Pare down? Yes, pare down. That means cut back, reduce, declutter, minimize, and simplify. Paring down creates space, both physically and mentally. With lives as busy and cluttered as they are today, paring down provides much-needed relief.
The act of paring down enables you to focus on what matters most. It removes distractions and superfluities. When you pare down possessions and activities at home, you gain freedom. You’re left with time, energy and motivation to pursue goals and passions.
Paring down is an act of self-care. It relieves stress and grants peace of mind. With less clutter, cleaning and organizing take less time. Financial resources are freed up for meaningful purchases and experiences. In an age of overconsumption, paring down pushes back.
When it comes to paring down at home, the benefits are abundant. But where to begin? The opportunities can feel overwhelming. Below are surprising ways to initiate the paring down process without feeling deprived. Implement just one tip each week to get started. Soon you’ll experience the transformative power of paring down.
Declutter One Area at a Time
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff filling up every corner of your home. The urge is strong to try and tackle it all at once. However, focusing your decluttering efforts on one area, or even one drawer, at a time makes the process manageable.
Pick a single drawer, cabinet or shelf to focus your initial decluttering energy on. Commit to removing at least one third of the items in this space. Be ruthless. If you haven’t used it in over a year, toss it.
Once you’ve successfully decluttered your first small area, the sense of accomplishment will spur you on. You’ll be eager to continue paring down.
Progress Room by Room
After your initial small space, move through your home one room at a time. Allow yourself one month per room. Set a recurring one-hour calendar appointment each week dedicated to decluttering.
Make quick decisions about each item in the room. Categorize items as: trash, donate, keep or undecided. If you’re unsure, add it to an “undecided” box in the garage. Revisit those items later.
Block Weekends for Big Projects
Use your weekends to declutter big trouble areas like the basement, attic, garage and yard. Schedule an entire day on your calendar. Enlist your family members to help. Tackle these large projects in stages over consecutive weekends.
By focusing your efforts, you’ll avoid feeling overloaded. You’ll be amazed at the dent you can make in each area. Momentum will steadily build as the clutter visibly decreases week after week.
Establish Daily Decluttering Habits
In addition to your larger decluttering projects, build daily decluttering habits. These small actions will become automatic over time. As you pare down a little each day, you’ll prevent new clutter from accumulating.
Conduct a Daily Tidy
At the end of each day, take 10 minutes to tidy up. Put items back in their proper homes. Wash any dishes in the sink. Fold the blankets on the sofa. Straighten pillows and pick things up from the floor.
Tidy bedtime is a great habit to establish with kids too. Make it fun by setting a timer and racing to get things picked up.
Process the Mail Immediately
Don’t let mail accumulate in a pile to be sorted later. As soon as you retrieve it from the mailbox, recycle the junk and file the important pieces. Shred any documents with sensitive info.
Don’t miss important due dates or appointments buried under layers of mail. Take this task off your mental to-do list by handling mail daily.
Clean Out Your Bag/Pockets
Make it a daily practice to empty your purse, backpack or briefcase. Put items back in their designated spots. Toss or recycle anything you don’t need.
Do the same with coats and pants pockets. You’ll be surprised at the amount of accumulated stuff you haul around. Lighten your load.
Wash Dishes After Meals
Don’t allow dirty dishes to pile up all over the house. Wash them promptly after each meal or snack. Enlist help from kids with drying and putting away.
The kitchen will always be guest-ready. You’ll start each day with a clean sink and empty dishwasher too.
For a structured approach, go through your home category-by-category. Pick a category each week to sort through and pare down. You’ll methodically cover all your possessions.
Be ruthless about keeping only your all-time favorite books. Donate the rest to your local library or used bookstore.
If you can’t bear to part with them all, impose a book limit per shelf. Pack up extras to donate or store out of sight.
Take books off your physical shelves by checking ebooks out from the library. Use the libby app to access them on your e-reader.
Clothing and Shoes
Try on all your clothes and be honest about what fits and flatters you. Clothes that are too big motivate you to gain weight back. Items that are too small tempt you to starve yourself thinner. Only keep properly fitted clothes in great condition.
If you have more than you can store neatly in your closet and dresser, you have too many. Pare down to a cohesive wardrobe in a color palette that suits you. Donate the rest.
Limit your shoes to what fits in the entryway closet. Shoes take up more space than anything else. Apply the one in, one out rule after new purchases.
Kitchen Gadgets and Utensils
Take everything out of your kitchen cupboards. Separate gadgets and utensils into groups by function. Be selective about which ones you actually use.
If specialty appliances like waffle makers or panini presses haven’t been used in the past year, let them go. Someone else will love them.
