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Five Ways to Cut Down on Clutter

You’ve heard the saying before: “A place for everything and everything in its place.

Now, as you can clearly see from my house, I’m not a perfect homemaker. I have three young children and I’m not always as self-disciplined as I’d like to be. However, I do make a concerted effort to keep my home clutter-free and organized.

Here are five things which help me:

1) Ongoing Garage Sale Boxes

I have a designated spot in our home for garage sale boxes. In our current home, this is under the stairs. As I find things we no longer need or use, I start filling up a box. When one box is full, I fill up another. And so on.

Instead of moving an item around from one room to the next when we aren’t using it anymore, I pitch it in the garage sale boxes and it’s out of our way. This method makes preparing for a garage sale quite simple since I already have a huge head start on collecting stuff to sell.

Thinking of having a garage sale? Check out my 10 tips for having a successful garage sale.

2) Annual Clutter Elimination

Once or twice a year, I go through my home from top to bottom and am ruthless about eliminating clutter. Every nook and cranny is cleaned out and every item is evaluated. By doing this on a regular basis, no area of our home ever becomes unmanageable. Rooms or closets might be messy or unkempt at times, but they never get so overwhelming that I can’t deal with them.

3) The No-Pile Rule

Except for my husband’s dresser and our laundry basket, we try to strictly adhere to a no-pile rule. I’ve found that a small pile quickly grows–without any effort. So if you don’t start a pile in the first place, you can avoid a lot of disorganization.

4) In the Door, In Its Place

Instead of piles of paper around from place to place until you have time to deal with them, take care of them immediately. When the mail or other papers come into our home, I go through it right then and there and throw out everything that we don’t have to keep.

Bills go on my husband’s dresser, magazines go in my top dresser drawer to await the next doctor’s appointment, freebies go in the household product stockpile closet, coupons go in my coupon box, and junk mail goes in the trash. Within just a few minutes, the mail is completely dealt with

5) Avoid Clutter-Collecting Furniture

I’m a minimalist, if there ever was one, and I’ve found my utilitarian nature helps avoid heaps of clutter. How? Because we don’t have furniture which tends to be clutter hot-spots for others. This might come as a shock, but even though I have a home business, I don’t have a computer desk. I have a top dresser drawer that I keep a few business-related items in and we have a small filing cabinet–and that’s it.

I’ve found that when there’s no place to collect piles, you are much less apt to make them.

What about you? What are some ways you cut down on clutter in your home?

photo credit: *Ann Gordon

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  • Michelle H. says:

    I also have a no-pile rule, but unforunately I married a hard-core piler and have been unable to reform him!

  • I have more space in my kitchen cabinets because each family member has 1 dinner plate, 1 bowl, 2 cups, 1 salad plate and 1 tea cup. We keep a set of dishes for entertaining too, but that’s it. I can remember when I had several sets of dishes and my sink was overflowing and my cabinets were cluttered. Not anymore.

  • Hope says:

    I have gotten rid of things that I don’t love or use….I learned not to keep things just bc of who gave it to me or when they gave it to me. The amount of space it’s freed up in my house is amazing! Getting rid of the clutter also cuts down on cleaning time! It’s hard with little ones to keep the clutter down…I do try to contain it though to her room! I now have a basket at the bottom of the stairs that all of her stuff gets tossed into & carried up to her room at the end of the day & it really helps!

  • momondealz says:

    I am in the same boat as Michelle in the comment above. One way I have cut down on his piles is by giving him a bucket near the front door; that way at least the pile looks a little neater in the bucket!

    • Kim says:

      @momondealz, I have a box on the entry table for his piles too…but it still gets waaay out of control. I have finally just accepted him this way, and I’m much happier. 🙂

  • Great tips! I have been trying to cut back on clutter too lately. I am shocked you don’t have a desk, wow!

  • charity says:

    love this post well said and great ideas. THANKS for all your hard work and great advice.

  • Anna L says:

    I do the old fashioned “change of seasons” for all of our clothes. It gives me the chance to go through everything and decide if it is worth storing for next winter/summer and then gives me tons of shelf and hanging space for the clothes that I am actually going to wear during the next 6 months.

