15 Clutter Busting Routines For Any Family

Several years ago, my family and I decided to start living a minimalist life. Since then, we have tried to remove all of the possessions from our home that are not essential. In doing so, we have found new opportunity to spend our time, energy, and finances on the things that are most important to us.

Also, we became far more observant about how our things rob us of our precious freedom. We have learned that just like most families, no matter how hard we try to stop it, stuff inevitably continues to enter our home… nearly every single day.

So we work hard to remove any clutter that begins to accumulate in our home. Along the way, we have picked up (and try to practice) some helpful clutter busting routines.

Here are 15 Clutter Busting Routines we have found helpful in our home:

1. Place junk mail immediately into a recycling bin. Take note of the natural flow of mail into your home. Placing a recycling container prior to your “mail drop-off zone” can catch most of that junk mail before it even reaches your counter. And as an added bonus, you’ll begin to look through less of it too (think advertisements).

2. Store kitchen appliances out of sight. Toasters, can openers, coffee makers… they all take up space. And while it may not seem like much space by looking at them, the first time you prepare dinner on a counter without them present, you’ll quickly notice the difference. If you think it’s going to be a hassle putting them away every morning, don’t. It takes less than 6 seconds to put each appliance away… once you’ve found a home for it that is.

3. Remove 10 articles of clothing from your closet today. Go ahead. If you are typical, it’ll take you roughly 5 minutes to grab 10 articles of clothing that you no longer wear and throw them in a box. Your remaining clothes will fit better in your closet. Your closet will be able to breathe again. And if you write “Goodwill” on the box when you are done, you’ll feel better about yourself as soon as you drop it off. Most likely, you’ll find yourself inspired to do it again.

4. Fold clean clothes / Remove dirty clothes immediately. The way I handle clothes these days is one of the biggest clutter changes I have made in my life. Unfortunately, I used to be a “throw-them-on-the-floor” guy. But now I handle each one right when I take it off. Dirty clothes down the clothes chute. Clean clothes back to the hanger or drawer. That’s it. It’s really that simple. How do the dirty ones magically appear clean and folded in my closet you ask… I’m not sure. You’ll need to ask my wife.

5. Kids’ bedroom toys live in the closet. Not on the floor. Not on the dresser. But in the closet. And when the closet gets too full of toys, it’s time to make some room. Hint, it’s usually safe to remove the toys at the bottom of the pile.

6. Kids pick up their toys each evening. This has countless benefits: 1) It teaches responsibility. 2) It helps kids realize that more isn’t always better. 3) The home is clean for mom and dad when the kids are in bed. 4) It’s a clear indication that the day has come to an end. Gosh, you’d think with all these benefits it would be easier for us to get the kids to do it…

7. Fill your containers for the garbage man. Use every trash pick-up day as an excuse to fill your recycling containers and/or garbage cans. Grab a box of old junk from the attic… old toys from the toy room… old food from the pantry… old paperwork from the office. If once a week is too often, do this exercise every other week. You’ll get the hang of it. And may even begin to enjoy trash morning… okay, I won’t go that far.

8. Halve decorations. No seriously, I mean it. Grab a box and walk through your living room. Remove decorations from shelves, tables, and walls that aren’t absolutely beautiful or meaningful. You may like it better than you think. If not, you can always put them back. But I’d bet my wife’s old high school yearbooks that you won’t return all of them.

9. Wash dishes right away. Hand washing some dishes takes less time than putting them in the dishwasher. This applies to cups, breakfast bowls, dinner plates, and silverware. If hand washed right after eating, it takes hardly any time at all. If however, hand washing is just not an option for you, be sure to put used dishes in the dishwasher right away. Nobody likes walking into a kitchen with dishes piled up in the sink or on the counter… and it’s even less fun eating in there.

10. Unmix and match cups, bowls, plates, and silverware. Uniformity makes for better stacking, storing, and accessing. If there is a souvenir cup or mug that is so important to you that you can’t live without it, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t keep 5 of them. Mom, any chance you are reading this?

11. Keep your desk clear and clean. Drawers can adequately house most of the things needed to keep your desk functional. And a simple filing system should keep it clear of paper clutter. The next person who sits down to use the desk will thank you.

12. Store your media out of sight. Make a home for dvd’s, cd’s, video games, and remote controls. They don’t need to be in eyesight, you use them less than you think. And if you remove them from your eyesight… maybe you’ll use them even less.

