The Best 12 Places to Start Decluttering Your Home
Our goal in this article is to suggest the best 12 places in your home that are relatively quick to declutter (or at least can be done in bite-sized chunks) but go a long way to making a big difference in the overall level of clutter in your home. The spaces vary in size and time-commitment, but they all contribute to both the actual clutter of your home and the feeling of how cluttered it is. And when your home feels cluttered, your stress level will be significantly higher than it needs to be whenever you’re home trying to relax.
We don’t think you need to tackle all of these in a single day! You also don’t need to do them in any particular order. Keep this list bookmarked and make these the first places you go in your weekly allotted time to declutter.
If you don’t already have a weekly time set aside, we suggest that you take a look at both our 30 Day Declutter Challenge, which can give your decluttering a jump-start, and our Best 12 Low-Stress Tips for How to Declutter Your Home, where we discuss the fact that, as much as we wish it weren’t true, decluttering is a long-term project, best tackled in bite-sized chunks.
Research has shown that clutter has a negative impact on psychological home and subjective well-being. So getting started on tackling it is very important to leading a happy life. We hope we can suggest some places for you to start that improvement.
If you feel like you already have a lot of those negative emotions due to clutter, and that you can’t make any progress on your home, take a look at our Where Do I Start Decluttering My House When I Feel Overwhelmed? We’ll get you started–you can do it.
You might not actually have every location on this list (no shed, no garage, no basement). In a sense, that’s great! Because we’re fairly sure that those locations are the toughest on the list! You should, obviously, simply ignore those and be thankful that your task isn’t a lot bigger than it is.
The Best 12 Places to Start Decluttering Your Home
- Under your sinks.
- Your medicine cabinet.
- Your bedroom closet.
- Under your beds.
- Your linen closet.
- Your pantry.
- Your fridge.
- Your “junk drawer”.
- Your shed.
- Your garage.
- Your basement/attic storage area.
- Your wallet and/or purse.
1. Under Your Sinks
The spaces beneath your bathroom and kitchen sinks are often full of things like empty cleaning liquid bottles, dirty/useless scouring pads, and even unused cleaning supplies that would actually be used if they were placed in more appropriate locations. You likely have items in there that you have been looking for for months or even years (that’s where those nail clippers went!), and very likely have things that should be disposed of right away. We know from personal experience that some cleaning supplies don’t actually last for years–instead, they turn into a hard chunk at the bottom of their bottle.
As with quite a few other spaces on this list, the under-sink-spaces suffer from being out-of-sight and therefore out-of-mind. It’s all too easy to not think about having to clean the cleaning supply location.
To avoid this becoming a problem again in the near future you should focus on two primary goals while you’re decluttering these spaces:
First, make sure that everything that is under there is in its most useful location. Don’t store your kitchen cleaning supplies under your bathroom sink or vice versa. Do put things you could use often in more accessible, appropriate locations.
Second, while these seem like useful general storage spaces, you should not use them that way. If your goal is to declutter in the long-term, as we always encourage, keep as little as possible under sinks. Items placed down there tend to stay there forever.
2. Your Medicine Cabinet
The medicine cabinet is a classic clutter hot spot. For whatever reason, many of us tend to hold on to all of our old medication that we don’t need anymore. Once you add your daily toiletries and other bathroom accessories, medicine cabinets seem to quickly turn into cluttered long-term storage of a wide variety of things.
The best way to avoid this becoming a problem again in the future is to make sure that you dispose of unused medication as soon as it ceases to be used. Medication is the biggest culprit here. However, it’s not the only culprit! Bandages, cleaning supplies, and other things also gather in medicine cabinets, but they would be more useful and accessible elsewhere.
As with many of the other spaces suggested in this article, you should make sure you’re limiting your future use of medicine cabinets to things obviously appropriate to the space.
How To Dispose Of Medication
3. Your Bedroom Closet
Bedroom closets, for many people, seem perpetually packed with clothing. But how much of that clothing do you actually wear? For a minority of you, you’ll use almost all of it. For most of us, the proportion will be the other way: we’ll use almost none of it. That t-shirt you loved in high school but don’t fit anymore? Your favorite sweater that has holes in the elbows or cuffs? The jacket you absolutely loved on that mannequin but never found an opportunity to wear? The bride’s maid dress that you spent so much money on but wore only once? We are genuinely sorry to tell you that you should not be keeping those. Nor should you keep any of those other items that you haven’t worn in years.
The bedroom closet suffers strongly from the problems of sentimentality and “maybe one day” syndrome. Old clothes often have strong memories attached to them, which makes them really tough to dispose of. And there are always items of clothing that make you think “I know I haven’t worn this in years…but maybe I’ll need it soon!” These two things contribute to a lot of clutter in all homes, and it’s especially a problem in close, personal spaces like the bedroom. If you want to pursue long-term a declutter plan, sentimentality and “maybe one day” are things that you are going to have to be conscious of, and things you’re going to need to actively push back against.