Group repetitive items, like spatulas and tongs, into a single tool crock or decorative container.
Paperwork and Bills
Gather all your household paperwork in one spot. Shred old bills, statements and receipts more than a year old.
File away what you need to keep for taxes and home ownership. Scan important documents to digital archives.
Unsubscribe from junk mail lists. Go paperless with online billing and documents whenever possible.
If you still own CDs, DVDs or other physical media, put your favorites in a small binder or album. Donate or sell the rest. Rely on music and movie streaming subscriptions instead.
Delete video games you no longer play. Trade in discs at retailers offering buybacks. Cancel subscriptions for services you don’t use regularly.
Back up digital photos and videos to cloud storage. Then delete the excess from phones and computers hogging up memory.
Limit sentimental items like memorabilia, souvenirs and photos. Choose your few most cherished items. Take lots of pics of crafts and artwork to preserve the memories before passing them on.
Display select sentimental items in a memory box or album. Store the rest out of sight. Rotate them out periodically for fresh decoration.
Decluttering your holiday décor between seasons keeps the clutter from accumulating. Recycle any broken or weathered items.
Before putting away decorations, store or donate anything not used the past season to pare down your collection of holiday flair. Pack ornaments and linens neatly to prevent damage.
Use the pare down mindset when purchasing new seasonal items too. Choose a color scheme and stick to it.
Schedule Regular Purges
Maintaining your decluttered home requires ongoing effort. Make paring down a regular habit by scheduling purge sessions.
On the first weekend of January, April, July and October, conduct a quarterly home purge. Spend two to three hours going through your belongings.
Reassess items acquired in the past three months. Toss or donate anything you haven’t used. Take this opportunity to continue paring down categories or spaces.
Use the new year as motivation for an annual deep clean and purge. Clear your schedule for an entire weekend.
Go through every single item in your home. If you’re not actively using it or it no longer suits your needs, part with it. Be honest about anything you’ve been holding onto out of guilt or obligation. Show your possessions no mercy.
Haul donations to charity shops. Schedule bulky waste pick-up for larger discarded items. Do a thorough cleaning of every room while it’s emptied out. You’ll feel ready to start the new year fresh.
When it comes time to move to a new home, use it as the ultimate opportunity to pare down. Be ruthless about not packing anything you don’t need or love.
The thought of moving everything can make you reconsider keeping items. Don’t pack it up just to unpack and store it in the new place.
Have yard sales, donate to charity, sell online and recycle. Pay for help packing and moving so you can focus on paring down.
Creative Ways to Keep the Process Fun
Decluttering and paring down can feel tedious. Infuse the process with playfulness to keep your momentum going.
Make It a Game
Use a decluttering checklist to turn purging into a game. Set a timer and challenge family members to fill a bag with items to donate as quickly as possible.
Have each person choose one thing from their space everyone else must guess the story behind. Take turns sharing about items before parting with them.
Host a Garage Sale
Gather neighborhood friends for a weekend garage sale. Offer to sell their unwanted items for a small cut of the profits. Make cute price tags and display items attractively.
Play upbeat music to keep the mood lively. Provide snacks and drinks. Turn decluttering into a social occasion.
Craft With Kids
Instead of simply tossing your kids’ old artwork and projects, create something new from them. Make a blanket out of fabric scraps from past sewing, knitting or crochet projects.
Cut out the best parts of coloring book pages and school papers to decoupage onto boxes or make into a collage frame. Reuse materials creatively.
Enjoy Decluttered Spaces
As you begin to pare down each area of your home, take time to enjoy the newly open spaces. Spread a blanket on the cleared living room floor for game night. Soak in your relaxing bath now that the counters are bare.
Cook a dinner party in your kitchen with ample prep space. The benefits of decluttering will motivate you through the process.
Maintaining a Decluttered Home
The decluttering itself is the easy part. The real challenge is in maintaining a tidy, pared down home after you’ve put in all that work. Here are some helpful habits for keeping chaos and clutter at bay.
Institute the “One In, One Out” Rule
Before bringing any new possessions into your home, something else must go out. Keep things in check by balancing each addition with a removal.
Gift too many toys at the holidays? Donate the same number of older toys to charity. Buy new clothes for the season? Drop off a bag at the consignment shop first.
When limiting incoming items, be highly selective about what you do purchase. Choose versatile, high-quality pieces that fit your lifestyle.
Assign a Home to Everything
A place for everything and everything in its place is the golden rule for maintaining organization. Ensure all your belongings have dedicated homes.
Labels drawers and shelves to establish clear homes. Containerize like items to corral them in their spots. Return items promptly after using them. A tidy home didn’t get messy on its own.
