“Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris
I have lived most of my life in a cluttered home. Closets were full, drawers wouldn’t shut, things weren’t put away, and unfinished projects could be found in most rooms. That was, unless somebody was coming over. Then, the entire family would pitch in to make sure the house was presentable. Looking back, the problem with clutter wasn’t that we didn’t notice or care. Instead, the problem was we could never get ahead of the mess or ever seem to develop a system that would keep our home clutter-free.
But that is no longer the case. Today, almost every room in our home rests in a state of order – free from the life-robbing presence of physical clutter. Over the past several years, we have found a system that works very well for our family of four. And I am perfectly confident you can do the same… no matter how far away from clutter-free your home may seem.
Consider implementing the four steps found in this Simple Guide to Keeping Your Home Clutter-Free:
1) Believe it is possible. Most of us know it is entirely possible to live in a clutter-free environment. I imagine that is what attracts you to this guide. You are just looking for some extra help to get there.
But some of you are not so sure. Your house has been cluttered for so long, you have given up all hope of ever living any other way. For you, the first step to decluttering your home is to take heart and believe it is entirely possible. Realize that you will never get there if do not resolve in your mind that you can accomplish it. So find some hope and take one small step. Then, take another… and another… and another…
2) Remove the excess. Our homes are full of things. Clutter begins to appear most prominently when we own too much stuff. Conversely, the fewer items we own, the easier it is to keep clutter at a minimum. The first (and most important) step in keeping your home clutter-free is to remove the excessive possessions that are stealing our lives, time, and energy.
In your process of removing the excess, it can be helpful to find a working definition of clutter to aid you in this step. Early in our journey, we began to define clutter as a) too much stuff in too small a space; b) anything that we no longer used or loved; or c) anything that led to a feeling of disorganization. With that as our guiding filter, we slowly moved from room to room, removing everything that fit the definition above.
In some cases, this step is easy:
- Junk drawers full of unneeded items (rubber bands, old batteries, or old keys).
- Closets full of clothes you no longer wear.
- Decorations that are no longer meaningful and/or outdated.
In other cases, this step will take more time and intentionality:
- Large projects such as the garage, basement, or attic.
- Sentimental items that have collected over the years.
- Other family members’ clutter that have begun invading common spaces.
The most important key in completing this step is to start with the small and easy projects first. Begin there. As you do, you’ll build up small victories. Then, after the small victories have been won, you’ll find extra motivation to begin tackling the harder cases of clutter in your minimalist home.
If you still do not feel fully capable on removing the excess possessions from your home, find encouragement in an intermediate step. For example, put the items you can’t quite part with in a cardboard box out of sight with a date on it. Getting rid of unnecessary possessions is essential, but it doesn’t have to be a race.
3) Implement habits to manage your clutter. For most of my life, I thought the key to maintaining clutter was found here. Just organize, clean, and organize again. But I was wrong. Because I had not taken the time to remove the excess in full (or in part), I could never get ahead of the clutter in my home. There were just too many things in too small a space – no matter what system we tried to implement. As a result, healthy clutter-clearing habits never had opportunity to emerge. So do not skip the removal step, it is absolutely important. And the more energy you put in removing the excess, the easier it will be to find and develop habits to better manage the things you keep.
Once you have cleared the excess, you will be able to better discover which habits keep your living space free of clutter. And once you experience the freedom and stress-free life of living clutter-free, you will find these habits easier to embrace.
Some of these habits will recur daily:
- Cleaning the kitchen after each meal.
- Placing daily-use items (clothes, books, toys) back in their designated homes.
- Fully-completing projects around the house.
- Developing an evening routine.
Some of these habits will center on specific locations that serve as clutter collection sites in your home. For us, our kitchen counter typically collects items (mail, schoolwork) during the day, our living room sees a highly-volume of traffic each day, and one of the bedrooms in our home finds itself a bit messier than the others. Each of these specific locations requires extra effort and energy than the others.
Some of these habits will center of seasonal needs:
- The changing of the seasons.
- The need to remove excessive possessions after holidays and/or birthdays.
- Significant life changes (birth of a child, new employment) will also require refocusing and adjustment.
Over the years, we have found clutter attracts clutter. Once it begins to collect, it requires intentional action to clear it away. Develop for your family healthy habits today to manage the daily use of the things in your home. Once identified, you’ll find them much easier to implement.
4) Slow the accumulation of possessions. To live is to consume. It cannot be avoided – especially in our society and culture. But if the influx of possessions into our homes can be slowed, clutter can be managed efficiently.
