How to Start a Decluttering Checklist

It’s that time of the year, when articles about spring cleaning pop up everywhere and people start to get rid of the old, to make way for the new. With warm weather dawning and a queue of Marie Kondo episodes to watch on Netflix, many people are starting to think about decluttering, in all its forms.

When faced with the often enormous task of organizing and restructuring your space, it’s easy to start to feel overwhelmed. Even if your stuff has been relatively tidy, when that spring cleaning regimen begins, you may start to notice all the little things you don’t normally see, lingering in your closets, cabinets, and drawers.

And it’s easy to get caught up on the emotional side of things, as well. Everyone who’s spent time organizing and decluttering knows those lingering feelings of doubt that can arise when making a tough choice on whether to throw something away. Then there’s the guilt that can come up when considering holding onto things you know you don’t want, but think you may need.

One of the best ways to maximize your time, and your impact, is to come up with a checklist. Getting your thoughts and goals organized can make tackling all of your decluttering tasks much simpler.

So, what are some of the best ways to approach spring decluttering with a sound vision and a logical plan? Here are a few guidelines that may help you build out that decluttering checklist and sort out your messiest spaces:

1.) Be Mindful of Your Time

The task of decluttering can be daunting. As you take a look around, it may help to remember that the most difficult projects around the house — the ones you just keep wanting to push off — can also be the most rewarding.

The key to a smooth decluttering process is all in the approach. Before taking to piles of stuff, start by assessing each room and category you need to go through. It may help to make a list of all you need to handle, and then prioritize the larger tasks ahead of the more simplistic ones.

2.) Consider Your Priorities

From the jump, it may help to be realistic, and acknowledge that it may take awhile to get everything done. Working from there, you can build out your task schedule. What feels the most pressing to you at the moment? Perhaps you have boxes of old papers blocking your office entryway, or drawers overflowing with winter hats and scarves you never actually wear. Think about what would give you the biggest return on your time, and start there.

It may also help to sort through your list, dividing more labor-intensive tasks from those that will take less time. For example, after a long day at work you may consider handling smaller tasks, like going through your sock drawer, while taking the weekend to do a bigger job, like emptying your kitchen drawers and cabinets.

3.) Work by Category

Early on, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the sheer amount you have to do. To make things easier and encourage yourself to get started, focus on dividing things into categories — say, dividing up your jobs by room, or even by type of clutter. From there, you can even find subcategories, to make things less intimidating.

So, for example, if you choose to work with the room that you feel needs the most immediate attention first, it may also help to divide the work in that space by category, in order to stay focused.

In the bedroom, for instance, one of your categories may be discarding old clothing. When sorting through and clearing out clothes, you may start with the overarching category, and then find it easiest to narrow in on subcategories. Focus on shirts and tops, then sweaters, then coats, and so on. When tending to your kitchen, sort out all utensils before you tackle pots, pans, and other heavy duty cooking supplies. Working this way can help streamline your decluttering, and will help keep you more clear-minded as you go through each pile.

4.) Plan for Discarded Clutter

When you’re preparing your decluttering process, you’ll also want to make sure you’re going to be prepared for what happens next. As you get started, it may help to come up with a strategy for how you want to discard everything, and use that to set your checklist.

For instance, you may want to separate which items you’d want to try and sell, which you’ll donate, which you can recycle, and which items you’re just going to toss. As you go, keep your old goods sorted into these respective piles, and be sure to plan for different bags or storage options for each so you don’t get confused.

At the same time, don’t forget that decluttering can be a great opportunity to tackle some deep cleaning. When you finish a room, you may want to go through with a rag and your favorite cleaning agent, to get rid of the dust and residue that may have built up unnoticed.

5.) Consider Your Goals

Another key part this checklist process — and something many of us tend to overlook — is to truly reflect on what you want, and consider your ideal vision for your space. Anyone can go through old stuff and declutter, but how do you keep that energy going once your checklist is completed?

In other words, be sure to remember the why behind your tidying up process, and work to achieve what you envision for your space once you’ve cleared out the unwanted stuff.

To that end, don’t forget about organizing! Another thing to visualize and consider is the how of all your belongings, and the space they occupy. Often when we jump to just putting it all away, stuff gets jammed together or forgotten about. Instead, take this time to be thoughtful and take steps to make your space truly work.

You may want to take advantage of storage containers, and label everything in a way that works for you. Feel free to get creative! You may want to look for storage that fits your unique decor, or adds a special touch to your space.

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