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.


The Clutter Snowball

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Clutter Snowball - Great idea!

My husband has wisely made the correlation between Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps and an effective decluttering method.  I’ll elaborate on the steps as we make our way through our Live With Less year-long journey but today I want to share how our proposed Clutter Snowball is similar to Dave Ramsey’s Debt Snowball method (Baby step #2).  Dave Ramsey’s method is very effective and we hope that ours will be too!

{By the way, I have to stop and say that I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover!  I know his plan well because my husband and I followed it to become debt free and we are currently on step 4.  We love it!}


It’s called the snowball method because of how it works.  When you want to build a snowman you could bring handfuls of snow and pile them up in one spot but most people start with a tight snowball and roll it around the yard.  Why is that?  It’s because everyone knows a rolling snowball will build a snowman much quicker.

Big Snowball

Just like Dave Ramsey suggests paying off the smallest debt first I’m recommending that you start with the smallest space in your home to declutter first.  That’s why last week’s challenge was to clean one drawer.  For the next two weeks your challenge is to tackle the smallest section of your home but I’ll give more details on that tomorrow.

Clutter Snowball Method!

Here are the three ways they are similar:

– Behavior Modification – Both the debt snowball method and the clutter snowball method are designed to change your behavior.  Change your habits, change your life, as the cliche goes.  When you’re intentional about a goal and you have steps to reach it, you are 100 times more likely to succeed.  I know that you already have your goal in mind.  You can probably already visualize your home looking fabulous, can’t you?  I have those day dreams often.  I’m here weekly to help supply you with the baby steps.

– “Gazelle Intensity – Dave coined the term “gazelle intensity” after reading Proverbs 6:4–5, which says, “Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”

In other words, when you’re in debt…or when you’re in over your head with clutter, you need to work as hard to get out of debt as a gazelle works to run from a cheetah.

It’s possible to escape the cheetah but it won’t happen if the gazelle shuts his eyes and hopes the cheetah will disappear {like I’ve done a time or two with the clutter that surrounds me}.  It takes work, hard work, and a plan to outrun that cheetah…but WE CAN DO IT!

– Visual Change = Motivation – When you see change happening you’ll stick to your plan.  This is my favorite point!  I know that a few of you have already came to this conclusion on your own by the comments you’ve left in our Facebook group Live With Less and I just love that.

When we start small we can see the rewards of our work and that feeling of accomplishment is amazing!  Sometimes we’re even motivated to go and clean even more but if we’re not, that’s okay.  Cleaning out my linen closet made me want to clean out every closet in our home and donate even more trash bags.  I didn’t have time to do that this week but that’s okay!  Small steps are the way to go.  What if I had attempted to clean out a massive space only to have pulled everything out and ran out of time?  I would have had more of a mess than I started with.  I’ve done this before.  I became overwhelmed, threw everything back in it’s place, and left defeated.

Together, let’s take small steps this week to clean our smallest room or section.  If you haven’t divided your home into 12 sections yet, you can see this post for more information.  Tomorrow, I’ll be back to share a more detailed method for attacking that clutter filled small space but feel free to get started on it now if you’d like!

Do you like the clutter snowball idea as much as I do?  I hope so!  What is the smallest room that you’ll be tackling in the next two weeks?

Organizing a Linen Closet

This conversation is brought to you by Wayfair and my need to declutter!

I’m very excited to share with you my first success story on my year long Live With Less journey.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about you can read more about that here.

I started with an area that I was decently happy with.  A year ago I could barely shut the door on this linen closet but my sweet husband helped me clean it out while I was nine months pregnant and in hard-core nesting mode.  Here’s how the closet looked today before I decluttered and organized it.

Linen Closet

It’s not terrible but it’s FULL of too much stuff.  Things we don’t use and keep just in case… you know, in case twenty surprise guests want to come for the night.  Ridiculous!

First, I took everything out of the closet and started started piling up the items I knew I didn’t want anymore.  I tossed old throw blankets that I never used into that pile, an old down comforter my husband used before we were married, rugs I used in my house before we were married, and pillowcases with no matching sheets (Where did those come from?!).  All of the sentimental and useful afghans and blankets were added to the bottom shelf and the floor.  Then I took a look at the abundance of towels I had.  I kept enough hand towels to have one out and one in the wash for every bathroom.  I thought about the largest family that comes to visit us and I set aside one towel and wash cloth for each of them.  The rest went into the donate pile.

Check out my donate pile.  I’m pretty proud of it!

