Clutter is an annoying, energy-sapping roommate, threatening to take over your space from the closets to the countertops. No matter how much you say you want your clutter gone, it can feel impossible or overwhelming to make a dent in it.

Pile of files

Clients regularly approach me asking for tips and strategies to help them declutter. If you feel like you just can’t get rid of it, here are some of my favorite tips for winning the war once and for all:

1. Start with what bothers you the most. When you decide to attack clutter, don’t try to do everything at once. Start with the pile, area, or room that causes you the most stress—usually an eyesore that you have to look at daily. You’ll get the most relief from getting rid of that and feel deep satisfaction that will in turn motivate further decluttering.

2. Identify and change the root of the clutter. Consciously change the habit that perpetuates the problem. For example, I used to accumulate my recycling in a closet, and the pile would keep getting higher.  One day, a lightbulb came on and I realized that I could simply take it outside every day when I took my dog for her morning walk. That way, it goes directly into the container from which the city collects it and I can use my storage closet for much more useful things (the eyesore of all that recycling junk spilling all over the place is also gone, yahoo!). Identify your behavior habits and modify them to help prevent clutter.

3. Fight for your surfaces. Keep surface areas clear and do not let piles form. Piles are the enemy of sanity and clarity. When you have an item in your hand, store it where it belongs immediately. If you must make a pile, categorize by similar items and store it somewhere out of sight to avoid stress. I have a basket I keep stashed in a cupboard for receipts to sort later.  That also makes it in turn much easier to organize my finances, I’m never having to search everywhere to find receipts.

4. Give lots and lots of stuff away. “But what if I need it someday?” This is a common decluttering obstacle. To get clarity on whether or not to hold on to something, ask yourself, “If I saw this in a store today, would I buy it?” If not, get rid of it. Last year, one of my Club members proudly kicked 70 boxes of excess stuff to the curb where they were picked up by a local charity. I challenge you to beat that!