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. And 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 that we have found particularly 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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Comments

  1. says

    Great list. I love the since of immediacy with many of these items. If you get things out of the way, it takes a lot off your mind.

    With respect to bills, we wrote about how to get rid of all your junk mail on our site. This really helps:

    The Direct Marketing Association offers a free, online-only service at DMAChoice.org that allows you to stop catalogs and junk mail–or get more of them, if you desire. Most legit mailers are a member of the DMA, so this could reduce your load of junk mail by up to two-thirds. When you’re at the DMA site, you may see a direct link to OptOutPreScreen.com, which will prevent the major credit bureaus from sending pre-approved credit card applications to you. One other website you may want to check out is WorldPrivacyForum.org, which is a clearinghouse for all these matters.

    One word of advice: People are sometimes afraid to use the DMA site because you have to give a credit card number to verify your identity. You will not be charged. This practice was put in place because some folks were putting others’ names on the receive list just to annoy them. When it comes to the OptOut site, people are scared of ID theft because you have to give your Social Security number. But you actually help prevent ID theft by cutting down on pre-approved applications that may be going to an old address where they could be picked up by ID thieves.

    Take care,

    Joshua Millburn
    http://theminmalists.com

  2. Grace says

    We just have 3 simple guidelines in our house
    * a place for everything
    * don’t put it down, put it away.
    * if it will take you less than 2 min to do something, just do it!.

    Nice post, thanks :)

  3. Sarah Moriah says

    Joshua,

    I wanted to add that one might want to tear off their address label on junk mail and shred it before recycling. It’s so easy for identity thieves to get their hands on this. I make sure any personal information is removed and shredded before recycling.

    I’ve been practicing putting my clothes away as soon as they come off, unless I’m directly putting them back on – and it’s helped tons in reducing clutter in the last month.

      • Lisa says

        I’ve been wondering the same thing – my husband insists on shredding everything with our address on it; I shred just things with additional info like account numbers.

        • Elizabeth says

          I worked for the second-largest international bank in existence for three years, dealing with fraud and collections issues. Believe me, identity theft occurring from someone simply getting an address off a label is extremely rare. Actually, people rooting through trash bags to find something of value is also quite rare. Shredding IS a good idea, but identity theft rarely occurs via those means. Identity theft typically occurs in one of two ways; one, because people use their computer to do financial and/or tax transactions but don’t have adequate anti-virus/worm/Trojan/hacker software- such as Norton or McAfee- on their computer. Then either a hacker or someone who uses that household computer steals the SSN or account number info. The other (and far more common way, sadly) is that family members root through their relative’s papers in a file cabinet or something akin to that, find their SSN or account numbers and then run up charges on credit cards and such that way. Trust me- identity theft is often done by someone you know, often someone living in your own household. This is one reason why identity theft amongst the elderly is higher- they don’t necessarily know what the family member who pays their bills, runs their errands, possibly lives in their house, etc., is up to. Very sad but very true. I do think shredding is a good idea- but protecting your personal papers within your home is even more important. I would always tell people to either have locking file cabinets (with keys that are only accessible to you), a safe or a lockbox at their bank to hold documents with a SSN on it. The SSN and/or date of birth of an identity theft victim is really the ticket in for thieves- an address or phone number? Not so much.

      • Nikki says

        I think it’s the fact that the name is coupled with the address….you can drive down the street, but you won’t know the names of the folks that live in the house…

    • says

      Todd, I truly and deeply resent the sexism in your comment. I know more than one man who uses flats as storage, and more than on woman who doesn’t, but I wouldn’t want to make any gender based generalizations based on these observations…
      Secondly, I wish to express my respect to your wife for accepting to live with a person who makes derogatory public comments about her instead of working these things out as a couple. I can only assume you must have tremendous other assets that make up for this, or that you hide your internet activities from her.
      If you’re frustrated with your wife’s behavior, why don’t you talk to her about it instead of venting your spleen on a much read public blog?
      Thirdly, I browsed your latest post in which you basically advocate making a mess of things, and in view of your comment, I can’t help but wonder if you wash your own clothes after the mess making, if you scrub the sauce of the walls after your culinary experiments, if you pick up all the decorative pillows every morning, etc.
      All the best,

