How to Reduce Household Clutter

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To get your home’s clutter under control, stop treating decluttering as an occasional project and make these steps a quick part of your daily process instead.

This photo shows a very cluttered home where random items are crowded on the table and sofa so there is nowhere to sit.

Close your eyes and imagine your home as you’d like it to be. Chances are, it’s serene, clean, and clutter-free. Now, what if you could make your home look like that without feeling overwhelmed, simply because you learned to deal with the clutter and mess in a different, more sustainable way?

Decluttering is Not a Project

If you’ve ever tried shedding a few pounds, you know it wasn’t an overnight process but a series of choices made daily. Getting rid of clutter happens the same way. The problem is, we often think of reducing clutter as a one-time event, but you don’t lose weight (or write a research paper or plan a wedding) in one afternoon or weekend. You do it a little at a time. Methodically. That’s how you need to work at reducing clutter, too.

The Process of Reducing Clutter

Once you stop thinking of decluttering as a project and start viewing it as a process, every effort you make will feel empowering. Instead of seeing the chaos as an overwhelming task, you can begin to see it for what it is: random stuff you can deal with a little at a time. Every time you deal with it, you’re scoring a small win. And those small wins will give you the confidence to keep at it until the two versions of your home — the one you pictured and the one you live in — match.

Step 1. Pick a Spot

Since you’re going to start looking at decluttering as a process, you can stop thinking of tackling entire rooms all at once. Focus, instead, on specific areas in your home where the clutter is bothering or embarrassing you.

Does clutter make you feel embarrassed when other people see it? If so, choose spots in rooms visitors will see—for example, the shoes in your entryway or the laundry on your couch.

Does clutter make it difficult for you to relax? If that’s the case, focus on spots where you like to spend time unwinding. If that’s the living room, declutter the coffee table or your nightstand.

Does clutter get in the way? If cooking is difficult due to clutter, clear off the kitchen counters. If it’s more of a visual clutter problem, move things from the countertops to the cupboard.

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Step 2. Make a Daily Decluttering Appointment

To reinforce your new habit of living in a clutter-free home, set a daily appointment to spend 15 minutes decluttering every day. Use your phone’s reminders or a calendar if you need to, but make a point to work in a new spot every day without fail.

  • Toss any trash you find.
  • Pick up stuff that’s out of place. If something’s in the wrong room, toss it in your basket.
  • Straighten things that stay. Make sure everything else is stuff you want to keep in that spot.
  • Empty your basket. Put away the things you found that belong elsewhere.

Step 3. Don’t Add More

Hold off on any new purchase until you’ve gone through the process of reducing clutter in your storage spaces, closets, and wherever your kids keep their toys. Until you know what you have, it’s too easy to buy duplicates or things you don’t need, thus adding to your home’s clutter. If you can’t avoid bringing home new things, practice the “one in, one out” rule by discarding or donating one existing thing for every new item you bring home.

More Tips for Clutter-Free Living

Remember that reducing clutter is a process, not a project, so the real key to staying on top of your home’s clutter is making simple changes.

Make your bed. As the focal point in your bedroom, a messy bed makes your entire room look cluttered. But — and this is surprising — the very act of making your bed can boost your mood and help motivate you to perform better in every aspect of your daily life.

Get family members involved. You do not have to be solely responsible for decluttering your home. If you’re comfortable with it, get family members involved in reducing clutter. At the very least, ensure everyone’s chores include picking up after themselves and putting their things away.

Stop buying bins. All the organizing gadgets in the world won’t help you if you have too much stuff. Hold off on buying containers until you’ve finished reducing your home’s clutter.

It’s okay to get rid of things. Stop holding onto something you don’t use or like simply because you spent money on them. That money is already gone. Throw or give away things if you don’t enjoy them.

Keep flat surfaces clear. The more visual clutter in a room, the messier it will feel. If the minimalist look isn’t your thing, try to keep flat surfaces in the room’s center — like coffee tables and benches — clear of knickknacks and other possessions.

Give everyone some space. Make sure everyone in your family has bathroom space for their toiletries and towels. Vertical surfaces can provide additional storage if you’re short on drawers or cabinet space. Install hooks for towels and robes — even renters can use damage-free wall shelves and cubbies to increase storage space.

Deal with paperwork ASAP. If you have space, keep a document shredder in the garage to keep junk mail out of your home entirely. If that’s not possible, have a handy mail sorter near your home’s entrance to keep paper clutter from piling up on your counters. Then process it on schedule — the night before trash pickup day is perfect.

Have a nightly routine. Once you’ve gone through reducing your home’s clutter, a nightly habit of scanning your home and dealing with any mess you find can help it stay clean. Found a pile of shoes by the front door? Blankets or pillows strewn on the sofa? Toiletries left out on the bathroom counters? It takes less time to fix a small mess than a big one.

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  1. Jill Nock says:

    The best advice from my mom, early on in my childhood was :- Don’t put down – put away, this really works, especially as l share a house. Hope this will be of help.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      That is excellent advice!

  2. Ah, the pile of paperwork is my downfall, must try hard to keep on top of it, thanks for the hints!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      It’s one of my clutter nightmares, too.

  3. I do great on some, but see a couple to work on! thanks for sharing!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks for visiting, Samantha!

  4. Janet Vinyard says:

    Hi Katie, Thanks for the great tips! Blessings, Janet

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Thanks, Janet!

  5. Margaret Hawrysh says:

    My best decluttering habit is to put news papers and advertising material into recycling bin. I’m going to enjoy your site.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      You’re absolutely right, Margaret–dealing with newspapers and other paper clutter immediately is the way to keep it from taking over the house. Thank you for visiting! I hope you find lots on the site to enjoy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. What a great post! LOVE it! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. These are good. Clutter is constant, and I definitely need quick easy fixes for some things. I’m working on this bit by bit.

  8. Haley Bradley says:

    These tips would be so easy to do! Thanks for sharing them.

  9. Estefania - The Spanish Mom says:

    I will definitely use these tips! I’m a first-time-mom of a 4 month-old baby so having my house spotless is just wishful thinking! Hopefully I can have it a bit more organized moving forward!

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Don’t pressure yourself — raising an infant is hard enough!

  10. Maria Parenti-Baldey says:

    I like the one about: picking a painful spot daily. I recently decluttered because we are selling our 300acre property. I have kept it more sparce because of it. I like it when it feels clean and tidy. My mantra has been’tidy house tidy mind’. I learned that in baby classes 26 years ago and have never forgotten it. It really helps you to think clearly. Thank you for such great tips.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      “Tidy house tidy mind” is so true — it’s hard to relax in a cluttered room.

  11. Paper work oh paper work, you never seem to stop arriving! Thats the worse thing for me.
    I started making the bed, clearing the sink etc a couple of years ago and it really does work, a couple of areas in the house that look nice is very motivating.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Paperwork is a never-ending intruder, isn’t it? Ugh!

  12. Thanks for the ideas. They are just so amazing. I just bought a new home last month and I want to keep it as clean as possible.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Congratulations on your new home, Nicole! Be sure to check out my big page of printable cleaning checklists to keep it in fantastic shape. ๐Ÿ™‚