Right now, there’s a pile of “stuff” (ahem, that’s a euphemism) under my desk. Over the past few weeks, it’s been slowly accumulating to the point where there’s basically no room for my feet—and I’ve accepted that what I need is an organization intervention. That’s why I tapped some of the tidiest minds on the internet to doll out decluttering tips that work in the office, at home, or—ya know—anywhere.
Best of all, their genius advice won’t cost you a cent. So grab your smudging materials and some elbow grease. It’s time to clear out your space.
7 brilliant decluttering tips from experts in tidiness
1. Time will tell you what to keep, and what to toss
“If it hasn’t been used in a while or won’t serve you in the next 3 to 6 months, it’s time to toss it—and by toss, we mean responsibly recycle or donate of course,” says Allison Evans, co-founder of non-toxic cleaning company Branch Basics. That foam roller you haven’t used since last February? Yeah, it may go to better use in another sweat-enthusiast’s hands.
2. All duplicate items must go
Raise your hand if you have two muffin pans and absolutely zero intention of ever making muffins. Me, I do, that’s me! “Unless you need two spatulas, four matchboxes, or three empty plastic soap pumps, it is time to clear the duplicates out,” advices Clean My Space blogger Melissa Maker. “Sort through all items, space by space and find the dupes. From there, pick the best and responsibly move on from the extras.”
3. Take a minimalist approach to cleaning products
“Most people have anywhere between 15 to 30 cleaning products sitting underneath their kitchen sink. Spoiler: You don’t need a separate formula for every surface in your home,” says Marilee Nelson, co-founder of Branch Basics.” Instead, pick reusable bottles with a multipurpose cleaner (like Branch Basics’ Concentrate) that acts as Swiss Army cleaning product. Cabinet clutter—begone!
4. Lose the singles
Every laundry day, I inevitably lose a sock, and even though I know the odds of finding its mate are slim, I hold onto each and every one and stress about the vortex that is the dryer. Maker tells me I need to drop this habit (and my only child socks) in the trash. “Single socks, containers without lids, pot lids without pots, all of these singles take up space and we’ll never use them, ever. Find them and dispose of responsibly,” she says. There’s some tough love for you.
5. Get rid of all samples and all freebies
“We’re all guilty of holding onto hotel lotions or perfume samples from time to time. The truth is that the freebies are usually made from synthetic ingredients and chemical fragrances—which emit VOCs, stink up your medicine cabinet, and reduce your home’s indoor air quality,” says Kelly Love, co-founder and CEO of Branch Basics. “You don’t really need them, so get rid of what you have and think twice before packing them up again.”
6. Say no to bogo
Sales! I love them, but Maker points out that—most of the time—you’re actually getting free clutter. “It’s so nice to get a deal, but the problem is, we end up with two of something we just needed one of. While a BOGO can be tempting, saying no gets us nearly the same price and we don’t need to find extra space for our cheap spare,” says the blogger.
7. Pick up as you go
Yee who are familiar with the chair closet (the Tower of Pisa-esque pile of clothes that accumulates on your desk chair from Monday through Friday), know that a mess saved for later is just a bigger mess. That’s why Love is a huge proponent of collecting items as you move about the usual rhythms of your day. “With kids in tow, the house can look like a war zone in less than 5 minutes, so if I’m passing by a rubber band on the floor or a piece to a puzzle, I put it in its place if I can! Especially if it belongs in the trash,” she says.
Here’s how to stop your fitted sheet from kidnapping the rest of your clothes in the dryer. And here’s how to fold your T-shirts like they do in the U.S. Army.