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10 Foolproof Ways to Reduce Clutter

reduce clutter


Amy from Angel in Your Pocket asked question on twitter that I knew would be impossible to answer in 140 characters. So I thought I’d give her my best answers right here and share with you.

First of all, I struggle with keeping a clean and uncluttered home as well! I’m a pack rat at heart. I’ve tried to change a bit over the years for my husband’s sake and due to our small living space.

Since it’s a constant struggle, I have to repeat the following motto to myself often:

Evaluate and Eliminate.

By constantly evaluating what and how much we have, I’m able to part with items a little easier. It even works for other areas of life. Try it for yourself!

Here are 10 foolproof ways to Evaluate, Eliminate, and Reduce Clutter:

1. Don’t keep it just because it’s sentimental.

If it’s sentimental but not useful, take a picture, showcase it in a beautiful frame and get rid of it! You and others can actually admire it on a daily basis rather than keeping the item tucked away in a closet.

2. Donate on a regular basis.

Keep a giveaway box at all times and then find a donation center to utilize. I’ve previously mentioned 10 ways you can sell or donate items to clean out your house and simplify your life.

3. Sell things you don’t need and make some extra cash in the process.

The link above lists a few avenues for making money on those little things cluttering up your home.

4. Don’t go shopping.

Seriously. Just don’t!

Easier said than done, right?!

There are certainly items that we really do need. If you are honest with yourself, though, the majority of purchases you make are probably unnecessary. You may shop for leisure. You might want to upgrade and get the latest and greatest gadget. You just have to buy that cute outfit because it’s a good deal!! I like shopping as much as the next person, but when I refrain, my house thanks me!

5. Use what you have. 

This can be applied to so many aspects of  life (cooking, clothing, etc.) but let’s focus on home decor for the moment.

  • Instead of buying new home decor, consider moving your furniture, knickknacks, blankets, etc. to a new location in your home.
  • Use paint to bring new life to old furniture.
  • Think up creative ways to re-purpose what you already have.

Sometimes a new arrangement can completely transform the look of a room.

6. Implement a trial period mentality.

We are in the process of putting our home on the market and one of the greatest (and hardest) things we’ve had to do is pack up some of our belongings for storage. We only kept the things we use on a daily basis. It’s surprising how many things I’ve been keeping around “just in case”. I’ve come to realize that I don’t need, want, or love any of those things.

If there’s something you’re hesitant about getting rid of, consider storing it in a special place for a specific time period. If you haven’t needed it by the end of that time, sell or donate it.

7. Keep a gift list.

If you’re family gives gifts at birthdays, Christmas, etc. and celebrating in an alternative way is not an option, keep a list of items you’d like to get as a gift. You know you’ll be receiving a gift at some point during the year so make sure that item is useful to you. If you buy everything that you want or need, the gift giver may struggle to find something for you and there’s a high probability that you’ll receive something that will just clutter your life and home. Have an ongoing list for when that special someone asks you what you want.

8. One thing in, One thing out.

This advice has been given time and time again. It seems so simple, yet it can easily be overlooked “just this once!” The things is, “just this once” becomes the norm rather than the exception.

You must be intentional about removing an item every time you bring something new into you home.

Keep a box or bag somewhere in your home to put items you no longer need. When the box is full, drive to the donation center or stick it in the yard sale corner of the garage. When you get a new black shirt, get rid of the old faded shirt. When your kids get a new toy, help them pick out a toy that they’ve outgrown. Be intentional.

9. See your “valuables” through someone else’s eyes.

Have a trusted friend come over to help you see your home as they do. Ask them what stands out and doesn’t look great in your home. Ask them to be honest and then TAKE their advice. If it doesn’t add value, give it away or sell it.

It may be hard, but you’ll be glad when the clutter is gone.

10. Get a new perspective. 

Visit a homeless shelter, spend time with someone who’s been down on their luck, or even visit a third world country. When we personally invest in the life of someone who’s struggling for food, water and shelter on a daily basis, our “stuff” suddenly becomes less important and much easier to eliminate.

So, what tips do you have to reduce clutter in your home? Share your tips in the comment section or on Facebook!

  • mandi@itscome2this August 3, 2010, 6:47 am

    Great list Christine! I look around my house so often & think “what in this world” – why do I have all this!! I have been keeping a gift list for a few years now & I love it. I’ve learned it’s so much better to be honest & specific otherwise you’ll end up with things you don’t need & won’t use!

    • iDreamOfClean August 3, 2010, 8:46 am

      So true!! And as a gift giver, I’m thrilled when someone knows what they want or need!!

    • Julie Bagamary August 4, 2010, 6:58 am

      Great tips. We use the top of the dryer for no longer wanted items. About every week, they go to the thrift shop.