If you’re tackling your bedroom closet you should take a look at our How to Get Rid of Clothing (For Money). There we talk about what your options are for getting rid of clothing, as well as giving you suggestions and links to those options.
Decluttering bedroom closets is a larger, longer project than sinks and medicine cabinets. If you can dedicate the time to doing it in one go, which might take several hours or more if you have a lot of clothes, that is best. But if you have too much for one session, permit yourself to make it a part of your regular declutter routine until it’s done. (If you don’t already have a routine, we suggest you take a look at our Best 12 Low-Stress Tips for How to Declutter Your Home.)
In the long run, the best way to keep your closet decluttered is simply to pay attention to what you haven’t worn in a long time and to overcome the problems above to dispose of those things. An easy way to do this is to incorporate clothing disposal into your regular closet-decluttering routine. And we certainly recommend looking through our suggestions from 10 Affordable Closet Organizer Solutions to Declutter Your Bedroom.
4. Under Your Beds
We dislike looking under beds. Any beds. It is incredible what you can sometimes see down there! It’s a breeding ground for families of dust bunnies, of course, but there might also be years-old food crumbs, old papers, kids’ stuffies and toys, pens, and many more things that we’ve cut out of this never-ending list for the sake of brevity. The source of this clutter is two-fold: things fall easily under many beds, and it’s tough to get things that are under the bed out from where they are. Simple!
Decluttering under the bed is typically a quick task, and could be easily incorporated into just one session of your regular decluttering routine. Since things tend to accumulate slowly under beds, possibly over the span of years, we don’t think that you need to make it a regular part of your routine.
Our favorite way to avoid future under-the-bed clutter is to simply make better use of that space under the bed. In our 10 Very Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Stuff one of the solutions we suggest is a pair of storage bags specifically designed to help you store things under the bed in a convenient, easily accessible way. With a solution like that, you get some more useful storage for things that need it, and the occupied space can no longer breed dust bunnies or hide your kids’ favorite lost toys.
5. Your Linen Closet
You don’t need all of those old sheets. We know you have them! Possibly since bedding is often fairly expensive there seems to be resistance to disposing of old, unused sheets, comforters, duvets, even sleeping bags. Bedding takes up a lot of space, so it causes the double-problem of itself being clutter and also taking away storage space that could be better used for other things.
Solving the linen closet problem isn’t too difficult: you just need to be honest with yourself about what items in there you actually need to keep. As with the bedroom closet items, here you have the “maybe one day” syndrome, thinking that maybe one day you’ll need those sheets that you haven’t used in a decade. This is what you’ll need to overcome.
Also like the bedroom closet declutter, in the long run, the best way to keep the linen closet decluttered is to pay attention to what you haven’t used in a very long time and to dispose of those things. Incorporating thoughts about bedding disposal into your regular closet-decluttering routine should be sufficient, as you likely won’t need to dispose of things very often at all.
6. Your Pantry
Condiments. Spices. Soup. Oh my! Nearly all foods are bought with the good intentions of consuming and enjoying them. But pantries, being a place for long term storage of longer-lasting foods, are often a graveyard for items whose opportunities passed them by a long time ago.
Making pantry checks a fairly regular part of your declutter routine is a good idea since food that is a long way past its expiry date can’t even use the “maybe someday” excuse that linens or clothing can use. Happily, it’s a quick clean, since most food products do have that actual date on them that you can use for your sorting.
In the long-term, you can make a point of disposing of expired items as soon as you see them, rather than letting them sit for years becoming a bacteria farm. You should also take a look at our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Kitchen, which suggestions several solutions that can help with this.
7. Your Fridge
This section can be short, as it is a lot like the pantry problem. Condiments are the obvious common problem in the fridge–many of us will have seen a fridge that somehow only contains condiments–though we’ve also seen a lot of fuzzy butters and cheeses. And finally, a surprisingly common problem: opaque food containers.
There isn’t really a good excuse for this happening since the build-up of such items in a fridge usually happens by people looking at an item, seeing that it’s expired, and putting it right back into the fridge. Or in the case of opaque food containers, when nobody knows what’s in a container it often just sits there forever!
Solving the problem is a matter of not putting those obviously expired items back into the fridge. When you notice such a thing, take it out immediately. And we also strongly recommend a good set of clear food containers. We suggest a very good set in our 10 Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Kitchen.
8. Your "Junk Drawer"
Most of us have at least one of these drawers. Drawers that have paperclips, rubber bands, and old lighters. Pens with no ink, pencils with broken ends, and more pads of paper than anyone can use in a lifetime. We don’t actually have a problem with having such a drawer. On the contrary, they can be a good thing! But they have to be kept in control.