To slow the accumulation of things in our homes, we need to change our mindset and begin evaluating our purchases differently. Realize that your purchases cost far more than the price on the sticker. Each one will also require time, energy, and effort once they enter your home. Before making a purchase, begin asking yourself these questions:
- Is this item really needed?
- Do I have a place to store this when I get it home?
- How much extra work will this possession add to my life?
- Am I buying it for the right reasons?
This thought-process isn’t designed to keep you from making purchases ever again – at least, it’s not supposed to. Again, to live is to consume. But these questions are designed to bring intentionality into your life. They raise in your mind the awareness that some purchases take more from our life than they offer. They help you know the difference. And slow the accumulation of clutter-causing items into your home and life.
Again, it is completely and entirely possible to live in a clutter-free home. With this simple guide, you’ll be well on your way. From somebody who has lived both, I can quickly attest that once you begin to enjoy the physical and mental freedom that accompanies clutter-free living, you’ll make extra effort to ensure your home does not slip back into the home it used to be.
If you’d like to know more about the most important principles we learned during our journey into living with less, you’ll find great value in our book, Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life.
I’ve got ADHD and even trying to read the tips gives me anxiety. I’ve literally tried everything and read everything and I’ve never got anywhere. If you’re neurotypical you can use the tips but none of them work if you’re neurodiverse.
After dealing with my parents possessions and my wife’s (all deceased) I came to realize what a struggle it was to get rid of their things. There’s a certain amount of guilt associated with this… You don’t want to give away, throw away, etc… things that they valued but I came to realize that they were just that… Their things… not mine. After dealing with my wife’s things it spurred me onto simplify my own life… I didn’t want my children to have to deal with the same thing I had had to. It’s a better life now with less.
I was watching a sci-fi show on TV. In it was an alien who was observing humans and stated, “Humans are so peculiar. They spend their lives acquiring more and more possessions. When they die, the next-of-kin have to dispose of it all. Then the kin start the whole process over again for themselves and it continues on and on.”
So True ! When my mom passed away, was the first time it hit me, you CAN’T take it with you!
Succor Ferrer says
Thanks Joshua! Liberating tips! Helpful pointers! Worth doing!
God bless you more and more!
I resonate with the advice of finishing projects! I paint landscapes, and my workspace is the dining table. In fact, everyone in my home, all 10 of us, works and eats at the dining room table!!! The kids do their schoolwork there. Everything piles in boxes around the perimeter of the room! I leave it out as a reminder to finish. Then, when someone comes over, I realize this is not acceptable. ??
Been reading articles all over the internet in regards to minimizing the clutter in my office & home. Thank you for taking the time to creating such a detailed approach to what ails me! I learned a lot here on this stop. Keep writing…PLEASE!
My journey started because we are approaching retirement and many future changes. We were never blessed with our own children and the realization that “someone” will eventually have to help us through this journey or do it for us has made me determined to get to a better place now. Our friends have always teased about how empty our garage is or how neat we keep our home but the truth is that there are so many things I just don’t know how to get rid of. They are no longer useful except for memories and our life history together. We have always enjoyed our lifestyle until I had severe health issues 2 years ago and stuff started to accumulate…. papers, magazines, medical supplies you just weren’t certain what you should keep. Thankfully, I am feeling better and ready to get our life in even better order and simplicity! I am blessed to have a husband who agrees on this subject but it is still a challenge that is going to take several attacks to get to better levels of “just right”. I had to laugh the other day when we sorted our fishing tackle to our favorite minimum choice of stuff we use every trip. A young man in our neighborhood loved going through the extras! Still smiling, tired on sorting days but happier than ever to be preparing for our new future! We are reaping benefits already, enjoying evening sunsets even more, eating better and enjoying cooking in a pared down kitchen and sleeping better in a basic clutter free bedroom. Basement and garage are still a work in progress but looking good! There is always one more thing that can be tossed or donated! I love this site…. it gives me encouragement every single day!
My husband and I moved across the country and into a large (2,800 sq ft) home that needed renovating. I’d wanted a smaller home than that, but we purchased this one for reasons other than its size. While most of the home was being done, we spent the first 1.5 years living in a tiny loft bedroom on the third floor! To be fair, the renovation shouldn’t have taken that long, so it’s not like we knew that would happen. We had a tiny bathroom, a hot plate, a mattress on the floor, and a clothes horse. That was when I realized that was all the space we really needed. If we’d intended to live up there permanently, I would have set it up properly and it would have been 100% comfortable. Now we have a giant house and it’s making me crazy all the extra space we have!
