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Pro Organizers Reveal 7 Easy Ways to Conquer Clutter + Save Your Sanity!

Discover how 'compassionate decluttering' boosts your motivation to get organized

From unruly clothes to rogue paper piles, we’re drowning in stuff. No wonder a recent survey shows a whopping 54% of us are overwhelmed by clutter. Here, easy ways to (finally!) conquer clutter — and dial down the anxiety that comes with it.

1. Let go of clutter-induced guilt

Clutter isn’t a four-letter word. In fact, the first step is to release any shame you may have around it, urges Marni Jameson, author of Rightsize Today. She explains that a phenomenon called the endowment effect shows that we’re hardwired to place meaning on our things, even if we’ve outgrown them. “It goes as far back as our baby stage when we were possessive of our blanket, and it never goes away — it just becomes more sophisticated as we get older.” Simply knowing our brain compels us to hold on to items we no longer need will help us nix self-blame and let go of more of our stuff.

2. Ask yourself three simple questions

Why now? By when? How much? These three questions will help you create a decluttering road map, says professional organizer Dorothy Breininger, an organizing expert on the hit A&E show Hoarders, and author of Stuff Your Face or Face Your Stuff: The Organized Approach to Lose Weight by Decluttering Your Life.

“‘Why now?’ could be because you want to clear out your past and create a new future,” Breininger says. “‘By when?’ may be because you’re getting ready to move in six months or family is visiting in a few weeks.” Finally, “‘How much?’ might apply to the amount of stuff you want to toss or how much help you may need.” Adds Breininger, “It’s hard to figure these things out on your own, so ask friends for their advice.”

3. Dodge perfectionism to conquer clutter

“So many of us struggle with the ‘perfect’ way to let go of our items,” says home coach Michelle L. Hoff, author of Compassionate Decluttering: How to Soulfully Surrender Your Stuff. Hoff recalls a client who was looking to give away the many vintage postcards she was holding on to. “She wanted them to go to a historian who would appreciate them — but trying to find the ideal person kept her from giving them away. Instead, we decided local artists would love these postcards.” The takeaway? “There are so many ways to let go of your stuff; it’s about progress, not perfection.”

Woman places old clothes in keep and give away boxes, as she conquers clutter

4. Build clutter-busting confidence in 15 minutes

“Women are already ‘project managers’ when it comes to everything from our work to our personal lives,” says Hoff, who confirms that you can do this. The key is just knowing your threshold for stress. “Set a timer for, say, 15 minutes, to help you stay on task and prevent you from getting overwhelmed. This builds confidence, which in turn builds grit, which helps you do harder and harder things.”

5. ‘Shop’ your closet to conquer clutter

It’s one of the biggest clutter bugaboos, but clearing closet chaos is easier than you think, says Jameson. “It may sound counterintuitive, but instead of moving through each hanger one at a time, take everything out, and ‘shop’ your closet,” she says. “Ask yourself, ‘Would I buy this again? Do I need it, use it, love it?’ If the item doesn’t check one of the boxes, toss it. These questions help you become ruthless — in the very best way.”

woman surveys her clothes in her closet, deciding what she wants to keep and what to toss, as she conquers clutter

6. Make organizing decisions easily

Clutter is often the result of putting off decisions out of fear of being “wrong,” says Breininger. The easy fix: “Declare yourself a ‘master decider,’ then group like items with like and go slowly. For example, if you have four spatulas, keep the best three and let go of one; or if you have six pairs of black jeans, keep four and toss two. This way, you’re giving yourself the bulk of ‘keeps,’ which helps you build momentum.”

7. Set the stage to conquer clutter

“We often feel overwhelmed because we’re trying to declutter in the middle of chaos,” says Breininger. That’s why she suggests creating a “staging area.” “Just get a folding table or spread a sheet on the floor and put out 10 to 20 items — anything from dishes to toiletries — and sort them.” The clean, dedicated space makes it easy to see what you want to keep and what to toss. “It’s a simple pro trick that’ll help make your decluttering experience feel easy and professional.”

For more clutter-busting hacks:

7 Tips For Organizing Paperwork and De-Cluttering Your Home

5 Dollar Tree Organizing Hacks That Will Banish Clutter

The Simple Rule for Cleaning Out Your Closet When You Have Too Many Clothes and Not Enough Space

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