Decluttering 101: Why and How

Upon entering both new year and new decade, what plans do you have in store? Is decluttering one of them?

For those of you who are still unfamiliar with the concept of decluttering, the term itself originates from the word clutter, which means anything that one keeps inside their house that does not add value to their life.  Decluttering itself is a term referring to the activity of getting rid of those clutter from our house and eventually our lives.

Contoh dapur yang penuh oleh berbagai macam barang. Sumber:
An example of a cluttered kitchen. Source:

Decluttering itself has also been popular because of Marie Kondo’s book entitled “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up”, in which Kondo defines decluttering as an act of getting rid of things that “does not spark joy”.

Why Declutter?

If you often find yourself having difficulty in finding and locating things in your own house, be it the closet, storage room or even your own working table, then it might be a sign that you need to start your own decluttering project.

Barang-barang yang terlalu banyak dan tidak teratur dapat menjadi sumber stress tersendiri. Kreditr: Aleksandra Kovac/Stocksy United
Cluttered and unorganized stuffs can be a hideous sight and might become another source of stress. Photo credit: Aleksandra Kovac/Stocksy United

In addition to freeing up some space in your house that was not there before, decluttering is also believed to positively affect one’s mental condition,in more ways than one such as

  • Saves time and energy because there are less stuffs to be cleaned: Keeping the house clean is nowhere near easy, and it gets worse when you have to clean the things that you don’t really use and just sitting idly in the corners of your house.
  • Overcoming stress: Getting rid of unnecessary things can give a sense of achievement for some people. Apart from being freed from a messy house, decluttering can give someone a sense of control towards their house and their lives.

How to Start Decluttering? 

Engaging in a decluttering activity for the first time might become overwhelming and confusing. We might not know where and when to start, and once we found out the sheer amount of clutter that exist throughout one’s home, it might even become intimidating.

However, do not worry because there are some helpful and simple tips for you to start decluttering your home, one step at a time.

1. Start with A Category (can be the Types of Things or Room by Room) and Make A List of It 

Basically there are two choices in decluttering one’s house, one is to start based on the types of things that you want to get rid of, and another one is to do it room by room.

If you want to start decluttering based on the types of things that you have, you better make a list of the things whose amount you need to reduce.

Contoh daftar checklist barang yang dapat dijadikan acuan dalam decluttering. Sumber:
An example of decluttering checklist based on the types of thing that often become clutter. Source:

The kind of things that people usually hoard or simply have too many basically depends on the person itself, but in general the things that often become a clutter are namely clothes, bag, book, shoes, kitchen utensil, glasses and mug, accessory, old magazines, electronic devices or sports equipment that are rarely used, CD and DVD cassettes, and also toy.

From that lists of stuffs, you can then ranked them based on its estimated amount and sort if from high to low. That way, you will know which stuffs that you need to prioritize in the decluttering process.

Contoh pemetaan tempat/titik-titik di rumah yang menyimpan banyak barang. Sumber:
Examples of clutter hot spots around the house to help you start decluttering. Source:

 Another way to start decluttering is to do it room by room. Before you start, you should also make a map or a list of clutter hot spots throughout you house. The places that usually hoard many stuffs can range from the closet, kitchen cabinet, storage room, and also the garage.

After that, similar to the declutter checklist, you can ranked those spots from the most to the least cluttered in order to be more effective in cleaning and decluttering the places.

