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Quick And Easy Decluttering: My Two Golden Rules for A Tidy Home


July 4, 2024


The truth is, we all need to declutter, and it needs to be quick and easy. Honestly, nobody has time for complicated processes, so I’m sharing my two golden rules for quick and easy decluttering.

I’ve been obsessed with decluttering and organizing since I was very young. For many years, I believed I had no business teaching this because I wasn’t a professional organizer. Don’t let anyone tell you that you need a professional organizer to get your house in order. The pretty bins, acrylic containers, fancy store purchases, and Pinterest boards don’t matter. I lived in my house with things taped together, and we made it work. It was amazing, and I helped my friends do the same. I was always afraid to share my methods because I didn’t think they were worthy enough.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It is entirely possible for you to get your house in order. If you’ve been doubting your capability or thinking you need specific things to make your house tidy and organized, we are going to squash every single one of those thoughts.

“It is entirely possible for you to get your house in order.”

Listen Below For The Entire Episode On The Systemize Your Life Podcast

Golden Rule #1: Use Tangible Objects For Efficient Decluttering

Let’s dive in. Grab your pad of paper, notebook, journal, or even post-it notes if you have to. Maybe you’re taking notes on your phone, but I’m a big advocate for pen to paper. Here is golden rule number one for quick and easy decluttering in your home: use tangible objects to help you sort.

Let me explain. Specifically, you need to use four boxes. This is a crucial part of my ESCAPE method, which I teach all of my students and have used for years. When I decided to fully commit to this method, it made a world of difference.

The Realization: Simplifying Decluttering For Real Life

I went on a date night with my husband. We used to be obsessed with going to bookstores, and I found myself sitting on the floor of Barnes and Noble, pulling every decluttering book I could find. I had all these books spread out around me, thumbing through pages and pages about getting your house organized.

I turned to Blaine and said, “What is this madness? No one has time for this. No one is ever going to think they can actually declutter their house if they have to sit and read an entire book first. This isn’t it.” I was frustrated and needed to get what I do in our home and what I envision in my head out into the world. Blaine, who is unbelievably brilliant at coming up with names and concepts, is the magic sauce behind every method and term I coined.

Developing the ESCAPE Method

As we worked together, thinking through ideas over the next few weeks and months after that bookstore event, we developed the ESCAPE method. Essentially, it’s my method, but with an acronym that helps you remember it easily: “Escape your clutter and live mess-free.” Without diving into the details of the ESCAPE method, the core idea is to declutter quickly and easily, no matter which room you’re in, using tangible objects—specifically, four boxes. I’ll explain what these four boxes represent in a moment.

Don’t just wing it and throw everything away. I’ll never forget the day I learned about Marie Kondo’s book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. It’s a wonderful book that I discovered decades ago when it first gained major traction and popularity. At the time, I was at the very beginning of my career as a professional sign language interpreter. I worked with another interpreter, who was a little older than me, and she introduced me to the process. I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about it.

Simplifying The Decluttering Process With The ESCAPE Method

Marie Kondo’s process for decluttering delves into the emotional aspects, which is incredibly helpful if you’re a hoarder, extremely sentimental, or if someone in your family struggles with letting go of things. Her method involves touching every single item to see how it makes you feel. If an item doesn’t spark joy, you get rid of it. The idea is that, after going through this long and meticulous process, you’re left with only the items that truly bring you joy and are necessary in your life.

I read the book and went through that process to some extent, carefully sorted through my belongings, but then life happened. I had kids, a job, an autoimmune disorder, became a single mom, got married, moved, had another kid, got a dog—so many things kept happening. Honestly, I constantly need to declutter. How about you?

The truth is, I knew this whole process needed to be simplified. When Blaine and I sat down, I realized I had to figure this out for people because what I do works incredibly well. It’s fast, effective, and I can declutter my house, a room, or even a drawer quickly and efficiently. It doesn’t have to be complicated. So, I simplified the system and made it unbelievably clear. If you stick to this golden rule, you’ll succeed. If you break it, you’re done.

The Four Essential Boxes For Effective Decluttering

Let me explain these four boxes. Whenever you start decluttering anything in your house, you need to have four boxes, bins, or even just imaginary piles. I’ve done this in the garage many times, drawing large squares with chalk on the driveway to create four sections. These boxes, bins, or areas can be used anywhere you need to declutter. Here’s what each one represents:

The first box is for a hard “Yes,” meaning you’re definitely keeping that item. You can set your own rule, but a good guideline is to ask yourself if you’ve used it in the past year or if you plan to use it in the upcoming year. If the answer is no, get rid of it. This should be a definite “Yes, I use this all the time,” or “Yes, I will absolutely use it,” not a “Maybe I might use it someday.” I’ve become much stricter about this in recent years.

The second box is for items you’re unsure about—a “Maybe” pile. This is where you place things you think you might need or use but aren’t certain.

The third box is a hard “No,” meaning you won’t use the item. This becomes your donation pile. These are items that are still in good condition but no longer serve a purpose for you.