Donated Items

Next, I folded my towels nice and neat.  Then I grabbed two of my new baskets I ordered from Wayfair last week and threw my spare bed sheets in them.  One has spare sheets for our queen bed and the other holds spare sheets for our guest beds.  The kids keep their spare sheets in their closets.

Basket Organization

I used my last basket to store the towels and wash clothes that my daughter and son use.  Their wash cloths are smaller than adult ones and can quickly become jumbled.  This basket keeps them neat and tidy…or at least together and hidden. : )  I love it!

Linen Closet Organization

Here’s what it looks like now…at night.  I’ll have to take another picture tomorrow to show you when the lighting is better but I was so excited that I wanted to show you my progress right away!  Doesn’t it look great?

That’s not all!  I’m going to make labels to tie to each basket to label what’s inside of each one.  I have also ordered a new ironing board AND an ironing board holder.  This is a game changer!!  I’ve never had an ironing board holder before or even knew they existed really.  I have just always stored it awkwardly in my closet.  Those days are over because I bought an over the door ironing board holder.  It should arrive Wednesday and I’ll show you a picture then with my new, sturdy, non-wobbly ironing board hanging on the door of my linen closet.  The hanger even has a hook to store my iron.  I’m not sure if I’m conveying my emotion but I AM GIDDY with excitement.  My little organization-loving heart is happy.

If you’re joining me in this Live With Less journey here’s your assignment:

This week clean out one drawer (or closet if you’re so motivated).  Throw away, donate, sort, and organize.  One drawer, that’s it.  If  after you’ve cleaned one drawer and you feel like tackling more, go for it!  If not, no worries.  Oh, and I want to see your before and after pictures!!  Share on social media with the hashtag #LiveWithLess so I can follow along with your progress.  If you’re a member of our Live With Less Facebook group share your picture there as well to help encourage others in the fight against excess.

What drawer will you be cleaning this week?   

52 Weeks to Live With Less

How to Live With Less

Stuff.  We all have it.  It invades our homes when we’re not looking.  It is an unwanted, unruly guest that has proven difficult to kick out.  Sometimes it marches proudly into our lives masquerading as something that will give our life meaning and our hearts contentment.  We will spend our lifetime accumulating and admiring the stuff we own.  But do we really own it?  Lately, I feel like my stuff owns me.

Simplicity Quote

I feel like I’m a slave to stuff.  That’s hard and downright embarrassing to admit…not to mention, a horrible way to begin a year long series on decluttering.  The old cliche comes to mind about the blind leading the blind.  I do hope that’s encouraging to you as well.  I’m not an organizing guru who will come into your home and whip it in to shape to only have stuff sneak it’s way back in months later.  I’m a mom to young kids, I run a busy life, and I have a honest to goodness love/hate relationship with stuff!  I’m in the thick of it now and I want to walk this year long journey with you.  Let’s get control of our stuff and stop letting it control us.

Join me, will you?  Let’s declutter.  Downside.  De-crapify. Organize.  Simplify and support each other.

I’m doing this with or without you but I do genuinely hope you’ll join me.

I have a year long schedule laid out with weekly freebies, challenges, and encouragement.  Oh and yea, if you want to feel better about your clutter feel free to check in weekly for REAL UNEDITED pictures of my clutter, progress, and hopefully victories!

How you can participate:

  • – Join our Live With Less Facebook group where you can share your challenges and seek encouragement in a friendly, non-judgy atmosphere.
  • – Sign up for our weekly email updates.  Yes, it’s just one email a week – I don’t like email clutter either!
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If you accept this 52 week Live With Less Challenge, your first assignment begins NOW!!! Don't worry, it's an easy one.

Grab a piece of paper and divide your home in 12 sections.  Don't worry about color coding it or making it neat and tidy.  (I have that tendency so I'm sure someone else does too!)  Don't procrastinate.  A piece of scrap paper and a crayon will do just fine.  We'll tackle one section each month and it's okay if some sections are bigger than others, in fact, that's probably a good thing.

It's a super duper easy task and I'll meet you back here next week for the next step in our 52 week journey (or in our Facebook group sooner if you choose to join in).  I hope you're at least half as excited about this as I am!!

Oh, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!  Here's to a GREAT 2015!!!

Update!  Here's a running list of the Live With Less posts.

- Organizing a Linen Closet
- The Clutter Snowball
- How to Declutter a Room Step by Step
- Organizing the Playroom Like a Pro (Tips from a professional organizer!)
- Declutter Game - Prize is $100 Cash
- 200+ Things to Throw Away Now
- Kid's Bedroom Organization Tips from Barbara Reich
- Simplified Meal Planning