How to Declutter & Simplify Every Area of Your Life Sustainably

Clutter. We all have it at one time or another. Whether it’s overflowing closets, cabinets or those unintended collections (you know the ones I’m talking about) – we can all use some fresh tips and ideas for decluttering and simplifying our lives.

In today’s post I’m rounding up a collection of tactics and tools to help you tackle and tame the clutter monster. And best of all, throughout I’ll be providing strategies for how you can make your decluttering sessions more sustainable. Let’s go.

Declutter and Simplify All Aspects of Your Life

When we think clutter, we usually think of piles of random things in the office, on the dining room table, or random clothes or toys strewn across the floor. You can take all those away, though, and still have clutter in other aspects of your life.

People don’t just have clutter in their house – it can also reside in our cars, yard, bags, and schedules. The key to managing clutter is to keep up on it. Decide how you’re fixing your clutter issue and then continuously keep it clean. This is easily accomplished with small things done each day.

Additionally, too often we are tempted to just toss items out in the garbage, but with a little knowledge a small amount of effort you can fix your clutter issues using solutions that are more sustainable and kinder on the environment.

The biggest reason we let clutter build up is because we’re in a rush. However, if you spend a couple extra minutes a day on decluttering, you can skip the day-long (or more) marathon of decluttering every few months.

Declutter and Simplify Your House

We’re going to start right with the biggest clutter magnet – your home.

I know my biggest clutter spot is my closets and small kitchen, with too many items shoved onto shelves. My friend’s trouble spot is also her kitchen. She is a fabulous cook and has ton of cookware and kitchen gadgets and gizmos. Another friend who runs a small business from her apartment just needs help decluttering her entire apartment of merchandise.

Declutter and Simplify the Kitchen

This is one of my personal weaknesses, as I mentioned. I have a small kitchen with limited storage space and I always seem to have more stuff than room. While I’ve tackled a few cabinets, I still have some that are filled to the brim. I’ve literally had glass jars come flying out at me and shatter on the counter upon opening the cabinet door. Not good.

Here are some ideas I found for me and for you to try:

  1. What do you use vs. what do you have? I, for one, only use a fraction of my kitchen supplies on a regular basis. For instance, I have more mixing bowls and mason jars than I will ever use. Consider donating any usable tools you don’t use.
  2. Stay on top of the dishes. The biggest clutter you’ll find in most kitchens is the dirty dishes. Try to do the dishes at least once a day, if not more. This will not only cut down on how much clutter you see and stress about but also on any weird food smells.
  3. Give every item a home. Ideally every item in your kitchen should have a home. Labeling things can make it easy to simply put it away and return it to its home without really having to think. If you’re not keen on the idea of labeling, the simple act of every item having a home can make a big difference.
  4. Invest in some great organizing systems. The two best places for organizational systems are the kitchen and bathroom because of how much we use in both places. Amazon has organizers for everything from silverware to pans. One of my favorites is this spice rack that holds up to 60 spice jars in a compact shelf space.

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My tiny pantry before decluttering vs my now decluttered towel drawer. Towels folded the Konmari way bring me so much joy!

Declutter Your Kitchen Sustainably

What about broken tools and kitchen electronics you come across while decluttering? Or items you don’t want that still have some use left?

  • Consider selling small appliances in working condition on Ebay or similar site.
  • Donate any dishware, cookware, food storage containers and pots and pans in useable condition.
  • Recycle broken and unusable plastic containers marked with a recycle symbol of 1, 2, 4 and 5. (avoid numbers 3, 6 and 7)
  • For small broken appliances, visit earth911.com to find electronic recyclers in your area.
  • Broken wooden utensils can go into compost.

Declutter and Simplify the Living Room

The living room is where everyone spends time together, watching TV, playing games, and talking with each other and guests. Because this is where everyone in the house congregates, it can be the place with the most variety of clutter.

The biggest thing with living room clutter is to figure out where everything goes. If you have kids, toys will migrate from playrooms and bedrooms into the living room all the time. Shoes, jackets, empty cups, and a multitude of other things migrate into it as well.

This first step is returning everything where it goes. Once you’ve returned everything to where it belongs, you’re left with what belongs in the living room.

  1. Consider storing DVDs and Blu-Rays in CD wallets to save space.
  2. If your kids like to play in the living room, consider getting an organizer for toys that are allowed in the living room, to prevent all the toys from migrating into the living room.
  3. Make a rule that all dirty dishes, including cups, must be out of the living room before bed every day.
  4. Have a designated space for blankets or buy an organizing unit or quilt rack for blankets and pillows.
  5. Have a designated space for magazines, remotes, gaming controllers, and anything else your family uses regularly in the living room. Regularly purge out any old magazines, finished books, or anything else.

