How to Reduce Clutter in Your Home

The sheer amount of stuff in our lives can be completely overwhelming. Simply cleaning and maintaining our homes is a job in and of itself. Worse still, once you get behind it seems impossible to catch up. If you’re wondering how to reduce clutter in your home, begin the journey with me here.

How to Reduce Clutter in Your Home…

De-cluttering is essential to creating a space that my family can thrive in. Removing clutter from our home has kept us organized and contributes to a more relaxing, stress-free environment. Over the years I’ve become an expert at creating this simplicity for my family and now I’m sharing my simplification secrets with you!

…With the Art of Simplicity

how to reduce clutterIf you make my easy recipes you know that I worship the art of simplicity. I have a passion for uncomplicated comfort. I’ve shared that passion with my boys and husband and now they’ve built this habit as well.

That’s not to say that when the boys are home from college, running around town, catching up with friends that their rooms are clean. Often nowadays I walk in and there are clothes all over the place. But when they lived under my roof full-time we had rules! And of course consequences.

It’s Not About Perfection

The anecdote above is to let you know it’s not about perfection, it’s about function. So let’s get started!

1. Determine What’s Essential or Do I Use This

“Determine what’s essential” sounds fancy. Basically, this is what I call the “use it or lose it” rule. Your possessions don’t have to be exceptional to be worthy, they just have to be useful. It’s that simple. Forget about asking yourself “do I need this?” because we don’t need 90% of what we have. Instead, ask yourself, “do I use this?” If you don’t, it likely doesn’t belong in your home.

2. Treasure or Trigger?

I remember helping a friend a couple of decades ago. We cleaned out her New York City apartment after she went through a painful divorce. The process required a lot of time, and a lot of sorting and the emotional baggage that some of the items contained was intense. Your space holds stuff, that stuff holds memories, and those memories hold energy. It’s ok to give things away that you don’t resonate with positively. In fact, it’s ok to give away anything! A special family heirloom could be your treasure. It could also be a trigger, an anchor that activates memories you don’t want to hold onto and be reminded of (even unconsciously) every single time you look at it. Making space in your home will make space in your heart. And your brain too.

3. Tackle Types of Stuff, Not Rooms

how to reduce clutterTackling types of stuff rather than rooms will conserve a lot of brain power. This is something I’ve done for as long as I can remember. I take on clothing, for example, so I can get a full inventory of what everyone needs, or rather no longer needs. Same for books. I like to look at all of the books we own in totality to get an idea of what we have and what needs to go. I’ve heard this is a Marie Kondo strategy so I must be doing it right!

4. Do the Visible Clutter Before the Invisible Clutter

I like to work on the visible clutter that’s on surfaces before I do anything else. This keeps areas free to become important work spaces. It will also give you immediate results, or at least results after a couple of hours if your house is really full of stuff and in need of some de-cluttering love.

5. Sort Your Stuff

Sorting is the name of the game when it comes to de-cluttering your home. It’s the first thing I do when I get down and dirty! I make piles for these four types of items:

  1. Keep
  2. Relocate
  3. Giveaway
  4. Discard

We put away the “keep” and “relocate” items, and whatever we’re letting go of into a giveaway box or a trash bag for items we’re discarding. When I sort stuff with the boys in their rooms we also use a recycling bag for unwanted papers.

6. Forget Spring Cleaning, Frequency = Your Friend

Last summer, one of the boys wanted to go shopping for clothes with his friends. I told him I’d help him clean out his closet prior to the shopping trip. An hour later, he and his friend Jack came downstairs with arms full of clothing he had outgrown. Last year he grew 6 inches and is now well over 6 feet tall. We’ve been cleaning out the boys’ closets since they were very little and I’m grateful that this habit has become so contagious that the boys now do it themselves!

7. Less is More

How to Reduce Clutter in Your Home

This is a photo of my favorite neighbor’s pottery cabinet. We did a big clean out of it on New Year’s Day, eliminating four bags of pottery and trays that she took to Goodwill later in the week. She was so much happier with the cabinet after this clean out and reorganization. Having all of these useful items that she loves, at hand and easily accessible, made her more relaxed and optimistic about entertaining. Now it’s full of her favorite beautiful and functional pieces. Cleaning out and editing made this collection feel so much more abundant.

8. Get a Giveaway Pile Going

I have a designated area in our garage for items I’m giving away. First, I offer the neighbors clothing in good condition that the boys have outgrown. I don’t give our neighbors dirty, stained, or ripped clothing, which I use as rags or for patching other clothes. Sometimes these items get thrown away. Store your giveaway pile in the basement, or if you live in an apartment, in the bottom of a closet. All of the leftover items go to a local thrift store.

9. Don’t Let Clutter in

I don’t accept free gifts and other things I won’t use and politely say “no thank you” when stores have promotions. When we’re sent samples or holiday gifts from companies they go in the giveaway pile. Unless it’s wine which is amazing and useful for entertaining. We also don’t go shopping as an activity, and we don’t shop to pass the time, so we don’t end up buying things that are useless. Another habit is that I keep a certain number of hangers in my closet so that when I buy a piece of clothing, I give away something else to keep inventory as low as possible.

10. Use the Buddy System

How to Reduce Clutter in Your Home

Using the buddy system is fantastic because de-cluttering can be emotional. You may want to hire a professional organizer if it’s in your budget. Or, like me, you may want to do these types of projects with a friend. When we were evacuated due to a forest fire in 2017, we stayed with friends. During that time, I helped them clean out their pantry. The buddy system is great for a few reasons. First, cleaning, sorting, and organizing your belongings can be stressful, so having a friend hold your hand is wonderful. Second, it makes the entire process fun and time flies by. Finally, you can also bounce ideas off your friend and they can hold you accountable, asking if you really need to keep something or give you permission to let it go.