The fourth box is for trash—items that are genuinely garbage and need to be thrown away. These are things that are broken, worn out, or otherwise unusable.

Shift Decluttering From Project To Maintenance

Here’s Golden Rule number two. This is foundational solid advice—probably some of the best advice I’ve given myself, was ever given, and that you may ever hear. This golden rule is to change your idea of decluttering from a project to maintenance. This is essential if you want decluttering to be quick and easy. It’s a practice and a mental shift, like flipping a switch in your brain and programming it to a new channel.

I understand that you think—and it’s probably true—that you have an extreme amount of stuff. There’s a lot of stuff, so it feels like a huge project right now, and it might be. That’s okay. It might take four hours every Saturday for the next six weeks, or a full weekend where the kids are sent off to the grandparents and you dive in. Maybe dad takes the kids and you do it on your own because you’re the only one willing to get rid of things. I don’t know what that needs to look like for you, but that’s not the point, because that’s not even a requirement.

What’s been holding you back for so long from getting out from under your clutter is, first, not having a simple system in place, like we discussed in Golden Rule number one. Second, the way you’ve been thinking about this is that it’s going to take so much time and be such an ordeal, but it doesn’t have to be. Decluttering needs to become a regular maintenance task in your home, like doing the dishes, laundry, taking a bath, or making your bed. You might think, “I’m not very disciplined at those things either, so I’m already failing,” but you’re not.

The Importance Of Decluttering Maintenance

That’s why we have time blocks, fundamental needs, and intentions for our time and tasks in both our home and business. Living intentionally is hard, and clutter will always keep you from showing up fully in every area of your life, no matter the amount. Here’s what you need to know: decluttering is a nightmare when it’s been left for decades. For kids, it doesn’t even have to be decades—a year without decluttering their rooms, and you’re doomed. The gifts, school items, and clothes they outgrow at lightning speed create chaos. The sheer number of shoes we got rid of today is overwhelming. It’s all about maintenance.

Today, we brought in new shoes. Immediately, I noticed my child trying to put them away on top of old shoes, four pairs deep, with ones on the bottom she hasn’t touched and clearly outgrown. So I told her, “You need to get rid of all the shoes that don’t fit before putting the new ones away.” It was a fuss, and I had to remind her, “Would you like to take the new shoes back that we just got?” She reluctantly agreed to clean out her closet.

Adopting A Decluttering Mindset

And so, I built a routine around this, going over to help and do it together. The truth is, I want to teach them to incorporate this practice into their lives as much as I need to teach myself. Daily, weekly, and monthly, I am always on the lookout for things to declutter. I constantly ask myself, “Have I used this? Will I use this?” I keep an eye on things that, in passing, build up—like the pile on the counter or the shoes in the back of the closet, and those 45 purses you haven’t used since before you needed a diaper bag. What’s even happening? Get rid of it. Get up right now, walk over, and get rid of it.

This is the mindset I want you to adopt to truly understand that you’re not waiting for the right time to declutter. The right time was yesterday, and the right time is right now. So, just start getting rid of things. If you can’t get four actual bins out and do this systematic process, that’s fine. Start throwing things away—the broken spoon, the Tupperware without a lid. It’s okay to throw away three things and leave four or five in the drawer that you’re still unsure about. At least you’re getting rid of stuff you don’t need, which is causing clutter.

Embracing Imperfection

Those are my two golden rules for you, and I know they seem really straightforward. It is pretty simple, but it’s not always easy to start. So I want to encourage you by sharing that my house isn’t perfectly decluttered. It’s not perfectly organized. I do my very best, and we manage to do a pretty good job at it.

I’ll give you a little dose of reality from my own life. Just this weekend, I didn’t have time for any of this. We’ve got so much going on in the business right now. It’s summer, my kids are home, and there’s no perfect time for me to declutter. Every time I schedule it, we end up bumping it. We get two hours done, then we bump it again. Instead, I show up for my house regularly and don’t pin myself down to a specific day or time on the calendar.

There’s nothing wrong with scheduling, but right now, what serves me best is taking immediate action. For example, when my child can’t put their shoes away, I get up, throw out the old shoes, and make space for the new ones. I keep tackling each area in my house, over and over again.

Wrapping It Up…

Can’t close the linen closet? Get rid of four towels that have holes in them. It’s that simple. If you apply this approach repeatedly, you’ll eventually chip away at the clutter until the whole dam breaks and everything becomes manageable. You’ll be able to follow Golden Rule number one and dive into decluttering because you’ve cleared the heavy weight of how complicated, hard, and time-consuming it seemed in your mind.

Decluttering truly can be quick and easy. If you do end up putting any of these tips into place, I’d love for you to share them within our vibrant Facebook community or come over and visit me on Instagram. Not only will it serve as a piece of accountability for you, but it will also encourage other moms who haven’t yet taken action on what they’ve read. And remember that we would LOVE to see you inside of Systemize Your Life as a VIP student!

Thanks so much for being here with me!


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