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How To Declutter Your Life in 15 Steps

Start with digital devices, backing up what you need and deleting the rest. Then approach your home and life in the same way.

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Photo by Margaret Wright

It’s no secret that a home in disarray creates a less-than-ideal living environment.

The task of decluttering your closets (and therefore minimizing your wardrobe) can feel overwhelming, but taking time to create a peaceful, enjoyable living space improves more than just your aesthetic—it could also improve your overall sense of well-being. Not only is clutter linked to overall life dissatisfaction, but a disorganized household can also induce a cortisol response, negatively impacting mental and physical health.

And then there are the other, less tangible messes. From the digital clutter on our phones to a chaotic calendar, disorganization in other areas can lead to the same feelings of stress and overwhelm.

But where’s the best place to start? Have no fear: We’re here with a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to decluttering your life and improving your sense of well-being—one section at a time.

Photo by Joe Lingeman

Declutter Your Digital Life

It may be less concrete (and visible) than other forms of clutter, but a cluttered phone or computer both zaps your device’s battery and takes up valuable storage space—not to mention makes your work and communication less efficient.

1. Back up everything stored digitally

Backing up photos and important documents not only speeds up your device and frees up memory; it also ensures that if your phone or computer crashes, your information (and memories!) are safe. Enter cloud storage. Take some time to backup the files you want to save on iCloud, Google Photos, or a paid cloud service with more storage space. You can also set your device to automatically back your files up periodically.

2. Delete what doesn’t serve you

When was the last time you used that karaoke app you downloaded last year on a whim? Deleting what you haven’t used recently (a good rule of thumb is anything that hasn’t been opened within the last month) is a great way to de-clutter your devices. Just like you’d throw away trash in your home or office, get rid of any apps, blurry selfies, and text threads that don’t add to your digital well-being.

3. Organize files and apps

Now that you’re left with only the most useful and beneficial items on your phone, it’s time to organize. How you move things around is up to you—you could try organizing by category or color—but either way, you’ll find that having an organized device streamlines your digital experience. We all need less screen time, right?

Photo by Joe Lingeman

Declutter Your Home

Your home is where you spend most of your time, but what if it doesn’t feel like “home”? Reducing clutter in your living spaces and storage areas will simplify navigating and using your things and add an element of peace to your living environment.

1. Toss the trash

This is the fun part. Before you can organize the items you want to keep around, you literally need to trash the stuff that doesn’t belong. To begin the process of decluttering your home, walk through each room with a trash bag. Be ruthless with all the knick knacks, papers, and crusty cosmetics that are occupying valuable space. Of course, if there’s anything you can donate or recycle, keep that in a separate pile.

2. Store specialty or seasonal items

If your kitchen cabinets are cluttered, think about moving specialty cookware you use less frequently to a storage area. The same principle holds for seasonal home items. If it’s warm where you live, store your heavy blankets and flannel sheets in a designated area to free up storage space.

3. Get rid of anything expired

From your bathroom cabinet to your kitchen pantry, you’ve probably got some expired items lurking. Go through your medicine cabinet, cosmetics and toiletries, kitchen pantry, fridge, and freezer, and get rid of anything that’s either past its prime or unsafe to use.

Photo by Margaret Wright

Declutter Your Closet

Under the reign of Marie Kondo, we’re all inspired to simplify our closets. But decluttering your wardrobe goes beyond just getting rid of what doesn’t spark joy.

1. Separate by seasons

Storage space is hard to come by. Maximize your closet and dresser real estate—and make choosing what to wear much simpler—by storing all out-of-season items in under-the-bed bins or plastic storage totes. When seasons change, simply switch out your wardrobe.

2. Donate what you don’t wear

Go through all your clothes, lingerie, shoes, socks, and accessories. If anything doesn’t fit, has holes, or hasn’t been worn in the last three months (seasonal items notwithstanding, of course), it’s time to donate or toss it.

3. Create a uniform or capsule wardrobe

Want to go a step farther in decluttering your closet? Creating a capsule wardrobe or a uniform will naturally minimize wardrobe disarray and make outfit planning more efficient. Plus, you’ll probably save money and reduce impulse purchases by only buying what you know you’re going to wear.

Photo by Lauren Kolyn

Declutter Your Office Space

Ever notice how hard it is to actually get work done when your work area is full of clutter? Increase your motivation at work by taking a few simple steps to declutter your office space.

1. Go digital when you can

Does your bank or cable company have a paperless option? If so, carving out some time to sign up for e-statements and bills is a simple way to reduce clutter before it starts. Similarly, if you have papers or documents accumulating in drawers, and you’re sure you don’t need hard copies, scan them in and store them electronically.

2. Shred or recycle anything outdated

No use in hanging on to outdated receipts or bills you paid last year if they’re just sitting around collecting dust. Collect all the papers you don’t need, recycle the ones that aren’t sensitive, and shred the ones that are.

3. Invest in some storage and organization staples

Organization in the office doesn’t have to be complicated. A magazine file, a simple pen cup or flatware organizer, and an accordion file could do wonders for keeping your desk or work space uncluttered (and more aesthetically pleasing).

Photo by Emma Fiala

Declutter Your Life

From routines and habits to relationships and social commitments, if it’s adding stress (or simply not contributing to your well-being), it might need to go.

1. Conduct a calendar audit

We’ve all said “yes” to things that don’t serve us. If your life feels unbearably full and your routines don’t seem to be working, look at your commitments. Does that stressful, monthly networking event actually help you succeed at work? What about that standing double date with friends you don’t feel connected with? By mindfully freeing up calendar space, you’ll not only reduce stress and chaos in your routines; you’ll also create more room for the things you do love.

2. Find a planning system that works for you

You know what they say: Fail to plan, and plan to add clutter. To keep your social life, finances, and other routines in order, find a planning system that works for you. There’s nothing wrong with an all-analog approach to calendaring and planning if a digital datebook stresses you out, and if you’re not into bullet journaling, try Evernote or iCal. But whatever planning method you use, be consistent.

3. Set goals and work backwards

The best way to declutter your life is to take time to think about what you value. Where do you want to be in 1, 5, or 10 years? Plan an afternoon to camp out at your favorite coffee shop and dream about the future. Then, work backwards from your goals by coming up with three measurable, timely action steps for each one. When you know where you want to go, it’s so much simpler to make good decisions in the here and now — and reduce the chances of a cluttered life.

Ashley Abramson is a writer-mom hybrid in Minneapolis, MN. Her work, mostly focused on health, psychology, and parenting, has been featured in the Washington Post, New York Times, Allure, and more.

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This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy and was published July 8, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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