End clutter in 10 steps

I was raised that there is a place for everything and everything in its place. My momma raised us to put things back where we got them from. So for all of my life I have felt that clutter is the devils playground almost. It is where we lose things including our personal sanity. If I lived in clutter I would go mad. My life would be non-stop questions. Where is the internet USB? Where is my wallet? Where is the life that late I led? I find that those who do live in clutter are constantly saying things like “But it’s my mess and I know where everythings.” Yet they rarely do. So through observation and some thought about my life through the years I have come up with 10 steps to end the clutter in an effort to live a more minimal lifestyle.

  1. When you buy, say goodbye! – The other day Crystal and I bought her a new pair of shoes; 5 Fingers by Vibram. I didn’t mind because she had been weight the purchase for more than a month. What I did insist on though is that she get rid of one pair of shoes (preferably the oldest pair she has) in order to make room for the new ones. I did NOT marry Imelda Marcos. If you just buy and never say goodbye you are doomed to start gaining clutter.
  2. A place for everything and everything in its place. – Keys hang on the shelf thingee next to the light switch. Wallet is on top of the dresser next to the pocket knife and chapstick. Pens and pencils are in the cup next to the computer monitor. And the list goes on ad nauseum. You’ll never get out the door and into life if you are always looking for stuff.
  3. Contain…and make it fashionable. – I am not saying support The Container Store or Target or anything like that by buying the cutesy little boxes and storage items. Old shoe boxes will do just fine. But old picture, travel postcards, craft supplies, etc, all look better in storage containers.
  4. One mans junk is another mans treasure. – I love eBay, Craigslist, Amazon, etc, because they allow me to sell things of value that I don’t like or don’t need including the extra TV I thought I needed in our bedroom, all 1,249 CDs and 249 DVDs I once owned, and my entire Encyclopedia Brown book collection. I sold them all and had some money (unbudgeted, mind you) to just spend on fun!
  5. Purging is good for the soul. – Granted I have no scientific evidence to prove this I think a good, solid, cleaning once or twice a year will do nothing but good in guarding against clutter.
  6. There is NO forage in storage. – I refuse to believe there is a positive to storage; facilities, attics, garages, etc. They allow us to overdo holiday decorations, old lawn equipment, boxes of clothes, “antiques,” etc. Nothing we put in storage will sustain us. We simply don’t need it. If we did, it wouldn’t be in storage all year!
  7. Slow and steady win the race. – Don’t feel like you have to go through your home like the tasmanian devil and purge everything. That typically brings about stress and undo anxiety. I like the various TV shows on now that advocate going through one pile a week. Just pile up things or put things in bags or boxes and then go through one box/bag at a time. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take it slow.
  8. eBills and online shopping should take you off the lists. – Since Al Gore invented the ‘net we have been able to view every product offered in every catalog freeing us up from print catalogs. Likewise most major newspapers and magazines have online editions which we can read at our leisure without cluttering up the coffee table (which might mean we don’t need a coffee table at all). Furthermore, most bills can come in email form so there is no need for those annoying window envelopes.
  9. A product should begin with the word multi – A good coffee maker grinds the beans and makes the coffee. A top-notch TV remote operates the TV, satellite, DVD, etc. A day bed can be both couch and bed. Combine your physical good and watch the amount of clutter decrease.
  10. Acknowledge your weaknesses. – I have a weakness for coffee mugs. I love them. I love building memories around coffee mugs; places I have been, cafes I have enjoyed, shows I have seen, etc. But because I have acknowledged my problem I have been able to limit the amount I keep and instead find a smaller memento that takes up considerably less room.

These should get you started with decluttering your life. Did I miss anything? What have you done to rid your life of clutter? What should I be doing more of?


  1. Paula says

    All I can say is… I’m not perfect when it comes to ‘de-cluttering,’ but I have improved over the years! I guess with age comes SOME self-discipline!

