How to declutter your home, from people who know

moodboard/Getty ImagesBefore you start organising, think of a goal for what you want your home to be.
  • Americans are engaged in a frenzy of decluttering, thanks in large part to the Netflix series “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.”
  • If you’re trying to get organised, you might want to start small and take your time, according to two decluttering experts we spoke with.
  • They said the best decluttering process for you could depend on your organisation style. Here are their best tips for decluttering.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

If you want to go full Marie Kondo and dump all your belongings in the middle of the room at once, have at it.

But, if you’re like most people, a more incremental approach to decluttering your house might be more successful.

“We think Marie Kondo has been remarkable,” Karen Shinn, co-founder of Toronto-based Downsizing Diva and a member of the National Association of Senior Move Managers, told Business Insider. “We are thrilled to have her on the scene.”

But Shinn sees decluttering as a more of a process, not something that can be done in one day. And Lis McKinley, owner of the organisation company Let’s Make Room, shared her view.

“Unless you know what questions to ask yourself to decide whether you’re going to keep something or not, you can get stuck,” McKinley told Business Insider.

We asked McKinley and Shinn to share their best advice for decluttering your home.

Here’s how you should do it, according to the experts.

Know your organising goal

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McKinley asks people to think about their goal for decluttering. Do you want to be able to have people over and entertain more? Are you looking for a sense of peace?

“When they get started, they kind of start to develop a curating muscle, if you will,” McKinley said. “People are looking for reasons to hold onto things.” Instead, you should ask yourself whether each object supports your goal for your home.

Start small

“Start small. And start with something that’s impacting your daily life,” McKinley said. “Sometimes taking on something simple like organising your hanging clothes or organising one drawer in your dresser can be very motivating because you can see the results quickly.”

Take stock of everything you have

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“You want to know what you have,” McKinley said. She described a recent job for a client where her crew laid out all the clothes in a closet in categories: black pants, blue jeans, white blouses, graphic T-shirts, and so on. The client was able to come in and immediately see what she had and pick the best items in each category to keep.

‘Edit’ your stuff

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Shinn likes to call the process of getting rid of the items you don’t need, want, or use “editing.”

“I think that’s a nicer word than decluttering or purging,” she said. She sees huge benefits for her clients after they “edit” their belongings.

“You really have lightened up not only your living space but your life,” she said. “There’s a lot of maintenance to your clutter.”

McKinley sees two organising styles among her clients: hiders and pilers. Hiders stash things in cabinets and drawers. If they never edit, stuff starts to spill out. Pilers feel more organised if they can see everything. They often end up with so much stuff lying around that they can’t find anything.

“For some people, organising does need to be about editing,” McKinley said. “For others, it’s not so much about editing, it’s about actually assigning homes for things.”

Fight the paper monster

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The flow of paper into our lives is a major source of clutter. We tend to keep too much because we’re afraid to let it go.

“Paper is only as valuable as the information on it,” McKinley said. “If the information on a piece of paper cannot be easily found elsewhere and it’s likely you’re going to want it, then keep it.”

If you can get the information online, recycle the paper. McKinley suggests keeping vital records and recent financial information and not much else.

Assign a home for every item you’re keeping

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“You know when you’ve got a pair of scissors. You don’t have to buy another pair because you don’t remember where you put the other pair,” Shinn said. Having a home for everything you keep and storing like items together can save you time and money.

Keep photos of things, not the things themselves

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“Our things are a reflection of who we are,” McKinley said. “For a lot of people, they’re afraid that if they let that go, they’re going to forget that part of their lives.”

If you want a keepsake that reminds you of a trip or a special person in your life, keep just one thing that best honours that memory.

For the rest, McKinley suggests taking a photo and letting it go.

Don’t worry about where it’s going

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When people are trying to decide whether to keep or give away an item, they often get hung up trying to figure out who they can give it to, according to McKinley. They often want to pass things on to family members.

“Don’t think about the recipient of it. Decide if you want to keep it,” she said.

Do worry about where it’s going

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On the other hand, Shinn said it is important to be conscious about how you disperse the items you don’t want any longer. This is particularly important as more people declutter their homes.

“All of the items that are joyless are piling up into what we are calling the joyless avalanche,” Shinn said. “If you do nothing with it, it ekes back into where it was.”

“If it doesn’t bring you joy, spread the joy and give it to someone else,” she said. Shinn suggests putting a donation box somewhere in your house that’s easy to get to.

“Make a deal with yourself to fill it up every month,” she said. “Then deliver it to your favourite charity.”

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