As with the kitchen and bathroom, once you’ve decluttered your living room you may be left with many items needing to be donated or disposed of.

Declutter Your Living Room Sustainably

What about used CDs and movies you no longer want? Or books?

  • Donate or sell used CDs, movies, books, blankets, furniture, toys and other items in usable condition.
  • Consider hosting a swap or having a yard sale.
  • Unfortunately, the plastic cases for CDs and DVDs aren’t typically recyclable, but visit cdrecylingcenter.org to learn what can be recycled. Best Buy also accepts CDs and DVDs for recycling.

Declutter and Simplify Your Bedroom

We spend a good bit of our lives sleeping which is why it is so important that our bedroom remains a calm and peaceful retreat. However, too many clothes and/or lack of proper clothing storage and overflowing nightstands often clutter up our bedrooms making them anything but serene.

How many of us take the time to organize our kitchen cabinets and designate a place for glasses, plates, etc., but fail to use the same organization for our clothing drawers and closets?

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My minimalist sparsely decorated bedroom. I find the dark walls and uncluttered surfaces very calming and relaxing.

Some important decluttering tips for your bedroom include:

  1. Complete a KonMari on your wardrobe (including the declutter and folding methods). Seriously folks, this is worth the time and effort. See video below.
  2. As with other spaces, it is equally important that everything in your bedroom have a home. Inventory all your bedroom stuff and designate where everything lives.
  3. Determine what items permanently live on top of your dresser and nightstand and make a rule for items allowed to temporarily “visit” those surfaces. For example, you may allow a single book you are currently reading on your nightstand, but no more.
  4. Use trays, bowls and other storage containers to organize things like earrings, watches and knick-knacks.
  5. Keep items in your bedroom to the essentials. One of my rules is no TV and very minimal décor, but decide what works best for you and how much you can tolerate on your surfaces and still find the space calming and relaxing.

Declutter Your Bedroom Sustainably

What about used clothing, shoes and knick-knacks you no longer want? Or bed linens and pillows?

  • Donate or sell used clothing, shoes and knick-knacks in usable condition. Poshmark and Thred Up are a couple of my favorite shops for selling used clothing online.
  • Most thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army accept used linens, towels, curtains, etc. Goodwill also recycles a lot of textiles that can’t be sold.
  • Your local animal shelter can also be a great resource for taking linens, including pillows, past their prime.
  • Visit earth911.com to learn how to properly dispose of old mattresses.

Declutter and Simplify Kids’ Rooms

Kids’ rooms are probably one of the easiest rooms for clutter to build up. From all the toys bought by well-meaning grandparents and friends, stuff forgotten about in the closet and under the bed, to the laundry they refuse to put in the hamper, kids’ rooms can be overwhelmingly cluttered.

The first step of any decluttering process is, of course, to weed out what you don’t need. A great option is to box up all the toys your child doesn’t play with anymore and take them to be donated. This way, you can simplify their room, and they get to feel good about giving their toys to charity.

Second, encourage your child to keep up on keeping their room clean. You can offer a reward for organizing toys, throwing away all trash, or cleaning their room. There are hundreds of ideas of fun reward systems for kids on Pinterest. Change them up occasionally, so they don’t get bored and lose interest.

Declutter Kids’ Rooms Sustainably

What about used kids clothing, shoes and items like car seats and toys?

  • Donate or sell used kids clothing, shoes in usable condition. Many schools also accept gently used kids clothing for families in need. Inquire at your child’s school.
  • Before donating used bady gear like car seats and strollers, Consumer Reports recommends you check out recalls.gov first to ensure the items are safe.
  • Toys in good used condition can be swapped, sold or donated to Goodwill, Second Chance Toys and various other organizations. Ask around.

Declutter and Simplify the Bathroom

Bathrooms tend to be one of the worst culprits for overflowing products and potions we don’t need or use. This is one area I’ve been tackling this past year by trying to cut down on (and ultimately eliminate) purchasing products in plastic containers. It is a work in progress – I still have a ways to go.

That said – organizational systems are a godsend for bathrooms and kitchens. There are tons of systems on the market designed for different areas of the bathroom for after you clean out the things you don’t need. Or for when you have a weird sink vanity cabinet without drawers like mine.

When you go in to declutter your bathroom, make sure to put in the extra effort to check expiration dates. Makeup can be a breeding ground for bacteria; so don’t hang onto that mascara any longer.