I am a child of a hoarder. My mom was a collector of everything!
When it came time for company to come for a visit all the “stuff” that was on the first floor went to the second floor or the basement. I was scared as a kid to go down in the basement. There was so much stuff (hip high) that I it was going to eat me, lol.
I’m an adult now and I always said I wouldn’t live like that. I unfortunately have a sliver of my mother’s hoarding in my veins.
My husband and I need serious help/advice.
Hi Christ, I am a child of a hoarder too. I well remember the relocation of massive amounts of junk when company (rarely) came and the feelings of shame over this issue. It is so very difficult to change the habits and deal with the emotional fallout of being raised that way, isn’t it? As much as you hate it, it’s still there. One very useful resource is Flylady (flylady.net). She ‘gets’ the difficulty and her very practical methods really work. Her methods are grounded in breaking the depression that put her in hospital. She also has a book that I highly recommend, called Sink Reflections by Marla Cilley. Flylady is the only resource I’ve found that has truly made a difference in this area for me. As nice and useful as these motivational words can be, those with our background can need something a little more :) All the best!
Hello! I too am the child of a hoarder and i recently moved back home to find that it has gotten noticeably worse and that I have started hoarding clutter and junk as well. It’s a terrible feeling to think we may go down the path of our parents but let that fear motivate you. Do you have a social group? Host weekly get togethers which will hold you accountable for keeping a clean house. Allow your basement to be used for book clubs or maybe a scrap booking club or something with your friends. Also for small things designate a junk box that you can discard at the end of each week. I put junk mail and other random receipts and papers i accumulate in that box and trash it every Monday.
Lastly try yardsales. As you find things you may feel are of value sell them!
I love the advice you shared. There are blessings when we share. I am taking it all in. Starting my journey. I believe clearing space and maintaining organization and order leads to peace and tranquility.
Your response is appreciated but if I may, stay away from yard sales and “junking” (there is a good reason for calling it that.) Unless you are highly motivated anf have a designated place to sell something, other than your home. It will most likely remain wherever you put it when you bring it home. And your clutter will be the beginning of the perfect storm.
Great post! I have been trying to declutter since my kids are now adults and one has moved out. I decided it was overwhelming to look at the entire house. So I take one room at a time. I started with my bedroom. I do a few things each night, and after a couple weeks, I have a clean, serene bedroom. Purged the closet and drawers, shoes, vanity. I even got a smaller bed (small room – don’t need a king). Next will be the hall closet. Then the 2nd bedroom. Then the living room, etc.
I really do feel accomplished and good looking at my bedroom now. I know that feeling will continue to grow as I get thru each room.
I agree. I find less is more. Every time I clean out a closet or donate/sell some household items I feel like I just went through a cleansing. It’s also made my house cleaning chore a breeze. Thank you for your posts and inspiration.
That’s my Motto : LESS IS MORE !!!!
I am really liking the part about when you ae out shopping, the important questions to ask yourself about the item. If I start doing this each time I stand in Home Goods or Marshall’s, it may sink in that its not really necessary after all!
why so hard for us to go to store and leave d store wdout purchasing?lol.that’s how add clutter in ourhouse
Patty Handy says
I am working on becoming a minimalist by decluttering, donating,and ruthlessly pitching stuff. The more I do, the more I feel like tackling. 3 big events in a short time (retirement, death of my spouse, and remodeling) left my house more disorganized than usual. I realized one day how relaxed I felt visiting a friend’s home because it was tidy and uncluttered. It is lived in, but it’s peaceful.
I wrote myself a note and taped it to my fridge door to read everyday: “clean is serene”. That is my goal.
That is a GREAT note!! I too have lost a spouse and have retained all the spouse’s possessions since I was loathe to get rid of the things – it’s like betrayal and a reminder of one’s loss. “CLEAN IS SERENE” is a calm reminder. Thank you.
Rachel Blackett says
I love living in a fairly clutter free home. I have never been one to store things up anyways, but I do declutter every 6-8 months and always find SOMETHING! haha. The only things I am not happy with is I have some unfinished projects in a box which I am dying to finish and some stuff stored in my wardrobe that needs to be sold. My house may not be tidy and clean all the time (Pretty impossible with 3 young kids) but it doesn’t take long for me to catch up if I ever get behind, or have a couple of days off ;) And this is with a pretty big house too!
My hubby however, ughhhhh. He is getting better (He isn’t too bad, but he still keeps too much crap) but he likes to keep everything “Just incase” I often secretly throw things out hahaha.
