declutter“Clutter and messiness can cause distress.” Joseph Ferrari, a professor at DePaul University told Ferrari, who has studied the negative impact of all that stuff, says that “the more clutter you have, the less happy you tend to be. The more you have, the less life satisfaction people report.”

Before we dive in with some easy steps to decluttering your life, it is worthwhile to draw a distinction between what is cluttering and what is hoarding. If untidiness gets to the point where it is difficult to lead a normal lifestyle or creates unhealthy living conditions that is probably evidence of a hoarding disorder. Hoarders are afraid to let go of items. Hoarders have a strong need to keep things in case they need them. On the other hand if you just haven’t got around to getting rid of some stuff, then it is probably just a matter of getting motivated to tidy up. Physician’s Mutual’s Community Hub maintains that “generally, if you’re able to say that your clutter is a problem, you’re probably not a hoarder.”

Ready to get started? Here are a few tips from decluttering experts to make the task easier.

“I always suggest starting with removing the trash first,” says Nikki Bell, a professional organizer in Houston. “Grab a trash bag and just walk through the space throwing away anything broken, damaged or actual trash.”​ But all that work can get exhausting very quickly. That’s why Bell recommends breaking up your decluttering work.​ ​“The clutter didn’t arrive in a day, so don’t expect it to vacate in a day,” she says. “Schedule time to work on your home, set a timer, and applaud yourself at the end of each session. You may not be finished, but you have started. Keep going! If all else fails, hire a professional organizer. Once you’ve reached a point where you no longer are able to meet your goals, it’s time to call in the big guns to get you back on track,” Bell says. “A fresh set of eyes on your space can do wonders.”​

Julie Couch of Julie Couch Interiors also advises to declutter in stages. “I find it most helpful when helping clients or organizing my own spaces is to go through all items individually but quickly initially discard anything that is trash and will not be kept or donated. Then I go through the remaining items a second time and thoughtfully consider which items I would miss if they were gone. If I’m honest with myself, if I haven’t needed it in several months then it’s out the door!”

Flat surfaces like counters, the dining room table, nightstands, and your desk can be magnets for clutter. One of the immediate ways to make your home look less cluttered is to clear off all these flat surfaces. One tip from is to “put everything on the floor and only add back the essentials. Then, corral the rest in drawers, bins or hang them from hooks. You'll be amazed at the difference!”

Get rid of the “just in case” items. New York Times bestselling authors and podcasters Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, known as The Minimalists, have helped millions of people live meaningfully with less. They point out that “we don’t let go [some stuff] because we might need something in some far-off, nonexistent, hypothetical future.” 

Millburn and Nicodemus advocate applying their 20/20 Rule: Get rid of anything you can replace for less than $20 in less than 20 minutes from your current location. “Thus far, this hypothesis has become a theory that has held true 100% of the time,” they explain. “Although we’ve rarely had to replace a just-in-case item (fewer than five times for the two of us combined), we’ve never had to pay more than $20 or go more than 20 minutes out of our way to replace the item. This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people—including you.”

After you have decluttered your living spaces, keep them decluttered by establishing “a one in one out rule" suggests Ashley Feinstein Gerstly, founder of Fiscal Femme. “I find the easiest hack to keep a home organized is to have less stuff,” she states. “Creating a rule where you don’t buy anything new until you let go of something you already have can help us achieve this.  Or, you can try to be more thoughtful and deliberate about the items that come into your home. Not only does this make it easier to keep your home organized, it also saves you money and time!"



Timothy J. Cuddigan
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Omaha Social Security and Veterans Disability Lawyer With Over 40 Years Experience
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