Decluttering Tips – The Do’s and Dont’s

By Pamela Wong

Pamela is a Trained Professional Organizer based in Oakville, Ontario and is the owner of Zen N Organized. She helps homeowners and small business owners transform their homes and home offices into organized spaces. She has a practical, non-judgemental approach to organizing. Her objective is to create functional and harmonious spaces for her clients.


Have you tried to declutter on your own but despite your best efforts the mess just creeps back in? Have you wondered if the clutter can ever be under control? Would you like to know how to avoid some obvious mistakes when trying to control the chaos in the house?  How about learning some tips that can help you make the organizing process much smoother?

Lots of stuff and no energy

We rush home after working all day, bring our children to their after school activities, get them fed and make sure their homework’s done.  By the time they go to bed, we are too exhausted.

On top of that, there is laundry, groceries and hopefully we make it to the gym and take care of ourselves.  We have no time or energy left to deal with the clutter that’s been accumulating in the house. 

What is decluttering?

In theory, the concept of decluttering is simple:  It is the act of removing clutter from a room or a space. 

So, why is it so difficult to keep clutter at bay? There are many factors to keep in mind when you are ready to turn the chaos around. 

Would you like to know the most common mistakes?  How about the best practices in decluttering?  Read on to find out the dos and don’ts.


1. Baby Steps

Spare a little bit of time each day to work on the clutter.  Even if it is only 10 minutes, it is still better than not working on it at all.   

2. Gather “Like With Like” Before Decluttering

Amalgamate all like items so you can see what you are working with. 

Last year, I helped a divorced, retired lady declutter her home before it was put on the market for sale.  We found more than 10 pairs of scissors in her 4-bedroom house!  She didn’t realize she owned so many as they were scattered around the house.

You may just surprise yourself at how much duplicates or triplicates you have in your own home. 

3. Sort and Declutter Before Organizing

After you’ve gathered all like items and sorted them into the respective categories, you’ll be able to make better decisions in terms of what you’d like to keep and what to let go.  It is much easier to see what you are keeping first.

Out of the 10+ pairs scissors, my client chose to only keep only 2 pairs for 2 different areas of the future home.  It made a lot more sense to keep only the amount that she would use, and not try to keep and organize 10+ pairs of scissors.

4. Be realistic when setting goals

Sometimes there are limitations to your visions.  For example, we can only fit as much stuff as the physical space allows us to keep.  If there is no more room, then something has to give. 

Ensure your goals are realistic and professional organizers are here to help you with that.

5. Set a plan, with procedures

Before you go on your decluttering and organizing journey, be sure you have a detailed plan.  Define each step by asking the “when, where, what, why, who and how”.

6. Vertical space

Try and use vertical space to increase storage.  This is particularly useful for a closet, pantry or in the basement.


1. Don’t buy storage containers before decluttering

This comes with two problems:  First, clutter that is stashed in beautiful baskets is still clutter!  Second, the baskets and bins often don’t fit in the shelves or the spaces that were intended for. 

2. Don’t strive for perfection

It is impossible to be perfect and stay perfect.  This is particularly true for organizing a home as circumstances change over time.   What works today maybe not in a few months. 

3. Don’t hang onto the donate pile

We want to remove any clutter from accumulating, so drop off the donation to your charity of choice as soon as possible.  The longer it stays in your house, the less likely it will make it out of your house. 

4. Don’t do it all in one go

The clutter didn’t appear in one day.  It took time for it to accumulate, so try not to overwhelm yourself by trying to make it disappear in one day.  Instead, break up the large projects into smaller achievable steps. 

5. Don’t stuff all sentimental valuables in boxes

Your grandmother’s china or family heirloom are of no use if they are stashed in boxes in the storage.  Why not honour your loved ones by showcasing the one or two items that are most meaningful to you and display them in your house?

6. Don’t avoid the problem

The clutter is not going to go away on its own, so plan and strategize how to attack it and keep it under control.  Ask for professional help if it is too overwhelming.

Remember to evaluate the current situation, set some realistic goals and have a detailed plan. Rome wasn’t built in one day and organizing your home will not either.  Ensure you have regular maintenance in place to keep the clutter at bay.


  1. Janet Barclay on September 18, 2023 at 11:04 am

    “Don’t hang onto the donate pile” is a really good tip – I’m sure I’ve changed my mind more than once about keeping something!

  2. Hazel Thornton on September 25, 2023 at 2:31 pm

    NIce list of organizing do’s and don’ts! Funny, I always use the example of scissors when clients are bemoaning the fact that their friend’s house is more organized than theirs. Is it really more organized, thought? Or just tidier? Can their friend find their scissors when they need them?

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