Your Tips for Reducing Clutter

If you’re a regular reader here, you’ve experienced the theme of healthy simplicity that is woven into my recipes and my life. Now, let me know how you feel about de-cluttering. What are your biggest challenges? What are your favorite strategies for simplifying your stuff?

You have impacted families, provided education beyond the knowledge of many MD’s and led those with chronic health issues to find healing through nutrition and self-care.


50 responses to “How to Reduce Clutter in Your Home”

  1. Many animal shelters will take old bedding, towels, stuffed animals etc. I just repurposed old sweat shirts and bed pillows into dog beds for my shelter. Made a big dent in my pile of clothes to repurpose.

  2. Hello Elana,
    I am not a “regular” at responding (unfortunately) to your wonderful posts but wanted to say that I thoroughly enjoy the articles you send like this one on de-cluttering and the digital detox – not forgetting the wonderful, delicious, and nutritious recipes you’ve created. Ours is a retired lifestyle but we also take care of our granddaughters (11 and 9 yrs) after school and I’m trying to recover from a couple of viruses that have wiped out my immune system plus the issues this has caused like chronic fatigue, mites that are inhabiting my body because my immune system cannot suppress them – all a result of our conventional medical system. We are slowly trying to change to a Keto diet and your emails are very encouraging…we cannot thank you enough for what you do for us your subscribers  Chag Sameach Tu B’Shvat

    p.s. When we moved our storage to our house from the storage place, we took the excess dishes, pots and pans to the library (they have an area for free stuff for the people) and my husband personally saw a van with several women come by and pick what they needed and said “thank you, we will be able to cook a great Thanksgiving dinner for our family now”. We take other stuff to Good Will and to the Veterans donation center in Knoxville (we live in the mountains of the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and in this community we have ways of providing for those not as privileged as others).

    • Flora, thank you for your amazing comment and for all the care you put into everything. You are such a thoughtful member of your community and I love hearing how involved you are. I feel incredibly lucky to be on this healing journey with you :-)

  3. Hello Elana—
    I have always enjoyed the simplicity of your recipes —so refreshing!! I am grateful and appreciative you have taken the time to write a post on decluttering. I have always valued your insights whether it be food, health, building a new home and beyond. You have triumphed again with your article in simplifying your home.

  4. Elana, you are such a refreshing blessing!… thank you for sharing your de-cluttering tips. For the first time ever I prayed for an inspirational “word” for 2019 – I believe the word HE gave me is, CLEAN – inside and out. So your tips are timely. And as always, your compassion and beautiful heart shine through in your posts. Many, many blessings – Peg

  5. I moved from a house to a 2 bedroom apt. then to a 1 bedroom apt. All along the way giving away and getting rid of. I am still in the 1 bedroom apt and am constantly giving away. I have no idea where the bottom is. But lately I started to see one or two empty spaces (YEAH!!!) But I am still at it.
    I found a place called the “book thing”. You bring your books to their dumpster and they put the books in categories. They have rooms with lots of bookcases and label the book shelves (science, fiction, math, etc) then anyone can come and take the books they would like. So you know your books are being used by people who want them. But I sometimes have to stop, because of the memories. So I take a break for a week or two and then start again. So glad to see I am not the only one with this problem. thank you!!

    • Gail, your story is incredibly inspiring and I am glad we are doing this de-cluttering thing “together” even if it is online and from afar. Thanks :-)

  6. I am going through my house decluttering but finding it difficult to depart with some of my Mother’s Clothes and she made so many quilts. I just don’t know how many I can keep. I have passed quite a few to relatives. Has any one had this problem? Thank you Elana for the great Advice.

  7. It’s always a struggle… and putting things where they belong too.. where is the show “ Tidying Up” that was mentioned?

    • Patricia, if you go to section #3 of this post called, Tackle Types of Stuff, you will find the link to Marie Kondo’s book. Her show came from the book :-)

  8. I just binge watched Tidying Up last weekend and now reading this, I’m inspired to tackle the clothes this weekend. Thanks for the timely article!

  9. HI Elana

    Thank you for this beautifully succinct and do-able set of tips. I find that ‘decision fatigue’ tends to stop the wheels turning, so asking myself ‘Would this be worth packing if I moved house?’ has proved useful; however, ‘treasure or trigger’ has become my new, primary mantra!

    A tip that may help others is that there are organisations that will take fabric and ensure it is recycyled into rags, etc, rather than ending in landfill. Here in Australia, the clothing chain H&M are collection points. Great for clean clothes and linens that are not fit for donation due to wear and tear. A list of easy-to-get-to places that accept different types of donations has also helped me focus on categories of things to move on for a ‘new life’ for them, and me.

    Be well and happy
    Julie (Sydney, Australia)

    • Julie, what a great comment! I love that ‘treasure or trigger’ has become your new, primary mantra! And thanks so much for letting me know that H&M accepts clean clothes that have wear and tear to turn into rags, etc., that is super duper helpful :-)

  10. My trouble is getting everyone on board! They say things like, i paid so much for that, or, I’ve only worn that once, etc…. I try to buy clothing that i can mix and match 6 or 7 items into 12 or 13 outfits, less packing for a holiday! But reading this today I’m am going to print it out and start again . My problem is i get tired very quickly, and over heat because i have MS, but i will give it a good crack lol

    • Trish, I totally agree, getting everyone on board is a big job! Make sure to take your time when you’re doing a cleaning/reorganization of your home since it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. Having a buddy around to help you not overdo it works too :-)

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