How to Declutter Your Junk Room in 7 Steps

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Have you been promising yourself that this year you are finally going to get organized?

You have some energy to tackle that junk room that you've been cramming stuff into (especially during the holidays when the rest of the house has to look nice) and is positively overflowing with stuff.

The other parts of your house might be looking pretty good but it might be because you've been pitching the stuff that you don't really know what to do with in one room...the dreaded junk room (aka the craft room, the basement, the guest bedroom, or whatever room is the one that collects all those random things from around the house to deal with...later.)

You might not even be able to open the door the whole way or even take more than a few steps into the room for fear of breaking an ankle. It's the Room of Doom. I know about these junk rooms because I've had them before in my own home (It's true! It was really bad when my kids were little. I was really good at the old stash and dash.) and I see them all the time in my clients' homes. We all need a place to stash stuff occasionally but when we never take stuff back out it can become a disaster zone. A mystery room. The Room of Doom that everyone avoids at all costs.

So what do you do with a Room of Doom?

I'm going to share with you the exact step by step process I use with my clients to tackle a super junky room. Be patient. It will take some time but you can do it. I know you can.

 "Be kind to yourself but be ruthless with your stuff. If it doesn't light you up, out it goes. "

It's as simple as that. It's just stuff.

Let's get to work, Friend.

Step 1.

Gather your tools: a snack and water, several big garbage bags, three laundry baskets, a pad of Post-It notes and a Sharpie (or marker), the timer on your phone or a regular kitchen timer. Some non distracting upbeat music if you want some company.

Step 2.

Label one sticky note for each laundry basket: Donate, Goes in a Different Room (I call this a Travel box), Mend/Repair/Action Needed. Put these baskets outside the room in the hallway. The objective is to reduce the volume of stuff in this room so OUT OUT OUT is the name of the game.

Step 3.

Open a garbage bag for straight up garbage and another for recycling (you can use another box or ratty gift bag that you'll inevitably find in this room for recycling).

Step 4.

Set a timer for 15 minutes. Push start and take a big, deep breath. Walk into the room and assess. I know it's a mess but that's what we're here for, right? Ok, do a quick survey of the really big stuff. Pluck out the big things that are obviously trash or something that needs to be donated. Pull them out (be careful to not trip!) and put them by your front door or out to your car. Yup. Get them totally out of the space. If you can enlist someone to help carry this stuff out this part will move extra fast. Stop when the timer goes off. Can you do more? Set it again for another 15 minutes. Go.

Phew. That was tricky, right? But now you have a bit more room. Remember to do the BIG stuff first, then MEDIUM then SMALL. Don't start looking through papers, photos or fussy little supplies. That comes last.

Big things are: beds, tables, bookshelves, desks, armoires, clothes racks, empty suitcases, bags, sports gear, cat carriers/dog crates, empty boxes, empty bins, etc.

Medium things are: clothes, large toys, whole games, whole sets of things, supplies that haven't been opened (like reams of paper, containers of markers, big containers of toilet paper, anything from Costco etc.) books, magazines, sets of objects, shoes, bags, tote bags, gift wrapping stuff, crafting stuff etc.

Small things are: photos, memorabilia, paperwork, files, opened containers of small stuff, sets that have been broken up, small decorative items

Now that you have some more room, see if you can clear a flat surface to work on. A bed, desk or folding table are all perfect for this.

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Step 5.

Set a timer for 15 minutes. Start working on the medium things. Try to just pluck out one category at a time. So if this room is a jammed with 80% clothes, then pull out all the clothes in one category (like all the kids clothes or all of your old work clothes) and start going through them.

Ask yourself with each item: 

Do I love this?

Do I use it (probably not since it has been crammed into a room you haven't used in ages)?

Does it make me feel good?

If yes? Then keep it. If you immediately feel guilty, sad, angry or any other negative emotion out it goes. Seriously.

Life is too short to keep a bunch of stuff that makes you feel icky.

You can find other great questions here and the biggie "what would I replace if I lost everything?"

Step 6.

At this point you're probably done for the day. Take the stuff that belongs in the other rooms and drop them inside each room and keep going until the basket is empty. Write down any actions that you need to take with the other repair/return bin (hem blue pants, return library book that is 6 months overdue). Discard the trash and recycling.

I love this article on easy stuff to ditch.

Step 7.

Come back again soon and do the exact same process for the small stuff. It will take you much longer to do this step than the others because these are far trickier items to deal with than the large and medium size stuff. If you need some help with paperwork read this post or this one will help and if you need help with getting rid of books or sentimental stuff read those too.

Keep going! Remember the pay off is less stress, more space, freedom and clarity in your life. And most importantly, space to breathe and enjoy your home! I believe in you.