Spring is upon us. Fresh air breezes through open windows, and the urge to undergo a deep decluttering in your home commences. It’s time for spring cleaning, but it can be overwhelming to decide where to start.

Maybe a linen closet you can no longer close? Or how about your kids’ playroom, the one you’re sure a tornado blew through? 

To help streamline the organizing process, we asked The Home Edit’s Sumner Canfield for her six golden rules of decluttering. When in doubt, start with these practical tips. 

Read on, then feel confident and clutter-free this spring and beyond. 


Sumner Canfield is a professional organizer at The Home Edit.

Start Small

golden rules for decluttering
 The Spruce / Candace Madonna

You wouldn’t run a marathon without training, and you shouldn’t undertake decluttering your entire home at once, either. 

“When you start a decluttering journey, don’t go right into the heart of your house—the closet—where pieces have emotional connections with history,” Canfield says. 

Give yourself a small win first, like a single drawer or box of unsentimental items. That’ll encourage you to continue to larger, more difficult spaces.

Reassess What You Actually Use

Perhaps you bought a blazer thinking you’d wear it to meetings, but years later, the tag is still on. Maybe you invested in a blender with good intentions of making smoothies, but now it just collects dust.

We’ve all been there, clinging onto an item in the hopes that it would have a place in our lives someday. “Now, that someday was five years ago, and you can’t even remember what you bought it for,” Canfield says.  

Sound familiar? It’s time to donate or toss the item. This is especially tough in a closet, since clothing can evoke memories. 

“It’s way easier to get rid of the broken spatula in the kitchen than the jeans that just don’t work for you anymore,” Canfield says. 

Still, remember that decluttering your closet will make getting ready in the morning easier—that should be incentive enough.

Check Expiration Dates

golden rules of decluttering
 Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Kaitlin Green

You may be surprised to realize how many items expire, Canfield says. Take a good look at the dates on skin care products, sauces, snacks, medicines, makeup, and hair products; they may not last as long as you think. No wonder your refrigerator, pantry, and medicine cabinet are overflowing. 

Tossing expired items is a no-brainer place to start when decluttering, and informs your shopping list too. 

“If you let the item expire, it could be dropping a hint to buy a smaller size, try something new, or skip it on your next grocery run,” Canfield says.

Afterward, not only will you feel more organized, but you’ll also feel confident that all of your products—whether mascara or mayo—are safe to use. 

Digitize Everything

golden rules for decluttering
 Emily Henderson Design / Photo by Sara Ligorria-Tramp

What are the odds that you’ll ever need to reference your microwave’s user manual? Slim to none. “If you do, there’s always Google,” Canfield says. 

Instead of keeping stacks of loose papers with a “just in case” mindset, digitize anything you may want or need to reference again. That includes kids’ artwork, tax returns, bank statements, medical records, cards, and other sentimental items, like physical photos. (Remember those?)

Download a scanner app, then feel relieved at how clean your drawers are without random papers flying about.

Find Other Halves

Face it: that lone sock will never find its match. The same goes for food containers without lids, remotes that control who-knows-what, and random cords that you can’t identify. If you don’t know where the missing piece is, chances are you won’t find it.

Instead of allowing the solitary piece to take up valuable real estate in your home, collect all of the mismatched items. If any of the pieces fit, your problem is solved. If they don’t, say goodbye. 

Use Canfield’s catchy motto as a reminder: Find a match? Yay, it can stay! It’s alone? It must go!

Regularly Tackle Kids’ Spaces

golden rules for decluttering
 The Home Edit

Kids’ items tend to multiply at lightning speed, so it’s crucial to regularly declutter your children’s toys, clothes, and art supplies. So long, dried paint. Goodbye, puzzles with missing pieces. 

These items can hold sentimental value, so it’s important to be realistic about what your children still wear, use, and play with. Otherwise, you’ll be overwhelmed with a drawer full of too-small pajamas and a playroom littered with unused and broken toys. 

Consider including your children in the donating process, which encourages a giving attitude. You’ll lay the groundwork for a child with a penchant for decluttering (good for you) and they may rediscover toys that were buried at the bottom of a basket in the process (good for them).