Jen @lifewrangling says
The change of season is always a fantastic time to clean out the wardrobe. You can have a look at the clothes that just never got worn and bag them up for charity, put away those things that won’t be worn again until next year and work out exactly what (if anything) you will need for the new season.
It seems so easy doesn’t it? Don’t allow clutter to take over your home; but, when you come in from work or have some time on the weekend, you just don’t feel like tidying everything up. Well, I am speaking for myself here. I admit that I have been lazy. I too, had almost given up. My number goal, at the moment, is to become a neat freak. I know I have it in me to do this. My house, my car and my desk at work all need special attention. LOL I have bought storage bins to help organize my things. First, I know I need to rid myself of the items that can be thrown out or given to someone else. Then after I find a designated spot for every single item, never allow things to get out of control again.
I can’t even have company. I am so ashamed to admit that. It is so over-whelming. I hate this feeling and I’ve finally decided to do something about it until my friends turn me into the producers of that “hording” show.
I’m so with you Rochelle. With all the other “mind and soul” clutter in our lives that suck the energy out of us, I find I have little motivation to tackle the piles (and at least one entire ROOM) of “stuff.” But I’m working on both as we speak. I work in smaller time bytes, set small goals, and try not to get discouraged that I can’t just fly through and get it all done at once. It took years to get this way, it could take a while to dig out. I am doing this as I prepare to move into a new and cozy (I envision) home. If it doesn’t have a place there, it’s NOT coming with. Concentrate on keeping the things that are truly useful or bring you joy; cull the rest. God bless and good luck.
Commuter Girl says
Rochelle, take Wendy’s advice and try very small projects or time frames. For example, set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and see what you can tidy up in that time frame. Or pick one drawer and sort and organize it. You’ll be surprised at what happens. Don’t ever give up, eventually you will find that any effort pays off.
I have been a minimalist for quite some time now. Every time I cleaned up my house (throwing stuff away, selling on internet) I thought I was done, there was noting left to get rid off. But every month I found something new which I did not need. This week I got rid of something I thought was impossible: my old childhood toys. They had been stuffed in my closet for years. I had been very attached to them (the happy memories) but I realized that not using them (I am 34, I don’t need toys) means I have no reason to keep them. So I sold them to a guy who was happy to get them. I feel relieved I took the step, how silly it might even sound. Now that I was able to get rid of this stuff, I know for sure that material belongings by themselves do not bring happiness.
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I’ve looked up and read well over 10 different articles trying to help me get rid of a overwhelming amount of clutter from my family of 5! THIS ONE IS BY FAR TBE BEST ONE! IT’S NOT ONLY HELPFUL, SENSIBLE AND REALISTIC BUT ACTUALLY FEASIBLE WHILE LIVING IN A 3 BEDROOM APARTMENT WITH NO EXTRA STORAGE! Both my older kids 7&8 hate getting rid of used straws let alone any of their toys/art work/school work heck they want to save a piece of paper that they wrote a single letter on! Not to mention my husband is one of those types that brings home random stuff and puts them in the most ridiculous places. Or will make a complete mess, throwing everything around, when looking for something! Then I have my 2yr old daughter that collects the most random, off the wall things that she refuses to give up so I’ll find a pile of oranges or magnets hidden all over. The clutter has seriously gotten out of control and seems impossible to fix and organize but this article not only gave me great tips but gave me hope and made me realize a huge part of why I can’t seem to ever keep the clutter at bay is because I never believed it was fully possible! I know it’ll take time but convincing myself that it is possible and taking it one step at a time, I will eventually acheive .y goal of having a clutter free/ organized home! Thank you so much!
Maureen Fragnito says
All the best-little by little:)Take photos of your 2yr olds treasures & then toss most of them(as a child & living in the moment,she most probably forgets what she’s collected)
For the older 2,make a craft area/container available to keep their straws & similar
Have you spoke with your husband about how you feel & the need,in limited space,to have organisation for effective running of the home?
Anyway,again all the best:)
June Miller says
I have a rule now, which I think I saw on a TV show. If I something new, I have to get rid of something. New shoes, out goes a pair (I have bought a shoe cupboard which just holds enough, so I have to do this or where do I put the new ones?); new piece of furniture or equipment – a gift for Vinnies or the Salvos
I got rid of a lot of furniture & things before we moved a couple of years ago, we then rented while our house was built & we made a conscious effort to not buy more stuff. We only unpacked the necessities while we rented even though that time frame ended up being 20 months, I didn’t miss the things & so when we moved into our new home & unpacked everything I was left wondering why he still had so much stuff. So a year on I’m ready to pare down again but I felt a little anxious when I dropped the first couple of boxes to the charity shop, this is due to the fact that we’re getting rid of things I never thought I would want to. I’m finding if I pack up a box & put it in the garage I tend not to give it further thought & find the secret is to just take it to the charity shop & to not look inside the box again, it works for me.
