Easy Tips to Help You De-Clutter and Move On

Easy Tips to Help You Declutter and Move On Almost everybody’s got one – a room you intended to be a haven that has turned into a cluttered catch all. The door often gets closed and you shudder a little every time you walk past. It’s not what you wanted it to be. Worse still, there’s probably some pretty special stuff in there – heirlooms, mementoes and keepsakes – things you’d like to be enjoying on a daily basis, but that stay shut away along with the rest of the clutter. It might be a spare room, guest room or den. For me, that room was our library. And yes, the picture above is an ‘after’ shot! With my easy tips to help you declutter and move on, you can have an after shot like this too.

Before I published this post in 2013, I was way to ashamed to publish a ‘before’ photograph. The floor was covered in books and boxes of photographs dating back four generations. We still hadn’t decorated and we had been in our ‘new’ house nearly six years. My friend Shirley was desperate to get in there and help me with the mess, but she was quick to caution me that it wasn’t just a physical mess, it was a metaphysical one.

I knew my friend was right. In late 2007/early 2008, my parents died within six weeks of each other. My husband, son and I were moving at the time, and it wasn’t just our furniture and personal belongings that got packed into boxes and moved into our new home, it was a lot of pretty raw grief. Almost everything that reminded me of my parents ended up in the room I intended to be the library, and no matter how many times I went in there and cleared things up, the clutter always returned with a vengeance.

Sarah Ban Breathnach describes a similar situation (albeit for a different reason) in her book Moving On. She writes “Clutter is much more than objects that lie on the surface of our lives. Begin thinking of clutter as the tip of what lies beneath, struggling to show its face.” Sarah also explains that we should “Think of clutter as co-dependent; we allow clutter to accumulate and it enables us to stay stagnant in an unhealthy situation that should have been dealt with years ago.”

Years ago indeed. I was definitely beginning to feel it was time to move forward. And with a little help from my friend, we did. Now, instead of threatening to fall out of the cupboard under the bookshelf, my late father’s diaries are in a pretty box on the top shelf of the cupboard. I can enjoy sitting at my late Great Aunt Margaret’s desk under the window writing letters and I can actually sit in the big comfy blue chair and read a book. I know where all the photographs and albums are and in due course we are going to go through and sort the photographs so I can enjoy them and preserve them for future generations. As you can see, we’ve even got some space on the bookshelves for them.

Easy Tips to Help You Declutter and Move On
So how did we tackle my clutter-filled library once and for all? Here are some easy tips to to help you de-clutter and move on, even in a room that has become a catch-all for everything from old socks to memories.

Easy Tips to Help You De-Clutter

Get help.
Whether it be professional help or the help of a friend, don’t tackle a clutter filled room on your own. Choose someone you know will be supportive and sympathetic, but who is tough too. You need an impartial ally with a firm resolve and a soft heart.

Take everything out of the room first.
Even if you are not going to decorate (although this is the perfect opportunity), remove as much as possible from the room. You may even want to remove pictures from the walls. Clean it top to bottom. If you are going to decorate, do it now.

Think very carefully before bringing things back in.
This is a fresh start, so carefully consider what furniture you really need – and want – in the room, as well as what you hang on the walls.

If there is a project in the way of decluttering, put it to one side, don’t let it delay you or bring it back into the room.
For example, my boxes of family photographs are now stored neatly elsewhere until we can spend a few days sorting through them. Vintage photographs will be physically placed in albums, more recent ones will be scanned and made into photo books. The books and albums will then go on the empty shelves near the window. Don’t let the fact you haven’t completed a particular project stop you from making the room into everything you want it to be.

Be patient with yourself.
Stirring up old memories and pieces of the past will definitely be stressful. I got quite moody and grumpy half way through the day, but with a bit of help from my very understanding friend I pushed through and felt so much better afterwards.

If it isn’t “beautiful, useful or seriously sentimental”, give it away or dispose of it.
Have one pile for the garbage, one for recycling and one for charity. Be careful of heirlooms and pieces from the past. If they don’t have good memories attached to them, you don’t have to keep them. Just keep the things that bring back happy memories and make you smile. Equally, don’t rush to throw away sentimental items you are not sure about. I still regret giving away a couple of things in the confusion of the early months after we moved.

