The 4 T's of Decluttering

When decluttering a space it can be helpful to categorize items according to type.  Try using the 4 T’s listed below to help you clear away clutter and organize your space. 


When it comes to decluttering throwing out the trash seems like a no-brainer, but many of us hold onto things that no longer have value just in case

Trash can refer to actual garbage as well as stuff you're ready to get rid of. Throw-away trash includes items that are permanently stained or broken beyond repair or that are missing vital parts.  It also includes consumables that have been used up.

Decluttering often reveals items which are no longer wanted, needed, liked or used. While these items may not be 'trash', they should be separated out for removal from the home. 

Items that fall into the don’t want/need/like/use category can be donated or recycled.  In some cases they may even be repurposed.  Look for ways to reuse old items in new ways, particularly as storage. 

Recommended Reading

Click on the image on the right to visit my Almost Free Storage Containers page for inspiration on reusing empty containers as storage. 


This category doesn't just refer to wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and saws.  It encompasses anything that aids in the accomplishment of a task. Examples include furniture, office/art supplies, electronic devices, kitchen equipment, personal grooming supplies and more.

Things that can be classified as tools are all necessary to a given room’s function. 

When it comes to decluttering and organizing, not only are they safe from elimination, they get top priority in terms of claiming real estate. Note, however, that duplicates of the same item can and should be eliminated as part of the decluttering process.  You don’t need six vegetable peelers; one or two will suffice. 


Every room has its transients, items that have value but do not belong in the space where they are currently residing.

There are a couple of key reasons why items become transients.  One reason is that the item doesn’t have a designated home anywhere else.  In other words, you don’t exactly know what to do with it; you just know you don’t want to get rid of it...yet.


This is how people end up with a paraffin spa system (still in its original box) on the shelf in their pantry or twelve years of back issues of National Geographic in their linen closet.  The tendency with such items is to search for an open space and stuff them into it in an effort to ‘declutter’. 

Items also become transients when their designated ‘home’ is not in close proximity to their place of use.  The secret to resolving this issue is to store stuff where you use it.  For example, if your family likes to gather around the coffee table in the living room to play board games, then your board games should not be stored on a shelf in the upstairs hall closet.  Instead, look for a coffee table or cabinet for storing those games right where you use them.

As you sort through the contents of a room, make an effort to identify and relocate transients. Part of decluttering involves reclaiming each space for its intended purpose and finding a new home for those items that don’t directly support that purpose.


Trimming refers to the fun stuff; the stuff that’s used to decorate a space. It includes such things as photographs, art work, knick-knacks, and memorabilia. It’s the stuff you like to look at that makes your space feel personal and welcoming to you.

These items, while unnecessary to a room’s function, serve an important role. 

Trimmings make your space a place you want to be. Keep in mind that function takes precedence over decoration.  While trimmings may take a back seat to tools, they still play an important role in making any house a home. Just seek for balance when it comes to displaying decorative or sentimental items.  There’s a fine line between décor and clutter.

Recommended Reading

For more information about maintaining the delicate balance between clutter and decor, click the image on the right to visit my Clutter vs. Decor page where you'll learn five simple strategies for ensuring success.

Remember and apply the 4 T’s – trash, tools, transients and trimming – in your decluttering efforts.  The few moments it takes to assess an item's true value and purpose will help you make informed decisions about where it ultimately belongs.  Those informed decisions will lead to a more orderly space that is more pleasant to occupy and easier to maintain.

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