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  • Writer's pictureCathy Borg

A 13-Step Guide to Help a Friend Declutter

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

A woman is listening intently to another woman



Clutter tends to sneak in like an uninvited uninvited guest. We've all been there, battling the mess that seems to multiply overnight. Knowing how undermining it can be, It's difficult to see a friend struggling with clutter.

You want to help, but you don't know how.

Wouldn't it be great if you could be your friend's guiding light out of their cluttered maze?

Well, you can!

With empathy, a desire to support and a proven process, you can be the catalyst for change.

This 13-step guide will help you help your friend declutter, unlock the potential of their space and give them more clarity and self-confidence.


Before getting into the practicalities of decluttering. It's crucial to understand your friend's needs and motivations. This journey begins with a conversation about their goals.


two smiling women in a kitchen drinking tea in a kitchen

01: Discuss Their Decluttering Goals

Imagine sitting down over tea and discussing how much better life would be living in a clutter-free home.

Their eyes light up as they dare to imagine their home clutter-free.

This conversation helps them see a vivid picture of a brighter future, where they can breathe easily; and feel unburdened and in control of their home. Reassure them that you only want to help not judge them.

This reassurance of reliable, judgement-free help may allay their fears. So, that they can accept your offer. (If you have struggled with clutter in the past, share your story. Explain how you managed to break free of the endless shuffle of trying to organize stuff when you realized that you simply had more stuff than you could manage. Tell them how much easier it is to manage with fewer things - things that you don't need or want.)

  • Starting a conversation about their goals is the cornerstone of decluttering.

  • By understanding what they hope to achieve they'll feel listened to and also empowered to articulate their dreams.


02: Offer Visual Inspiration of a Clutter-free Room

With a vision of a better future, it's time to stoke the flames of inspiration. A picture is worth a thousand words.

  • Start exploring magazines, Pinterest, and home improvement shows.

  • Look for images of beautifully organized spaces, clutter-free countertops, and serene, clutter-free bedrooms.

  • These visuals become the seeds of motivation that will sprout into action. It is a goal to strive for.

*With goals in sight, it's time to put some thought into strategic planning.


Chapter 3: Create a Decluttering Plan

Think about decluttering as a grand voyage. You certainly wouldn't set sail without a map! Likewise crafting a decluttering plan is like plotting a course. It adds structure and purpose to the process. Having a plan keeps you out of the clutches of the two pests Hurry and Indecision.

  • Begin by mapping out the areas they want to tackle first - a cluttered closet or a cluttered kitchen.

  • Put them on the list and decide what things you want to do in the space.

  • Create a roadmap, including milestones along the way.

  • Knowing where they're going will make the journey less daunting.


04: Gather Decluttering Supplies

In the world of decluttering, supplies are your trusty companions:

  • boxes, sharpies, painter's tape, black garbage bags, clear garbage bags, blue recycling bags, a couple of cardboard boxes, gloves, masks, an exacto knife, labels, cleaning supplies and a staging area or table.

  • Providing the supplies will help kick-start the process.

  • Being prepared not only saves time but also sends a clear message: "We've Got this!"

As you step into the realm of decluttering, remember that you're not just cleaning a space; you're helping to transform a life.

*Your role is to be their guiding light, to help them find their way through the cluttered maze.


Two women sorting through clothing and laughing together

05: Sort and Categorize

Decluttering is a bit of an archeological dig. Together you'll sort through their possessions.

  • Sort them on a table or bed

  • Categorize them into 'keep', 'donate', 'sell', 'discard', or 'recycle'.

  • Put them into the appropriate bags.

  • The keeps can be returned to their original place.

This sorting system is their compass guiding them toward more informed decisions.

*As you assist in this sorting process, the clutter gradually transforms into manageable piles, and the weight on their shoulders lifts.


06: Guide the Flow of the Decluttering Process

One step at a time is the mantra for decluttering success. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff. Your role is to steer your friend gently, directing their focus to one area or category at a time. For example, declutter:

  • winter clothes,

  • the front closet

  • the Tupperware drawer or

  • under the kitchen sink

By breaking the process into manageable chunks, the mountain of clutter becomes a series of conquerable hills.