  • Roberta says:

    What about collectables? How do you keep your house from looking cluttered when you have collectables. I have friends and family that have bought me many ladybugs and I love them. I don’t want to get rid of them but it is hard to find room for them in our small house.

    • Betsy says:

      @Roberta, Try limiting it to a certain number or display some and keep no more than will fit in one small storage box. You can rotate the display periodically.

    • Crystal says:

      Designate a small area to display them, and rotate the items out. Visual clutter is clutter too, and only having a few pieces out really makes you LOOK at each piece instead of seeing a giant cluster of lady bugs. Works at my house

  • Donna says:

    I would love to see how you keep your homeschool stuff organized. Since I began homeschooling a few years ago..that has become quite a challenge for me..and I too am a minimalist at heart. Dealing with homeschool clutter has been quite the challenge 🙂

    • Karen says:

      @Donna, Donna, I totally understand! I keep my homeschool books from my first set of twins so that I can reuse them down the line, but even if I box them up and put them in the garage, I still have a TON of books, papers, binders to deal with. I too am a minimalist, but with homeschooling it just doesn’t completely seem possible!

      One little tip I do love is for craft items. I took a over-the-door shoe rack and I use each pocket for a different type of small item to keep them at our fingertips, markers in one, flash cards in another, scissors in another, glue sticks, etc.

    • Kim says:

      @Donna, Yes, this is a challenge! I keep a binder for each child, and all their current and upcoming worksheets, etc. are kept in that. I also have one cabinet (Ikea) in the dining/school room where I store all our supplies. It’s taken years to get a good system, but for now it’s working. I also have a silverware caddy that I adapted for pencils, scissors, crayons, glue, etc. that keeps all that stuff orderly and in one place. Trying to keep our books down to the two bookshevles we have is probably the most challenging part for me!

  • Melissa says:

    I don’t know about everyone else but I love doing art projects with my kids! The trouble is deciding what to keep and what to throw. So I made a small 3 by 4′ bulletin board in their “center”(a corner of the living room just for the kids) and I let them decide what to keep and what to toss – but the only place we will hang it is the “Art Gallery”. It saves a LOT of clutter lying around and they love getting to make the decision themselves!

    • Allison says:

      @Melissa, Another option before you throw out the artwork is to take a picture of it quick or scan it quickly and then they can always go back and look at it later. You could also then use it as a rotating screen saver of all the artwork using all the pictures. Kind of neat to go back and look through it later and see how they have improved.

    • Kim says:

      @Melissa, I only keep the very best work (like three or four a year), and the rest we photograph. This makes the kids happy because then they can still show grandparents their artwork but I don’t have to store all of their prolific creations!

    • Teegan says:

      I too, LOVE doing art projects with my baby and toddler. What I started doing for Jayden, my toddler, is taking a picture of the art project. I write on the back the “story” or memory during the project, and the date. I photo both sides so when the pics are on my computer I have the journaling right there too. The cool part, is that I made a photo book on Snapfish of all of her art projects. It’s hardback and you can journal and create a beautiful life long memory book of your little ones art— WITHOUT the clutter of keeping every project. I LOVE it. 🙂

  • Angela says:

    Thanks for you tips MSM. Here’s my contribution: Designated toy boxes/baskets to keep the madness to a minimum!
    This way the rooms do not appear overrun by children’s toys, toy boxes are not overflowing & our 4 year old knows where things belong (ie. Dress-up clothes in the toy chest, blocks & LEGGOS in the clear bins w/ lids, sm. toys in the colored baskets on the shelves… etc.) And, if you get nice baskets or storage ottomans for adult spaces, a small space will feel less crowded!
    My favorite places to get inexpensive containers are discount/overstock stores (ie. Marshalls or Ross).

  • Tabatha says:

    To help cut clutter, we have a laundry basket that the boys use to clean up their toys every night and then it goes in their room until they decide to put it away.

  • Heather Nothnagel says:

    Maybe I’m confused….weren’t we supposed to tally up our items to enter into a giveaway today? I haven’t seen a post about that all day. Am I missing something?

