Decluttering Your Home – When Organizing Isn’t Enough

After 8 years, we are finally selling our house that I have been sorting, cleaning, and organizing foe what seems like a lifetime. When you’ve been in a house for 8 years, it’s easy to fill a house with tons of storage space. For us, simplifying our possessions has been a year-long process. Last year, we started selling things to make money and clear out some closets. This year, when I opened our closets, I was surprised at how much we still had. However, I found it easier to let go of more items this year.

Decluttering Your Home

I’m not sure where our next home will be, but I do know it will be much smaller. This is why we must reduce our possessions. Fortunately, I’ve done this so much that I’ve developed a system. Some of these suggestions aren’t new, but I’ve found that they work for me.

1. Focus on one area at a time.

I don’t move on to the next area until I finish the one before it. For example, once the front closet is finished, I will begin work on the bathroom cabinets. Taking one victory at a time helps you stay motivated. I save my daughter‘s rooms for last. They are always a challenge and a large source of clutter. Last year, I wrote a whole post about decluttering a kid’s room.

Children bring so much joy and excitement to the world, but they also bring clutter. It’s unavoidable that rooms in your house will fill up with gear, clothes, and, of course, toys over time. Why does it take hours, if not days, to clean and organize playrooms, but only seconds for the toys to be all over the place again?

kids room Declutter
Decluttering the kids’ rooms might be more of a challenge

Parenting includes learning how to manage and organize all of the “kid stuff” that accumulates in the playroom and bedroom. Unfortunately, having too many “things” can make toy rooms dangerous. Aside from tripping and stepping on tiny toy pieces, young children will try to put small toys in their mouths, which is a possible choking hazard.

2. Create keep, trash, donate, and relocate piles.

Remember that show “Clean Sweep”? It taught me how to organize my belongings. The family had to sort everything in a room into three piles on the show: keep, sell, and trash. Then they’d have a massive garage sale. My process follows the same principles. I start by taking everything out of the area and making piles. Sometimes one pile is labeled “go to garage” or “go upstairs.”


If I’m going to have a garage sale, I create a “sale” pile. If not, that pile is labeled “donate.” I try not to make a sell and a donate pile at the same time because it is too much work for me to keep track of everything.

3. Determine whether it is useful or beautiful.

The key to sorting is to move quickly and make quick decisions. Clutter is anything you don’t love or need that takes up space. When sorting through my belongings, I would ask myself two questions:

  • Did I use this item in the previous year?
    If the answer is no, I dispose of it. I usually keep it if the answer is yes.
  • Is this item useful or beautiful to me?
    If either of these questions is answered positively, I usually keep the item. If an item is broken and I haven’t repaired it in 6 months, I throw it away.

4. Let go of the guilt that comes with receiving gifts.

I’m surprised how frequently I come across items that I kept because they were given to me and I had space to store them. I regret getting rid of the item because it was a gift. Then I realize that the gift is now mine to do with as I please. If I can give it to someone else, I will. I had a lot of lotions and perfumes in my bathroom cabinet that I never used. I need to get on with my life without them. And this sweater. Ugh.

declutter gifts
Hmmm, do I need this sweater?

5. Create a memory box.

Many of the items in the clutter and closet are simply things I want to remember. My friend Sara suggested I make a memory box a few years ago. The issue was that I had a slew of memory boxes scattered around the house, each stuffed with random papers from travels, wedding leftovers, and college coursework.

memory box
memory box in progress

I went through each item and discarded any duplicates or unnecessary items. I resolved to keep two or three memory boxes. I could only keep what fit in those boxes at the time. I photographed items that I wanted to remember but weren’t important enough to keep.

6. Should You Rent a Dumpster to Clean Out Your Home?

When you’ve made the decision to dive in and start cleaning out your house, you’ve probably created piles for the dumpster, the donation bin, and what to keep. Having a convenient location to dispose of trash, especially the large items such as old furniture, keeps you from hoarding items that you would otherwise discard. Who knows how long it will sit around your house or steadily make its way back to the attic, basement, or garage if you wait until you drive past the dump.

Rent a Dumpster to Clean Out Your Home
Unwanted gifts seem to fill this dumpster

“I don’t have enough trash to rent a whole dumpster,” you may reason. For starters, most dumpster rental companies start at 10 cubic yards, so there’s something for everybody. Even so, you can talk to a few neighbors about splitting the rent. After all, we all have a few items that could be disposed of, and this could also be a great way to conduct a neighborhood cleanup. It’s simple enough to find one by searching dumpster rental Austin in Google.

Final Word

I’m astounded at how many trash bags I’ve filled. I enjoy the freedom and peace of mind that decluttering my home has provided me. Every time I go through my belongings, it becomes easier for me to let go. I realize this is only a speck in our grand plan to travel the world with our children. Decluttering may not be required for everyone to travel, but it certainly feels that way for us.