Enjoy your new room.
Now that there’s space to get in there, use the room you have cleared. If it’s a guest room this is a great excuse to invite some distant friends for a visit. Take time out to sit and watch a great film in the den you’ve cleared, or sit down at the desk in the office and start writing that book you always dreamed you would. As for me, I’m off to sit in my big blue chair and get lost in a book.

* indicates required

Article by April Harris

April has written 1280 great articles for us.
April is a writer, recipe developer, frequent traveller and blogger sharing travel, food, and style. Based in the south of England, April is a British Canadian who is passionate about family, hearth and home, healthy living (with treats!) and the transformative power of travel.
View all posts by


  1. Such an inspiring post, April. Your library is lovely, peaceful, calm, and what a joy it will be to spend time there with so many memories of your loved ones. Your Aunt’s desk is quite beautiful! How appropriate to plan to sit in such a space to write. Thank you for sharing and for your transparency…I had never thought of my cluttered areas (yes, we do ALL have them) in the way you’ve written here. Some boxes contain memories that we just do not wish to conjure up (and I thought it was all just stuff). You’ve given me lots to think about. 🙂 Many blessings, Lisa

    • Thank you so much, Lisa. I am so glad my post helped a little. It really can be challenging working through all the old memories. I’ve got to do the boxes of photographs I mentioned in the post next, and I’m working up my courage to tackle them 🙂
      Many blessings, April

  2. Thank you for sharing about the internal struggle that makes decluttering such a challenge. Every single room in our house is a cluttery mess–partly because six people live and work and play and learn in this space, so we simply own and use a lot of stuff. But we also have a hard time determining what we should keep and what we can give. And I’m not a naturally organized, tidy person. You remind me to get help–a compassionate, objective person. Gives me hope.

    • I am so glad it helped, Ann. Thank you! It can be very daunting working through clutter no matter how or why it accumulates…I’m not a naturally organized, tidy person either 🙂 x

  3. April, thank you for such a heartfelt and timely article! I know a LOT of people who will benefit from this. I am going through this painful process myself and it is like wading through sludge.

    I am featuring your article at this week’s Inspire Me Monday at Create With Joy! 🙂

    P.S. I have also been inspired by Sarah’s books! 🙂

    • Thank you! I’m thrilled to be featured and I’m so glad my article helped. Decluttering really can be a painful process, but I’m finding that the more progress I make, the lighter and more relaxed I feel. I hope that is the case for you too.

  4. I really need to follow your wonderful instructions. I love your tip to take everything out of the room and think about each item before it goes back in. So glad to find your site through Create With Joy! Pinning this for later.

  5. Great tips and lovely room. So hard, and such attachment we have to the stuff we save. I do love your bookshelves!

  6. I desperately need to declutter my whole house! 🙂 You have some good tips! I found your post when it was featured on Inspire Me Monday. Thank you for sharing!

    • Thank you so much for your lovely comment, Missy! I’m really glad you found the post helpful. Good luck with the decluttering. Remember to be patient with yourself 🙂 x

  7. April, this is such a meaningful post that is sure to touch many of us. The idea that clutter represents issues that have not been dealt with is brilliant. That mind-body connection is quite powerful. I love what you and your sweet friend were able to accomplish; what I like even better is that it represents a new, positive phase in your life. 🙂

    I’m so glad you shared it!

    Love, Joy @ Yesterfood

  8. April, What a wonderful article, having lost both my parents in the last two years, both unexpectedly I know what you mean by having clutter. I’m going to follow your tips! You’ve done a wonderful job and your library looks so inviting!

    • Thank you so much, Nancy. I’m really sorry for the loss of your parents. I hope my tips help you to move forward a little. Be gentle with yourself as you work your way though. x

  9. April, such an inspiring post! So sorry that you lost both parents in such a short time. Mine died 20 years apart, and that was bad enough! I like what you said about not holding onto things that bring up unhappy memories.

  10. You made it beautiful, still my house is mess.

    • Thank you, Swathi. It’s hard when you have little ones running around, and it’s better to spend time with them than be cleaning. They grow up so fast. Any mess will wait!

Speak Your Mind