      • says

        Nicki, thanks for the comment, and I just wanted to apologize. I didn’t mean to be sexist, and I am really sorry if the comment was taken in that context. Please accept my apology. It was meant in good fun. And trust me, I used to cover up the flat surfaces too…

        And yes, I spend half my days cleaning up my messes. Just so you know, that post was written in the context of getting your hands dirty to foster creativity and meaning in everyday things…

        Again, I am sorry about the comment.

    • says

      That inability to keep flat surfaces (and other areas) clear is a psychological thing. We tend to fear “space,” or rather emptiness…I think it’s also a fear of the “unknown.” Our environment is a reflection of us. And our issues with empty or open space reflect our issues with being “open” to others, to life. That is, the things in those spaces are showing the blocks we have within ourselves to being “open” — our fear of new things, experiences, people. Ironically, it’s also a reflection of a fear of being alone, “empty.” Like our simultaneous fear of both failure and success.

      • says

        From my experience working with hundreds of clients as a professional organizer, (and as someone who has no problem leaving stuff out for a couple of days before eventually putting it away), the tendency to accumulate items on flat surfaces is not necessarily because of psychological fears or issues. Here are some other possibilities:

        -Some people simply prefer the visual aesthetic of many items.
        -Some people have a hard time remembering where things are so they can find them more easily if they are out in the open.
        -Some people have positive memories associated with photos and knick-knacks.
        -Some people have issues with visual processing and literally don’t see the items that others consider “clutter”.
        -Some people feel it’s a waste of time to put things away when they’re just going to use them again.
        -For some people it takes a lot of mental energy to “just” put something away, depending on how their brain processes sequential actions.
        -Some people don’t care about how their space looks.
        -Some people have higher tolerances for “chaos” than others.
        -Some people’s schedules are so packed that they don’t have the time to put things away.
        -Some people have other pressing problems and don’t have the energy to put things away (I see this a lot with people who are depressed).
        -Some people have a long-standing ingrained habit of leaving things out (One client coined the phrase “droppers”, which I love!)
        -Some people love to shop and accumulate a lot of stuff (for a variety of reasons).

        I could go on and on, but I hope this helps people who are trying to overcome this tendency in themselves (not that there’s anything intrinsically wrong with it!) or who are frustrated by the tendencies of others they live/work with.

        • jennifer says

          thanks for putting all that out there….I have a lot of those issues. It seems I forget that a thing exists if its not visible.. but isn’t there a way to remedy that brain thing? it does make life a little messy, not to mention that when the counter gets enough of these sort of things on it (that I don’t want to lose), then they start to cover each other up!!

        • Suzanne says

          @ Gotham Organizers : I’m almost two years late with the response but, luckily, your comments make as much sense today as they did when you first penned them ! “Some people simply prefer the visual aesthetic of many items.” Absolutely ! And, contrary to the opinion of some others, those who choose to ‘decorate’ their lives are not all lost souls trying to “block” the possibility of being “open to others, to life.” Far from it, in fact; Some people. myself included, are perfectly able to incorporate what, to others, might at first seem like an abundance of ‘stuff’ into extremely small spaces and create a visually pleasing and very ‘welcoming’ environment for themselves and for visitors. Speaking for myself, I can’t imagine anything more depressing than a bare-walled, empty-surfaced living space, which, I imagine, is why I evolved as the type who would be happy living in any space at all, as long as I were allowed to ‘decorate’. I’m about to ‘downsize’ to the tiniest place I’ve ever attempted to ‘set up house’ in .. 300 square feet of, currently characterless, space. I’m confident it will look fabulous, function well and defy the sometimes misguided belief that going ‘minimalist’ means getting rid of items “willy nilly” and just for the sake of it. For me, ‘minimalism’ is more about creating space for the things you cherish (even if what you ‘cherish’ is a temporal thing) and establishing your own ‘comfort’ level, rather than feeling guilty for not loving sterile’ and ‘empty’ environments. The key, as you know, is organization and order, and learning to love ‘being’ organized. There’s a great sense of satisfaction to be had when you see the results of your ‘creativity’ with limited spaces … If ‘empty’ space satisfies you, that’s wonderful, and you ‘score’ by clearing every surface hiding (or throwing) all your ‘stuff’ away, but if you enjoy your artwork, photographs, cushion collection, Granny’s china, make the space to display them by ‘sacrificing’ things you know you wouldn’t shed tears over if they were lost or stolen tomorrow !

