How To Purge Your House: Room by Room

Declutter house part one

For a lot of people, minimalism jumps upon them swiftly when they look around and suddenly wake up to the fact that they’re surrounded by unneeded stuff. For others, they take a slower approach.

I find that the quick and dirty process gives much better results and helps you stick with it long term, because you put in all your effort in one huge push of time, energy, and sweat, and you do it while focusing on the fact that your goal is to have LESS STUFF. You go from being a person of stuff to a person of less stuff, rather than saying “Oh I’m working on decluttering!” for a year at a time, all the while still accumulating more stuff.

(I feel the same way about dietary changes. Don’t hem and haw about reducing your sugar intake by grams per day… just cut it out and bask in the glory of a better life).

There are a few methods of purging your home – this post will focus on how to purge and declutter room by room.

Purge Your Home By Room

Purging your home by room is just what it says – you go one room at a time and complete the decluttering process on the entire room. I like this method for a few reasons:

  1. It saves time – you do not have to go around finding things from multiple rooms. You just do the room you’re in.
  2. It is intuitive – you can work throughout your house in an order that makes sense to you, either top to bottom, clockwise by room, do bathrooms then bedrooms, etc.
  3. It is conducive to breaks – you need breaks when you work, and completing an entire room gives you an opportunity to take a break at a meaningful point.
  4. It is easy to chunk – while the best option is to do your entire house in one fell swoop, that isn’t always possible. Decluttering by room gives you a way to complete sections of the house and know where to pick up where you left off.

Begin by making a list of every room in your house, and number them in the order you will complete the decluttering or purging process. Got your list? Ok – let’s do this thing!

Be clear about your goals

Before you begin, take some time to get clear about your goals for decluttering and embracing a more minimalist lifestyle. What do you hope to gain? Here are some ideas:

  • Having a home without clutter will help me feel more at peace.
  • Minimalism will help me prioritize physical and emotional “stuff” in my life.
  • Purging the house on a grand scale will help me move on from an emotional trauma.
  • Not being tied down by so many possessions will allow me to feel free.
  • When I purge my belongings I will be able to pursue a dream.
  • When my home is free of unneeded items, I will be out of excuses and will work on a goal I have been avoiding by hiding behind the mess in my house.
  • Finally accomplishing this task will give me a sense of pride in my home.

Once you have your goals and affirmations clear, you can begin. It may help to write some of these things down so that when you’re halfway through bedroom #2 and you want to crawl on the couch and watch the latest season of Orange is the New Black on Netflix with a bottle of wine and a pint of gelato, you will be able to stay clear on your intentions and power through he process.

12 Steps to Purge a room

  1. Get some boxes, bags, or baskets for sorting items.
  2. Remove everything from all cabinets, drawers, etc. If you’re in the bedroom, empty your closets, dressers, nightstands, and shelves. Nothing is to be in a storage space.
  3. Put all the room’s stuff in a pile on the bed, kitchen table, floor, or other handy flat surface.
  4. Clean cabinets, drawers, etc. This step is optional but you may as well take advantage of the fact that they’re empty and give them a quick wipe down!
  5. Inspect each item carefully. Have you used it in the last month? Three months? Six, nine, or twelve months? Do you PLAN to use it in the next month/six months/year? Is it past an expiration date? Do you love it? Do you use it? Does it belong in this room?
  6. Sort everything. You should sort into the following categories: Keep (in this room), keep (belongs in another room), trash, recycle, donate, sell.
  7. Take the trash and recycling out of the room (or, ideally, out of the house entirely) as you fill bags.
  8. Take “sell” boxes to a designated storage space in your house. Write the date you decluttered the items on the boxes. If you haven’t held the yard sale within 3 months,this stuff goes to Goodwill.
  9. Take “donate” boxes and bags to a donation facility at the end of the day.
  10. If you have truly “undecided” items, put them in a box and mark the date on it. If you do not go looking for the items within 3 months, donate them without opening the box.
  11. For things that belong in another room, take them to the room where they belong (you don’t have to put them away yet, because you’ll be decluttering this room later).
  12. For things that you are keeping in the room you are decluttering, put them away when you have finished sorting.

Repeat these 12 steps for every room you declutter.

I recommend you set aside an entire weekend and devote it entirely to decluttering your house. This type of rapid fire approach leaves little time to second guess yourself.