  • Brittany says:

    I am a terrible shopaholic and I come from a long line of hoarders. My husband and I just bought our first house and it is much smaller than I expected to buy. Within the last 6 months we have really initiated two rules. One item in=one item out. (Of equal space! and sometimes several items have to go out to keep the balance.) The other thing that I have started for scratching my shopping itch is to hit the grocery stores with my coupons. I only buy what we really and truly will use, but I spend extra time using boards and blogs to compile my lists before I go out. I spend FAR less money and my husband is starting to comment on my upgraded housekeeping skills.

  • Sara says:

    I love Love LOVE your website. Plus, I’m really loving this challenge. I try really hard to keep my house clutter free…but sometimes life gets the best of me. I’m a total believe of “a place for everything and everything in it’s place”. Plus (and this is my husband’s biggest thing he’d want to change about me) I pretty much throw EVERYTHING away. If I don’t think I will use it, or donate it, it goes in the trash.

  • Rachel Knox says:

    One thing that I have found to be good for cutting down excess, clutter, and helps the budget….think about things before you buy them! If you see something you really like at the store, try to wait 24 hrs and then see if you still have a need for it or want it. That helps with the impulse buying! You can also think about if the item is going to contribute in a good way to your house or if it just junk.

  • Julie says:

    no desk! what a novel idea! that is my big pile collector! where does it all go?!?! I will one day find the answer to this question. 😉

    Thanks for the tips!

  • jenn says:

    my kids are SPOILED and have more toys than the local TOYS R US. Have you ever had to clean your childs room and it took you hours..even DAYS to clean and get all the toys to go back with the “sets” they come from? I got tupperware/storage (the big ones 35gal..etc..) containers and sorted out EVERYTHING! So dora with dora…kitchen with kitchen..dress-up in dress-up box. I had extra room in my kitchen. I built shelves and made it easy to get to the boxes (without having to dig them off top of each other). She can only have one thing down at a time. I wish I could post a pic.. it’s SOOO much easier than having to clean up all that mess every week – or so =)

  • Jodi says:

    The shoe organizer that hangs on the door is awesome! I got 2 at Fred Meyer for 8.00 each. I have one closet as a pantry, so I hung one there -each pocket has something different, teas, candy, taco packets, crystal light, plastic forks and spoons for lunches, gum, granola bars, etc. It’s wonderful! Now, the second one I will hang on my daughter’s closet door. I am going to label it as nail polish, hair ties, necklaces, cotton balls, hair pins, brush, etc. Her dresser is a clutter and it’s driving me crazy!! I will breathe after I attack her room.

  • Laura says:

    Great tips!!
    I hope to not rush my next yard sale and be sure to clear my home. It seems like I find things the day after my yardsale that I should have sold!
    Enjoy your blog!

  • Sara says:

    Does anyone else write down recipes on odd pieces of paper or cut them out of magazines or print them off moneysavingmom? Here is how I keep them organized:

    I have a huge binder with pocket dividers labeled, drinks, bread, vegetables, main dishes, cake, candy, etc. When I get a random recipe, I put it in the correct pocket divider. When I get spare time, I type up the recipe and put it in a sheet protector, then put it in the binder in the correct category. That way I never lose those recipes, and the sheet protector keeps them from getting nasty while I’m cooking.

    • Holly says:

      I do the same thing and have for years! It’s so much simpler than anything else I tried. :0)

    • michelle says:


      Most of my recipes are from various websites, big Food Network “Good Eats” fan, so my binder is huge. But I love this system. I’m almost to the point where I would rather switch to several smaller binders that are specialized (breakfast, dessert, meats, pasta, ect). Guess I need to wait for Office Max to have free after rewards binders again 🙂 Love being able just to pop out that one sheet protector page and have it on the counter. And if something spills no big deal, it’s protected.

      • Christy says:


        I also type up recipes or cut and paste them from the Internet and save them as Word files. In Word, I have one folder for recipes. Inside it are several folders — poultry dishes, beverages, breakfast dishes, sides, etc. I type them up (or cut and paste them) into documents that are 3 X 5 index card sized and then I print on index cards when needed. I have a index card box with dividers that I keep them in. This system has worked great b/c I can always print out a new card if one gets spilled on or if a friend asks for a recipe. I can also cut and paste off of magazine sites, like Southern Living, if I find a recipe I like in a mag. instead of spending the time copying it. I can also search within word for documents containing the words “green beans” for example when looking for certain recipes. I do have to admit though that this was my husbands’ idea after seeing my unorganized clippings and handwritten papers from friends (thanks, DH)!