  4. Sarah Moriah says

    She may not be able to remember it’s there without a visual reminder or cue. There are some organization styles that require things in or things out. I use a mixture of both.

    *just a thought from an organizer that’s worked with a lot of people on that*

  5. says

    Hi Joshua,

    Funny, I just wrote about #6 the other day. :) I do most of these things but somehow struggle with #11. Time to clear the desk off again! I’m fabulous at being minimalist but not so fabulous at putting things away. At least now there’s a thousand times “less stuff” to land on horizontal surfaces!

    Cheers,
    Tanja

  6. says

    Halving the decorations was a great one around my house, and eventually led me to getting rid of the curtains in the living room, and just going with blinds. The curtains attracted dust and cat hair and I really really hated having to iron them after washing them and the whole hanging up/taking down routine. So we took down the curtain and the curtain rods and we LOVE it! Just thought I’d throw that one in there :)

  7. says

    ahh! if only I can do all of these. The last time I cleaned the kitchen and the fridge, somebody was really upset because I threw “unwanted stuff”

  8. says

    Just over six months ago, I moved to Canada for graduate school. Several months before, I started purging. And I purged a LOT. When I left, I was pretty sure I was done.

    While I have acquired a few pieces of clothing since I’ve been here, my closet was feeling a little tight so I just read #3 above and decided to do it. It was kinda tough to get ten items out of my closet, but then I followed it up by getting ten (actually 16) items out of just my pajama drawer! And the drawer isn’t full anymore! Next, I’m thinking I may tackle my sock drawer.

    Every so often we need those encouraging prompts to get us over a speed bump. Thank you!

  9. says

    Number 2 is the single best thing I ever did. I did this about six months ago. I advocate for totally clean kitchen countertops. I’ve been maintaining mine that way, and it’s great. I wrote a lot about this at the time.

    And I just started doing number 9 this week. Dishes have always been a problem in our household. We stopped using the dishwasher a few days ago and are loving our new system already.

    Nice, very useful post!
    Gip

  10. Keira says

    I used to donate my items to Goodwill all the time, but with the economy being the way it is, I started selling on Craigslist instead. Two boxes of clothing I’d normally donate netted me $100. A lot of people who read minimalist blogs are trying to save money, so I thought I’d throw that idea out there.

  11. says

    Practical and relevant – esp. for those living in small spaces. We live in a studio apt – if we didn’t keep most flat surfaces clear, I think we’d go crazy.
    Now, if only I could get my husband to get behind the ‘wash dishes right away’ concept… ;)

  12. says

    This is FANTASTIC. I am going to frame it and hang it somewhere prominent where i can reference it on a daily basis until we have gone through every single box/bag/book/photoalbum in our entire house. I am getting a real good look at just how TOO much stuff we have as we are forced to see every last bit while packing it up. So many times i look at the pile and just groan.

    How do you help kids learn these lessons? I am a slow learner at this as it is and it is so hard when kids are emotionally attached to every little piece of crap they bring home from a birthday party or everything they have ever created. UGH.

