How to Declutter a Room Step by Step

Our kitchen is the hub of our home.  We spend a lot of our time eating there, fixing meals, doing crafts, and homeschooling.  It’s no wonder that it’s a place that collects stuff.  Mountains of stuff.  Unreal, embarrassing amounts of stuff.  To put it mildly, it’s horrendous.  It stresses me out and overwhelms me.  Please tell me that you can relate?  It’s so overwhelming that I don’t know where to begin.

The main problem is the clutter on the counters but I also have drawers and cabinets full of things we don’t need.  It’s embarrassing to have friends over.  You can only use “the kids were sick last week” excuse for so long…especially when they can see that the amount you’ve collected took much longer than a week to accumulate.  Sigh.  I know that homeschooling and spending time with the kids matters much more than a perfect house.  I remind myself of this daily but if we had less stuff our “dirty” would be a lot less, well, dirty.  It would be easier to clean regularly and I could actually do a 15 minute clean before someone comes and be satisfied with that.

Fair warning, this is going to be a long post.  Feel free to go ahead and grab a cup of coffee and a pen and paper.  Okay, let’s get going.  This is my game plan for my kitchen and you can adapt it for the space you’ve chosen to tackle this week and next.  I’ve created a sample two-week clean up plan that I’ve broken down into smaller chunks of time.  This can be tailored to your needs and schedule.

First things first: Clear the sink of dishes.  We’re really good at this one so I’m giving myself a little break here but if this is an area you struggle with do this first.  Every evening from the start of this project until your room is the organized kitchen you’re envisioning, I want you to clean out your sink.

If you’re cleaning your bedroom, make your bed.  If you’re cleaning your laundry room, clear off the tops of your washer and dryer.  Whatever room it is you’re cleaning, try and have one place that’s neat.  Having a that sense of order will motivate you to keep on keepin’ on.

The second thing: This is important – turn on some music.  Do it!  It always makes otherwise mundane tasks kind of fun because who doesn’t love to dance along to “Uptown Girl”? ha!

Now we plan!

Grab that pen and paper that I mentioned earlier.  Sit in your room of choice and look around. From your spot, survey your landscape.  Try to take a note of things you could tackle together in groups.  On your piece of paper write down the different groupings of things that you’re seeing.  This is my kitchen list:

Kid’s clothes/hair bows (In the kitchen?  Yes, unfortunately.)
Make-up/beauty products to review
On top of fridge
Food in cabinet
Under the sink
Pots & pans
Measuring spoons/bowls
Above the stove
Under the stove
Cookie sheet cabinet

Whew, that was longer than I thought it would be. Now turn the paper over or grab another sheet and order them in the order that you’ll take them on. If you have trash in your room, keep that at the top of your list.

Declutter list

Think of how many days you realistically can devote 30+ minutes to this project between now and the end of the month.  I gave myself seven days then I separated my list into seven sections that should each take around 30 minutes to tackle.  If I didn’t have kids or if I wanted to work in the evenings I would have fewer sections with a longer time to work but I’m going to attempt this project during nap times.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  Make a plan that will work for you and your lifestyle.

Once you have your list, you have your game plan…or blueprint, of your future organized space.

Don’t skip making your list.  I know it sounds tedious and you think that you should just dive in and conquer but I’ve done it both ways and trust me, you save a lot of time by making a plan ahead of time.  Plus, it will feel great to check those things off your list!!

Gather supplies:

You know your space better than I do but here is a suggested list for this decluttering project.

  • – Trash bags
    – Box/tote
    – Kitchen timer {here’s my favorite kitchen timer}
    – Phone or camera
    – Coke/Starbucks frappucino…or something for a reward. 🙂

Executing Section One:

Set your kitchen timer for 25 minutes (or 55 minutes).  However long you have to clean, subtract 5 minutes and set your timer for that.  Turn on some tunes.  Grab your donate box and your trash bag and begin going through your first section.  Save sentimental items to review last.  Dooooooooooon’t agonize over whether or not to keep something.  I do this far too much so I am speaking from experience.  You’ll waste too much time and mental energy over-thinking things.  If it’s a question at all just keep moving.  As you’re removing trash, set any items that belong in other rooms outside of your current room.

After your timer goes off, stop where you are.  Grab your phone and spend your last five minutes taking pictures of the items you have in your donate box.  Take a picture of the box as a whole to stash with your donation slip if you plan to itemize.  If you want to try and sell some of these items take individual pictures now and if they don’t sell within two weeks donate them.  {If you’re in a different financial state than I am you may want to donate them all right away or try and sell them for a longer time.  No judging here!}

Go enjoy your Coke and if possible do something that is mentally relaxing.  Watch TV, read a book, go for a walk, etc.

