5 rules for decluttering the under-the-stairs cupboard - put a stop to the never-ending clutter

Clutter… be gone!

bootroom under the stairs
(Image credit: Future PLC)

Out of sight, out of mind, right? That’s one of the main reasons why under-the-stairs cupboards across the country are full to the brim with stuff. But there are some simple and easy-to-follow rules for decluttering the under-the-stairs cupboard. 

From winter coats to cleaning products and vacuum cleaners, under-the-stairs cupboards are often a dumping ground for the practical items you still need but don’t want on display. Before too long, your clean and tidy under-the-stairs cupboard idea has turned into a cluttered mess that fills you with anxiety every time you open the door. 

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you want to declutter your home but don’t know where to start, small spaces like the under-the-stairs cupboard are a great jumping-off point. To make this process even easier, we’ve put together the rules you need to follow if you want to declutter your under-the-stairs cupboard AND keep it that way. 

Rules for decluttering the under-the-stairs cupboard 

It may be hidden under the stairs and behind a door, but most people store all kinds of everyday essentials in their under-the-stairs cupboards. So, take this as your sign to give your cupboard the TLC it truly deserves - and that starts with a good declutter. 

bootroom under the stairs

(Image credit: Frome Interiors)

1. Empty the cupboard completely

Decluttering can be a nightmare-inducing experience - especially if you’ve ever decluttered your wardrobes. As soon as you’ve pulled all of your clothes off the hangers and off the shelves, you’re left sitting in a pile of fabric, regretting your life choices and wondering why you started the job in the first place. 

But thankfully, decluttering an under-the-stairs cupboard won’t cause you to wake up sweating in the middle of the night. While it’s a very large cupboard, you could also call it the smallest room in the house, which means it’s manageable to declutter the whole thing. After all, there’s no point doing half a job. 

Hannah Rouch, trends expert at Gumtree, agrees. She says, ‘Start by pulling everything that’s under the stairs out. Decluttering can’t begin until you know what is lurking in the depths of the cupboard.’

You never know; you might even find hidden treasure (AKA spare batteries or an extra bottle of baking soda) hiding at the back of your under-the-stairs cupboard.

2. Apply your decluttering method of choice

What you might not realise is that decluttering isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. Everyone has their own idea of what’s clutter and what’s not, so the act of decluttering looks different for different people. 

Because of this, it’s important to apply your own decluttering method of choice when you declutter your under-the-stairs cupboard. 

It could be that you opt for a quick and easy 10-minute declutter for a quick spruce before picking the kids up from school, you could make use of the move-out method, or you could give the 12:12:12 decluttering challenge a whirl. 

A wardrobe with storage boxes

(Image credit: Future PLC/Claire Lloyd Davies)

For a space that’s generally filled with a mixture of practical items and junk, however, Emma Cottrell, marketing manager at BoConcept, would suggest the four-box method. 

She explains, ‘Take four large boxes. Label one RUBBISH, the next, DONATE, the next, KEEP and the last, RELOCATE. Then go through your cupboard, assigning everything to a box. Try to remove emotion, judging the items objectively. Once sorted, resist the urge to shuffle and take immediate action.’

3. Give the cupboard a clean

Decluttering is so much more than just getting rid of or donating things you no longer need. It’s a whole process that will completely revive your under-the-stairs cupboard, and part and parcel of that process is giving the cupboard a clean.

Green staircase with door

(Image credit: Future PLC / Mark Scott)

It’s important to clean the cupboard before you start putting items back in there, as this will give you a chance to clean every nook and cranny while it's completely empty. Dave Sayce, owner and CEO of Compare My Move, says that you’d be surprised how dirty this space can get. 

‘When an environment is cluttered, it’s a lot harder to keep it clean. More clutter means more nooks and crannies, making it harder for air to circulate your room and your items and allowing dirt and dust to accumulate. Not only is this unhygienic and makes cleaning take a lot longer, but dust, mould, and dirt can aggravate any asthma or allergies you or the people in your environment may have.’ 

