These are the steps, declutter then organize

Just because something brought you joy in the past doesn’t mean you should carry it forever. The possessions you keep should represent the person you are trying to become, not the person you were.  Keep this in mind when you start your decluttering journey. As you start to let go of things it will become easier and easier.  Here are steps to help you on your path to finding your treasures.

Planning the space 

1. Decide what the goal is for the room.  Is it to have a:

  • Beautiful compact space
  • Functional workshop
  • Sense of freedom and control
  • The joy of financially exchanging stuff for new experiences and pleasures.
  • Clear out a parent’s home
  • Make things easier for the next generation
  • Streamline your lifestyle

2. Decide what you want the room to look like and be used for. Draw a floor plan and make a list of activities that happen in that space.  It will help you to know what to keep.

3. Decision criteria

Set up some questions to help you with your decision making.  Here are some examples:

  • How many of these do I have? How many is enough?
  • Does the item fit in with my values?
  • Is this item current?
  • Is this item really valuable?
  • Will owning this help to resolve my clutter?
  • What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t have it?
  • Can I borrow it from somewhere?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Do I need it?

4. How much is enough?

Look around the room and decide what percentage of stuff you need to give away so everything will fit into the room.  25% 50% 75%?

5. If you don’t schedule it, it won’t get done.

Schedule time and work when you are not rushed.   Do one area, room, box or even corner of a room depending on how much stuff you have to go through and your timeline.

6. Prepare the room for working.

You will need a series of boxes, bins, bags or containers. for garbage, recycling, donations, items to go to other rooms and items to return to people.

A series of boxes to use in decluttering

5 Methods for decluttering the room 

I’m going to go through a number of ways to sort through your items and you can decide what method works best for you.  At first, decluttering is easy because you find items that you know you don’t want and just haven’t given them away yet.  Then it becomes more challenging. You must chip away at identifying which items are true treasures versus those you feel guilty about giving away.  Remember to reduce by the percentage you choose in your planning.

1. Have a box 

The simplest way to start is to keep a box in your closet and whenever you find something you don’t need put it into the box and you can start decluttering right away.

2. Skimming

  • Go to a closet/cupboard and select the best items in each that category.
  • Most cupboards/closets will have more than one category.
  • For example, in a kitchen, the cupboard might have baking dishes, casserole dishes, muffin tins and loaf pans.  Pick the best 1 or 2 of each of these 4 categories and donate the rest.
  • Continue to open each cupboard and drawer skimming the contents and selecting 1 or 2 items from each category.

3. Sort then declutter

  • Go clockwise around the room sorting items into groups by function
  • Do the surfaces first and then the drawers and cupboards next
  • When you are done, the garbage and recycling will be collected and removed from the room
  • All the items in the room will be in groups
  • Each room will have different categories/groups of items. Here are some examples, books, electronics, tools, dishes, home decor, games, clothing, photos  etc

Look at one category/group and apply the questions and percentage you determined in the planning stage.  Start removing items.

If that method doesn’t work for you and you are keeping everything, try a different method.

4. Grouping

Keep the Best of the Best. Instead of thinking about giving things away, it might be easier to consider keeping the best.

  • After you have sorted the room make sure you are keeping the best one.  You need to see all of the items in one group together and keep only as many as you need or the percentage you set in the planning stage, keep the best ones.

5. Triage

  • Gather all your items from one category
  • Pick up the first three and remove the one you like the least.
  • Pick up 3 more and remove one again
  • After you have gone through the category/group you will have decluttered  by 1/3

If you are sentimental

  • Try taking a picture of the items so you have the memory and let go of the item.
  • Find a good home for the thing you are letting go of,  they are still useful, just not to you anymore.
  • “Shrink it”, only keep one item from a collection instead of the entire collection, you will still have the memory
  • Ask yourself, what would be best, having a number of boxes with large quantities of unsorted keepsakes or a carefully assembled box of very precious treasures?

Decluttering is about having a mindset of letting go and having less. Once you experience the joy of being unburdened from cleaning, organizing, buying, and repairing stuff you don’t need, want, use or like you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner.   Enjoy the journey.

Did I miss anything?

If you need help to start your decluttering project work with me virtually on zoom. 

A head shot of Julie Stobbe with a blue and white striped background.

Julie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

Contact her at

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12 thoughts on “These are the steps, declutter then organize”

  1. Julie,
    What a great post with so many things to unpack! First of all, I love the assessment phase you have. So many people feel that the flurry of decluttering is the center but it is so important to pause and do the hard thinking first. You include so many great questions and considerations. My favorite part about this post is that you offer 5 ways to declutter instead of 1 main way. People are different so the decluttering process should reflect those differences.

    1. Thank you for the kind comments. I feel it is very important to help guide people through the planning process so they don’t get overwhelmed and then give them decluttering options that suit their personality.

  2. I love that you mentioned deciding how much you need to get rid of in your room. It’s important to decide on this beforehand so you have a goal. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

    1. Just this week I used “math” to help a client understand how much they needed to donate. They had 4 baskets of cloth and they want to end up with one. I explained that they pick up 4 pieces and they could only keep one. It is very simple and very visual and they were successful.

  3. I love approach #4: Sort then Declutter. I find it easier to make decisions when I see similar items together. I don’t always bring everything together (e.g., I have books all over my house, and I’m not bringing them all to one room), but for items in a drawer or cabinet, this works best for me.

    Terrific decision criteria as well! Very helpful. 🙂

    1. I think the trick in approach #4 is the word “then”.It is much harder to sort and as your sorting decide if you want to keep something or donate it. It is much easier if you do one thing at a time sort next do the decluttering.

  4. Setting up some boundaries, parameters, or clarifying questions in advance can help make decluttering less stressful. While it’s great if those delineations can be decided before, sometimes setting them is easier as you work through the process. It depends on the person and circumstance. But having the boundaries, whenever they are established, helps reduce decision-fatigue.

    1. I think setting boundaries and adjusting as the situation needs helps clients to not be fearful of starting. If there are no boundaries some people get overwhelmed trying to make decisions.

  5. These are all great tips, but I love the “skimming.” For most people, having to choose whether to keep or toss is too bifurcated. Instead, picking the best gives you a sense of power and control, and when you’re empowered, you feel less threatened by potential outcomes of your choices.

    1. Your comment is so very true. Having power and control over a situation helps you to accept the decisions you make. Ideas that are forced on you are difficult to live with.

    1. When I am working with clients they sometimes focus too much on remembering the past and not enough on the future they want. They keep a lot of school work from their children. I ask them aren’t you proud of what your children are doing now and who they have become. Isn’t it more important than kindergarten colouring?

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