Do you tremble at the sound of the word “decluttering”? If you do, you’re definitely not alone, friend. Decluttering couldn’t sound more overwhelming to me. However, as much overwhelming as it is, decluttering is also pretty freeing when you’re done! In this post, I will show you exactly how to easily declutter any space in your home so you can feel confident next time you hear someone say “decluttering”.This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here.
First of all, I need to tell you that no credit for this post should be given to me. Yes, I’m writing it and I photographed everything, but all the hard work to declutter my particularly messy closet was done by my friend Wendi, from BreathingRooms.
Ok, fine. Maybe you can give me some credit. I was her clumsy assistant. But that’s it!
Wendi’s been organized her whole life, but it really became a passion when she read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.
This will have to be the next book I read. I’ve heard so many great things about it!
Wendi told me that reading the book gave her a new way to think about all the stuff she owned! She realized that owning less was the first step to becoming more organized! She also realized that decluttering and organizing changes people’s lives in so many ways… from job advancement to weight loss to improved relationships.
She started her Facebook page to encourage people along their journey, but it’s been a greater success than what she had imagined. She was even featured in the local Spokane Newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, in an article about “minding clutter”. The page became a business in November 2018, and it’s been growing ever since.
A little back story on how and why we completely decluttered this closet together
Here’s how this collaboration came about… One day, I was sharing with my friends on Instagram Stories how I had moved my whole office space from a tiny, dark, built-in desk in one of the hallways in my home, to my bright bedroom with lots of natural light.
In one of the videos, I showed the scary-messy closet where my printer used to be and how all that clutter and disorganization didn’t allow me to be as creative as I know I could be.
Moving everything to my bedroom was one of the best decisions I could make for my business right now.
Wendi saw that video (she was probably shocked by the mess😜) and offered to come to my house and help me tackle that closet. Like I told you… the word decluttering makes me tremble. I had not had the courage to tackle that closet for over a year, even though looking at it made me really frustrated.
Obviously, I said yes with no hesitation. We scheduled a day and she came.
Take a look at the before and after:
I had no idea of how professional and smart her decluttering method would be. I thought she was coming just as a friend. But she came as a friend and an incredible organizing professional!
Now to the details, I know you’re dying to hear!
How to declutter any space in your house
What I love the most about her decluttering system is that before learning about it, I used to get sidetracked by any little thing I found that didn’t belong in the space I was trying to declutter.
I would immediately stop what I was working on and go put it away where it belonged. I would do that several times when trying to declutter a space, walking back and forth, from a room to the other.
I would also start any small projects that I found, like gluing together a broken sunglass or putting my kids’ school papers where they belong. This completely derailed my progress and quickly made me frustrated and overwhelmed.
In her decluttering method, she took care of that.
First, you remove all items from the space – piece of furniture, closet or pantry – you’re trying to declutter and sort them into 6 different piles. When you’re done sorting every single item, then (and only then), you can start dealing with them.
But there’s a bit of an art to it that makes decluttering any space in your home much easier. We’ll talk about this in a moment.
To make it even easier, we created these free printables that you can use to label each pile to make sure you know exactly what each one is for:
You can get these A.C.T. N.O.W. Decluttering Method Cards by signing up to get instant access to our FREE Printable Library.
Decluttering your space with the A.C.T. N.O.W. Decluttering System
Your first three piles will be of things you’re purging (A.C.T.):
- ASK: These are items that belong to someone else. Maybe your spouse or a child that you know would love to have a say in it. Put all of these in this pile to ask them later what they want to be done with the items. I love Wendi’s advice on this one, don’t jeopardize a relationship just to get rid of items. After all, we know that communication is vital in any relationship.
- CUT: These items are the ones that you no longer want. You’re “cutting” them, but they’re also not trash. You can donate, gift, pass down or even sell them. Wendi and I both love the Facebook Marketplace to sell used items that can spark joy in someone else’s life.
- TOSS: These are easy. They’re just trash. Items that can no longer serve you or anyone else. You can put them in bags or bins to throw away later.
The other three piles will be of things you’re keeping (N.O.W.):
- NEW HOME: These are items you’re moving from their current location and finding a new home for, around the house. Items that don’t belong in the space you’re decluttering. Somehow they ended up there and need to be relocated to a more appropriate space.
- OLD HOME: These items are the ones you’re keeping. They will go in the same space you’re decluttering, their “old home”.