Cleaning a downstairs cupboard will vary depending on the size of your cupboard, but it’s generally considered a good idea to dust shelves, wipe down all surfaces with disinfectant, and give the floor a vacuum. 

4. Make use of storage solutions

When the cupboard is clean, try to ignore the urge to simply put your items back where they came from. A key aspect of decluttering is employing new storage solutions, and this is no different in an under-the-stairs cupboard. 

Hannah says, ‘Think vertically for storage. Under-the-stairs cupboards are often awkward shapes, making traditional shelving options difficult. Embrace hanging storage, whether it’s simple hooks screwed into the wall, a magnetic strip to hang light tools or an over-the-door shoe rack to free up floorspace.’

‘Once you’ve decided what you want to hold onto, keep track of what’s in the cupboard. Use transparent storage options or use labels to list the contents of each box so you can easily see what you have.’

If you have a particularly small under-the-stairs cupboard, it’s also a good idea to think about how often you’re going to use the items you’re putting back in the cupboard. 

Hallway storage with navy wall panelling

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Dave explains, ‘Think about what you use most on a day-to-day basis. Shoes, coats, umbrellas, etc. and then make sure those items are further towards the front of the under-the-stairs cupboard so that they are easy to see and easy to grab when you need them. On the other hand, items that you aren’t going to use as much can be placed further back in the cupboard to ensure they aren’t in the way of the most useful items.’

If you also use your under-the-stairs cupboard to house your best vacuum cleaner, make sure to steer clear of any vacuum cleaner storage mistakes you should avoid. 

5. Change with the seasons

Many people use their under-the-stairs cupboard as a place to house their coats and shoes, and there’s no doubt about the fact that this is a perfect use of the space. It keeps them out of the way but still makes them accessible. 

However, the UK weather is unpredictable, which means that you and your family probably have a whole host of different coats and shoes in that one small cupboard. 

So, Nicki Rodriguez, AKA @essexhousedolly, suggests changing with the seasons when it comes to your under-the-stairs cupboard. ‘Season your cupboard, so have winter items there for that season and swap in the warmer months,’ she says. 

Hallway with the staircase and built in cupboards, large woven lampshade and grey and white tiled floor

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Not only will this declutter your space, but it will also give you no option but to declutter your under-the-stairs cupboard again when the seasons change. When the time comes, you can repeat the process, declutter the cupboard completely, give it a clean and swap over your seasonal essentials. 

Ava Wilson, Chief Editor at Unclutterer, finishes by adding, ‘Remember, the goal is to create a functional space that serves your needs and is easy to maintain. Regular decluttering and reorganising will keep your under-the-stairs cupboard in good shape.’

Headshot of Ava Wilson
Ava Wilson

Ava Wilson, Unclutterer’s Chief Editor with 25 years in cleaning, started with a mop and now leads a team of 20. Merging hands-on experience with management expertise, she transforms cleaning into inspiring lessons. Ava's eco-focused insights make Unclutterer a go-to for sustainable cleaning wisdom.


How do you declutter cupboards under stairs?

Although it can seem daunting, the easiest way to declutter under the stairs is to pull everything out of the cupboard. This way, you can split the contents into different sections - including things you want to keep, things you want to donate, things you want to relocate, and things you want to get rid of completely. 

Before putting the clutter-free items back into the cupboard, you should give the whole thing a clean and employ storage solutions that will make the whole space look tidier. When you’ve done that, you can put everything in its new place. 

What should be kept under stairs?

Under-the-stairs cupboards work differently for different people. It may be that you use the cupboard to store your coats and shoes, you could use it to store your cleaning products and vacuum cleaner, or you could even turn it into a pantry.

Whatever you choose to keep under the stairs, you should make sure that you keep it clutter-free and organised at all times. 

Happy decluttering! 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.