Order of operations

One of the most common questions I receive as a professional organizer is, “How do I start decluttering?”

Almost all tasks are easier to tackle when you break them down into individual, specific, measurable steps. That’s why we love Marie Kondo’s suggested order of operations when decluttering your home. She covers all the major categories where we tend to collect and hold on to unnecessary items. For Superfiners who have not read Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (we highly recommend!) we’re sharing our version of her checklist below so that you can get started today:

#1 start with your closet.

You’ll see the biggest impact in this space because the results are immediately visible. When you’ve got a handle on your closet, be sure to remove the discard and donate items as soon as possible to avoid letting them ‘resettle’ back in.


#2 assess your books.

When it comes to book collections, we recommend keeping the classics.  Donating or gifting copies of your favorite books is a great way to pay it forward, and fights book clutter and dust!


#3 tackle your papers.

After gathering all the miscellaneous papers scattered throughout your home you’ll be able to get a better handle on what you’ve been saving and consider ‘why’. Whatever it is, chances are you can digitize these documents and shred the original. Paper clutter is often hard for people to tackle because it touches on sensitive and financial issues. It's something we tend to procrastinate on addressing: consider, for example, that most Americans file their taxes in the two weeks prior to Tax Day.


#4 evaluate the miscellaneous.

This is a tricky category. We like to recommend looking at remaining miscellaneous items in terms of how often and where you use them -- both super helpful in determining if they should stay or go, and where they should be stored to maximize usability.


#5 look through sentimental items.

We definitely recommend tackling these items last. As you’re sorting through your home and uncover boxes of old photos, cards, family artwork, and other mementos, resist the urge to open Pandora’s box and revisit those memories in that moment. Instead, pull all these items together and set aside a separate day to look through and organize these keepsakes. It’s a fun project, but beware of the likelihood of being sidetracked if you address sentimental items before tackling all other items listed above.