Most Overlooked Areas to Declutter

Photograph of a very cluttered garage with numerous brown moving boxes stacked up against the back wall, and loads of bags, other boxes, and household junk cluttering the entire space.

So you’ve done a 30-day decluttering challenge. Played the #minsgame. Made your donations and some extra cash on eBay with your old stuff. You even do daily decluttering bursts to keep things tidy. Yet something still feels off at home. Maybe you still have clutter clogging up your flow?

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We tend to aim for the big wins when we declutter. The kitchen countertops. The clothes closet. That stack of unread books on the coffee table. There are, however, other more subtle corners that also attract clutter. They can weigh you down just as much, and make your place look untidy. Here are 11 of the most overlooked areas to declutter.

Check out these problem areas and see if you’ve also missed any of them. I sure have before!

Handbag, Rucksack, Briefcase

Don’t you just love a big, roomy bag? They’re so practical when you’re out running about. Toss a magazine in them, pick up a loaf of bread, stop at the pharmacy. Everything fits in a big bag. The downside is that they can become a dumping ground for clutter, too. If you tend to use the same bags everyday and forget to declutter them on a regular basis, you’re bound to find some junk swimming around in there.

Photograph of the contents of a woman's handbag, one of the most overlooked areas to declutter.
Your bag is one of the most overlooked areas to declutter.

Next time you’re doing a bit of tidying and decluttering, have a look through your bag. Get rid of any waste such as old receipts, parking tickets (whoops), wrappers, brochures. Dust out the bottom, and any pockets. Organise everything back into your bag. Whew, doesn’t that feel much better now? Rewind and repeat for your wallet now, too, whilst you’re at it!

Medicine Cabinet

Another one of the most overlooked areas to declutter is the medicine chest. Let’s be honest: you don’t need that expired salve from your knee injury back in 2011. Nor those muscle relaxants your orthopedic surgeon once prescribed instead of physical therapy. And you definitely don’t want to be reaching for an aspirin or ibuprofen that expired five years ago next time you have an ache or pain.

Check all the expiry dates and ditch the old stuff. Just make sure not to toss it into your bin. You don’t want to be adding chemicals to the landfill, where they will seep into our ground water. Grab a little bag and toss any old medication in there. Next time you head over to the chemist or pharmacy, bring that very bag with you. They will dispose of the expired medications for you in an environmentally responsible manner.

Makeup Drawer

Makeup, bath and beauty supplies all actually have expiry dates. One of the most overlooked areas to declutter is right there in your bathroom. And you’re putting it on your clean face everyday.

Have a look through your makeup stash and get rid of any old stuff that’s expired, smells weird, or has developed an odd texture. If you need help deciphering makeup expiration, check out this more comprehensive article I wrote on decluttering bathroom and beauty products!

Car

Yes, your car might be outside and thus out of mind. But think of how much time you actually spend in it. If you use it on a regular basis, it can all too easily become a dumping ground for all sorts of stuff. Protein bar, gum, and mint wrappers, used tissues, tickets, coffee-to-go cups, paper bags, you name it. It all somehow winds up in the car.

Next time you park, do a super quick sweep of the interior and get rid of all that waste. Doesn’t it look better already? If you make a habit of always taking any garbage with you when you park, your car can stay relatively tidy with minimal effort. Adding a car waste bin can also be extremely helpful.

If you’re feeling especially energetic after decluttering your car, take it for a quick spin through your local car wash!

Boxes in the Cellar or Garage

Did you do a big decluttering or Konmari session in the past, and pack up boxes full of the stuff you sorted out? And then those boxes wound up in your garage, attic, or basement? Whelp. That wasn’t really decluttering. It was weeding stuff out and postponing the decision as to what to do with everything.

Photograph of a cluttered garage full of brown cardboard boxes, miscellaneous old household items and tools. It's quite messy and one of the most overlooked areas to declutter.
Has your basement or garage become a dumping ground?

It’s hard to shake the feeling of suffocating in stuff when you constantly have to organise, dig through, shift, and re-organise it.