2. Provide 5 Different Containers to Sort Your Stuffs 

5 Kategori yang Dapat Dijadikan Acuan dalam Melakukan Decluttering. Sumber: The Spruce/Bailey Mariner
5 Kategori yang Dapat Dijadikan Acuan dalam Melakukan Decluttering. Sumber: The Spruce/Bailey Mariner

 After knowing where to start decluttering, the next thing that you should do is to prepare five different containers to sort the stuffs that you want to get rid of. The five categories are:

  • Put Away: Use this container to put things that are not in its place. What you need to do next is to put the things back into its designated place. For example a coffee mug in your dressing table, or a book that was let in the bathroom.
  • Recycle: As the name suggest, this category is intended for recyclable stuffs that you want to discard of, such as old magazines and paper, plastic and glass bottles, and also used tin can.
  • Fix/Mend: This category is for things that either need to be fixed or mend, meaning that you need to modify it before you are able to use it. For instance a clothes with a missing button, a skirt with a broken zipper, or shoes that needs polishing.
  • Donate: If you have things that are still in a good condition but you rarely use it, it’s better if you give away those things for people who might need it, be it toys, books, over-sized clothes, or even cosmetic products that are not compatible with your skin.
  • Trash: Lastly, use this container for things that are broken beyond repair or do not fit into any of the above categories to be disposed of.

3. Do It Gradually

Cleaning the stuffs that have been sitting there collecting dust for years can be physically and mentally exhausting. That is why you should not insist in finishing the decluttering in a one-go or in just a day.

Instead, the process of decluttering should be done gradually, step by step. For instance you can start by allocating 5 minutes of your time each day to declutter your house and getting rid of the things that are unneccessary.

You can also start with removing one stuff every day, so that by the end of the year you will be able to get rid of at least 365 stuffs from your house.

Contoh rencana atau tahapan decluttering dalam jangka waktu satu bulan. Sumber:
Examples of decluttering plans and challenges within one month. Source:

 Within that period you can also start observing which stuffs you rarely use, especially in terms of clothes and shoes. The simple way of finding this out is to separate the clothes and shoes that you just wore.

For instance, you can hung your recently-used clothes in a reverse direction to differentiate it from the clothes that you haven’t used.

In a month or two, you can start seeing which ones you actually never use. It might be a good time to declutter them too.

4. Ask for Other People’s Help 

You can also ask for help from other people, in a way that helps you decide which stuffs you need to get rid of. You can ask that person to come to your house and let them judge which stuffs or area that need to be cleared, since a new pair of eyes will always help.

Later on, if you insist that you need to keep a certain thing, you have to explain the reason to that person. This is also important because other people will be able to weigh our reasoning more objectively and rationally.

Because let’s face it, many people have a certain emotional or sentimental attachment to the things they own even though it does not give any value to their lives.

5. Take Before-After Pictures

Choose a small area in your house that you wish to see clean, such as your work desk, dressing table, or even your closet. After taking pictures of the area/place, remove all of the stuffs that are there to clear up the surface or the wardrobe that were full before. Then take a picture of the cleared areas.

Contoh lemari sebelum dan sesudah dibersihkan. Sumber: Pinterest
Example of before-after conditions of a wardrobe. Source: Pinterest

 By comparing the two photos before and after it was cleared, you can see how clean and wonderful a place/area can become after it has undergone a decluttering process. This can serve as a motivation for people to start clearing more spaces in one’s messy house.

Against A Consumptive Lifestyle  

Later on, you can give the clothes and shoes that are still in a good shape to Waste4Change, and we will donate it to those in need. You can also send your inorganic stuffs to be recycled by Waste4Change by sending it to our office in Bekasi (please note that we do not accept residual waste such as styrofoam, used tampons and diapers, etc)

Even though decluttering might look like a regular cleaning activities, the process of removing unnecessary stuffs from one’s house and life will encourage us to reflect on the consumptive lifestyle that we have unconsciously adopted.

We might start to realize that our purchasing decision is not always based on rational reasoning, rather it was an emotional and impulsive one most of the times.

Getting rid of things that “does not spark joy” helps us in feeling enough: enough with having little possession, as well as feeling content with what we already have.

Decluttering can also make us become more aware of the amount of waste that we produced from the activity of buying and consuming more stuffs.

That those stuffs will not just disappear after we no longer use it, that the existing resources will never be enough to satisfy our greed, and that we are destroying our one and only planet we call home.

Happy decluttering!

Read the Indonesian version here.


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