A note to our community regarding COVID-19. Learn more

Better ways to declutter your home.

Updated

Your life may be chaos in a kitchen drawer, but a home organizing pro can find a place for everything. Here’s what Thumbtack experts recommend to finally declutter your home.



Tips for decluttering any space. 

Tip #1: Do small projects first.

Just because your mess is giving you anxiety doesn’t mean that you need to overhaul everything to feel a little better.

Usually, there are one or two main places that are driving you crazy — like your home office or kitchen junk drawer. Start there. Maybe organizing your drawer will make you feel good enough to declutter your kitchen next. Then your front entryway. Then that linen closet.

Give yourself time — it’s not realistic to expect to do everything at once. You may need to block off a few Saturdays to get it done. Baby steps, people.

Tip #2: Throw things away before you sort them.

man carrying two trash bags

You’re decluttering, after all. That doesn’t just mean finding fancy storage bins to put all your mismatched objects into. The reason you have drawers and shelves and cabinets that don’t work might just be that you’re keeping things you don’t need.

Before you hit the store, get rid of as much as you can — these are usually the things you’re keeping “just in case.” Things like:

  • Old paperwork you don’t need
  • More than two issues of any magazine
  • Anything expired (food, sunscreen, coupons)
  • Condiment packets
  • Unfixable broken things
  • Cords you can’t match to a device
  • Anything you have more than two of in the same room (staplers, spatulas)

If you get rid of enough stuff, you may find that you don’t even need to buy supplies — you can probably DIY easy storage solutions for whatever’s left, like making drawer dividers from cardboard boxes.

Tip #3: What do you with all that stuff?

If your family members aren’t into you going through their stuff and deciding what they should and shouldn’t keep, get them to help you organize room by room using a three-box method. Set out three cardboard boxes for clutter and have them decide whether to: 

  1. Get rid of the item (trash, sell or donate)
  2. Store elsewhere (like the garage or attic)
  3. Keep and put away where you can use it regularly

Whether or not to do it? Not up to them. But what to keep? Sure.

Tip #4: Clear off flat surfaces.

Flat surfaces — particularly in shared living spaces — get cluttered fast. But if you can clear off the flat surfaces in key rooms, you will get a better sense of what else in those rooms needs to be dealt with. Not only that, but an empty coffee table or shelves in a linen closet will stand out in their environment and spark ideas for other spots to sweep clean.

Tip #5: Categorize your clutter.

woman sorting items into boxes

If your clutter is less about having too many unnecessary things, and more about having too many things you love, walk through your house and note how much stuff you generally have by category (clothing, books, electronics, craft supplies). You’ll get a sense of what you care about the most — that’s where you should start. 

Tip #6: Look for hidden storage space.

If you live in a small house or apartment, you may need to get creative about storage for things you use occasionally, like luggage or specialized sports gear. In closets, you can hang hooks or shelves up high.

Seasonal items, like snow or snorkel gear, may fit in bins designed to slide under a bed. (And if you no longer snorkel or snowshoe, sell or donate these items.) 

Tip #7: Get help from a pro.

There’s no one way to organize a space. You need to find solutions that work for your space, lifestyle, family size and personality.

Find a home organizer. They can give you advice specific to your home and give you an outsider’s perspective when you’re attached to something you need to let go. 

Tip #9: Remember this is hard. 

Yeah, this is going to get emotional. You’ll want to hold onto that dress that fit you before you had kids, the tennis racket you used all the time before work got hectic (10 years ago), and the book from college that you’ve been meaning to re-read.

But what you have and where you keep it says a lot about your values. If you find things that remind you of activities and relationships you’ve been neglecting, let the process help you clarify how you want to bring those things back in your life. Holding onto the stuff itself might not be the answer.

Say goodbye, grieve the wasted time (and money) if you have to, but don’t miss the opportunity to learn what really matters to you.  

Find the right home organizer for your project.

Avoid these home organizing mistakes. 

Mistake #1: Confusing sentimental value for necessity.

One reason we allow clutter to accumulate is that many objects have sentimental value. But keeping things that take up space and serve no purpose doesn’t help.

Instead of treating your place like a dumping ground for sentimental objects, try taking photos of anything you love but never use, and file it away somewhere with descriptions or stories. If someone else can use the item or it has value, sell it or pass it on.

Mistake #2: Letting mail or paperwork pile up.

You can’t stop the mail from coming. One way to deal with piles of paperwork is to digitize as much as possible so you have copies on your computer’s hard drive or in the cloud: pay bills online, scan paper receipts you need for tax reasons and subscribe to the digital versions of your favorite publications.

Put a recycling bin near where you bring mail inside so you can get rid of junk mail and brochures as soon as they come in.

Mistake #3: Storing things where you can’t see them. 

organized closet

If you fill up a closet, garage or spare room with things that don’t have a home elsewhere in the house, you’ll be less likely to sort those things and dump the nonessentials — and more likely to throw in more stuff to get it out of sight the next time guests stop by. You’ll never use that room, and you’ll constantly crave more living space. Don’t let your stuff crowd you out. 

Mistake #4: Buying things you already have. 

Decluttering your house makes you realize that you don’t need as much as you think — and it’ll clarify what you already own that you really love. You’ll find out that you can get by with your three favorite knives, half as many cleaning products and two pairs of jeans.

If you’re shopping and have an itch to buy something, ask yourself if you already have that thing. If you don’t know for sure, chances are you have something like it that you can’t find or that doesn’t suit you anymore.

Get rid of the old version before you invest in a new one — or you’ll end up stuffing your kitchen cabinets with single-use small appliances.

How much does a home organizer cost?

Many home organizers have an hourly rate that covers decluttering, organizing, removal and other services. Costs also depend on where you live and how much experience you organizer has. The best way to find out how much it will cost to hire a home organizer is to reach out to a few and ask for a cost estimate.

If you need to add cabinets, drawers or closets to help you organize your home, costs will increase. Closet system installation services are more expensive than organizing alone because you’re paying for materials, consulting services and installation. 

For more on costs, see “How much does a home organizer cost? 

Get free estimates from top-rated home organizers.

Who to hire to get rid of clutter. 

Sick of sifting through hot sauce packets and old scrunchies to find your tape measure? Find every pro you need for an organized home on Thumbtack. 

Find local pros for your project

Tell us what you’re looking for and we’ll show you pros right for the job, with prices.