    • says

      I could sometimes negotiate with my kids about stuff they’ve created by taking a photo of it that they could keep if we really didn’t need to keep the original hanging about the house. We’ve done that with some of our own sentimental-value stuff as well, when there’s really no reason to keep the actual object, it’s the memories that are important and often a photo is just as good for keeping memories.

      • Ruth H says

        I’ve taken photos too. It really helps to let some things go. My 6yr old son is often happy to let more things, especially ‘creative projects’ go when I take a photo of it.
        “it’s the memories that are important and often a photo is just as good for keeping memories.” this is so true Clare!

    • Penny says

      I solve the problem by letting the kids choose.
      Each child has a display space – my twins each have a pin board and shelf above their beds. Anything they want to display goes there, with something removed (to a plastic storage bin) to create the necessary space. Once a month, one item from the bin is kept, and the rest recycled. The kept items go into A3 size memory books, which will become theirs on their 21st birthday. The girls choose what to keep, though I also add a few bits and pieces of my choosing – mostly photos – and there is a box each for the 3D items. Our memory books are actually A3 size plastic ring binder pockets in zip up binder covers, as used by artists for their folio of work.

  13. says

    Great reminders, thanks Joshua! And wow that you did this in just three years! I’ve been clearing clutter for 10 and I still haven’t worked through everything!!

    @Lily
    My son is like that. But the closets in his room are not unlimited. The rule for his room is “everything has to fit” (in the storage containers and drawers). If it doesn’t something has to go. He gleefully packs bagfuls of old toys in anticipation of his birthday, at other times it’s still fairly hard to let go of things… (He’s 4).
    We have a “limited number of items gallery”: when new art is created the oldest pieces go (they can be sent to doting grandparents!). Often drawings cut up into little squares and stuck on cardboard make excellent Xmas cards, party invitations or birthday cards)…
    For older kids you can propose taking pictures of things before they are discarded. Those so inclined can make a scrapbook or stick the picture in their journal and write about it…

  14. Pamela says

    Lily — I have a little sentimentalist at my house that has the same problem. Recently we had an “aha!” moment that may help you as well. Her big sister used the phrase “I’m ready to let go of ‘x’”. I thought that was a great way to say it, as opposed to “get rid of”, “sell”, or “donate”. So, I tried it with little sis – lo and behold she was ready to “let go” of some things! For whatever reason, that phrase helped her part with a few things.

  15. says

    Love it! This entire article to me seems like a no-brainer, but I quickly forwarded it on to about 15 people who need it :) Since I’ve embraced minimalism, I have tried very hard to share my beliefs with others without expecting them to change for me. This includes my hubby – who, I might add, ‘suggested’ this weekend that I help him ‘weed out’ his closet. Ahhh…living by example does work!

  16. K. Fisher says

    I wrote down every tip and posted it on the fridge. I need a visual to keep me on track. I also like to add I have reduced the amount of clutter by getting ride of knick knack stuff that is on your tables, coffee tables, end tables. Also what works well in my house is hang up all your pictures and keep it to a minium for each room. My room looks better clutter free, and cleaning is a cinch.

  17. says

    One trick I rely on time and again is the “buy one, dump two” method. Before I buy ANYTHING (except food, gas and bus tickets!) I immediately challenge myself to decide which two precious possessions are getting kicked to the curb. This makes me take stock of how important this item is before I even bring it home. And no cheating. I can’t look at a luscious pair of boots and decide to throw out the two hunks of furry cheese in the fridge. Two items of equal or lesser value only!

  18. says

    This is a great list. I found the best way to reduce desk clutter was to use a smaller desk! We had this huge, vintage, solid wood desk and it had a large flat surface. It got cluttered pretty quickly because there was so much space on it to clutter! We switched it out for a much smaller desk and now I can’t find anywhere to put clutter on because the space it just not there. Hooray!