13. Always leave room in your coat closet. There are two reasons why coats, shoes, and outerwear keep ending up scattered throughout your home rather than in your closet. The first reason is because your coat closet is so full, it’s a hassle to put things away and retrieve them quickly. Leave room on the floor, on the hangers, and on the shelves for used items to be quickly put away and retrieved. The second reason is because you have kids… but you’re on your own with that one.

14. Keep flat surfaces clear. Kitchen counters, bathroom counters, bedroom dressers, tabletops… After you clear them the first time, keeping them clean takes daily effort. Receipts, coins, and paper clutter just keep coming and coming… it’s just easier the second time around.

15. Finish a magazine or newspaper. Process or recycle immediately. If you’ve finished the paper product, process it and rid yourself of its clutter immediately. Good recipe in there? Put it in your recipe box and recycle the rest. Good article that your husband will enjoy? Clip it and recycle.  Article that your friend will enjoy? Clip it, mail it, and recycle (or better yet, search for it online and send it that way). Coupon too good to pass up? Cut it out and recycle. Stacks of magazines and newspapers serve little purpose in life but to clutter a room.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    I have the worst time with paper control when it comes to my kids’ school papers, art, workbook pages, stories written, crafts, etc?? They are 7 and 5, ages when you can see rapid development. I know I can’t keep every single thing they make or create. But, I can’t seem to be able to throw it all out. Any suggestions by master minimalists would be helpful!

    • Alyn says

      I have a clear plastic lidded box for each of my 4 paper-producing children. It’s about 9×12, the right size to hold a stack of papers. The 3 and 6 year old’s boxes are about 3″ tall. The 11 and 14 year old have 6″ tall boxes.

      So, I’m not a master minimalist. But the special and best artwork and paperwork from preschool to the present day has a home, and a limited space to occupy. I can look through and enjoy the ones I love and throw out the ones I don’t. Some of my children LOVE every paper, but I was recently able to recycle some that in my judgement weren’t needed, because I knew they would not remember to miss them. Sometimes it takes time to let go of something you’ve created. So they can wait in the box, and when we go through it in 6 months, they’ll let more go.

      I’m sure some people take photos of the special ones and throw it all out. Or mail some to the grandparents. But some of the artwork I really love, to me it’s special enough to keep. But that’s only a small % of what they produce!

    • Priscilla says

      One suggestion is to take pictures of the artwork. You can always enjoy the artwork in that format and it takes up less space. Keep only the best of the originals.

      • Terica says

        Having 5 kids, two are out of the house, I have to say that I found a combination of all the suggestions is best. I have a tote (your storage area should determin the size) for each kid for memorabilia. If it gets full often times I will have them help me choose what stays and goes. Next my kids at home get a magnetic clip on the fridge. That’s it the daily stuff goes there. Even my youngest now 6 knows if her clip is to heave it won’t stay she needs to toss or store it. Next is a wall space in their room for certificates, trophy and pictures. Again that is all they get so if it starts to be to much they have to choose what gets moved to their tote. Finally is the pictures. We share goodies with family via email and have a file on our computer which gets backed up to a drive so not to loose them. My other biggie is that seasonal stuff is seasonal. It drives me crazy to have Christmas stuff in May, or Easter stuff in November so very few but dear pieces can be stored in my seasonal decorating. I find it helps to let my kids feel special and show off. However, I think the biggest success is it teaches them how to choose what is keeper stuff and what stuff has to be let go and become “just a memory”. I was born to be a hoarder but broke the cycle and I hope my kids follow my course.

    • Marilyn says

      Right off the bat I’ll admit I’m sentimental. I saved a LOT of each child’s artwork, school papers, you name it. Every school year I would use a folder to collect items from that year. (Once they hit middle/high school, I found I was collecting less and less.) These folders were stored in a large plastic tub (one for each of my children). What ultimately worked for me was hanging on to these items for so many years (until high school graduation, I’m embarrassed to admit) that I finally had enough emotional distance and I could objectively decide what to keep and what to toss. I then made scrapbooks for each child and incorporated photos.

    • jwhitec says

      I find making a digital copy of them works wonders for space. So hope this helps it can be applied to items u want to remeber as a means to letting go of an item.

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