

Part 1: Clearing the Clutter
Part 2: Green & Thrifty Cleaning Products
Part 3: Cleaning from Top to Bottom 
Part 4: Conquering the Kitchen 

*   *   *

Are you up for the challenge?  What’s your biggest clutter struggle?  What are your spring cleaning goals this year?

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{ 33 comments… add one }

  • Amanda March 8,

    I LOVE spring cleaning! I can totally relate to your husband not wanting to get rid of stuff. My husband is the exact same way, especially in the garage! This definitely motivates me to start purging! Can’t wait to see the rest of the series! Thanks Ruth!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Part 2 will be coming on Wednesday, March 13th! :-)

      Reply
  • Caroline March 8,

    I really need this right now. Count me in!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Yay!

      Reply
  • Kara March 8,

    Every spring I vow to really deep clean my house, and it seems like every year I fail miserably. Clutter everywhere is my biggest struggle and yet I’ve never thought to start with that. These tips are so helpful! I woke up feeling so blah and so discouraged by the mess and now I can’t wait to get started.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      I’m so glad to hear you found this post helpful Kara! Clutter is such a constant battle, it is easy to get discouraged. Try doing a little at a time so it is not so overwhelming! xoxo

      Reply
  • Fran March 8,

    My biggest struggle is the last one. I am always picking up things at thrift stores and garage sales because they are so cheap. Often I buy things without knowing what I’ll do with them, it just seems like such a bargain. Every time I try to declutter I just end up filling that same spot up again with more of the same. I get so frustrated because it seems like I can never get organized!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      You can do it Fran! Maybe take a break from garage sales & thrift shops for a while to avoid temptation? Good luck!

      Reply
  • carrie March 8,

    I am sooooooo ready to Spring Clean! My Big Big Purge happened during home construction. We moved out to build our dream home. I purged once or twice in packing up and moving out, but when it was time to move back (after 7 months) for every single item I boxed up to bring over I asked myself: “Do I know EXACTLY where this item’s new “home” is in the new house?” If I did not, that item did not make it back with us. As a result, my friends and family rave about how clutter-free (read: calming, relaxing, etc…) our new home is.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Carrie, that is so awesome and I have to admit, I am a little jealous! I sometimes dream about moving to a new house just so we would have an excuse to start from scratch. :-) Way to go!

      Reply
  • Pam from Mn March 8,

    We just got hit with 8 inches of snow last weekend so we are so ready for SPRING to come! While being snowed in, I started on our daughters room. I had my husband help me. He’s very Danny Tanner like, if you remember the tv show Full House. So he was very helpfull! I think he may even get into Spring cleaning for then I do?

    Thanks, all of your great post. I started following you while back after seeing your YouTube videos.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Wow 8 inches of snow….I can’t even imagine! Good luck on the cleaning battle. It is definitely nice to have a partner!

      Reply
  • Kris March 9,

    Hi Ruth! Do you not shop with coupons anymore? I love watching your shopping trip videos on youtube.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Kris, I do still shop with coupons although admittedly not every single time I go to the store. Right now we are in the midst of our Worden Farm season so we are eating mostly fresh vegetables along with staples like bread, milk, cheese, & eggs. Even if I don’t use coupons I will still shop for what is on sale each week and stock up on things that are a really good price. I am planning to do a post about this very topic soon! :-)

      Reply
  • Kristen @ Joyfullythriving March 9,

    We were just painting in our basement, and I was a bit overwhelmed with everything that came out of our storage! I have lots I want to sort through and simplify, so you are providing good motivation. There is always lots to be done, so some of our spring cleaning might have to wait for Spring Break…with two teacher’s schedules, realistically, it probably won’t happen before then!

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Good luck Kristen! Spring break will be here before you know it–our school districts are having it right now!

      Reply
  • Melissa N March 9,

    I was just telling my hubby today that we need to have “the great basement clean out” I am looking forward in joining you in your challenge.

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Yay! So glad to have you join in Melissa! :-)

      Reply
  • Kat March 9,

    I REALLY need to get on the ball for this season’s spring cleaning. I feel like stuff is suffocating me. lol

    Reply
    • Ruth Soukup March 9,

      Kat I feel the EXACT same way! :-)

      Reply
  • Anne March 11,

    I’m in, too. I have to have the house perfect for a rehearsal dinner and wedding on June 1. I’ve been donating, consigning and throwing out but I’m just now starting to see a dent. I just have too much! The problem is so much of it is nice and came from my hoarding mom when she passed away. So it’s hard but I have a deadline. My husband is a minimalist neat nik so he’ll be happy to see it all go. I really like the idea of removing most of the toys. My two youngest girls who are homeschooled have way too much. My son who goes to school has a lot but he only has a few things he really likes. I’m so looking forward to getting the house in order because next we have to paint and do some touch ups before June 1. We can’t do the painting, repairs or touch ups because there’s too much. Thank Ruth for all of the motivating articles and great tips!!!

