You don’t have to be an avid collector, or even a shopper, to end up with a house full of clutter. After the holidays, most of us have far more new things than we need, and it can feel like a time to think about the benefits of decluttering your life.

If you’ve started decluttering follow the “equal in – equal out” rule: for every new pair of shoes, saucepan or book that comes into the house, one has to go out. This is one of those proactive decluttering tips and will minimize your clutter in the long run.

Here’s a twist: Consider downsizing before the holidays. Holiday downsizing makes space for incoming items, and for guests. Clearing out and rotating old items can help you refresh your decorating. Plus, if you donate quality items before the gift-giving season, they help stock holiday shelves in second-hand stores.

Whether you tackle just a medicine cabinet, one room in your home, or an entire house, you can reap the benefits of being clutter-free. To get started, grab some items and ask yourself these three key questions.

Download Our Downsizing Checklist


1. Do I Love It?

One popular de-cluttering guide recommends holding each item, then getting rid of it if it doesn’t bring you “joy.” The joke, of course, is that you can throw away all your bills and cleaning supplies.

I don’t say all of your items need to bring you joy. But they should have an important purpose, and you should feel really good about using the item for that purpose. An umbrella might not bring you joy, but you should have the one that folds and unfolds smoothly – not the half a dozen that are rickety, bent or not very portable.

If you don’t love the item for its purpose, even if it’s just because it’s not pretty, then that’s an item you should probably toss.

2. Does it Fit and Work?

If clothing doesn’t fit you comfortably and look great, then don’t keep giving it space in your life. This rule applies to other items as well. A nonstick skillet that’s losing its coating doesn’t really “work” anymore the way it was designed to. Towels with shredded edges, damaged furniture, a suitcase with a broken zipper – all candidates for getting rid of. 

  • Those shoes that you’ve been meaning to have stretched? Either do it or get rid of them. 
  • The pants you know you’ll fit back into one day? Forget about it. When you do lose that weight, those pants will probably be out of style anyway. 

One of the benefits of downsizing worn items is that your house immediately looks refreshed. So whether you are decluttering your living room, home office, or kitchen counters, ask yourself “does it fit and work”?

3. Have I Used It in the Past Year?

One trick I learned is to turn all the hangers backward in your closet on New Year’s Day, then turn them forward when you wear the item. The following year, if any hangers are still turned backward, you know you haven’t worn that item and it can go. 

Clothing ages quickly. Although styles to tend to come back around, that takes a few decades, and the vintage “look” is usually updated so that true vintage isn’t quite right. Ask yourself if you really have the storage space to wait it out.

Kitchen gadgets really tend to pile up. If you want to declutter your kitchen check to see if you are really using all those cool peelers, scrapers, and other specialty equipment. If you haven’t used that gadget in the past year it probably doesn’t belong. After all, professional chefs rely on only a handful of sharp knives and skillets to create most dishes.

Ready to Declutter Your Home?

If you can answer “No” to any of these questions for your items, then just know that you are in the storage business. You are paying, month after month, for climate-controlled storage of things that you don’t like and aren’t using. Clear out the storage unit that’s also serving as your living space, and make space for new things in life. 


Clean-Out Using a 4 Pile Sort Method