- WAIT: These are projects you can tackle later. Broken things that need to be fixed, papers that need to go in a binder, recipes that need to go in their box, etc. Remember how I said I used to be sidetracked by these? Well, not anymore. Not with the A.C.T. N.O.W. system anyway.
Again, you can get your A.C.T. N.O.W. Decluttering Method cards to help you sort the items in our FREE Printable Library:
Now that you know all the theory behind the A.C.T. N.O.W. Decluttering Method, let’s take a look at the whole process, step by step. What do you say?
Step-by-step instructions on how to declutter any space in your house before you can start organizing
Step 1: Empty the space you’re decluttering.
Whatever space you’re decluttering, whether it’s a closet, a pantry, cabinets, or a piece of furniture, empty it completely.
But why, you ask?
Well, I asked Wendi the same question and here’s why:
You take everything out to give yourself a fresh slate and a new perspective. It’s so that you have all kinds of options available. Also, for some reason, when you take items off the shelf and hold them one by one, nothing escapes your attention. You carefully evaluate each and every items instead of simply saying “I have nothing to get rid of”. – Wendi
I couldn’t agree more with that. If we hadn’t removed everything and sorted them (like you’re going to do in the next step) I would have probably kept almost everything.
I would’ve tried to reorganize them the same way they were before. And that was clearly not working!
Sure it made the house a big mess, but seeing the empty closet gave us new ideas on how to reorganize it.
Many of the items that were there before were moved to a more appropriate location, making my day-to-day more practical. That made room for similar items to occupy the closet (their old home), making it a lot more functional.
Step 2: Start sorting all the items into the 6 different piles of the A.C.T. N.O.W. Decluttering Method.
Make sure you don’t start dealing with the items right then and there. That’s very important. Don’t get distracted by all the different things you could do. Just sort them.
Remember, if you’re getting rid of them, they go to one of these:
If you’re keeping them, they go to one of these three:
- NEW HOME
- OLD HOME
Step 3: Take care of the items you’re purging (the ones in your A.C.T. piles.)
TOSS the ones that are garbage (you might want to subdivide them into recyclables and just trash). Get rid of them. Put them out of sight, take them to the garbage bins in your garage so that the space you’re working on starts to take shape and feel less cluttered.
Decide where you’re going to keep the items in your ASK pile so you can ask your family members what should be done with them later.
And finally, pack in a bag or bin the ones you’re CUTTING. Whether you’re donating, gifting, or passing them down, put them aside so you can finish dealing with them later.
Step 4: Deal with the items you’re keeping (the ones in your N.O.W. piles.)
Start by reorganizing that space with all the items in your OLD HOME pile, the ones that will stay in their “old home”. Decide which organizers you’re using and start rearranging the space so it looks nice and tidy.
Then, put the ones in your NEW HOME pile in a bin and take a trip around the house to drop them off in their new location. This should be an appropriate area with like items or in a place where you use it frequently.
Finally, put the items in your WAIT pile in a bin or box and keep it somewhere you’ll see it every day. This way, you’ll have a constant reminder of the projects you need to finish up before returning each item where it belongs.
How to decide if you’re keeping or purging an item when decluttering
I know from experience that purging items can be a very hard process sometimes. Especially if you’re talking about sentimental items or gifts.
I have the hardest time donating items that were gifted to me even if I don’t like them. In the back of my mind, I know that the person who gave it to me took their time to pick it out, they thought of me and they cared enough to buy me a gift. Isn’t it a horrible thing to get rid of it?
Well, here’s what Wendi helped me understand. And I know it’s hard because I’m still trying to wrap my head around it myself. Gifts are meant to be a blessing. Not a burden. Would the person who gifted you the item want you to feel burdened? I don’t think so.
Now, here are a couple of very good questions that will help you reach a decision about any item in your decluttering process. These are related to your past, present, and future relationship with that item:
- When was the last time you used it?
- Does it spark joy? (This is Marie Kondo’s main question.)
- Do you see it as necessary in your life going forward?
Reflect on them and evaluate if it’s really worth it to keep that item or not.
Enjoy every uncluttered space in your home!
Decluttering is an overwhelming process like we talked about. But when you have a smart method like this one, the job becomes a lot easier and more enjoyable.
The best of all is the feeling that you have when you’re done. Complete freedom.
Freedom from being attached to so many material items. Freedom from having disorganized spaces, and freedom from having to maintain, clean, and store them.
I hope this post was helpful and that you feel inspired to tackle those projects you’ve been procrastinating. As always, if you have any questions, you’re more than welcome to leave them down below in the comment section.