From general organizing philosophies to specific tricks for tackling common clutter problems, here are our favorite shortcuts for tidying up at home.
Decluttering is something of a sensation these days. People are constantly talking about (and sharing photos of) their hyperorganized spaces. But there’s something to the sudden popularity of so-called organization porn: Clutter actually limits our ability to process information.
In one study, researchers at the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found that clutter distracts us, drains us, and makes us irritable. On the flip side, decluttering can actually boost well-being. If a clutter-free — or at least less cluttered — home could spell more mental energy, more clarity, and more happiness, what more reason do you need to kick off your next clean sweep?
To get you started, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite organizing hacks, from general approaches for keeping your space organized to specific tricks for tackling common clutter problems.
Reverse hanger trick
If you find it hard to let go of clothing even when you never wear it, the reverse hanger trick is a game changer. It works like this: Take all of your garments on hangers and put them in backward, so that the open end of each hanger now faces you. Set a calendar reminder for six months from now. Then go back to your regular routine: Every time you wear a piece and go to put it back, make sure the hanger faces the usual way (the opening facing away from you).
Once six months are up, you’ll know exactly what you haven’t touched. Take out and donate or sell all of those items on backward hangers. Chances are, if you haven’t worn it in the past six months, it’s time to let go.
File this classic Martha Stewart hack under “how did I never think of that?” Sloppily folded sheets can quickly clutter up the linen closet, especially when you have a lot of them. To keep things in order, simply tuck the sheet set (full, fitted, and pillowcase) inside one of the pillowcases for that set. Voilà! It’s always easy to find the set you’re looking for, and you won’t lose any pillowcases.
Like the reverse hanger trick, the four-box method speeds things along by forcing decisions item by item. To employ it next time you’re purging clutter from a particular room, first gather a trash can and three boxes. Label the boxes “put away,” “donate/sell,” and “storage.” Pick up every piece of clutter and ask yourself whether you should put each back in its proper place, donate/sell it, store it, or trash it. Don’t put the item down until you’ve made the decision. At the end of the session, spend 10 minutes emptying the boxes accordingly.
Use your trunk
Once you’ve collected stuff to donate, give away, or consign, move all of it immediately into the trunk of your car. If you don’t have a car, put everything near the door. Set a date and time to drop it all off, and stick to it. Sometimes the hardest part of decluttering is actually removing things from your life once and for all — but once you do, there’s no better feeling!
We love this genius idea (another from Martha) for two reasons: It keeps clutter off your bedside table and out of sight after lights out. All you need is a nightstand with a drawer, an outlet nearby, and a drill to put it together.
The Kondo Method
Japanese tidying expert Marie Kondo’s best-seller has turned her into something of a celebrity with home experts and bloggers everywhere. Her simple, strict motto boils down to this: If you don’t absolutely love an item, it shouldn’t be in your home. But Kondo’s best-known and most useful trick is the KonMari Folding Method, which involves storing folded garments — socks, undies, tees — upright in a drawer, rather than laying them flat.
The final product of a Kondo-fied drawer resembles a file full of standing folders. Trust us, it’s way easier to keep drawers in order this way, because you never have to go digging around to find a particular item.
Complete the cycle
A fancy term for “putting things back where you found them,” completing the cycle is all about doing a few minutes of cleanup every day in place of requiring a huge cleaning session down the road. Basically, if you make and eat a snack, completing the cycle involves returning all the ingredients back in the pantry, washing the dishes, and even drying them and putting them away. Another example: refilling the ice cube tray after you use the last cubes.
One in, one out
This philosophy is totally simple but takes a little self-discipline. The idea is that every time a new item comes into your home, a similar item must go (whether you donate or sell is up to you). Keep it up, and you’ll never accumulate more possessions than you purge. If you have some major streamlining to do, try one in, TWO out.
Paperwork is the Achilles’ heel of declutterers everywhere. That’s why we love the idea of putting your home office on wheels. A movable cart stocked with some sort of inbox, a shredder, and folder system means you can sort and file docs in front of the TV or on the patio. Such a great way to make one of the most universally dreaded chores go down easier.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed while attempting to get organized. But enlisting a partner in crime makes it easier to get through and helps keep you both accountable. Try setting a couple of standing dates every month, one at your home, one at your buddy’s. Make snacks, put on some good tunes, and tackle clutter together.