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 household tasks.
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 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.
How to Get A Clutter-Free Home
You can get a clutter-free home by spending an entire weekend or even a week purging the excess, but it won’t take long for the clutter to pile up again.
If you want to get and keep a clutter-free home, you need to change how you look at what’s involved in decluttering.
DON’T Think of It as 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 day after day. Then, having achieved your goal weight, you have to continue making conscious choices — though not as many, or as rigidly as before.
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 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.
DO Think of It as a Process
When you begin thinking of reducing clutter as a process, every step you take toward your goal is empowering. Recognizing, dealing with, and preventing clutter become second nature.
Follow the steps below to reduce clutter one step at a time — consistently — and you’ll achieve your goal.
How to Reduce Clutter: 5 Daily Steps
1. Make Your Bed. Seriously.
Stop rolling your eyes and bear with me. When your bed is unmade, your whole bedroom looks messy. Seeing that kind of mess reinforces the fear that you can’t get your home under control.
Starting your day by making your bed sets your intention to be a tidy person. It gives you a sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning, and again at the end of the day. It only takes two or three minutes. Don’t skip it. (Related: How Making Your Bed Can Change Your Life.)
2. Get Rid of Bathroom Counter Clutter
A cluttered bathroom counter attracts grime and looks horrible. It’s also more difficult to clean. Keeping your bathroom counters clutter-free improves how it looks and makes getting ready easier, too.
- Discard what you don’t like. 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.
- Store extras elsewhere. Duplicates or spare products add to bathroom clutter. Store them in a closet, in your pantry, or even in a box under the bed.
- Don’t leave styling tools on the bathroom vanity. Either put them away after use or install a heat-proof rack inside a cupboard door to hold them. (I use this one.)
- Minimize the decor. Bathrooms are germy places, so don’t clutter the counter with decorations that will attract hair and grime.
Once you get into the habit of putting away toiletries after use, your brain begins reminding you to put away other things, too, like the oven mitts you wore while cooking, or the coat you tossed on the dining table when you got home from work. That’s the first step toward ending clutter blindness.
3. Keep the Kitchen Sink Empty
A sink full of dirty dishes guarantees the rest of your kitchen will start getting cluttered. 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.
- Empty the dishwasher or dish rack every morning. It literally takes five minutes to put away clean dishes, 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.
- Don’t put off doing the dishes. Once you’ve finished a meal or snack, wash those dishes or load them into the dishwasher. Although you should never wash a pot or pan while it’s still hot, by the time you’re done eating, it should be cool enough to clean.
(Related: Nightly Kitchen Cleaning Routine.)
4. Declutter ONE New Spot Each Day
A “spot” means just that: a counter, a cupboard, a drawer. A spot is not an entire room or floor of your home. Don’t pressure yourself to declutter your home overnight.
There are a few ways to choose which spot you should declutter. Ultimately, it comes down to your personality and home. Here are some ideas.
- Does clutter make you feel embarrassed when other people see it? Choose spots in rooms that drop-in visitors will see, such as the pile of shoes in your entryway, the stack of laundry on the living room sofa, or the counters in any bathroom they might use. (Related: Organizing Guest Bathrooms.)
- Does clutter make it difficult for you to relax? Focus on spots where you like to hang out, like the coffee table in the family room, the table next to your favorite reading chair, or the nightstand in your bedroom. (Related: Stop Keeping These 9 Things in Your Bedroom.)
- Does clutter get in the way when you’re trying to cook? Start decluttering the kitchen cupboards, so it’s easier to put things away, then work on decluttering your countertops. (Related: Organizing Kitchen Cupboards.)
Once you’ve decluttered the most urgent or annoying spots, move on to organizing other places (not rooms) in your home. Dealing with one cluttered spot each day makes it easy to do the work of decluttering and putting away what you’ve found out of place.
5. Set a Daily 15-Minute Clutter Management Appointment
Chances are you’ve spent a day, or maybe even an entire weekend, decluttering your home only to find clutter piling up again. That’s what happens when decluttering is a project, not a process.
To keep clutter under control without it ever becoming overwhelming, set a daily appointment to manage it before it takes over your house.
Literally, set an appointment. If you use a phone app or planner to track your routine, add decluttering to your daily schedule. If you just go with the flow, make it a pre-bedtime thing. But do it without fail every day.
What to do during your daily decluttering appointment: Grab a laundry basket or another container you can easily carry and start walking through your home.
- Toss any trash you find. You should have a wastebasket in every room, anyway, which makes this is an easy step.
- Pick up stuff that’s out of place. If something’s in the wrong room, toss it in your basket.
- Put things away as you go. If you grabbed shoes in the living room, put them in the closet when you’re in the bedroom. If you find dishes in the bedroom, put them in the dishwasher when you’re in the kitchen.
- Hold family members accountable. If you keep finding your kid’s shoes next to the sofa or toys on the floor, stop putting them away yourself. Have your child earn their stuff back, so they learn that leaving a mess means extra work for them, too. (Related: Chores that Kids Can Do.)
Notice What You’re Doing Well
Make a point to notice what’s looking right in your home. Don’t try to do this while you’re cleaning and decluttering — take a stroll through your place now and then and look for reasons to love it. The more good things you find, the more good things you’ll be inspired to accomplish.