    Reply
  • Shaidy March 13,

    Hello Ruth!
    Due to job loss and other things, my family and I had to move from a 3,000 sq. ft home to a 1400 sq. ft. home with no garage. During our move we gave,sold, and donated a lot of stuff….A lot!!! However, I still felt we brought way too much junk to this tiny house.
    A few days ago, I had a talk with my kids, about decluterring. They were not happy about that. However, I came up with a plan to make it a little less overwhelming! Everyday (Monday thru Friday) for the next 30 days each one of us (there are 6 of us at home) will take 2 things out of our closets/drawers that we don’t want/use anymore. I placed a trash bag in the laundry room and they are to toss in there the non-wanted/needed items. On Friday mornings I take the bag to Goodwill.
    On Saturdays for one hour we tackle the bigger projects, like the car port, that was still full of boxes from the other house (we moved here in October), and kitchen. It is amazing the progress we have made – in the last 2 weeks. I am going to continue on -and bound and determined to make this tiny structure into a beautiful, comfortable, cozy home for us!

    Reply
  • Marie April 4,

    Thank you for this story! I love how you describe you and your husband’s different approaches in such a respectful way, and how you worked together and found that not buying more made him willing to purge with you! We can relate to your dynamics!

    Reply
  • Marie April 4,

    Also, your phrase “De-cluttering begets more de-cluttering” stuck in my head. It made so much sense. I found your article a few days ago, and that night, I “spring cleaned” my friends list on fb and found that after removing the obvious ones, the grayer areas became clearer–and I knew exactly who to keep and who not to. I feel like I can approach house clutter the same way! For example, I just took two body pillows out to the dump this morning that have just been taking up closet space or floor space! I hope to work together with my husband in the same way you were able to work with yours!

    Reply
  • Debora April 25,

    I have only read your quick de-clutter list and already I’m in trouble! I am both the shopaholic and the never throw away told into one. I have clothes that I haven’t fit in more than 12 yrs but still have them because one day I might fit them and they are in great shape. If I go into a store I have to buy something. I can even go into get just one thing and come out with a cart full. Is there any hope for me?

    Reply
  • camille April 30,

    Oh, my, I think we may have been separated at birth. I so relate to your easy come, easy go attitude. These are great tips! Thanks!

    Reply
  • suzanne February 19,

    Hi I am new to your page. I truly need help in purging. My husband and I are now retired We had 2 children that have been out of the house for years. We have lived in our house 42 years. (had it built) .
    well the years that we still worked and the kids were gone we managed to fill the house. Between us we could probably outfit a small country and still have clothes for us. My problem is I have boxed up things for charity my husband won’t release things even if they don’t fit. He says he will he just isn’t ready. I am going to follow your tips I am sure they will help.
    Looking forward for more tips.
    Thank you Suzanne

    Reply
  • Gina March 15,

    Oh this post hit home for me. I had 2 recent deaths in my family so I have everything from their places in an extra bedroom and garage. It’s like my childhood in these spots. So much emotional attachment to these items, I just close the door and say I’ll deal with it later. It’s a year now and I still haven’t tried. I know I need to start…baby steps at least.

    I love the other person’s comment about having the kids take 2 items out per day…genius! And thank you for the post, just what I needed to get started!

    Reply
  • Faith April 17,

    I’d really love to get suggestions on how to clean the ceramic top of my stove. If something boils over while cooking, I try to clean it before it makes a larger mess, but sometimes it just doesn’t work as well as I would like. Please help one more time.

    Some of the ideas you have mentioned I’ve already used, but when something gets burned on the top of the range, it is only a strong arm that will do the trick and expensive store bought products.

    Thanks for all the ideas you have already mentioned. I’d love all the space these ideas will free-up in my home.

    Reply
  • Jacqueline.A June 10,

    Amazing tips and I second them! I think we fail to understand this simple yet effective cleaning rule; ‘Clutter leads to clutter if not fixed’. This is the reason one should keep things in place else they will remain a clutter moving from one position to another. Thanks for sharing wisdom, they are simple tips yet the effect is immense :)

    Reply
  • Mini Clean July 18,

    Organizing is indeed very hard to maintain especially if you have a lot of unused items at home. Sometimes its really hard to let go of things that’s once our favorite but if we want to keep our house clean and organize we really to let go of things that we no longer need because it would surely consume much space in our house. Thanks for sharing this very helpful tips.

    Reply
  • Abel July 23,

    It’s fantastic that you are getting ideas from this article as well as from our
    argument made at this place.

    Reply

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