What not to do when decluttering

Tips to get the job done right first time.

There are many ways to approach decluttering your home and some are better than others.

Paramount to a successful decluttering campaign at home is getting it right the first time so you don’t lose momentum. Whether it’s the whole house you’re about to tackle or specific areas of your home, here are some tips to keep your motivation up and your outcome as satisfying as possible.

1. Rush out to buy storage containers

Don’t rush out and buy loads of pretty baskets or storage bins until you know what you need to store and where. Clean out your clothes, papers, toys or kitchenware before you go shopping for new storage containers, Nicole Anzia of Neatnik told Apartment Therapy. That way you can ensure everything fits in the space you have left.

Oak and Orange organised butler's pantry
Your decluttering success may not look the same as someone’s on social media, and that’s ok. Find a system that works for you. (Photography supplied by Oak and Orange)

2. Attempt to declutter everything at once

Rather than tackle your whole home at once, choose one space at a time that’s driving you mad to declutter and reorganise. A couple of hours spent over a weekend or one evening a week for a month will see you work your way through much more productively than burning out and becoming overwhelmed from the get-go. Enjoy the process and your newly organised spaces as you go.

Research by Ikea found that while many are excited about embarking on a declutter, 33% are nervous and overwhelmed about the task. The solution? Start small. Ikea has a list of ‘micro-tidy tasks‘ that take anywhere from five to 10 minutes to complete. 

You can also tackle the task systematically, room by room.

Here are some guides to get you started:

3. Get distracted

Don’t walk away once you’ve started, but make sure you complete each area thoroughly. Pulling out everything to sort and store will make a mess to start with so make sure you have time to finish the job properly – right down to taking away donations or putting items in the recycling bin before you move on to another area. If you don’t have time to declutter your whole wardrobe, just clean out your “junk drawer” in the kitchen, or your shoe storage instead – you’ll still enjoy the makeover. 

Coastal style console styled with home decor
Once you start decluttering, stay on task! (Photography: Kristina Soljo | Styling: Lisa Burden)

4. Start without a plan

Crossing things off a decluttering checklist is truly satisfying and encourages you to keep going. Be kind to yourself and realistic about the task ahead. If your home requires decluttering in every or several rooms, it’s not something you’ll be able to conquer in a weekend, or even over a few. Be prepared to spread different areas of the home to declutter over months to come and continue to do your normal life in the meantime.

5. Expect perfection

You may have been inspired by incredibly organised people on social media but your results should be achievable within your budget, style, family and household. Perfectly lined up shelves and colour-coordinated pantry storage may look impressive, but if you have three kids under five, less-than-interested teenagers or one upright cupboard to store all of your food, work within your limitations and find a system that works for you.

Hamptons entryway with mirror and wicker storage baskets
Resist the urge to buy loads of pretty baskets and storage containers. (Photography: Ryan Linnegar | Styling: Fiona Gould)

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