Executing Section Two:

In order to begin sorting things, it’s best to start with a clean slate. Which means taking everything out of the cabinet (or desk, or closet depending on your location).

Take a damp cloth and clean the empty cabinet.  Enjoy the serenity of a clean space and try and only put back in what you will use now.  If you were at a store now, would you buy that item?  If not, toss it.  {When I say toss it, I mean remove it from your life by whatever means you see fit.  Selling, donating, giving to a friend, etc.}

Right away, toss extras you find.  Two sets of measuring cups?  Toss your least used set.  Two hand mixers?  Toss one.  Yes, for some strange reason I really have two hand mixers and maybe four measuring cup sets?  I don’t know how we collected so much stuff without noticing!

After sorting through the contents of your cabinet, begin putting things back into place.  Isn’t it nice to have another organized space in your home?  Pat yourself on the back and take a load off!

Execution Phase Three:

As you dive into the third section make a list of things you may need to help better organize your space.  New hangers, drawer organizers, shoe rack, etc?  Our goal through this Live With Less journey is to have less stuff.  My mantra to myself through this series is, “Would you rather have neatly organized junk or no junk at all?”  Out with the junk and in with organized stuff!

Don’t forget to measure your space before you shop!  An under the bed stowaway that won’t fit under your bed but has to stay upright and unused in the tiny walkway of your closet will do you no good.  Not that I would know from experience or anything! ha.  TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, IKEA, Home Goods, and Wayfair are all excellent choices for discounted and beautiful storage solutions.

Execution Phase Four & On:

You’re almost there! Aren’t you so excited?  You’ve done a tremendous job tackling the smallest clutter-catching space in your home.  Keep on keeping on and after you’ve completed all of your sections and shredded paperwork, donated/sold items, etc take a step back and look at your space.  Is your space functioning as best as it can?  Would your favorite pottery bowl serve you better as a fruit bowl that you can enjoy looking at daily?  Is that the best way to organize your spices? {btw, you can see my organized spices here}  Would it make more sense to have your glasses and mugs by the refrigerator or the Keurig?

I did a paid survey several years back for Rubbermaid.  They came into my home and snooped around {with permission} in my kitchen cabinets and had me explain why what I had was where it was.  It was quite an experience!  I found myself saying, “I’ve never really thought about it before.”  Now is the time for you to think about it.  Don’t spend all day but think about different ways, possibly a more efficient way, to store your things.

Last but not least, clean your space.  Run the vacuum, wipe off the counters, dust.

Yay, you did it!  Enjoy your clean clutter-free space!

Okay so that’s it! Well, not entirely it, but with only a few hours of work a week you can get your room cleaned up so that you won’t be at all embarrassed when a friend makes a surprise visit.


A rough timeline should look something like this:

Week 1 – Planning, trash, additional sections.

Week 2 – Buy any needed organizational supplies, remaining sections, cleaning, donating/selling.

This is absolutely doable, you just need someone to hold your hand and help you get over the feeling of panic you’re having.  I’m that virtual friend who’s holding your hand while simultaneously cleaning my own home.

One thing to remember about projects like this is that oftentimes things get messier before they get cleaner.  This is one of the reasons why it’s very important to work on things in sections.  Being able to see tangible steps along the way will help you combat the feeling of being overwhelmed.

If you don’t finish a section one day during your allotted time, it’s okay.  Give yourself grace.  As long as you commit to doing what you can and stick with it you’ll be okay.  It’s similar to a diet, except not nearly as excruciating.

Next week we’ll talk about how to keep things tidy going forward. I’m a firm believer that coming home to a place you love lifts up all other aspects of your life!

Join us in our Live With Less Facebook group to share your before and after photos.


About Ashley

Ashley is very happily married and the mother to a beautiful little girl and handsome little boy. She is the main voice behind Embracing Homemaking.


  1. Thanks for sharing your journey! I am in a decluttering process now in EVERYTHING in my house. Less stuff for me means less mess to clean! I am also decluttering clothing & jewelry. I recently decluttered my jewelry first and made a post this past week about it. I made a capsule jewelry line for myself out of what I already had and got rid of the rest. I will not buy any more this year I will use what I already have in that! Come check it out when you can! Let’s share in each others journey. Next I will be blogging about clothes!

  2. Keep this going please,great job!

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