Conduct Quick Daily Tidy Ups
Stay on top of messes by doing speed tidy ups as you go about your day. Set a timer for 10 minutes and race around straightening as much as possible. Enlist kids for help making it a game.
Addressing clutter quickly prevents it from accumulating. Doing a little bit daily is more effective than letting things go all week and tackling it on the weekend.
Regularly Purge Overrun Areas
Even in an organized home, some areas tend to collect clutter quickly. Commit to purging these spots more frequently.
Kitchen drawers and cabinets fill up fast with an onslaught of ingredients, utensils and dishes. Regularly clear out duplicate items and expired foods.
Entryways become a dumping ground for shoes, bags, coats and paperwork. Keep it clear by paring down accessories and establishing homes nearby for necessities.
Schedule Deep Cleans
On top of your daily tidy habits, block time on your calendar for deep cleaning sessions.
Aim to dust, scrub and sanitize the kitchen and bathrooms at least twice monthly. Schedule seasonal deep cleans of the yard, garage and basement when needed.
Tackle tasks like windows, walls, carpets, furniture and appliances on a regular basis. When everything is clean, clutter stands out instead of blending into the mess.
Foster a “Less is More” Family Culture
Cultivate a family culture where excess and clutter are seen as undesirable, not the norm. Lead by example in your own space. Praise others’ decluttering efforts.
Gently encourage loved ones to pass along unused gifts or outgrown items. Be willing to part with your own sentimental items when making requests.
Prioritize shared family experiences over additional possessions. For birthdays and holidays, give tickets, memberships or gift cards for activities.
When to Ask for Help
For some, decluttering and paring down feel totally overwhelming. The sheer volume is too large to tackle. Emotional obstacles arise. In these cases, don’t hesitate to call in reinforcements.
Professional organizers specialize in decluttering and establishing systems. If you need help getting started or breaking through a plateau, they can guide you.
A consultant will walk through your home to assess needs and devise a customized action plan. Some provide hands-on assistance sorting, purging and cleaning alongside you.
Therapists and Coaches
For people struggling with hoarding tendencies or an emotional attachment to possessions, professional counseling can help overcome obstacles to paring down.
Therapists and coaches use strategies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to change mindsets and habits around clutter. Seek this support if negative emotions arise.
Junk Removal Services
When decluttering uncovers more stuff than you can physically handle removing from the home, junk removal services come to the rescue.
These companies haul away large volumes of unwanted furniture, appliances, construction debris and yard waste. All you have to do is point what you want gone.
Taking care of clutter is just half the battle—the space also needs to be cleaned. Save your stamina by having a regular house cleaner tackle the scrubbing top to bottom.
With your home professionally cleaned on a schedule, you simply need to tidy and stay on top of dishes and laundry in between visits.
Frequently Asked Questions About Decluttering
How long does it take to declutter a house?
Expect the initial process of fully decluttering a whole house to take 2-4 months. Allow at least one month per room. Maintaining the decluttered state is an ongoing process.
What percentage should you declutter?
Aim to remove 30-40% of your household items when initially decluttering. Be ruthless and question whether you still need or use everything. Regularly purge 10% annually.
What do you do with items after decluttering?
First, separate items into categories like trash, donate, sell or keep. Take trash directly to curbside bins or the dump.
Donate gently used items to charity organizations, like Goodwill. Many will even pick up directly from your home.
Sell valuable items online or at consignment shops and garage sales. Use proceeds to reward yourself for decluttering!
How often should you declutter?
Daily tidying, weekly tasks like laundry and dishes, monthly deep cleans and annual purges are a good cadence. Decluttering is never completely done!
What are five things you should declutter regularly?
- Closets – clothes, shoes and accessories accumulate quickly. Annually purge what doesn’t fit.
- Kitchen cabinets and drawers – discard expired items and duplicates. Donate unused gadgets and dishes.
- Bathrooms – evaluate frequently used vs. specialty products. Toss old meds and dried up cosmetics.
- Garage and outdoor storage – bulky sports gear, tools and seasonal items tend to pile up here.
- Papers and bills – shred documents and files older than 1 year unless needed for taxes.
Paring down creates space. It provides mental clarity and frees up valuable time. Decluttering at home may seem daunting at first. But implementing just a few of these surprising tips will get you started on the path.
Begin small by tackling one area at a time. Establish daily habits that maintain the order. Schedule regular purges to nip new clutter in the bud. Add an element of play to keep the process fun.
Enlist help from professionals or services if it feels overwhelming. The freedom gained by paring down is worth it.
Decluttering is liberating. Possessions shed allow you to focus on life’s true sources of meaning – family, experiences, passions and service. Your pared down home provides a peaceful base for pursuing purpose.