Several years ago, we made a life-changing decision. We decided to remove all the possessions from our home that we didn’t need.
Over the course of 9 months, we removed 50% of our stuff. And over the course of a few years, we removed 60-70% of our things and moved into a smaller home.
I discovered almost immediately that the less stuff you own, the more organized and clutterfree your minimalist home becomes. Go figure.
We would soon discover 21 benefits of owning less and decide that we’d never go back to our old lives of mindless consumption.
In addition to a significant purge that cleared the space for clutterfree living, we developed simple habits to keep our home clutterfree. They were not obtrusive or burdensome in anyway. Just the opposite, in fact. Practiced daily, they take only a few minutes to complete. But together, they leave our home in a perpetual state of clutterfree (or at least, close to it).
Here are the habits I most recommend: 7 Daily Habits for a Clutter-Free Home.
1. Handle physical mail immediately. Too often, mail is only relocated from the mailbox to our countertop—where it often sits or begins to collect. But the fact is, most mail can be processed in very little time if we make it a habit. Immediately discard junk mail (or use Paper Karma to eliminate it completely) and process the rest. Mail that requires processing but can’t be handled right away can easily be placed in a manilla To-Do Folder out of sight.
2. Clean dishes after meals. I used to hate washing dishes—especially right after preparing and eating a meal. But things changed when I read this story. Now, I view cleaning dishes as just the last step of the family dinner. Washing dishes (or filling the dishwasher) immediately takes less time (they wash easier when food has not dried). And the kitchen is clean all evening.
3. Make your bed each morning. Messes attract messes. One of the easiest places to see this is the bedroom. Your bed is the centerpiece of the room and when it is made, it sets environment and the culture. But when it is left undone, clutter begins to accumulate around it. The first, best step when cleaning a bedroom is to make the bed. And the first, best step for clutterfree living is to do it first thing in the morning (or find a spouse who does).
4. Store things off the kitchen counter. Messes attract messes and clutter attracts clutter. The better we get at storing clutter out of sight, the less likely it is to accumulate. The kitchen counter is a good example. When countertops become an acceptable place to store things, more things begin to collect there. But a clean countertop communicates calm and order, promotes opportunity for its intended use, and is probably easier than you think.
5. Return items nightly. When we minimized our possessions, we found tidying up to be easier. Every item has a purpose and every item has a home. At the end of the day, items are returned. This is a daily habit I have worked hard to incorporate in my life and my kids’ lives. One reason is because it allows every morning to begin fresh, new, and clutterfree.
6. Complete 1-2 minute jobs immediately. Clutter is often a result of procrastination—decisions put off or small jobs left unfinished. Counteract this procrastination in your home with a simple rule: If a job can be completed in less than 2 minutes, do it now. Take the garbage out, scrub the pot, return the remote control, or place your dirty clothes in the hamper. Every time you see a task all the way to completion, a source of clutter is avoided.
7. Minimize overfilled spaces right away. Clutter often reveals itself as too many things in too small a place: too many clothes in a drawer, too many linens in a closet, too many toiletries in a bathroom cabinet, or too many items on a shelf. When this occurs, as it often does, minimize the overfilled space right away by removing everything no longer needed. Don’t put it off. It will take longer than 2 minutes, but usually no more than 15. Staying ahead of clutter is the best way to defeat it altogether.
Each of these daily habits are routine in our home and help to keep it clutterfree all week long. Certainly, owning less helps make them possible.
Want a cleaner home? Own less stuff. It works every time.
More Resources on Decluttering: