1) Pick your room: When I'm about to embark on a massive home dejunking projects, I start with the smallest room/space on my list. It much less overwhelming and helps pump up my motivation. Closets are a personal favorite starting point of mine, because as I clean them out I see how much potential storage space I have and it helps me decide what could be better stored there. Once you've picked your room give yourself 15 minutes to tackle a portion of it. You might be able to get the whole room done in that amount of time, but in case you can't, start with one corner of the room and work your way around.
2) Clean out drawers: You'd be amazed how many drawers you can declutter in 15 minutes. Nightstands, junk drawers, desk drawers, dresser drawers etc often are largely filled with "garbage" or things you really have no attachment too. Desk/office drawers can be a little more time consuming if you store a lot of important paper work in them, so if you are really limited to only 15 minutes of decluttering time, pick up some manila folders ahead of time and file as many papers into the correct categories of your choosing This will help you get a start on your organizing without the risk of throwing anything important away.
3) Carry a box/laundry basket around the room: Do a general sweep of the room and anything that fits in the box/laundry basket can be donated or thrown out. This will force you to make quick decisions and not get hung up on whether you need to keep an item. Repeat this over the course of a day or several days, till you've cleaned out as much as you'd like.
4) For children's rooms/toys focus on toys that encourage make-believe play. You can get by on far fewer toys if the ones you have are conducive to imaginative play. Kids can come up with endless scenarios around toys like dress-up clothes, cars, dolls, blocks, figurines, Play-Doh and art supplies. Weed out as many toys as you can that don't fit this criteria.When I clean out Rhett's room, I do it when he's not around or is distracted. Once I'm done, I show him a few toys I've selected to get rid off and let him chose 2 or 3 to keep. It's a good balance for him and I. If your children are older (my son is 2), have them help you go through their room. Be sensitive to what is important for them to hold on to, but by helping them decide what is really important to them teaches life lessons about priorities, responsibility, and wants vs. needs.
5) Go through all your books and magazines: We are avid readers in our family, so our book collection can get a little out of control. Please don't misinterpret me saying "clean out your books" as "don't have a great book collection in your home." I truly believe having books in the home is the foundation for learning and great family discussion and memories. What we find though, is that we hang onto books that we've already read and either didn't enjoy enough to read again, or that we've got so many books on our book list that we know we won't get to the old book for a long time.
Books take up a lot of space and if they are in boxes, under beds or stacked in piles where they aren't accessible, then chances are you won't get around to reading them. When you go through your books, decide first how much shelf space you want to dedicate to them. Keep whatever fits in that space and donate the rest. We buy most of our books from thrift stores and we visit the library often, so even though we clean out our books regularly, we always have new ones coming in.
6) Attack a clothes closet or dresser: I am always amazed at how much clothing can fit into a closet or drawer. Clothing is so malleable that a lot can be shoved into tiny spaces. Attacking a closest is best done quickly and without emotional attachment. Styles change, our preferences shift, and clothes get worn out. If your clothes are in good shape, but you're not wearing them, donate them and bless someones else life. I like to clean out my closet almost at the end of the season. I can see what I didn't wear and if I need to replace any staple pieces I'm in time for the sales. You really can clean out a whole closest in about 15 minutes if you leave emotional attachment out and focus on keeping staple pieces.
When sorting divide your stuff into 4 piles.
1) Keep: Self explanatory. What you plan to hold onto.
2) Unsure: If you're on the fence about something, stick it into the unsure pile till the room or area is done. Limit the amount of items in the unsure pile to no more than 5 at any given time. If you've cleaned out enough space to justify keeping it, then hold on to it for awhile. If you still don't have room for it, ask yourself if your willing to sacrifice another item in the keep pile for it. If you're not, then put it in the donate pile. If you're really hung up on it, hold on to it for a few days or a week. Just make sure you do make a decision about the item so that it doesn't end up in clutter limbo.
3) Throwout: Some items are obviously destined for the garbage can. Others, like perhaps old t-shirts that technically are still in good condition, are harder to assign to the throwout or donate pile. My general rule of thumb is will this item actually bless someones life if I chose to donate it. For example, a gently worn sweater will benefit someone more than my high school cross country t-shirt.
4) Donate: Whatever is left that is in good working condition can be given new life by someone else. An important part of this pile is not to hold on to it for more than a week! Get that stuff out of your house! A pile of items you are donating, sitting in the corner, doesn't really equal your house being clutter free. Make it priority to get that stuff to your local thrift store.
Don't buy extra storage containers/supplies before you start organizing: I know this might seem counterintuitive, but here's my reason. Storage supplies can add up to be quite pricey. If you go ahead of time to buy them, you'll be buying items without knowing what exactly you need. Also, if you buy a lot of extra storage bins etc, you'll find you can justify keeping more than you need to, because now you have an extra place to keep it. Once you are done de-cluttering, decide what type of containers etc you need and buy those.
Be wary of selling: I've tried selling my unwanted items in the past, but my local consignment shop wasn't buying and my Craigslist ads didn't generate any response. This resulted in wasted time and energy, plus I hung onto things I never got around to selling. Giving unwanted things away relieves stress and saves time. If it really is a big ticket item like exercise equipment power tools etc, feel free to post to Craigslist etc, but give yourself a time limit on how long to keep the ad posted and be realistic with what you should be asking for it. Also, garage sales can be super time consuming and generate little revenue for the work that goes into setting one up. If you are doing a MASSIVE clean out (like a moving sale etc) then it might be more worth your while, but make sure you really consider what you want your end goal to be; a de-cluttered space or a small amount of cash in your pocket.
Lastly, ask yourself the following questions as you sort through your stuff.
Do I love it? Does the item fit into your vision of how you want your home to look? Is the item beautiful and does it fit your decor and personal style and taste? If not, get rid of it.
Do I need it? Really? Do I use it? Have I used it lately? Will I need it again soon? Don't keep something because you might use it someday. If you don't have the space for it, then let it go. Trust that you can get your hands on another one should the need arise in the future. My time frame is if I have or haven't used something in the past 6 months; I haven't used it or even remembered it was there, why would I need it in the next 6 months?
I hope this helps!
A great time to clean out your home would be in the next few weeks before the holiday season starts. :)