    • says

      You are very right Paula. A lot of times the younger we are the more we feel we have to surround ourselves with for various reasons; self-assurance, signs of success, creature comfort, tradition, etc.

      But as we get older we start to realize what truly has meaning in our life and what we need -vs- what we want.

      Thanks for joining the conversation!

  2. Brandy says

    I love this! I tend to lose my mind when things start to clutter or get out of organized control. I have a dream that I would beable to go door to door and clean every home and yard! In fact I make it a routine of mine to go room by room once a month and do a deep down clean/purge/file things away kind of thing….but of course with three kids and another on the way, once a month sometimes turns into once every couple months lately. But this has encouraged me to get things back in order, thanks Drew! These are great tips and info!

    • says

      You are so welcome Brandy. I don’t have the same dream simply because I would simply get angry at folks and that isn’t good either. But hey…with 3.5’ish’ kids, once every few months is astounding!

  3. Bubblesthg says

    I agree with you totally. My attic has become the catch-all for everything I don’t want to see in my house or garage. My mentality is “out of sight, out of mind.” This causes more stress down the road when I open a closet and see the clutter again. I really need to follow these steps and get rid of things that I haven’t used in a year. I do that with my clothes (so I can just go out and buy more). Now that I have said this, the trick is actually doing it! I need to get motivated….maybe the cooler weather will help!

    • says

      You said it Bubbles; “catch-all.” What is ironic is that our attics and basements and garages catch everything but the emotion, the memories, the actual feelings behind the “things” and the accumulated clutter. Imagine if you just started taking a photo of some of those things and then jotting down the memory associated with it; a journal, of sorts. It takes up a LOT less space…I mean, if that method works for you. Because it may not be on your mind now – the clutter, I mean – but it will when it grows out of control and starts commanding your home and your behaviors.

      I think cooler weather does help cause I know how hot an attic can get in the summer. Just take your time, set some goals, and go for it!

  4. says

    We have 2.5 large attics in our home and use the smallest 1(not the half) for seasonal decorations for inside our home as well as a small amount of camping and hunting gear. That’s it! Nothing hidden under the bed or crammed in a “coat closet.”

    However, I may have a few things in a drawer here and there and a couple tools in my garage I don;t use all the time, but they are nice when the time comes as I do all my own home maintenance and building, ALL OF IT. I have a couple universal remote controls, old cell phones, patch cord wires of various fittings and uses I have saved for that “you never know when” moment. Oddly enough, those moments have ceased to appear.

    I have listed many items for sale on Craigslist and sold/bartered a few things.

    Thanks Drew, thanks for the work I never realized I had ahead of me……now where is that Craigslist user name and password…..argh……..it’s around here somewhere…………

  5. FSU Sharon says

    I’m totally trying to declutter my house! We are planning on moving back to our hometown and I simply don’t want to lug all the crap we’ve accumulated over the years to a new home. The “decluttering” process is going relatively smoothly, albeit slowly. The one major obstacle is that I’ve got bags of clothes my girls have outgrown stored everywhere and anywhere you can imagine. I just can’t bring myself to donate them yet though bc I know I’m not done having children…

    • says

      I think decluttering always go slowly Sharon. Just think, it took you X amount of time to acquire it so it will take you at least that long to donate, give away, or throw it away.

      In regards to not being done with children, here is what I would do. Go through the clothes real good. Think about whether or not your current kids really ever wore them. Discard those as well as any that are just not in the best of condition. Keep only what you think a new child will wear (be very reasonable) or that is in good shape.

  6. Anonymous says

    Twice a year our family goes through every closet in the house and purges anything that didn’t get used the previous six months.  The first time we did this is when we made the big move from WI to NC.  I agree; a good purge is good for your mental stability and is cleansing to the soul.  Our children are actively involved in this and with the exception to a few “but Grandma gave this to me” we have been mostly successful.  Great post – thanks for sharing.  I have to admit though, I love The Container Store.  hehehe!

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