*Together you navigate through their space, offering guidance and support. Soon, they realize that the clutter that once felt unsurmountable is slowly but surely disappearing.


woman in striped top holding a piece of paper with a large question mark

07: Ask Guiding Questions

Your guidance often comes in the form of questions. Help your friend make decisions by asking questions like:

  • "When was the last time you used this?" or

  • "Does this item fit your lifestyle now?"

This helps your friend evaluate their belongings from a fresh perspective. These questions create a rhythm in the decluttering process.

*You are their objective sounding board. Your balanced viewpoint guides them through moments of uncertainty.


08: Encourage limits

Throughout the journey, you're their anchor, reminding them of their goals and limits. If they aim to create space in their closet for a laundry hamper, gently encourage them to let go of more hanging clothes than the closet can hold. Your role isn't to force decisions but to be a reassuring voice that reminds them of their aspirations.

  • Set time limits for the decluttering process.

  • Schedule it. It's not a marathon - more like a sprint.

*Remind yourself that you are helping them change their life. They're not just decluttering; they're reclaiming their space and life.


09: Assist with Sorting

  • Use your black garbage bags for trash,

  • clear bags for donations,

  • blue transparent bags for recycling

  • boxes for things that belong elsewhere and things that need to be returned to their owner.

  • Return the things being kept to their rightful place.

*Your physical presence makes the process feel less daunting, and your enthusiasm is contagious. It is so reassuring to your friend to realize that decluttering doesn't have to be a lonely journey.


10: Assist Moving Heavier Objects

Your friend may need to shift some objects like large pottery bowls, or a food processor from a top shelf. You can help them rearrange, lift or move things to optimize their space.

It is much safer to have a spotter or second set of hands when moving or lifting heavy objects.

*This may be the much-needed help that has been missing from your friend's ability to edit her space.


11: Do Safety Checks

Safety is paramount. You are the watch person;

  • look out for expired items,

  • hazardous materials,

  • or frayed cords that might pose a safety risk.

  • Be aware of potential tripping hazards like throw rugs or electrical cords.

  • Be aware of potential tipping hazards like heavy objects on the top shelf or an overloaded side table, precariously perched lamps on a too-small table etc.

  • Your thoroughness and attention to detail create a sense of reassurance. Your friend will feel that you've got their back!


12: Provide Emotional Support and Motivation

Decluttering isn't just about physical stuff. We have so many different emotions tangled up with many of our things. You are a listening ear for your friend as well as their emotional anchor.

You are your friend's coach.

To hear "well done," or, "you can do this, " or, "look at the progress you've made," or, "I'm here to help," may be just the motivation your friend needs.


13: Offer Moving Assistance

  • Offer to help with taking out the trash which might require a trip to the junkyard.

  • As well, you could help take donations to the appropriate local charity.

  • Ensure that items find new homes or are disposed of responsibly.


** Bonus**

Document the Process

Capture the process in photographs - before, during and after. These snapshots serve as proof of the progress you've made together. It's lovely because it illustrates what their effort and your unwavering support can accomplish. Indeed, it is a lovely keepsake of true friendship.


Conclusion: This 13-step Guide Helps Your Friend Declutter. The result is a clutter-free oasis and a life transformed!

You're sure to enjoy the peacefulness of this haven you helped create. By now, I'm sure you understand that this journey you've taken with your friend goes beyond mere possessions. It includes personal growth, self-nurturing, and gaining confidence. Pat yourself on the back! You've played a significant role as your friend's trusted mentor; you will forever hold a significant role in their remarkable tale of change.


Janet Barclay
Janet Barclay

This is interesting... usually someone only asks me to help with one or two of these steps of the process, but I can see how the outcome will be more successful if we at least touch on the other parts!

Cathy Borg
Cathy Borg

Yes. Thanks, Janet. I appreciate your thoughts.


Catheryn McDowell

Thank you this will be great

Cathy Borg
Cathy Borg

Thanks, Catherine. That's good to know.

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