My challenge with acquiring new items comes more from receiving gifts than buying things for myself. Even when I request no gifts, or very specific gifts, I usually receive things that are nice, but not quite right for my lifestyle. I am blessed to have so many generous people in my life, but I see the evidence of their well-meaning missteps piling up in the basement. The intentions of my loved ones are beautiful, and I’m lucky enough to be buried under their sentiments.
K Coleman says
My late grandparent requested no gifts on a 90th birthday. A friend insisted on giving a costly Tiffany lamp. Soon another friend complimented the lamp. “You really like it? Please take it.” The lamp was moved to someone who wanted another piece to dust and treasure. The giver was disturbed at first, yet the meaning of NO GIFT was driven home. Ten years later no one brought gifts to the 100 year celebration.
Know that re-gifting is a fine alternative to owning more things you do not want or need.
S P says
I am on a NO gift ( to me) policy. I tell everyone, ” if you want to give me a gift, create memories with me. Anything material thing brought to me will find its way to charity withing a week” I also tell everyone that I am a minimalist and do not need anything. I followed my “threat” a couple of times and now everyone believes me. No gifts for Mother’s Day or Bdays. Love it!!
Money is always useful such as $60 for a 60th birthday! Or have someone take videos of family members/pets. Believe me, once you have lost someone your eyes and ears are starved for the sight and sound of the beloved. I was never a photo person but when I lost my husband I was starved to find any photos of him anywhere and deeply appreciated any sent to me by friends and family members.
Lauren Neuner says
Very very good articles. Ramps up our creativity like how items in our home can do many functions. We had ,for example, six colanders-WTH? Good insights!
Thanks for the tips
Thanks for this tips!
Good read. Finished reading “essentialism” a few weeks ago, and he really stressed the importance of a morning and evening routine in helping to make sure the “essentials” are front and center in our lives. I love the idea of incorporating a little bit of cleaning into those routines.
Don Griffin says
The feeling that you’re not alone in this is a breath of fresh air. My wife’s patience can be tested at time, however we see the results. Our children struggle with this, but reading and explaining the reasons why help them. Life is already complicated, so why the need for unwanted stress. Thanks to Joshua and his books.
I love to have home to clean and homely. My kids don’t understand that yet but when they are older they will understand. My husband didn’t understand that untill I sent this link to him. Then he finally understood the importance of having a nice and clean home.
Since coming back from vacation on Lake Michigan I am obsessed with moving there when bf retires. so five years would be earliest and that’s when youngest graduates. SO only way we can afford lake side home is to DOWNSIZE. I’m ready to let go of major space wasters. As I am organizing, I’m thinking would I take this with me? I want to have this house ready for sale in four years. IM OBSESSED with this right now. but still decorating to the hilt outside for seasons.
Where on Lake Michigan? I love Lake Michigan too. Very, very much.
When I go to my timeshare or elsewhere on vacation, I feel relieved. I easily manage with a carry on bag and a very small backpack with some electronics. It’s very satisfying.
My spouse on the other hand spends almost every day shopping, picking up some more clothing and shoes plus jewelry. So much that we use to buy a suitcase to bring the stuff back home. While we don’t buy a suitcase anymore, the little bit of room I had in my carry on gets filled with her stuff. I buy nothing on vacation and unfortunately will never get her to feel the same way. I am doomed.
Stop letting her use your carry on. If she wants all the stuff let HER haul it around! You are empowering her bad behavior. As long as you let her use you, she will never realize the weight of all the junk she gets. I once traveled light and it was so freeing that I’ve become a believer. Can’t she find better things to do on vacation than shop? And before she purchases anything, ask her, “Where are you going to put this when you get it home?”
I went to a local hobby store last night to pick up some paint that we needed for a project. The store was filled with beautiful and unique art objects. I was very tempted to get a couple of things…but resisted, in knowing that I already have too much. It was very liberating to come home with just the paint. I can see how the average person gets wrapped up in consumerism. I have worked hard to have the right mindset towards minimalism. —With the holidays soon approaching, I am ecstatic not to be a part of the frenzy.