    I’ll admit I have a problem with getting rid of magazines. Especially my Mother Earth News magazines. I really don’t look at them as magazines, but mini books of wisdom. *sigh* I have no idea how to overcome this, but I’m willing to try. I have gotten rid of a lot of cooking magazines by cutting out the recipes I want and sticking them in sleeves in a binder. :-)

    • Jan'et says

      I have a problem with those old Mother Earth News magazines also. I have two boxes of them that are so full of good reference material, that I made a place in a seldom used closet in the office for them. I believe M.E.N. now has all of their publications available on a CD but until I can get my hands on it, those old mags will have a place in my home.

  19. says

    Pamela – I also had a problem letting go of things with sentimental value. Then I stumbled upon the idea of taking a picture of the said item and then getting rid of it. I call it memory transference. I’m able to transfer my memory associated with an object from the object itself to a digital picture that takes up no space at all. It has been wonderfully liberating! When I get enough pictures, I’m planning on making a digital scrapbook with all my memory pictures and write why each item was so meaningful. I have gotten rid of so many things using this method.

    • kiki says

      that is a beautiful idea. could be the tool i have been searching for to help with my clutter/hoarding. thank you very much!

  20. says

    @Sarah I had a similar problem with magazines. What worked for me was scanning in the articles that I wanted to keep or photos I liked for inspiration. It took awhile to get through all the old magazines I was holding onto but now that I have done that it takes no time at all because there are really only 3-4 articles per magazine I want to save.

    just a thought :)

  21. kiki says

    i read your article, went straight to work hiding all my appliances, and my kitchen looks brand new! such freedom. it really is amazing. thanks!!!!

  22. says

    This is a great basic list. I’ve worked as a professional organizer (one of my many passions), as well as working more toward minimalism myself for several years now. How about a few more advanced tips? ;)

    1) As a comment above indicated, make efforts to stop the junk mail. I don’t get that much myself, and it may be because I don’t use credit cards (very advanced tip, ha) and I don’t order from catalogs (although I do order online). No magazine subscriptions, waste of money and space. More fun to just browse the magazine racks, purchase as feel drawn as an occasional treat. Enjoy, tear out articles to save/read later–toss/giveaway the rest.

    2) I’m not big on hiding things away. More often than not if it’s not easily accessed, it won’t get used. No need to have it, if it’s not being used. Coffee maker, toaster, automatic can opener. I don’t own any of those. I don’t eat toast (or bread) nor do I drink coffee. Neither of them are particularly good for one’s health. Try herbal tea, dandelion root is an awesome and very healthy alternative :) I use a manual can opener for the minimal can goods I use. Can goods, also not generally a healthful food option. Minimize and go manual.

    8) I really like this one, and am working on this less-is-more decorating challenge :)

    9) No dishwasher…and also no dishwashing liquid. I use about a quarter cup baking soda plus a squirt of white vinegar in wash water; then another 3 or 4 squirts of vinegar in rinse water. Saves time, money, gets the job done. We make washing dishes and many home chores MUCH more costly and complicated than they need to be. Thank you advertising moguls :)

    14) (See my above comment on the psychological thing). This one is a great challenge for many of us. But it can be life-changing (like de-cluttering in general) if we work to keep our space clear and “open.” The clients I’ve worked with have invariably wanted to fill up that space as soon as I clear it. And I understand why, and I endeavor to convey this to them.

    Here are two tips that may help: Make it a Number One priority for all flat surfaces to have at least SOME clear areas. Endeavor to never completely fill any shelf or flat surface–always leave an “opening.” That’s key for it to be life-changing. When you say, “Well, I don’t have much space, this is the only spot I have for it” as an argument for filing up that last bit of shelf space or flat surface, counter it with “Where would I put it if I didn’t have THIS space or place?” Pretend that you do not have that space. Then you’re forced to be creative, and come up with a new place and you maintain that valuable “openness” in the process. Yay ;)

    Dove

  23. says

    LOVE THIS! I did get some new ideas – so my weekend will be very productive and I am sure I will arrive at Monday very happy! Especially am fond of handling mail IMMEDIATELY! I am a pro at that – keeping room in the coat closet, well everyone needs a goal!

