Learning how to reduce clutter is one of the best things you can do for your home and your sanity. For many of us, getting rid of clutter is also one of the most challenging tasks we do.
Too often we think of reducing clutter as a project, something we need to schedule an entire afternoon (or even a weekend) to do. Then we put it off because we’re too busy to find the time we think getting rid of clutter requires.
The result? Our homes get even more chaotic, our closets and cupboards and drawers get crammed full of more stuff, and it feels like we’ll never be clutter-free.
Worse yet, we feel like failures, and every messy surface, every pile of junk seems to confirm this. Home stops feeling like a refuge and more like a personal accusation.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
A Clutter-Free Home Is Possible
By changing how you think about reducing clutter, and performing a few quick daily tasks, you can free yourself from disorder and get a clutter-free, comfortable home.
First, Change Your Mindset
If you’ve ever tried shedding a few pounds, you know it wasn’t an overnight process, but a series of choices made one at a time, day after day until you reached your goal. Then, having achieved your goal weight, you must continue making conscious choices — though not as many, or as rigidly as before.
Getting rid of clutter happens the same way.
Far too often we think of reducing clutter as a one-time event, but you don’t lose weight (or train for a 5k, write a research paper, or plan a wedding) all in the course of one long afternoon or weekend. You do it a little at a time, methodically. That’s how you need to work at reducing clutter, too.
Next, Adopt This Routine
When you begin thinking of reducing clutter as a process, every step you take toward your goal is empowering. The key is don’t overthink it.
If your home is particularly chaotic, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But that’s like focusing on trying to lose 50 pounds at once, rather than focusing on one pound at a time.
The steps in this routine address the worst cluttered areas in most homes. If you need a more thorough, room-by-room plan to get rid of clutter, check out my free home organizing series.
How to Reduce Clutter: 5 Daily Steps
1. Make Your Bed. Seriously.
Bear with me. When your bed is unmade, your entire bedroom looks like a mess. Sure, you can close the door so you don’t see it. But, at the end of a long day, you’re left with a disheveled bedroom that reinforces the fear you can’t get your home under control.
I’ve written before about how making your bed can change your life — that’s particularly true when you’re committing to reducing clutter throughout your home. Starting your day by making your bed sets your intention to be a tidy person. It only takes two or three minutes. Don’t skip it.
2. Get Rid of Bathroom Counter Clutter
A cluttered bathroom counter attracts grime and looks horrible. It’s also more difficult to clean. Making a point of keeping your bathroom counters clutter-free instantly improves how it looks and can make getting ready easier, too.
- Throw or give away products you don’t like or never use.
- Assign everyone a bathroom drawer or basket for their toiletries. If you’re short on cupboard space, use wall-mounted baskets instead.
- Keep duplicate or extra supplies (besides toilet paper) elsewhere like a shelf in your pantry or even a box under the bed.
- Don’t leave styling tools on the bathroom vanity. A wire-mounted rack inside the cupboard door gets them out of the way and can handle the heat from ones you just finished using.
- Be minimalist with the decor. Bathrooms are germy places, so don’t clutter the counter with knickknacks that just attract hair and grime. No one’s really expecting a visual treat when they’re in there, anyway.
A clean bathroom counter breaks the clutter blindness we sometimes develop. Soon, your brain will start reminding you of other things you should put away after using them — like the oven mitts you wore while cooking, or the coat you tossed on the dining table when you got home from work.
3. Keep the Kitchen Sink Empty at ALL Times
You will never, ever have a clutter-free kitchen if your sink is continuously full of dirty dishes. Why? Because the next time someone uses a plate, they’re going to set it on the kitchen counter since there’s nowhere else for it to go.
- If you have a dishwasher, make a point to empty it first thing in the morning. It literally takes five minutes to do it, so get it done while the coffee brews or the kids are getting ready for school.
- Keep dishwashing supplies handy. A soap-filled dishwashing wand makes it easy to clean plates and glasses right away.
- Wash dishes and cookware immediately after meals or snacks. Putting it off leads to dirty stuff piling up in your sink.
No one feels sorry about adding one more thing to a pile. Enforcing an empty kitchen sink rule means everyone must deal with their dirty dishes right away, leaving you less work to do.
4. Process Paperwork PRONTO
Dishes aren’t the only things that multiply on kitchen counters. So does paperwork. The mail, newspapers and store circulars, and notes from your kids’ school — all can make an otherwise clean kitchen look like a mess.
Make processing paperwork a daily habit by making it an easy thing to do.
- Keep a shredder near your kitchen trash can, so you can quickly dispose of sensitive documents.
- Sign permission slips right away and put them in your child’s backpack.
- Schedule payments for bills as soon as they arrive — most online bill-paying systems let you pick a date in the future if necessary.
- If you still write checks to make payments, do it right away — you can always wait to mail it off until payday, but you’ll have dealt with the paperwork.
5. Get Rid of Clutter in ONE New Spot Daily
A “spot” means just that: a counter, a cupboard, a drawer. A spot is not an entire room or floor of your home. No one expects you to declutter your home overnight, so don’t pressure yourself to do so.
Make a 15-minute appointment on your calendar with yourself daily and use that time to address the cluttered spot that’s bothering you the most that day.
- Toss the obvious trash, including anything that’s broken — especially if you’ve been telling yourself you’ll fix it but haven’t made time to do so.
- Gather things that belong elsewhere and set them aside.
- Purge things you’ve been holding onto that no longer suit your taste, that you’re tired of looking at, or that you’re simply holding onto out of guilt.
- Tidy what’s left, focusing on making it not just easy to use but also easy to put away.
Perhaps you’re tired of hunting around for lids to match your food storage containers. Use your 15 minutes to pair all of them up, discard extras, wipe the shelf or drawer where you keep them and put them away neatly.
Maybe it’s the junk on the coffee table that’s driving you crazy? Use your 15 minutes to sort the trash and pick out what belongs elsewhere. Wipe the table top, toss the trash, and put the rest away.
Repeat that daily in 15-minute bursts, and you’ll make huge strides in reducing clutter throughout your home.
Finally, Notice What’s Working
When you’ve been living in chaos for a long time, it’s easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve made. Make a point to notice what’s looking right in your home. Pay attention to what you’ve accomplished.
This is important!
I like to do this following my nightly kitchen cleanup routine. Taking a moment to appreciate what looks good motivates me to keep going.
After that? Well, as the shampoo bottle says, it’s just “lather, rinse, repeat.” Once you’ve got the momentum going and keep at it in daily bursts, you’ll find reducing clutter becomes a habit. Before long, you’ll have that clutter-free home you’ve been wanting.
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