  • Alicia's Homemaking August 3, 2010, 8:18 am

    Great post!
    Hm, a gift list. I feel like most of the things on my gift list would be too expensive…like a kitchen aid mixer or a wheat mill. Or an ice cream maker. Or a pasta machine.
    Haha, are you sensing a trend?

    • iDreamOfClean August 3, 2010, 8:45 am

      lol!! hmm…maybe gift cards? and then save them for a few years??? :-) I like the expensive stuff too!!!

    • allison August 8, 2012, 9:16 pm

      I’ve been asking for “experience” presents. For example, a gift card for a pedicure, zoo tickets for the kids birthdays, ect.

  • oh amanda August 3, 2010, 8:40 am

    Really really great list. I love the idea of taking a pic of something sentimental. I first saw this with a child’s “blankie”. They took a pic of the kid w/the blanket, then used the actual blanket as a background of the picture. What a beautiful sentimental and NON-CLUTTERY way to keep a memory!

    • iDreamOfClean August 3, 2010, 8:44 am

      How creative!!! Actually using the item as a background is a great idea!

  • Amy August 3, 2010, 9:36 am

    I love the one thing in and one thing out idea! I tell my kids that but I’ve never thought about doing it for me with clothes/shoes, etc. Thanks!

  • Honey B. August 3, 2010, 10:38 am

    I am ruthless with the sentimental things…pictures are really the best way to remember something, but I go toe-to-toe with my husband on that…so we’ve compromised that sentimental things (old art projects from grade school, etc.) have to be packed into totes that we keep in our basement storage. The totes keep the basement from being a disaster (plus they were a breeze to move when we moved into this house!) and packing the sentimental items meant we could keep them, but they weren’t cluttering the rest of the house. We both have several totes each, and this system makes both of us happy!

    • iDreamOfClean August 3, 2010, 1:50 pm

      Your system seems fantastic to me! Having a great relationship with your husband is much more important than cleaning/organizing/etc. any day!!

  • Tracy @ Hall of Fame Moms August 3, 2010, 6:20 pm

    You sound like me! Consider this “stumbled”! And thanks for the comment on my blog earlier ;)

  • Alexia August 4, 2010, 12:04 am

    All of your tips are great (and some of them I need to put to use in our home), but I especially love the last one! Seeing someone living in worse off condition is a great motivator. I have lately done just that and I’m looking at my house with new eyes!

  • Annie Kate August 4, 2010, 5:35 am

    Oh, thank you!

    One of my summer goals has been to declutter after two years of not doing much because of illness. Last wee I fell off the decluttering bandwagon, but you’ve given me motivation again.

    We used to move a lot and have used pictures for sentimental things many times. It’s a great solution.

    Annie Kate

  • Leanne August 6, 2010, 1:49 am

    Great ideas. I’m hosting We’re Organized Wednesday and would love for yo uto join the party. You can add your link through Saturday. There’s a great giveaway too. Hope to see you there.

  • Leanne August 6, 2010, 11:45 pm

    These are such great ideas. I’m glad you were able to share them at We’re Organized Wednesday. I hope to see you at the next party. You’re entered for the giveaway too.

  • Andrea @ Simple Organized Living August 8, 2010, 10:55 pm

    Thanks for stopping by my website..it’s almost scary how similar our posts are!

    I teach workshops on these “fool-proof” ways all the time…but I guess they are not really fool-proof unless you are willing to put a bit of effort in!

    • iDreamOfClean August 9, 2010, 8:14 am

      That’s the truth, isn’t it!! We must be on to something though :-) But, you are soooo right about putting in the effort. That’s the hard part!!

  • skoots1mom August 17, 2010, 11:16 am

    i do several of those ‘clutter’-outers, too….
    great job getting it done…
    my 1st time @ Amy’s meme

  • Marianne Aanderbakk August 18, 2010, 12:23 am

    I really like your list and if I had sat down to make one myself it would probably look very similar. When I moved here I left all I own at my parents house and I know that I will most likely get rid of most of it when I move back because I just don’t need it anymore. Living here while knowing that we are not here to stay has thought me to live with less and get rid of more.
    Still need to sit down to write to my family back home to not send me more stuff for Christmas, but instead send me money for activities and adventures or food that we miss. Yet another thing for my todo list.

    • iDreamOfClean August 20, 2010, 8:23 pm

      It’s so freeing to realize that we don’t need a lot of “stuff” isn’t it?! You’re right about the gift delimma though…hope it goes well for you!

  • cristin @ simplified bee August 18, 2010, 12:25 pm

    Great tips… I ask my clients to answer the same questions when de-cluttering. Love the one thing in, one thing out rule – great for shoes, clothing and toys.

    Terrific blog!

  • amy @ New Nostalgia August 23, 2010, 4:43 pm

    you won most clicked on links at “AP Tuesdays!” You will be featured tomorrow! Thanks for linking up such a great post..