If you’re like me, you have a stash of lotions you always forget to use. Maybe it’s the beauty packages stores sell around Christmas time that you’ve gotten from your relative for the last three years, and you’ve stashed them under the sink, never intending to use them. Stick to your guns and get rid of everything you don’t need.

Declutter Your Bathroom Sustainably

What about expired and used makeup and beauty products? Or new or unused items you don’t want? Expired medicines?

  • Re-gift unused lotions and potions that have not yet expired. Little girls love these type gifts. Or take the lotions into your office to share.
  • Empty expired plastic lotion and product containers and recycle the container.
  • Remove expired medicines from their plastic containers and recycle the container. Most pharmacies will take any dangerous medicines (those containing narcotic pain killers) to recycle.
  • Visit terracycle.com to learn more about recycling old makeup and other beauty products (including disposable razors!).

Declutter and Simplify Small Spaces

All these ideas are great, but how about those of us living in tiny apartments? Or RVs and tiny houses? Or even dorms?

Luckily, there are a few special tips I found just for those of us in tiny living situations.

  1. Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize. In tiny living spaces, simple living becomes a million times more important. You need to learn to prioritize what to keep and what to get rid of. If you don’t use it at least once a month or every other month, it should probably go at least into storage. Consulting a list like The Spruce’s First Apartment Checklist can be a fun way to help prioritize what you actually need.
  2. Organize what’s left. Now that you’ve gotten rid of everything you don’t need, you have to organize what’s left like a pro. Search Amazon or DIY sites to find ideas on unique storage systems for small places. These food storage containers have been a huge space saver in my tiny pantry cabinet.
  3. Keep up on your organization. Simple living only works if you stay on top of organization. You can only bear to part with so many things, so make sure to keep those things in their place or else you’ll feel just as cluttered.

Declutter and Simplify Your Car

Your car is supposed to just be what gets you from one place to another, but for some of us, it’s more like our second home. I no longer have a work commute, but when I did I spent 20% of my time just driving there and back home.

No matter how much or little time you spend in the car, you could use some decluttering and simplifying in it if you’re like most of us.

Rid Your Car of Any Trash and Unused Items

Grab a trashcan and sorting bin for recyclables and dive in. All food wrappers, empty cups, any fallen napkins or tissues and that stash of expired makeup you keep just for emergencies in the center console all need to be removed from the car and sorted for disposal.

If you know you aren’t going to use it or know you shouldn’t use it, like that gum from last summer you found stuck in the door pocket, toss it out or recycle it.

Many people buy air fresheners and leave it up for much longer than the one-month scent life it actually has. While the paper air fresheners can be composted, they are not the most environmentally friendly option (or most healthy option because of the phthalates). If you want air freshener in your car, which older cars sometimes require, I highly recommend you consider all-natural options like these or these or even this DIY version.

Are you one of those people who toss your jackets into the car and forget them? Now’s the time to clear those out and bring them back into the house. If you worry about forgetting a jacket or being too cold while out of the house, you can leave one jacket in the car, but it should be nicely folded and tucked away.

Organize What’s Left in Your Car to Erase Clutter

Clutter isn’t the existence of the stuff or having too much, it’s having things you either don’t need or not having any organization. Now that you’ve gotten rid of the stuff you don’t need, you can get to dealing with what you do need.

  • CDs (showing my age here, but I know other folks also still own some) should go into their cases if you have a space for the cases, or into a CD organizer. Whether you get a visor case to hang up on your visor or a wallet style organizer, the goal is no loose CDs in the car.
  • Temporary items or temporary collections of items (like sports equipment, ballet shoes, and sunscreen) can easily be stored in containers. Plastic tubs can easily slide into the back of the vehicle or truck when you need them and then left in the garage or another storage area when you don’t.
  • There are a plethora of different organizers you can buy for the different niches of your car. Front seat organizers keep clutter out from under the driver’s feet, and back seat organizers are great for families to contain toys and even hammocks for dogs.

There’s a number of other organizational ideas, even for turning the little space between your seat and center console into an organized spot instead of a black hole of dropped items. The goal is to organize your vehicle in a way that it’ll best suit you and your family or passengers.

Declutter Your Car Sustainably

What about empty motor oil containers, air fresheners and other empty car maintenance containers?

  • Unfortunately most local recycling programs do not take empty motor oil containers. However, if the containers have a recycle symbol on the bottom with the numbers 1, 2, 4 or 5 check with a local auto shop like Auto Zone, many of them accept used motor oil and empty oil containers for recycling.
  • Most paper air fresheners are biodegradable, but I would recommend you steer clear of them in the future because of the harsh fragrance chemicals most contain. Try something like this charcoal bag option or these Mrs. Meyer’s Scent Sachets (if you prefer something scented) instead.
  • Febreeze car air fresheners may be recyclable through terracycle.com.