  24. says

    This is great info! Regarding #7, please don’t throw away anything that would be useful to someone else…donate it to Goodwill, a church or non-profit thrift or set it aside for the sanitation workers. They might like to take it home.

    • 2manEkids says

      Many items I leave on the street for bulk trash pickup invariably get picked up by the rovers who shop the trash of others. I feel very good about that. Good suggestion!

  25. says

    Thank you for this practical information. What do you do with items that you think you might use down the road? Do you store them or do you consider whether or not you can purchase that item again later in life?

  26. Christy says

    This is a great list. I have a question about recycling magazines, newspapers, etc. I don’t have a problem with ridding myself of these items when finished, but I often clip out inspiring articles and interesting design ideas/pictures when I’m really attracted to something. There really are times when a short article or piece of advice touches me in a way that I immediately want to incorporate that idea into my life (so I feel like it’s worth saving and re-reading). Where do you suggest storing these types of paper items? I currently have them in a folder in my desk, but sometimes I don’t want to look at them anymore.

    • Jan'et says

      A loose-leaf binder with clear plastic pages was my solution for various articles on travel or hummingbird feeders or pruning crepe myrtle trees or a great zucchini recipe.

  27. says

    This is brilliant! It’s simple and doable, but I can see how following this checklist could make our home a different place in the space of a few weeks. (It’s too bad that we don’t have Goodwill here in Ukraine, where we live. I’ve got several trashbags full of clothes we don’t use anymore, but I haven’t figured out where I can take them yet.) We’ve got three small boys, and I really appreciate your viewpoint on making this lifestyle work with children!

    • Rhonda Tipton says

      You could consider taking some of the clothes to schools around the area. In our city, some of the poorer schools keep extra clothing and supplies on hand for needy students. You might also consider donating them to a church or anywhere else where people can use them.

  28. Weeze says

    I was able to get rid of a LOT of sentimental crap after I realized that it was the memories I was trying to hold onto–not the stuff. I took pictures of the things I loved–then threw them away. It is much easier saving the pictures than the stuff, and I can have the same memories from looking at the pictures without the clutter of having them sitting around.

  29. JeanC says

    When I see something pretty that I want to buy, I take a picture with the camera phone, then share it later with my husband. I seems to help not but things, but yet share them with others.

  30. yvie says

    Thank you for this great list. It’s simple, to-the-point and seems easy enough to start. I had an accidental taste of minimal living when we rearranged some furniture for upcoming guests. Envisioning 8 of us in the living room was impossible so…I removed the area rug, television cabinet/shelves and pretty much everything else. It almost looked ready for painting if only a drop cloth were added here and there. However, the peace that eminates from that room now is indescribable. The hardwood floors are glowing. An antique bureau replaces the television cabinet/shelves. It’s simple style includes drawers that fit all the necessary items in this room… example; sewing kit/drawer, stationary and writing stuff drawer, etc. The best part of this is it’s out-of-sight! I love this room now. Going to try with the kitchen next. Don’t know if hubby will put away the coffee machine every morning though. I have to put away his coffee cream before leaving for work myself or it will sour :(