I have a question about managing all the papers and mail that we get on a regular basis. Secondly, I hardly have any closet space to store any of kids karate gear, shoes, etc. Thirdly, the kitchen also have very little storage space, and the school snacks that I get from Costco as kept in a corner in one of the rooms. Please let me know if there is a better way in organizing all of these?
Marta from Chicago says
Make a menu for the week where leftover dinners can rollover into the next meal. This way you can reduce how much food you are buying. For example, I make baked chicken to last me the week, but side dishes vary. The chicken is so delicious the family doesn’t mind eating it every day for a week. Less to wash and less food wasted.
Marta from Chicago says
Paper coming in the mail I think is the easiest problem you have. Keep the bills. All else seems like advertising stuff. So, if you have everything you already need then throwing out advertising should be easy to let go of. Remember, should you need something in the future, you already know the stores you like to shop at anyway to get those things.
Marta from Chicago says
When it comes to snacksing at home, try to elimate chips. Substitute bananas, nuts, and homemade shakes. You’ll save space and $$$$$.
Hi Marta! I am from the Chicago area too! :)
If you can, build shelves (front to back) in the closets. Even narrow shelves will store a lot of stuff.
Great article! My husband and myself retired a year ago and have spent the year getting our home ready to sell. We have de cluttered and simplified. We are moving to a small home and plan on spending our time with experiences and not with so much stuff. Our new motto is “less is more” . You article is spot on.
Diana Pacheco says
All of your articles are really helpful and empowering. Thank you Joshua!
I’ve read Marie Kondo’s great book on decluttering, and did the home, except for all of the collections my husband (the pack rat) has collected over decades. (I honored him by leaving those alone. So far.) Boxes and boxes of comic books, record LP’s, old books, trading cards (boys and their toys)….to his credit he has them stored in appropriate-to-the-collection boxes, but the 2 spare bedroom closets are filled with them, and the top shelves in each are bowing. I have tried to honor his ‘hobbies’ (that he never pulls out and uses or even looks at), but it’s starting to bug. Any hints?
Yes Gwen . Take all your husbands boxes outside to garden on a sunny day, on the pretext of airing them . Then ask him if there is any of it he still wants to be patr of his life . He may surprise you and ditch it all .
Marta from Chicago says
Convince him to sell it on ebay. Money would go towards finally taking that trip he has always wanted, or other memorable family event to happen.
Hubby would hang on to magazines, some to do with his line of work. I’d pack them in a box and place them under the basement stairs. If he didn’t ask where they were, over the next few months, they went out to the dumpster on pickup day. He never seemed to miss them yet if I asked if either he or I could toss a few – heaven’s no!
Angela @ Setting My Intention says
I’ve been blogging about our process to having a clutter free home – designating clutter free spaces has helped me and my family get a taste of the benefits of living clutter free. Not there yet, but slowly making progress!
Nate Billimack says
These habits have been so effective. I spent so little time cleaning and decluttering because it is second nature. I am able to have guests at the drop of the hat, exercising my gift of hospitality. I have so much extra time for fun and family now, and truly feel freer. Thank you for your inspiration, Josh.
Marta from Chicago says
Same here. Cleaning used to be a burden. Now it is a breeze. I have to admit, I have only one room that’s a hot mess.
The Virginian says
Keep stove-table-TV-Computer and Bed. what you wear though the week. Take everything else to goodwill are where ever. Like my mother used to tell me if you don’t use it every few days its just collecting dusk. And she was right.
Pretend that your house is on the market and you may have a showing any minute now. Clean and tidy with no clutter, plus organized closets will become a lifestyle.
Marta from Chicago says
This helps me when I feel lazy, except I imagine my mother coming over and I’m using my home as a model for her to stop having a cluttered house.
Paula Strathem says
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be an epic event. I tackle spring cleaning the same way I often approach my workouts: 10 minutes at a time! Commit to one task for 10 minutes, and if you feel like continuing on – go for it! If not, at least you started the process. Longlands Carpet Cleaners Ltd.
Marta from Chicago says
Your advice help me not quit—thanks!
Sonya Shannon says
The suggestions you make are so helpful! Thank you.
I have also been working on how to clear up clutter in life… I created an artwork about it to help inspire people. Please check it out: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/131303222/the-narrow-gate-poster
Some people have told me that just looking at this painting inspired them to go home and clear out their clutter. I hope it helps you too!