  • brooke schaefer August 24, 2010, 12:17 pm

    Great advice! How honest and true. I really enjoyed reading your post. Your very honest and straightforward. As a former frequent shopper I learned that not going to the mall or to putting myself in shopping situations was the best way to control my budget.

  • Jessica August 1, 2012, 8:22 pm

    I watch Hoarders on TLC and I do a clean sweep on my house. I love all the pointers! Great ideas. I have had a tub for about 3 years now and everytime it got full I took it to my mom to put out at her work for the less fortunate to get things they might want or need. But when it gets close to yard sale time (we have a 20 mile yard sale every year in October called Octoberfest) I start packing stuff up and storing it at Moms for a mega yard sale. My husband makes fun of me and tries to say I hoard. Whoa buster. lol He’s a pack rat! I get rid of stuff all the time. But I need to try the not shopping thing big time.

  • allison August 8, 2012, 9:21 pm

    About every other year I have emptied everything out of the closet- EVERYTHING – and pile it on the bed. Then each item is picked up and it is decided if it goes back in. I get rid of a lot more items that way then if I just glance through the rack. It also gives me a chance to try items on before they go back in. Having a friend over that helps to give fashion advice makes some decisions easier. Now if I could just get my husband to do his side!

  • Misfit Mama September 27, 2012, 11:48 am

    I really need this! Not only are we having a birthday party this weekend, but we’re preparing for Sukkot (having people over all week!) AND possibly a big move! I can’t believe the stuff we packed & moved from our previous big move. And that’s AFTER getting rid of tons of stuff!

  • Charlotte November 15, 2012, 2:44 am

    Thank you for this list. I am a writer and keep a lot of paper. I recently bought a document scanner that fits in my purse – it scans photos also. I think I will buy a larger one to scan memoribilia, put it in chronological order and start scanning. I have five totes full of “stuff” that could be eliminated. :) I am 66 years old and am working hard to eliminate all the things I’ve collected over the years. Not a great place to be- wish I hadn’t collected so much. I have been giving all the gifts I’ve received back to the givers, mostly my children. My mother did that and we used to laugh about it, now I’m doing it. I want only enough stuff to carry in my little Kia Soul. :) It is a wonderful feeling to be free of “stuff”…

  • pat December 26, 2012, 11:50 am

    I know this wouldn’t be practical for everyone, but this is what changed my life: We went full time in our 19 foot motorhome (Roadtrek) for 7 years. (No closet-only a cupboard shelf for clothes, another for cooking utensils, small shelf for bathroom supplies, kitchen counter was 5 ft long and this included the stove of 2burners, sink, microwave, fridge. You get the idea.)

    Everrything had to be put away immediately in its’ own place. If it didn’t have a place, it couldn’t stay.

    Really, a simplified lifestyle that gave us so much leisure time and sense if freedom.

  • Laurie February 2, 2013, 10:34 am

    Hello, my name is Laurie…and I am a horder. ….well I could be really easily if I let myself. ;) I have HAULED so much junk (that remained in boxes) from house to house for so many years. The movers from the last house were beside themselves when they were done and saw how much one young family had collected!! Well I thank my lucky stars that I came upon a maid that allows me to pay her in half cash/half “stuff.” Anything, used clothing…toys..shoes, you know basic patio sale items. We are about to move again and I am so amazed with how much less stressful it has been when not worrying how I’m going to move and store SO MUCH STUFF!! Love, love my paired down home!!! :)

    • iDreamOfClean February 5, 2013, 1:45 pm

      My family was just moved and I was thinking about this exact thing! Our moving truck was packed without an inch to spare! Literally. I was thinking about all the things we’ve gotten rid of recently (and some of the things that I *should* let go of) and realized that it would cost a lot of hard earned money if that truck would’ve had to make two trips all because of junk that would just be stashed away somewhere. Moving really does put some things in perspective. So glad you loving your streamlined home!!!

  • Laurie February 2, 2013, 10:40 am


  • Kelly February 28, 2013, 8:06 pm

    You hit on so many points that I need to work on! Thank you very much :)

  • Pfister Faucets April 3, 2013, 9:59 am

    Thanks for sharing your tips. We thought they were so great, we included one in our spring cleaning roundup!

  • Rita Williams January 26, 2014, 8:14 am

    I love garage sales and auctions. My kids call me “The Garage Sales Ninja”! I am definitely going to implement the ” one in- one out” rule. I may even upgrade to ” one in- two out”.
    A tip I have is once your children are permanently out of the house, so is their stuff! My motto is ” This is a HOME, not a storage unit.” It can be difficult to enforce but don’t let yourself become the curator of the museum of your children’s childhood . Keep the memories, let them deal with the stuff.