    • Emma says

      Just a thought… leave the cream out. Perhaps chunky coffee tomorrow morning will encourage him to do it himself? Forgetting once is understandable, but as a normal occurance every morning? Sorry, now you’re just enabling him. He’s not 5 and you’re not his mommy. For this week he either goes to the store himself to get new cream or does without until the next regularly scheduled grocery shopping day. I’ll bet the behaviour stops immediately. If it eases your conscience, warn him today that you’ve put it away for the last time. Assuming others will follow along behind you making up for your carlessness or laziness is disrespecful to those closest to you.
      I love doing laundry, yes I know that’s weird to most people. All I ask of my family is that the clothes they put in the hamper are ready to be washed – that means shirt sleeves rolled back down, socks turned right side out, pockets emptied, etc. When my family were carelessly flinging knotted articles of clothing in the hamper I felt they didn’t value the effort I was making. That they expected me to turn their socks right side out because somehow my time was less valuable than theirs. Of course they didn’t litterally think that, but it was starting to feel that way so I addressed the problem. Initially any item not dealt with properly was tossed back onto the bed of its owner to be dealt with properly. A couple of times I washed/dried socks still in a scrunched ball and made sure the owner knew why their laundry had come back in that state. It only took a couple of weeks to break the old habbits, but everyone is cooperating now and I don’t mind doing the work if everyone is doing their part. Sometimes it’s the little courteous gestures that mean the most to the other person.

  31. says

    Amazing blog and some very nice tips and ideas in the comment section.
    I am trying to declutter my house. I started slowly ,removing 10-15 small items out or closets. So far it’s been great and is working nice!
    But I have a different suggestion too. I am the co-founder of Clouditems.com
    a social marketplace that let’s you connect to the people in your life to sell/buy, rent/lend, or give away physical goods to your friends,coworkers,neighbors,classmates,..
    We don’t have to OWN everything we use… we can rent,borrow or we can sell things we don’t need any longer.
    Give it a try.It’s a fresh new way to reuse each other’s goods before they are out of commission and end up in the landfills.

  32. kamisaki says

    Yep. This is the post that got me started. It was all downhill (or, should I say, downsized) from there.

  33. Kevin piper says

    1 Dont store your CDs and videos convert them to digital and sell them.
    2. Don’t buy magazines in the first place only use online versions
    3. Convert all your old photos to digital and share them with people not the cupboard
    4. Never use paper always use your iPad
    5. Scan you receipts with something like lemon and throw them away

  34. Missie says

    Oh, tell me HOW to get my husband to stop cluttering. Stacks of papers, magazines everywhere. He is very into recycling and saving the environment and belongs to several groups that serve this purpose but it never, never comes through our own front door. He constantly sits on committees with plans for communities but I cannot see where it “starts at home”. I would love to find the words to make this hit home with him, but all I can do anymore is point and say “nag, nag, nag”. Then he’ll clean it up some. What can I say to him to minimize his footprint on this earth? Please help.

  35. Rachel says

    We moved our microwave out to a work table in the garage which opened up a lot of counter space in our small kitchen. We realized that we weren’t using it that often but did not want to get rid of it altogether …. just yet. We also have a house rule – the bags that bring home new clothes have to be filled with old clothes and donated within the week. This has worked wonders and the donations are tax deductible. Win – Win

  36. says

    One of the best things I did when I started becoming minimalist was clear my desk of everything but my laptop, wireless mouse and desk lamp. Its amazing the difference that one little change made.

    The decorations thing was a sticking point with me for a while, but I find that now that I’ve done it, I love it. The stuff I still have out/up looks better and has more impact, and I don’t miss the other pieces.

  37. samantha says

    Loved it. It’s now bookmarked and hopefully starting in the morning I can put it to work. My house is a mess and I’m about to go crazy. Dishes on the counter from never being home, kids toys piled high, 5 ppl living in a one bedroom house while the other rooms are being built….I’m losing my mind and need all the help I can get.

  38. says

    I really enjoyed reading through this list. I have developed a habit of reading through the http://www.ApartmentTherapy.com each Sunday for tips and ideas on how to be better organized while living in a smaller space. Today I read a great idea that would relate to your laundry idea. Someone over there had mentioned that they don’t have a laundry hamper anymore. They keep a color catcher sheet in the washer and just throw all the clothes in each day until it fills up, then run a load, put it away, etc. I thought that was a great time and space saver. What do you think?

