woman carrying boxes to declutter her room

By The Cleaning Lady


Let’s get real—cleaning a cluttered house can feel like an uphill battle. The piles of knick-knacks, papers, and random items scattered about can not only make your living space look untidy but also affect your well-being. No matter how much you scrub and polish, a cluttered home just never feels clean. In extreme cases, this chaotic environment can even contribute to stress and other health issues. That’s why, before diving into a deep clean, decluttering should be your first step. If you’re wondering where to start cleaning a cluttered house, you’re not alone. Thanks to Patricia Fairchild’s seminal book, “Learn How to Organize and Declutter in 15 Minutes,” I have distilled the process into easy-to-follow decluttering steps.

Learn How to Organize and Declutter in 15 Minutes

This image shows a book cover with the title "Learn How to Organize and Declutter in 15 Minutes". The book is written by Patricia Fairchild and is available for purchase on Amazon. The cover features a photo of a beautiful living room

Decluttering Steps

1. Gather Declutter Boxes

According to Fairchild, the first step to declutter a room is to label declutter boxes for each room in your home. From the kitchen and bathroom to the bedroom and living room, having a designated box can significantly streamline your decluttering efforts. These boxes can be simple cardboard ones, plastic containers, or even wicker baskets. The key is to label each box clearly. So the main boxes you will have is “Kitchen,” “Bathroom,” “Bedroom,” “Living Room,” “Garage (or Tools),” and a “Donation” if you want to get rid of things. You will only use these boxes temporarily for sorting purposes, but their role in organizing a cluttered house can’t be overstated.

2. Pick One Room to Start

The second of Fairchild’s steps to declutter involves choosing one room to begin your journey. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be the most cluttered room in the house. In fact, starting small can help you gain the momentum needed to tackle larger areas later. Pick your room, place your labeled declutter boxes on the floor (minus the room you are in), and prepare to tackle the room one section at a time. Much like tackling a big project, the key is to break it down into manageable parts. The same logic applies to house cleaning and decluttering. So, whether it’s the kitchen, bedroom, or bathroom, picking one room at a time can be incredibly effective.

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3. Declutter One Corner at a Time

As you stand in your chosen room, you may wonder where to start when decluttering. Fairchild advises starting at one corner and systematically moving around the room. “Tunnel vision is your best friend when decluttering,” Fairchild says. “If you focus on the entire room, you’ll likely become overwhelmed.” By sticking to one corner and working your way around, you can employ easy ways to declutter without feeling overwhelmed.

A Run-Through Example: Decluttering Your Bedroom

For this example, let’s say you’ve chosen to declutter your bedroom. Place your declutter boxes either on the bed or the floor. Imagine your dresser is in your starting corner. On top, you find a random assortment: lipstick, a hammer, some nails, empty cups, and a pair of socks. Each item goes into its corresponding box.

The lipstick is sorted into the bathroom box, the hammer and nails into the garage box, the cups into the kitchen box, and the socks on a pile on the floor to sort later. You then move onto the next section, which might be your nightstand. Apply the same tips for decluttering the bedroom, categorizing items into the labeled boxes. Continue this pattern until you circle back to your starting point. Now, your clutter has been organized into declutter boxes, making the room ready for a proper clean.

By repeating these steps in each room, you’ll declutter your house effectively. And the end of your decluttering session, be sure to empty your boxes, putting the items in their appropriate places. Once that’s done, you’ll find that cleaning a cluttered house becomes significantly easier and more efficient. For those interested in diving even deeper into decluttering techniques, I highly recommend downloading Patricia Fairchild’s book for a more in depth guide. She even offers additional tips like how to organize a cluttered bedroom and how to dehoard your house, for those who need it.

If you’re someone who prefers to declutter by category, make sure to check out my review of Marie Kondo’s method. Either way, with some discipline and organization, you’ll have a clutter-free home in no time. Happy decluttering!

Check out this great Women’s Day article for more efficient tips to clean and declutter you home. And if you are having company over, here are some additional declutter tips.