Decluttering tips – 4 types of clutter

Organised toys

What is clutter?

Clutter is different for different people. Kids toys may be clutter to us parents, but for the kids they most definitely are not. We all have items that we’re emotionally attached to. They could hold memories of the past, or they may support our ideas and desires for the future, like that pile of recipe cut-outs we keep meaning to try. This can make decluttering a very difficult process.

Decluttering has become an increasingly common term over the last ten years. It seems like everyone wants to declutter and get more organised at the moment. But, it can be quite overwhelming. Where do you start, how do you decide what stays and what goes, and what do you do with the items you no longer need or want?

To make things easier, try and start with items that you don’t have any emotional attachment to. Let’s define certain types of “clutter” and look at strategies to deal with it.

1. Out of date items

In the kitchen

Check through your fridge, freezer and pantry regularly to discard of old leftovers and out of date items. Get into the habit of putting new purchases towards the back of the fridge or cupboard and the items to use up, at the front.


Check your medicines periodically, anything that is expired take to the pharmacy for disposal, especially if it’s prescription medicine.

Make-up & skincare

Similar to food products, most of these items have a shelf life. If you check on the back of the product they will often have 6m or 12m or similar on. If you haven’t used the product in that timeframe, it’s best to dispose of it.

Coupons & vouchers

Find a spot to keep all your coupons and vouchers together where you will remember to use them. Go through once a month and get rid of the ones that have expired. If you use coupons regularly, each week put the ones that are closest to expire in your bag.

Old textbooks

These may be sentimental items, but if not, textbooks older than 5yrs (and often less) are generally obsolete and should be added to the recycling.

Declutter your handbag

Empty your handbag once a week and get rid of any receipts and other items you don’t need.

2. Broken items

These are items that you’ve probably been planning to fix but haven’t, either because you don’t know how, or the cost or effort of fixing it outweighs the cost or effort of replacing it.

What to do:

  • If you’ve gone without the item for months or even years and have not missed it, let it go.
  • Set-up a ‘To fix” box and make time to research what you need to fix it. If feasible, get it done. If it’s going to cost more to fix than to replace, unless it’s sentimental, let it go.
  • Schedule in a monthly fixing day. Give yourself a time limit, say 2 months, and if the item isn’t fixed by then, it can’t be very important, so let it go.
  • If it’s a sentimental item, maybe there is a way to re-purpose it so you can enjoy it again rather than having it stuck at the back of a cupboard.

3. Obsolete items

These are items that you no longer need in your current circumstances, for example:

  • Clothes that don’t fit
  • Manuals for items you no longer own
  • Outdated media like VHS, tapes and CDs that you don’t have a player for
  • Old phones or computers
  • Paperwork that you don’t need to keep.

These items can often be donated if they are in good condition. You may think you might need it again one day, but really take some time to consider this. Could someone else get use out of it now rather than it being in a drawer for who knows how long? Will your style or requirements be the same in the future? How much would it cost to replace if you needed it again?


Check with your local council or recyclingnearyou.com.au for eWaste drop-off points.
MobileMuster recycle mobile phones and have drop off points at mobile phone shops and most post offices.
Officeworks often take old computers, peripherals and ink cartridges.

4. Superfluous items

As you declutter try and sort like for like so you can see the amount of something you have. Do you really need 10 wooden spoons or saucepans, or 50 pairs of underwear or 10 pairs of scissors? Again, these items are often great for passing on to someone who will get use out of the item now (probably not the underwear though!).

You may have gained a surplus of sellotape because you haven’t been able to find it so you go and buy more. Find a home for these types of items and tell everyone in the household, so that next time you can find it.

Small steps

Decluttering is not a one-off exercise. Your lifestyle, wants and needs change all the time. Aim to do a little bit and often, and try and stop the cycle by being more conscious of what you’re buying and bringing into your home.

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Get in touch

If it’s all too much and you need to get a handle on it quickly, get in touch, I’m here to help.

As a professional organiser, I will not make you get rid of anything. Instead I will ask questions about why you want to keep certain items, encourage you to let go of things and provide ideas for donating, re-using or safely disposing of items.

Sarah Deitz

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