  39. Annabell says

    Awesome read, sounds simple enough. Will employ strategies. Just gotta figure out what to do with the tubs of stuff that accumulates in kitchen, hall, lounge room. The little things I find when on floors, counter and in pockets doing laundry. Items include, Tech plugs-usbs, charger bits,batteries, nuts, bolts,nail clippers, pens,hair ties,pins,buttons
    You know the things. Ive been tempted to up end it over the rubbish bin but I cant do it! I used to sort it & take it all back to its ‘home’ but now i just cant be f&%$ so ive been transerring it to a bigger box :( and hidding it in the front room.
    Any advise?

    • Rebecca says

      Annabell – just a suggestion (from a family that cannot get rid of the little bits of #@$% that we accumulate either!), we have drawer dividers that will stack and several smaller, clear plastic bins – we have put the nuts, bolts, pins, buttons, and other tiny bits into the drawer dividers. If you do so with some organization, you can keep track of what is there and where they are. We used the clear, plastic bins for the larger tiny things — like the charger bits, usbs, batteries, and pens. We have marked the clear bins with the items they contain – and with the bin being clear, we can also see what is inside of them with ease. All of these – the dividers and clear bins – fit inside of a larger storage tub – which easily fits into the floor of a closet – or on a shelf that is easily accessible. We have found that putting things away like this has led all of us (and there are six of us) in the household to keep the smaller items organized so we can find them easily. None of us liked the junk drawers that accumulated – or just tossing them into a box or tub and not being able to find anything quickly.

      Hope it helps!

  40. swalia says

    great ideas….i need to work on clothes…i have been donating clothes to an orphanage for a year now but it seems like a never-ending process…looks like i will have to totally stop buying new ones for a while which seems like an intimidating thing to do

  41. Valerie says

    My husband and I live in a 400 sq ft studio. We love antiques and vintage items, but were able to pare down to just our favorite pieces, which immediately made everything that survived that much more special. We put built in shelves along one wall, and everything goes on those shelves – books, bowls, statues, keepsakes (extra blanket on the bottom shelf, jewelry in a nice box.). Almost nothing is stored away unseen. So every other surface – coffee table, desk, counter, etc – is clear. It’s also easier to keep things pared down when you can see it all together at once.

  42. Thank You! says

    This is a great list! I especially liked the idea of talking the appliances of the counter. So simple, yet I never though of it. My family complains often how we don’t have enough counter space, but I think we found a solution!

  43. says

    A great article J.B. To give me the confidence to truly remove all items that clutter my life I have a 6 month rule (12 months for clothes), if the item has not been used/worn in that time period then it can be disposed of. Some items you will immediately know that they will never be used again so they can directly to a charity (Goodwill) shop but the items you stop and deliberate over then you can apply the 6 month rule. Not that you leave those items nestled in their current home! Find a box to put the variety of possessions in (I have roasting tins, excess of knives, forks etc.., cardigans, trousers) and then if required in that time period you can simply remove it and when used it can settle back in its previous home. What’s left in the box at the end of the 6 months will be boxed and ready to go to Goodwill.

    If you want to enjoy another inspiring blog about how to live a simple, frugal, debt-free, minimalist life then please check out the http://www.thedebtfreeminimalist.com.

    My latest blogs include:

    Are you a clutterist? Take the 5-a-day challenge (and i’m not talking fruit!)

    The duvet which made a difference (the tale of giving)

    Is the iPhone such a smart phone?

    A tale of opportunity cost (and the effects of compound interest)

    I don’t need much!

  44. knh says

    The bit about clean and dirty clothes makes me wonder if your wife is really the doing all the cleaning and minimalist improving. Just so you know, most people do their own laundry.

    • joshua becker says

      Thanks for the comment. We share the workload around the family equally. She handles the family laundry. I handle other duties. And I’d have to disagree that most family members handle their own laundry… at least, not in any of the families I have been a part of.

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