5 Decluttering Tricks That Actually Work, According to Pros

Organized closet with matching hangers and boxes.

Photo: Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill; Graphic: MyDomaine

When it comes to decluttering, we are more influenced today than ever before, as photos of beautiful, clean pantries and closets without a shred of mess grace our social feeds daily. It can be a challenge to figure out how to come anywhere close to decluttered—but with these tips and tricks from experts, it doesn't have to be as hard as it seems.

"How you keep your home influences how you live your life," professional organizer Shira Gill shares with us. "Creating a streamlined and minimal home can enable you to do more of what you love and experience more spaciousness, freedom, and ease. It’s well worth the effort to get there."

Though some tricks for decluttering are better debunked, we asked professional organizers their top tricks that actually work. Luckily for us, they are easy to follow and super accessible, meaning our homes can start to look as good as our Pinterest boards—hopefully.

Meet the Expert

  • Shira Gill is a globally recognized home organizing expert, speaker, coach, and content creator with a less-is-more philosophy. She is also the author of her debut book, Minimalista, available now.
  • Katherine Picott is a Konmari consultant, folding pro, laundry systems expert, and professional home organizer. She is also the owner of Tidy Milso, a professional organization business.
01 of 05

Being Prepared

Shira Gill putting shoes into a basket.

Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill

The first step to decluttering is actually preparation, according to Gill. She suggests defining a clear purpose before decluttering your space: why do you want to get organized? What impact will getting organized have on your life? After you determine the answers, you're ready to begin.

"Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work, make sure to set yourself up for success," Gill notes. "Locate a few convenient donation options, (maybe a hauling service for bulky items),  and consider signing up for your local Buy Nothing Group so you have an easy way to get things moving out the door."

Along with these steps for preparation, Gill also suggests setting up bags or bins for corralling the trash, recycling, donations, and items that need to be relocated or returned that you will find while decluttering. "This will make the decluttering process much more efficient when you’re ready to dive in," she explains.

02 of 05

Sorting Items Into Categories

Organized pantry with glass jars and small basket.

Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill

Though it might not strike you as a necessary step, sorting is key to getting organized, according to professional organizer Katherine Picott. Corralling your items with other like items is the perfect way to clearly define where each belongs before moving anything around.

"My hack is to sort all the items into categories before decluttering," Picott shares. "In doing this, you will be able to assess all that you own and compare like items, which makes for a more impactful transformation." 

03 of 05

Trying a "Fifteen Minute Win"

Shira Gill organizing in her kitchen.

Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill

Cleaning or organizing has a bad tendency to take multiple hours, and most of us just aren't willing to give up an entire day to sort things into baskets. However, Gill has a quick hack meant to help with this: the "15-minute win."

"My 15-minute win productivity hack helps people to get out of overwhelm and into action, especially when working on larger projects like decluttering an entire basement or garage," Gill shares. "Clear yourself of all distractions, set a timer for fifteen minutes, and see what you can accomplish."

Gill shares that a lot of the time, you'll want to keep going after fifteen minutes, but if not, you can just keep plugging away at your big task, fifteen minutes at a time, until you’re done. "The hack works wonders because the hardest part is always starting, and once you get going, you’ll gain energy and momentum," she says.

04 of 05

Skipping the Sentimental

Organized bookshelf with three books and a houseplant.

Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill

This one makes perfect sense to us: the easiest place to start decluttering is definitely not your memorabilia box or sentimental closet. "Start by decluttering areas that feel manageable and don’t demand a lot of thought or contemplation," Gill suggests. "Cleaning out your fridge or pantry can be as simple as tossing items that are expired, whereas editing all of your childhood photos or old letters can feel complex and overwhelming."

Don't make your first bit of decluttering complex—keep it simple and manageable. "While my busy life rarely affords me entire days to declutter, I love to take just 15-minutes to clean out my handbag or spruce up my makeup drawer," Gill notes. "Little tasks and wins can still have a huge impact on daily life."

Little tasks and wins can still have a huge impact on daily life.

05 of 05

Making it Micro

Organized closet.

Vivian Johnson for Shira Gill

Starting small and focusing on decluttering one small section of your space at a time is going to prove to be far more productive than cleaning the whole house, according to our pros.

"Instead of attempting to edit and organize an entire room, focus on completing just one small task a day," Gill says. "The junk drawer, the medicine cabinet, or even a single surface or drawer can make you feel like you’re making progress and will have a huge compound effect over time."