Depending on whether you’re an organized queen or a messy queen, decluttering and organizing your space can either be a wonderful or stressy experience.
Luckily, there are certain steps you can take to get the process rolling and see instant results without taking up loads of your time. We know how busy you are, trust.
We spoke to a handful of decluttering professionals to get the low-down on exactly what they recommend their clients get rid of and how to make the process that much easier.
From unnecessary mail and paperwork to expired pantry items, these are some of the easiest — and most impactful — items to throw out, so you can finally start that decluttering journey.
These are all items you can get rid of quickly, so you can make a big ol’ dent in your clutter pile.
1. THROW AWAY CATCH-ALL PAPER STORAGE
Have you been shoving paper into a big accordion file? This is professional organizer Ben Soreff’s most hated office supply, as he finds it too big and inaccessible. “The accordion file and similar catch-all paper storage is limiting and forces you to work with it instead of it working for you.” He says it needs to go in the trash, like yesterday. Go through yours, find the papers you need and put them in something much more accessible, like a file holder for your desk (this cute gold one is Amazon’s Choice (opens in new tab), BTW).
2. GET RID OF INEXPENSIVE REPAIR ITEMS
I’m super sentimental, and hate throwing away broken things. I do always buy replacements for them. Soreff urges his clients to discard all those inexpensive repair items, like a broken coffee pot. This is because these are the types of things that we say we are going to fix but never do. “We don’t want to live in the future or say the word ‘could’ when it comes to organizing,” he explains. Amen to that.
3. PUT ALL THAT UNNECESSARY MAIL IN THE TRASH
When you don’t go through your mail, it can easily stack up and make your space messy. “The first item I recommend my clients get rid of is mail,” says Lisa Dooley, organizing coach at Your Organized Life. “It tends to pile up and cover all available surfaces.” She recommends gathering and putting aside what needs to be shredded, and create a pile for filing what needs to be filed and acted upon.
4. REMOVE ANY OUT OF DATE FOOD
When sorting through and purging a cabinet or pantry of food, it’s important to immediately throw away cans/boxes/packages of food that have expired. Stacey Agin Murray(opens in new tab), professional organizer at Organized Artistry, LLC, recommends checking the refrigerator and pantry shelves for expired food every time you’re going to the supermarket. “Expired items can be thrown away and then added to the shopping list.” Don’t take any risks with this, because you don’t want to risk your health.
5. BIN CLOTHES LEFT BEHIND FROM AN EX
In the words of T-Swift, you’re never ever getting back together. Or you might, but hanging onto their gross old clothes isn’t gonna make that happen, no matter how much you wish. “It’s challenging for a client to start a new relationship if remnants of an old one are still hanging in their closet,” says Murray. “I often recommend donating the clothing to a thrift shop or charity — especially if the relationship did not end well.” Treat yo’ self get yourself a new hoodie that’s 10x comfier than the one your ex left.
6. BREAK DOWN AND BIN PACKAGING AND BOXES
Sure, those neat little iPhone boxes or expensive cosmetics packaging might seem too pretty to throw out… but what are you really going to do with a closet full of empty packaging? “The number one thing I tell my clients is to get rid of packaging that items come in, as they take up way too much space,” says Marie Jackson (opens in new tab), founder of Organized Marie. “Plus, multiple mismatched boxes isn’t appealing to the eye — our brains love symmetry and that’s what it looks and feels better when items are out of the packaging.” We’re all about that aesthetic, people.
7. YOU DON’T NEED THOSE TOILETRY SAMPLES
Take a look at all those toiletries you get in subscription beauty boxes that you’ll never use yourself. And those miniature hotel toiletries that you pick up every trip, but never then pack for other trips. Yep, they’re clogging up your space big time. “Donate these to local refuge and homeless shelters for pampering,” says Katherine Blackler, founder of SortMySpace Ltd (opens in new tab).
8. SAY GOODBYE TO THOSE “SOMEDAY” ITEMS
Keeping ahold of items, just in case? Blackler says not to do that, y’all. “Someday is not one of the 7 days of the week, so if you can’t give a confident example of when or where you’d use it, consider letting it go.” She especially recommends this if you can re-acquire the items easily enough.
These are all fab places to start with decluttering your space. But want to go all-out on the tidying? Give our 30-day decluttering challenge a try.
Kaitlyn McInnis is an experienced travel and lifestyle writer with a keen interest in interior decorating and home optimization. An avid traveler, she’s currently splitting her time between her apartment in a century-old châteauesque building in Montreal and her cozy chalet in the woods (that she built with her own two hands… and many YouTube tutorials!). Her work has been published in Travel + Leisure, Tatler Asia, Forbes, Robb Report Singapore, and various other international publications. With contributions from Eve Smallman, Staff Writer