The Room-By-Room Decluttering Guide You've Been Waiting For

Photo: Daring Wanderer

Think about walking into a spa for your massage appointment. The minute you walk through the door, you start to relax. By the time you've made it to the "quiet room," your shoulders might have dropped an inch from your ears. Now think about when you walk into your home. Do you feel the same sort of relaxation? Is your home peaceful and relaxing?

If your home doesn't make you feel calm, chances are your clutter is to blame.

Clutter is stressful. It's been scientifically proven to raise cortisol levels and have a negative effect on our overall sense of well-being. After 10 years of decluttering over 600 clients’ homes and offices, I can tell you I have definitely seen a direct correlation between clutter and stress. "The piles on the dining room table and kitchen counter feel like a constant to-do list." "When I open a closet and it’s crammed with stuff, I want to cry." "I have so much anxiety thinking about what if something happens to me and my family has to deal with this mess." I've heard these words over and over again. The good news is that it doesn't need to be this way.

Busting through stress doesn't mean you have to create a Pinterest-perfect home. This room-by-room decluttering guide makes it easy to tackle clutter and manage stress:

A room-by-room guide to decluttering for less stress.

The kitchen.

The kitchen is a great place to start with your home purge. From souvenir coffee mugs to multiples of pantry staples, kitchens are magnets for clutter. The kitchen also tends to be the command center of the home, so if you can get it under control, it will give you your sense of calm back.

First, look at your food storage. Pull all of your bins out and make sure every top has a bottom and every bottom has top. If not, toss it. This is also a great time to consider moving over to glass food storage. It lasts longer than plastic, is better for the environment, and is easier to store. Next, it's time to move on to spices. Contrary to what my grandmother believed, spices do not last forever. They eventually lose their flavor: ground spices after three or four years and leafy spices one to two years. Toss anything that's expired, and write the year the spice was purchased on the lid moving forward.

The last and probably most daunting step is addressing the pantry. Think about what your family will actually eat, and call your local food bank to see if they'll take the rest. This is also a great time to take stock of what foods actually get consumed in your household. I like to make a master grocery list that lives on the computer or can be printed out. That way, before you go to the store, you can check the pantry to make sure you don't buy staples you already have.

To stay ahead of the clutter in the pantry, never go to the grocery store without a list. It's a surefire way to overbuy.

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The living room.

Take a look around the room and see what items have homes. Sometimes a quick returning of things to their proper places will declutter a room in a very short time.

I've found that magazines are often the first item that can make a room feel cluttered and the last thing to ever be reread. Be honest about the time and interest you have in your 'zines, and consider tossing them in the recycle bin. If have more than six month’s worth of back issues of any one periodical, cancel the subscription.

The bathroom.

Start with the countertop. This is the place where you need to get honest about all the beauty products you don't use. I know some of these products were expensive. I know they promised you the world. But if you didn't like the way they felt on your face the first time you used them, you're not going to like them a week from now either. Pro tip: Bring a bag of beauty products you don't need to your next BFF lunch and watch them get snatched up.

Let it go and enjoy the space and the freedom that comes with less.

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The bedroom.

First, let’s declutter those nightstands. Nothing gets the day off to a bad start like waking up to a pile of clutter. How many of those books stacked up there are you actually going to read? The nightstand should hold the book you are currently reading, a clock, a lamp and a glass of water. Calm, simple, serene.

Then, let's move on to the closet. I've found that we often wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time, so, let’s get real about what those go-to pieces are. Your closet should be full of clothes you wear and feel good in right now. Not in the future or the past, the now.

The home office.

The No. 1 cause of paper clutter is over-retention. When I first started my business, I kept paper copies of all my bank statements, and it made my life so much easier to transfer those over online. Call your accountant and get a rundown of what you really need to be keeping and shred the rest.

The miscellaneous junk.

The gifts you were going to give to someone a year ago. The stationery you bought five years ago but have never used. The books someone said you HAD to read, but you can't seem to make the time to. Take a good hard look at the "stuff" that's floating around, acknowledge that you are never going to use it—but that's OK. Let it go and enjoy the space and the freedom that comes with less.

Looking for more actionable decluttering tips? Our experts weighed in on what they REALLY think of the Kondo method, and point us to the best storage options out there.

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