Why not have another look through those boxes, and see what you can get rid of once and for all? Perhaps you’ve even forgotten about some of the stuff in the boxes. That’s a pretty good indication that you don’t want it anymore.

Cords & Cables

You know that drawer full of mysterious cables, old chargers, cords and adapters? We all have one. If you don’t know what they belong to anymore, or  if they’re cracked and broken, it’s probably time to throw them out. You’re bound to free up a ton of space in that drawer.

Make a concerted effort to recycle responsibly though. E-waste like this doesn’t belong in the regular garbage can. See if your building or municipality has a collection point for electronic items and cables, and drop them off there.

Pantry

Another one of the most overlooked areas to declutter is right in your kitchen: the pantry. Have a look through your food supplies and dispose of expired foodstuffs, spices, condiments and canned goods.

Things that are getting close to their expiry dates can be donated to a shelter if you don’t think you’ll have time to cook or bake with them.  Consult Google to see who needs food in your area. Make a note on your shopping list of any items you definitely want to replace on your next trip to the supermarket.

Smartphone

Digital clutter can weigh you down almost as much as its physical counterpart! There are six easy steps you can take to declutter your phone. The good news is that you don’t have to do them all at once. You can take a few minutes anytime you have a free moment to declutter your phone.

Closing old tabs, uninstalling apps you don’t use, and deleting blurry photos are some ways to combat the digital clutter.

Bric-a-Brac

Shelves stuffed full of stuff can look very busy to the eye. Plus, dusting can become a huge pain in the neck. Little knick-knacks are hard to part with though. They often hold sentimental value. A souvenir from a wonderful trip. A music box from your childhood. Seashells from the ocean. These are personal items we like having around within our field of vision, because they are comforting and make us feel good. What to do though when your collection gets out of hand?

Photograph of knick-knack and bric-a-brac clutter
Do you really want to spend your free time dusting all of this every week?

One solution is to rotate your bric-a-brac once or twice a year. Take stock of what you have out in sight. Then curate a selection you’d like to keep on display for now. The rest can go in a box in your closet. Six or twelve months from now, you can switch out your curated selection when you’re dusting.

If you haven’t amassed a huge quantity of knick-knacks, but they’re still all over the place, you might consider grouping instead. For example, if you gravitate towards bird objects, you could gather all your birds and group them on one shelf section. This will still require regular dusting (I like to use an ostrich feather duster), but everything is at least in one area, and you can breeze through dusting the rest of your uncluttered shelves with more ease.

Refrigerator

How many magnets, takeaway menus, shopping lists and tidbits do you have hanging on your refrigerator door right now? You can make the kitchen look instantly tidier by paring this all down. Toss those menus you never order from anyway. Throw away any broken, chipped or cracked magnets, and only keep your favourites.

Next, have a look inside your fridge. Get rid of any food, expired condiments, and wipe down the inside of the fridge. Finally, bring everything to the front which needs to be eaten before it spoils. Doesn’t that look a lot tidier and tastier now?

Furniture

The nice thing about paring down your belongings is that you might need less furniture. Filling every inch of a room with furniture can look overwhelming. If you declutter regularly, you’ll possibly discover you can do without that extra bookcase next to the recliner. Or without the nested side tables which used to hold your huge stack of old magazines.

Soho Home Ltd

Why not try removing a piece or two of furniture, and see how that instantly unclutters the room? If you tend to have lots of throws and pillows (or stuffed animals) on your sofa or bed, you might also want to reduce those. Select a couple of your favourites and stack the others in your linen closet. You can switch them out a few times a year to give your room a new look. Not having them all out at once will make the room look tidier and fresher.

Sorting out furniture is, by the way, also an important step in the Swedish Death Cleaning process. If you’re starting to think about your estate management or downsizing for the second half of your life, check out that little book. It’s a quick and enjoyable read. I did a review of it here to give you a summary of what that the death cleaning method entails. (It’s not morbid at all, by the way!)

What have you decluttered lately? Did you catch yourself skipping any of these overlooked clutter magnets? Share in the comments section below!

Photograph of a closet piled high with brown cardboard boxes, one of the most overlooked areas to declutter.
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