AC Johnson says
Your articles have been so inspiring. I was already in a slow journey to simplifying my life. However, since around October 2014, I have actively shed my home starting with shoes, clothing, moved to the kitchen, bedroom junk and moved back to getting rid of more clothing. This was a very freeing activity. It made me think clearer and be more intentional about my purchases. I still have a lot to do as a recovering pack rat but I will get there with your help. Thank you very much!
Marta from Chicago says
I applaud you.
The new year always inspires us to clean and organize our homes, and it feels so good! I started early and, per your advise, have been getting rid of things I don’t need or love. I found a way to turn this “junk” into “treasures”. I am selling these items on ebay and using the proceeds to help a community in Northern Uganda. I feel happy in so many ways. http://www.giveitupforgulu.com
Marta from Chicago says
That’s great you are so patient to do this!
Do not click on that link. It’s porn!
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I found and started to follow your blog as of February of this year. Your points on how to live a clutter free life and adopt a minimalist lifestyle really resounded with me. I have adopted the lifestyle, much to the bemusement of those who know me. The emotional and physical freedom is incredible. Selling some, giving away most has been a reward in of itself, that is until I approached my books. Five large bookcases and a love affair with books for over 50 years, the decision to part with most is proving to be very painful. I am persevering and I am making head way. The largest book case is empty and the bookcase is gone – 4 more to go. The link in this article concerning books written by guest blogger Robin Devine is very helpful. Thank you for your openness in sharing your thoughts and methods, and too for the many links to other like minded bloggers.
Marta from Chicago says
A local church by my house has a big mailbox(outside) designated for any community member to take or leave books free. This is where every book I’ve read goes. Perhaps you could have your place of worship to do the same.
We had an auction sale about 3 years ago and I had half a trailer of boxes of books that I read ———- it was hard to let go but I did and I know that if I reread books I will never get the books read that I haven’t read —– so that is the biggest problem that I have but everyday as I read a book I find a friend that would like to read it or I donate to somewhere
Great article! I’ve found it takes a daily conscience effort to declutter and stay decluttered.
I hear ya. Just lead by example. Verbally express the positive of the “clean/open” space. It’s a slow process…but sooner or later it rubs off on the rest of the family.
While I find your article helpful, I think a more in depth approach is needed. Anyone can google “how to declutter” and come up with loads of results. The problem is really why we hold onto certain things in the first place and getting past that before we can actually declutter. Getting rid of the excess sounds good in theory, but if it were as simple as that, most people wouldn’t have clutter. It’s the process of getting rid of the excess that really needs attention.
I agree. I’ve always been able to organize, but ridding oneself of excess is an entirely different matter!
Marta from Chicago says
You are so right. My problem is with paper. Oddly, paper only related to a job I don’t even want to be in. One reason I’ve been able to get rid of so much paper now is because I made the decision to go to school to be what I really want to be. I’m able to let go of these papers to make study space available for my goal.
I also say the same thing don’t want anything that I have to dust —- in fact I used to belong to a birthday club where all the ladies would buy you something little knick knacks and the like well I dropped out of the birthday club just for that reason my apartment is 900 sq ft so there is no extra room ——- my biggest clutter right now is books and as I read a book it finds a new home ——- I have given bags full to friends that I have read——–it kinda is a good feeling
Karen Anderson says
I started de cluttering after my husband passed. I have started using the timer on my phone. 30 minutes per room. It is amazing how much you can get done in 30 minutes. I am now down to 2 rooms, then the garage. Thank you for inspiring me to get busy.
I love this idea of de cluttering for 30 minutes a day! We have been saving it until the weekends and our simple weekends are becoming projects.
Marta from Chicago says
The weekend project is decluttering and organizing together has helped us not to fall in the same patterns of buy, buy, buy. Now when we see something beautiful, we look at it as if it were a museum piece–it’s enjoyed visually for as long as we need to enjoy it visually, and then we walk away.
I also started decluttering after my husband passed. We were together for 20 years and he never threw anything out, ever. The task of going through his things is so overwhelming. He’s been gone for over 4 years and I am still struggling.
God Bless. That’s gotta be tough, I am about to run 60 and really need to de-clutter. I need to get on with it.
Very sorry for your loss. It sounds like you are determined though to get through it.
Have you tried inviting a friend to help you throw out? I’ve found that when our grown daughter visits the two of us can go through a closet lickety-split because she is a firm believer in getting rid of excess. She’ll hold each item up and say, “Mom, when is the last time you used it or wore it?” “Well then, let’s pitch it!” And out it goes.
A pal makes it much easier to stick with the program.
Marta from Chicago says
Sorry for your loss.