Declutter and Simplify Your Bags

“Bags” may make you think only purses, but most of the backpacks carted around by guys I know are even worse than my purse. Or how about the gym bag that probably has a forgotten stash of heat cream in a random pocket.

This isn’t about suitcases, however. These are your every day or every other day bags that you take with you to the gym, work, or out to socialize. Unless you use a suitcase every day, in which case, read on!

Maybe I’m the only one who’s that cluttered, but if you’re with me, let’s explore the options of decluttering your various bags.

Empty Your Bag Out First Before Decluttering It

Now, if you don’t have the space to suspend it and shake till the last piece of gum falls out, that’s okay. If your space is really limited, just do it pocket by pocket or by removing small amounts at a time. If you feel inspired by your newly decluttered vehicle, sit in it while you declutter your bag!

Make a pile or fill a bag with all the old chapstick, broken pencils, and mostly used stick of deodorant. Anything you don’t need or shouldn’t use must be disposed of. Again, sort and recycle any trash you find.

Organization Ideas for In Your Bag

Now that you’ve gotten rid of everything you don’t need, you only have the important stuff left. Ask yourself these questions as you go through the rest of the items in your bag:

  1. When did I last use this? If it’s been more than two weeks, it doesn’t belong in your bag. You should only have things you use on a regular basis, meaning at least once every two weeks, in your bag. Otherwise, your bag contents will only seem to multiply.
  2. Do I really need this? You probably don’t need five different shades of lip gloss or five pairs of gym socks in your bag. One or two is fine, however, anymore is unnecessary. Swap them out on a regular basis if you want to change it up-it’ll only take a minute to toss a new one in the bag.
  3. How can I make this easy to find and reach? I’ve reorganized my bag many times only to realize I placed the keys in the worst possible spot. I end up making a disaster of it again every time, so think about what you use most and try to keep that in the easiest reach.

Once you’ve determined what’s important to have within easy reach, reassemble your bag. Once a week, go in for about five or ten minutes and clean it back out, just to toss away the old receipts or do the laundry with your gym clothes.

Declutter and Simplify Your Schedule

Now that your house, car, and bag are decluttered and simplified, what’s left? Well, your schedule.

Today’s society places a lot of emphasis on being busy and doing as much as possible. Whether it’s the endless social activities we fill our time with, our side hustles, or after school activities for kids and parents, people just tend to go and go until they can’t anymore.

One of the ways you can simplify your life is by decluttering your schedule. This mainly consists of deciding which activities you actually want to do, need to do, and just assume you should do.

What Do You Have to Do?

First things first, make a list of appointments or events that you need to attend. For instance, you need to go to work and to doctor’s appointments. But do you really need to make cookies for the third bake sale this month? Do you need to attend your third cousin’s fourth baby shower?

If you’re finding yourself stressed out and constantly busy doing various things, you may want to examine your priorities. You’ll most likely find more enjoyment in the things you do decide to continue doing by eliminating all the things you don’t want to do or don’t have to do.

What Do You Want to Do?

Now, this can get a bit tricky. Things you need to do obviously need to come first, but you should also prioritize the things you honestly want to do.

When you’re about to schedule things back to back and have that feeling it’s going to overwhelm you to do all of it, you should take a moment and step back. Why are you doing each thing? Is it because you need to? Because you want to? Or simply because you imagine you need to do it, or you think you need to be busy?

Of course, there’s always going to be things we want to do but cannot, and that’s okay too. However, you shouldn’t keep yourself from enjoying some things just to be busy or because you imagine you have to.

What to Do with the Rest of Your Schedule

What about all those other activities scribbled all over your schedule? What do you do about those?

Well, if possible, don’t do them! If there isn’t a legitimate need or want or you’re simply worn out, you shouldn’t constantly force yourself to do things just to stay busy. Take the time to enjoy something instead. Life is short, and you should enjoy it.

If you need additional ideas and inspiration for decluttering your schedule, check out my other article on work-life balance strategies.

I hope you’ve picked up some tips and inspiration that motivate you to tackle clutter from every direction. Ultimately, it all comes down to loving and using what you have and removing what you don’t love and don’t use.

From there, it really is just the habit of taking care of our things. When we focus on that, stuff naturally stays more organized and we accumulate less clutter.

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Jodie Locklear
Jodie is a former art teacher turned Graphic/UX Designer and QA Manager. She's applied her knowledge of visual design and software testing on many projects over the years, ranging from small businesses to large well known brands and organizations. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, blogging, and travel. View About Page

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