Decluttering traps

So many things can derail you when you finally get the ball rolling on your decluttering plan. Watch out for these bad boys of the purging process:

  • Sentimental items. I know, it’s hard, but unless you truly cherish and regularly use or gaze upon an item, it is okay to let it go. This is relevant to the inheritance of relatives or even your high school calculus notes. I know some of you have a tote of school stuff in your mom’s basement. Get real. You’re not using it.
  • Gifted items. I always feel like I owe it to a gift giver to keep their gift. It was thoughtful of them to get me something, right? That is true, and it was thoughtful, but try considering that the gift’s true purpose, which was a moment of joy when it passed from gifter to giftee, has already been fulfilled. It is ok to let go of a gift you no longer use or need.
  • Paperwork micromanaging. This one has been my downfall since the dawn of decluttering. You find yourself moving at a good clip and then suddenly – PAPERWORK. I will give you a pass, just this once, to throw all paperwork in a box to be sorted and/or digitized later. Your main goal is to declutter your whole house.
  • Organization containers. These containers exist for one reason: to make hoarding look pretty. There is a time and a place for organizational containers, but you don’t need to make a run to the office supply store in order to achieve your decluttering goals. Focus on moving through the room before you worry about cute ways to store cotton balls and Q-tips.

Get to work! Or, learn more next week.

Does decluttering by room sound like a good method for you? Great! Get to work and tell me how it goes. Or, if you want to learn a different method next week, stick around, because I have more to teach you!

Share any other pitfalls you run into when decluttering and I’ll include them in the next post.

39 thoughts on “How To Purge Your House: Room by Room

  1. Sky says:

    I have a solution for the “cute ways to store (i.e. cotton balls)” and “sentimental items that I think are pretty” issues. Instead of buying (more) organizational/storage items, I match a ‘need’ (what to put cotton balls in) to an ‘unused sentimental item’ and voila! Whenever I reach for a cotton ball, I remember the person/event connected with the container. The ultimate recycling solution. (sorry, Rubbermaid).

    • Mary Sims says:

      My mother did this with jewelry she loved. She used an old “art” clay project I made. I think it was suppose to be an ashtray. Looks like crap but it was sentimental for her and held her valuables like favorite rings and rope necklaces.

  2. Olivia Mills says:

    This article is just what I needed right now. I’m moving soon and it’s time for me to start decluttering. Tips and advises here are great and seem to work quite good for me. Thanks for sharingQ

  3. Mary Gurney says:

    I’m just getting started after two major life traumas and 10 yrs gone by – it’s the sentimental stuff that’s hard to part with.

  4. Tiffany Spatara says:

    Ok, I’m ready to do this…my bf of many years suddenly left our son and I…unexpectedly would be the understatement of the century…we came home and he was just…gone…along with everything we had collected together as a family…perfect time to keep the ball rolling, right? Purging has always helped me to deal with emotional trauma, and I’m hoping this time will be no different. Thank you so much for your advice…you may have inadvertently saved my life.

    • Caitlin says:

      Omg, I am so sorry about your circumstances but so glad you have found a way to move forward and start fresh. Please check back in and let us know how you’re doing.

  5. Kelsey says:

    Ok, I’m moving our family of six into a smaller house! It’s scaring me how many toys and clothes and homeschool stuff we have! I like this approach. May the force be with me.

  6. Debbie Yates says:

    I soooo needed this. After loosing both of my parents in a year and a half. moving everything that the squatters didnt steal from their home into my home and working 3 jobs for the last 3 or 4 years. Its time to purge. I start a new job that will eliminate the need for all of those jobs AND ill have summers off to work as I want in my nephews concession stand. Im overwhelmed by all the STUFF I have and how dirty my home is and no idea where to start. I generally always start in the kitchen cleaning…doing dishes and what not and then get overwhelmed on what to do next. Now at least I have a plan.

  7. swalton500 says:

    Amazing article. Perfect inspiration.
    The benefits of letting go are insightful and freeing. I am about to overhaul my home and my life for the better. Thank you. Ineeded this!

  8. Dante Decosta says:

    I’m an adult child of a hoarder. After distancing myself from that, I discovered of a new creed I try to remember (for myself), if my apartment caught fire and burnt to a crisp, would I be able to name what I just lost in that closet, that room, etc. Wherever the answer is “no”, I can part with.

  9. Alyssa says:

    You step by step instructions is exactly what I needed right now. Our family went through some major life changes and we have been moving so fast through everything I haven’t even had time to unpack some of the boxes that came my way through inherited stuff 3 years ago! The boxes are currently serving a purpose as part of a cat fort, but I have no idea what is in them. I know I need to do a massive decluttering not only for my sanity but also to accept my new life and let go. I think this is going to be extremely challenging but I am up for it. The cat is going to be so annoyed when she loses her fort….. I’ll let you know how it all looks a month from now. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom!

  10. Saba says:

    This is just what I needed! Love love love! I desperately needed to purge a house full of clutter from a previous unhappy marriage of too many years to make room for happier future memories!

    Your strategy seems rock solid, wish me luck!

  11. hannah phillips says:

    I love this! I know it doesn’t help the ‘decluttering’ part but a lot of our Christmas parties consist of the Chinese Christmas or white Elephant, whatever you want to call it. I use items I no longer use and use this as a way to get rid of those items, especially ones that I don’t necessarily want to trash haha

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