The need to have and posses something that you think will make you happy is almost nil for me now (I never thought I’d get here, but I have!). When people try to give you clothes you can’t wear or knick knacks, just tell them gently that you are trying not to bring any more things into the house. My mom picks up little things at garage sales and stores and tries to give them to me, and I tell her I really don’t need it, but thank you. She just gives me a “Really? How can you not want this?” look. She’s finally getting it. Baby steps are getting me there.
I too finally realized that buying things didn’t make me happy. I am slowly minimizing my home… Slowly being the key word.. I told everyone at Christmas, if I couldn’t eat it, drink it, bath with it or wear it, do not get me anything…I don’t need more stuff…. Consumable goods only!
Bobbi Kies says
That is the key. Years ago, I started giving consumables as gifts. They are very much appreciated, as they are usually something the recipient wouldn’t buy for themselves, such as a nice bottle of wine, luxury soap, gourmet coffee, etc. They can use it and enjoy it and it’s gone!!!!
Marta from Chicago says
I gifted jam that I made myself. It was a hit.
Marta from Chicago says
I say, “Thank you” and drop it off at the first thrift store I find.
Katie O’Brien says
Beautiful post! The belief it’s possible is definitely the first step as you mentioned. But after a little bit of work it really becomes a new way of living. It’s a lifestyle that is so much easier, simpler and much less complicated.
I’m finding decluttering really difficult. My apt has no closet space. They’re tiny and we have so much stuff everywhere. Since having my child we have all these clothes that people give us and nowhere to put them. Mail ie bills are another problem they just keep accumulating and not things I can throw out. There’s nowhere to put our shoes either. It all stresses me out along with the accumulation of toys and strollers. Ughhh I’m totally overwhelmed. It literally makes me miserable. I’ll try starting small like suggested. The other thing I am trying is throwing the clutter in boxes and after a few weeks if I haven’t missed it I throw it out or pass it on to someone else. Thanks for this article !! It’s inspiring to know that some people living clutter free lives were once clutterers. Seems like my friends that aren’t clutter bugs have always been that way so until I read this I felt discouraged. Now I feel inspired !! Thanks again!
Don’t be discouraged! I had a similar issue with mail and signing up for paperless billing and e-mail notifications has helped a lot. Also, consider getting a wooden crate from Home Depot and keeping it by your door for shoes. Also, get a donation box and keep it by your front door (or wherever) and toss items in it as you realize you no longer need/want them. Don’t forget you’ve got loads of people cheering you on! It’s a marathon, not a sprint. :)
When I lacked closet space I just bought a set of easy to assemble and dissemble shelves from target and put them against a wall. They were around $50 and I use them constantly. Boxes are cheap at staples. I also recommend either a bankers box or filing cabinet for sorting incoming papers.
Marta from Chicago says
Just make sure you spent @15-30 minutes on the rask per day. TV programs make it seem like clearing the clutter and organizing is accomplished in a few hours.
So not true! I’ve been at it since Jan 1. Slowing down the process was losing my storage space in the basement where I rent. Nonetheless, forming a habit takes time; It’s not an over night thing.
Marta from Chicago says
Collect all toys, for instance, and decide @10 toys or less that are reasonable to keep. All else, donate to a day care at any local community organization. That’s what I did with my kids toys each year. Then next week, collect all clothes and all the clothes that don’t fit anymore become rags(if stained) or go to the thrift store. That’s what I recommend, tackle one problem at a time, and usually takes the whole week if you need to, to tackle a problem.
Great read! I also try to get rid of 10 items a weekend. On Sundays, I go through all mail and toss, store, or shred. I also put a timer on in the evening for 10 minutes, put music on, and clean. It’s amazing how much you can do in ten. When I shop for new clothes, I plan on donating the same amount of items I purchased.
Great advice!!! After surgery in July, which I was lucky to survive, I started to rethink everything. I became so suddenly aware of life’s excess. I started purging one box, cabinet or closet at a time and have slowly accumulated a huge pile of items to sell or donate. I am excited to have less. I feel like I have healed mentally along with healing physically. Now, I will tidy up daily and make intentional purchases. Thank you for this site!!! I find it so helpful,refreshing and uplifting!!
Marta from Chicago says
My New Year’s resolution was to make it my first priority of the day to get rid of ten pieces of paper per day, daily junk mail doesn’t count as part if the ten pieces of paper. It’s now August and every paper is filed with the exception of 1 box!
Agree with ten minutes on timer, if everyone does that you can make real progress. I do that alot. Used to be a giod motivator for kuds