If you already have dozens of twist-ties twisted into a ball “just in case you need one someday”, then you don’t need to add that next one. If you have a desk in the house, that’s a better place for the pen. If you have a place where you store your BBQ gear or a place with emergency (or fun!) candles, they are a better place for those lighters.
And that’s the long-term solution for the junk drawer. If you find them useful then, by all means, have and use one! But be very aware of what you’re putting in there. If you already have more than you will ever need of a thing, don’t add more. If you have a more appropriate place in the house to store the item, put it in the appropriate place and not the drawer.
9. Your Shed
The shed is often a place where things go when they have no other place to go. If it were more useful, it would likely be in your garage or basement, where it would be more easily accessible. That isn’t to say that we don’t like sheds, we do! But we have noticed this tendency for them to end up holding many things that they probably shouldn’t.
Depending on your shed, it might be quite a project to declutter. If you have many things piled up, or unlabeled boxes, then sorting will be a two-step process of unpacking boxes and sorting their contents before you can even sort the boxes themselves.
The long-term solution for this is to dispose of things that you aren’t 100% certain you must keep rather than relegating them to unseen spaces like the shed. This will be a bit of a theme for the next couple of spaces as well.
10. Your Garage
Garages usually store larger items, and their clutter is often larger too. It is also often of a more mechanical nature. If it counts as clutter then it is either not useful where it is, is in a place that it shouldn’t be, or would more appropriately be stored elsewhere.
If you have an unfixable bicycle, old car parts for cars that you no longer own, very dirty rags, or other things that will never be used again: they need to be disposed of. In fact, in our experience, decluttering a garage is usually more of a disposal project than it is a sorting project.
This is another space that probably can’t be tackled using a single chunk of your declutter routine. But regular small passes at the garage will keep it decluttered forever since its clutter doesn’t appear as often as clutter appears under a sink or bed. If the clutter items in question are useful but not well-stored, then better storage solutions would help to solve the problem. We have started an article to recommend some good storage solutions for garages–check back on our site in the near future, we’ll update this space with a link, or you can check the Top Lists page.
11. Your Basement/Attic Storage Area
We are going to lump basements and attics together since what we have in mind in this context are those spaces where you put things, usually larger things, that you don’t intend to use or even look at again for a long time. The source of the problem is built right into your use of the space: you don’t need the item, but you’re keeping it anyway.
We don’t intend to lump in truly important sentimental items such as memories of your children’s childhoods, but even then, be mindful and thoughtful about whether this item should be kept. Some absolutely should. Some toys are beloved by all generations; some baby clothes will look adorable even decades later. And many/most pictures, if you still have those in a non-digital form (we do!), are more valuable than almost anything. But that 3rd place trophy in a sport your child wasn’t really interested in, or those old shirts that hold no particular emotional connection–they can go.
Like your garage, this one might be intimidating. We know. We’ve been there! As we did with the garage we strongly suggest not trying to do the whole job at once. This is another one to chip away at, maybe even more so than the garage. One thing that can help is some appropriate storage and a labeling system for these spaces: if you can keep the space organized it will be less likely to become a dumping ground for generic “I think I want to keep this” items. We once again have to suggest taking a look at our 10 Very Affordable Solutions to Declutter Your Stuff for affordable solutions that might help you to organize such a space.
12. Your Wallet And/Or Purse
This isn’t a location, we understand that. But as we’ve discussed in other articles such as The Best 12 Low-Stress Tips for How to Declutter Your Home, long-term decluttering is about habit-building. It’s important to make sure that that habit permeates every relevant part of your life, even if only in small ways. And those of you with relevant wallet and/or purse situations know who you are!
Those receipts from 3 years ago? You don’t need them. That expired credit card? You don’t need it. The college ID card from years ago? Well, that one may be nice to have…but it doesn’t belong in your wallet!
Before putting something into your wallet, make sure that it’s something that needs to be there. We strongly recommend going for the leanest wallet and/or purse that you can. We have had many discussions over the years with people who moved from a comically full wallet to an extremely thin and lean one, who can’t imagine what they had been thinking and wouldn’t consider going back.
We’ve suggested our 12 best places to start decluttering your home. These don’t have to be tackled in any particular order, but we suggest starting with the small, more easily decluttered spaces like the medicine cabinet and under your beds.
We’re going to throw in one more “bonus” space here in the conclusion: your home office. We didn’t make it one of the 12 because, especially after 2020, home office tend to just be small parts of other rooms. Take a look at our 12 Quick Easy Tips to Declutter Your Home Office for some strategies to deal with your home office clutter.
We really hope that you’re able to take some steps using these suggestions that help you to start you on the road to a much less cluttered home!