October 3, 2017

Dos and Don’ts for a Clutter-Free Home

Looking for tips to create a clutter-free home? Struggling to keep up with your home organization? These do's and don'ts will help you organize and declutter your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, closet, and your whole home.

No matter how many times you organize your home, you’re always tripping over clutter.  Why??  For the love of whatever, why can’t you keep a clutter-free home?

Look, it happens to most of us at some point in our lives.  The good news is that you can break the cycle of a chronically cluttered home.  Here is a list of do’s and don’ts to help you get – and keep – a clutter-free home.

What it takes to be clutter-free

Before we get to the do’s and don’ts, let’s face this truth together:  That clutter isn’t crawling out onto your floor on its own.  You and your family are creating it.  And I mean that in the most gentle way possible!  You and your family are making decisions every day that are causing clutter in your home.

So what if you could make different decisions?  Ones that would reduce clutter, rather than create it?

You can make different decisions.  Keeping clutter at bay requires intentional organizing, regular maintenance, and a home for everything.  These do’s and don’ts will help you make the right decisions to keep a clutter-free home.

Storing instead of organizing

Intentional organizing is the foundation of a clutter-free home.  Yet most people just store things, rather than actually organize them.

Don’t mistake storage for organization

Do you know the difference between storage and organization?  Or maybe a better question is, did you know there is a difference between storage and organization?  Let’s break it down.

Storage is the space and container in which items are housed (Where).

Organization is the manner (How) and order (Why) in which items are arranged in relation to the task they support.

Simply put, storage is the where.  Organization is the how and why.

Storage is the where. Organization is the how and why.Click To Tweet

A quick example

For example, let’s say I have all of my skincare products in a box next to my bathroom sink.  Every time do my skincare routine, I have to dig through the box to find the products I need.

Now, let’s imagine the same skincare products separated into 2 bins.  The first bin includes products I use every day.  It’s separated even further into products that I use in the morning, and ones I use at night.  The second bin is located in a cabinet under the sink, and it contains products I don’t use every day.

Of the 2 scenarios above, which is storage and which is organization?

Actually, it’s kind of a trick question.  They both include storage, but only the second scenario includes organization.  Items are separated based on how often I use them, and separated even further based on when I use them.  Less frequently-used items are kept in a more remote location.

Do organize intentionally

Rather than tossing things in boxes and bins and calling it good, decide to be more intentional and actually organize.  Make organizing decisions based on how and why you use your stuff.  A container full of stuff unorganized stuff is a clutter magnet.  A container neatly filled with items based on when, where, why, and how you use them will help keep clutter at bay.

Remember the skincare example above?  The products I use daily are easily accessible in my bathroom, and they’re grouped based on when I use them (Morning or night).  The stuff that I don’t use every day is stored separately from the daily products.  This reduces clutter and makes it easy to find what I’m looking for quickly.  By the way, I wrote an entire post on how to keep small spaces like drawers and cabinets organized.  Check it out!

If you take nothing else away from this post, take at least this.  Storage based on good organization (I.e., how and why you use them) has the biggest impact on creating a clutter-free home.

Not decluttering regularly

Imagine you get a space in your home beautifully organized.  You know the how and why of each item inside.  Then a week or 2 later, you find that it’s a mess.  It’s overflowing with things that don’t belong, empty product bottles, random items, and even trash.

Why does this happen?

Because you’re not deciding to declutter regularly.

Don’t set it and forget it

A well-organized space is like a car in good condition.  It will only stay in good condition if you perform regular maintenance and tune-ups.

Good organization is like a car in good condition. Both need regular maintenance & tune-ups.Click To Tweet

Think of it like this.  You get a brand new car and start driving it.  With use, it’s going to need maintenance to stay like-new, right?  Oil changes, gas, and tune-ups keep your car running.  You can’t set it and forget it.

Similarly, you can’t set and forget an organized space.  Your habits and routines change over time.  You run out of products, try products you don’t like, or just stop using some stuff.  As a result, an organized space should change with you.  A “set it and forget it” attitude will not help you keep a clutter-free home.

Do declutter regularly

As you use the items in that space, you’ll need to declutter regularly to make sure that each item still has a good how and why for being there.  This doesn’t have to take all day, and you don’t have to declutter your entire house at once.  (Who wants to do that??)  Here are a few decluttering methods to try.

Method 1:  Use it or lose it

The easiest way to declutter is this.  As soon as a product is empty, you decide you don’t like it, or you stop using it, get rid of it.  Right that moment.

Here’s a little story to illustrate.

I recently overhauled the organizational systems in my master bathroom.  When I was going through a basket full of haircare products, I found 9 products that were empty, that I tried once and didn’t like, or that I no longer used.  I had 9 products taking up space for no reason.  And the products I actually do use, and ended up keeping?  Wait for it… 3.  Only 3 products actually needed to be there!  How many unused products are collecting dust in your bathroom?

Method 2:  Periodic decluttering

You can also declutter specific areas of your home from time to time.

For example, maybe once a week, you go through the papers and mail on your kitchen counter.  Or maybe you give an organized space a once-over each time you use it, weeding out items that are empty or unwanted.

This regular approach to decluttering keeps clutter from piling up.  It’s much easier to declutter a few items more often than a big mess of stuff all at once.  So the next time you’re using your junk drawer, kitchen counter, or coffee table, do a quick scan of the items there.   Declutter anything that doesn’t belong!

Method 3:  Drive-by decluttering

Okay, so maybe walk-by is a more accurate term.  The idea here is that if you pass by something that doesn’t belong, stop and pick it up.  Put it away where it belongs, or leave it in a designated location to be put away later.

For example, you’re walking through your living room.  You spot a sweater and a water bottle that you left there yesterday.  rather than deciding to walk past them, you pick them both up.  You place the water bottle in the recycle bin, and place the sweater on the stairs to take to your closet the next time you go up to your room.

This might sound like a hassle, but it really isn’t.  It only takes a few extra seconds.  If you consciously do it for a few days, it will become a habit!  Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to a clutter-free home.

Homeless items

The homeless items.  They congregate in drawers, cabinets, and closets all over the house.  We haven’t found a place for them in our organizational systems.  We don’t know where they belong, so we shove them in the nearest out-of-sight place we can find.

Don’t hide homeless items away

Have you ever found an item lying on your kitchen or bathroom counter, and stuffed it in a drawer because you didn’t know where else to put it?  I have!

While it feels good in the moment to get that homeless item off the counter and out of sight, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  You’re placing that item in a space without organizing it – without a how or a why.  As a result, it becomes clutter, ruining your beautifully-organized space.

Do address homeless items

Instead of stashing a homeless item in the nearest drawer to get it out of sight, decide to address the issue.  Either find a home for the item then and there, or corral homeless items in a box and find places for them once a week or so.

Until you decide to find a place for each item in your home, you won’t be able to keep your home clutter-free.

The path to a clutter-free home

A clutter-free home requires intentional organizing, regular maintenance, and a home for everything.  By following a few do’s and don’ts, you can make decisions that will help keep your home clutter free.

  • Don’t mistake storage for organization
  • Do organize intentionally based on how and why you use things
  • Don’t take a “set it and forget it” approach to organizing
  • Do declutter your home regularly
  • Don’t stash homeless items in out-of-sight places
  • Do find permanent places for homeless items

How do you keep your home clutter-free?  Let me know in the comments below!

Looking for tips to create a clutter-free home?  Struggling to keep up with your home organization?  These do's and don'ts will help you organize and declutter your bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, closet, and your whole home.

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