This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure policy here.
Has the clutter produced by your busy family gotten you down? You’ll love these 9 secrets of people with clutter free homes.
Listen to the audio version of this piece below or on The Optimized Mom Podcast.
Back in 2019, my family got rid of nearly everything we owned so we could travel full-time for awhile.
I’ll admit it.
I felt a little bit smug.
I was certain I had conquered the clutter problem that plagued my fellow moms. I’d live the rest of my life blissfully clutter free.
Except that wasn’t what happened.
Even with a minuscule amount of stuff, our hotel rooms, apartments, and AirBnBs looked cluttered a lot of the time.
And once we settled down in Las Vegas last year, it took a lot of deliberate care to refurnish a home without cluttering it up again.
You see, minimalism isn’t something that you do one time.
Minimalism requires maintenance.
The good thing is, that if you know the secrets, maintaining a clutter free home is pretty easy.
Today I’d love to share the hacks I gained from lots of trial and error: 9 secrets of people with clutter free homes.
Keep Flat Surfaces Clear
I think this tip is so important that I wrote an entire blog post about it.
The flat surfaces in your home should all serve one of 3 functions:
- display items that you think are beautiful
- store items that you use daily
- hold items that you are using right this minute and will put away when you’re done
If we could stick to these rules, our homes would look awesome. Of course, this means that the Kitchenaid mixer you only use at Christmastime can’t be on your counter…
My FREE Declutter Jump Start helps you build a 10-minutes-at-a-time decluttering habit while you play Bingo.
Have a Home for Everything
Yes, the Kitchenaid mixer needs a home somewhere out of view, and so does everything else that you own.
If you’re finding that you don’t have room to put things away, the hard truth is that you probably have too much stuff.
If you have some typical spots where clutter collects, consider mindfully making a home for that clutter. The junk drawer is a terrific example of this–a place where all those little bits can live together out of sight and be found quickly.
I also love having a decorative paper box to hold any papers I haven’t been able to scan yet and magazines or catalogs I haven’t yet had a chance to read. The box is relatively small, so I have to clean it out regularly, and I can always put my hands on any paper I need within a few minutes.
Have a System for Paper
It’s challenging to have a clutter free home if you haven’t created a system for managing your paper.
Ideally, you’ll want to limit the paper that enters your home as much as possible.
- Opt out of junk mail and catalogs whenever possible (this also has the added benefit of making you want less new stuff).
- Get in the habit of only touching paper once (throw junk mail in the trash as soon as you come from the mailbox, sign permission slips and return them to your child’s backpack as soon as they hand them to you, etc.)
- Create a digital filing cabinet to manage most of your paperwork rather than keeping physical copies.
Create Barriers to Buying New Stuff
Stores make it super easy for us to part with our money:
- they send us emails with hand-picked items we might like based on our purchase history
- websites store our credit card information, so future purchases take just one click
- stores let us “tap to pay” using our phones or cards that get to stay in our wallets
All this convenience is great, but it does make it awfully easy to get overloaded with stuff.
There are all sorts of ways to give yourself a little bit of time to think before you buy. You might create a shopping list in advance and only purchase what is on your list. You might choose not to store any credit card information on shopping websites.
My favorite barrier is just requiring myself to wait 24 hours before clicking “Buy Now”.
That gives me time to decide it I truly need that thing that I want.
One In, One Out
For anything that I do bring into my home, I try to have a one in, one out policy.
Bought a new t-shirt?
One t-shirt from my closet goes.
Sometimes it’s tricky to do a one-for-one relationship. I might truly feel that I’d benefit from having 2 sweaters, for instance. In that case, I still try to find another article of clothing or some other possession that I can let go.
Have a Donation Box
I keep a donation box in my closet at all times. This way, when it’s time for something to go out, I have a place for it to live. When that box is full, it’s time to donate it.
In addition to the box, you’ll want to have a plan for where your stuff will go when it leaves your home.
My homeschool group does a swap day several times a year, so our toys, books, and outgrown clothes always have a place to go.
Take time now to learn about charities in your area that accept used items. (Some will even come to your house to pick them up)!
Make a note of neighborhood garage sales and local Facebook marketplace or Buy Nothing groups.
You want it to be easy to donate or sell things when the time comes.
Buy (and Keep) What You Actually Need
Lots of our clutter comes from buying (and keeping) things just in case.
- I need 6 extra sets of towels in case someone visits.
- We’ll keep an extra case of glassware in case we decide to throw that fancy Christmas party.
- I don’t need a fancy dress for anything, but the price is great–I’m sure I’ll wear it sometime…
Get in the habit of only buying things that you actually need right now or very soon.
If you have items around your house that you haven’t used in 6 months and have no active plans to use in the next six months, get rid of them.
Purge Before Holidays, When the Seasons Change, and When Life Changes
Certain times in our lives bring with them lots of stuff (new baby in the house, anyone?)
Actively preparing for these seasons and adjusting both before and after they happen will assure that our homes aren’t overrun.
If you know you have a lot of gifts coming into the house soon, because of a shower, for instance, or because you know the grandparents will go overboard at Christmas, be proactive and make space in advance.
When the season changes, take a hard look at your stuff before you put it away. Will you really use that ratty pool float next summer? Do your winter boots need to be replaced?
It’s hard to say goodbye to certain seasons of our lives, but a little honesty and self-reflection can go a long way towards keeping our homes decluttered. Not having any more babies? Let the maternity clothes and onesies go. No longer skiing in the winter? Say goodbye to all that gear in your garage. No time to make jewelry any more? Clear out that craft room.
Let go of the old stuff to make more breathing room for the new you.
I regularly talk about the need for a ten-minute pickup where all the members of your house get together and return items to their homes.
I am a big fan, too, of the 10-minute declutter session.
Choose a teeny, tiny area–one section of a table or piece of a drawer, for instance–set your timer, and make speedy decisions regarding what needs to be put away, put in the trash, or put in your donation bin. Declutter like this for ten minutes daily, and you’ll have spent nearly 60 hours decluttering by the end of the year.
Just imagine how awesome your home will look.
If you’d like help establishing this 10-minutes-at-a-time decluttering process, check out my FREE Declutter Jump Start! You’ll declutter 25 common clutter spots and make a plan to set yourself up for clutter-busting success. Click here to grab it!
No one was more surprised than I was that maintaining clutter free homes was so tricky over the long haul. I hope these 9 steps are as life-changing for you as they’ve been for me!
Do It Now:
- Grab a box for items you no longer need and decide where your stuff will be donated or sold.
- Visit this site to opt out of marketing junk mail.
- Set your timer for 10 minutes and clear off one small flat surface.