      • beth says:

        @michelle, the internet is such a great resource for recipes! I, too, have oodles of cookbooks, loads of torn out recipes and a bunch of recipes bookmarked online/copied into Word docs.

        One way to declutter your collection of torn out recipes – check the source! We went thru my stash for Mardi Gras themed recipes and found that many of the recipes I had torn out of Southern Living as far back as from the late 80’s have been archived online!!!

    • Christy says:

      @Sara, I keep all my recipes in my laptop in a recipe folder and organize them accordingly. I scan them into my computer or download them off the internet. Then when I’m ready to use one I just bring my laptop into the kitchen with me. Then I don’t have to even deal with paper.

  • Hayley says:

    Hi Crystal,
    I love to read your blog! I would love to hear how you deal with toys? I seem to get rid of toys all the time but still they clutter up my house!

    • Crystal says:

      A post on dealing with toy overload is planned to run sometime in the next week. I’ll be sharing lots of specific strategies we use to keep things simple and paired down when it comes to toys. Thanks for asking!

      • Amy says:

        @Crystal, I can’t wait to read the toy post. Please include info about managing kids clothes (storing clothes for future babies, etc.). Thanks, Crystal. This is awesome.

        • michelle says:

          Also looking forward to this one. Toys have taken over our house with 3 kids (one the first grandchild on both sides and another being the first and only granddaughter on both sides).

    • Dawn says:

      @Hayley, I recently tackled the play room in our house. It actually took decluttering 3 times before I felt like we had done enough. My kids were having a hard time getting rid of some of their items, so I offered to pay them for their toys. I paid them .50 to $1 depending on the item. We are planning a trip for Disneyland in July and I convinced them they would rather have money to spend at Disneyland than stuff the don’t play with that often! The best thing I did was to containerize everything. I have one small bookshelf for books, one container for play food that sits next to our play kitchen, one large tub for dress up clothes. All the other toys are separated into large Rubbermaid tubs that I bought for $4 each. I have 4 tubs and they are only allowed to get one out at a time. If they want something from another tub, they have to put the first one away. Rotating them like this makes the toys more exciting and they play with them more. When a new toy comes in, another has to go out. If the tub is too full to close, than something has to go. It is good for my children to learn that “stuff” doesn’t make them happy. Time spent with a happy mom (happy because all my time isn’t spent organizing stuff) makes them happy!

  • Tiffany says:

    Instead of having all the kids toys out and accessable, I put a lot of toys in a box and then put it up high in the closet, then after about 2 months I switch out the toys and it’s like the kids have new toys! They’ve forgotten about the ones in the boxes and have a blast playing with them. I find that if all their toys are out, they end up everywhere and they never really play with them. Also,this keeps me from being tempted to buy new things for the kids because they’re bored with what they have. (american kids have WAY too many things as it is! the best way to decrease clutter is to stop buying the stuff in the first place!!!)

    • Tammy L says:

      @Tiffany, yes! We switch out toys every week or so and everything not in use at the time is stored in the kids’ bedroom closet.

      Having only one or two things out at a time means that I can also have the boys race to see who can fill their bucket/bag/basket first… and that takes care of toy pickup for the evening!! 🙂

  • Tammy L says:

    Great tips! 🙂 I agree about the computer desk part! It’s not as convenient sometimes, but in order for me to use my computer (laptop) I need to clear/wash the kitchen table and plug it in there. This helps keep the table clean, and even though I still have a small “pile” (recipes that need typed and a few notes) it’s not out of control! 🙂

  • WilliamB says:

    One way I keep clutter and mess down is for things I have multiples of such as plates, have few different types but many of each. So when I bought plates, I bought three sets – then sold the cups and saucers. I have a ton of TellFresh storage containers but only 5 sizes. Things that are the same stack and store better, as does having only a few different sizes. If possible use rectangular or square things, which use space more efficiently than circle or oval or leafshaped.

    Another way is to use see-through boxes to containerize just about anything. Again, I limit the number of sizes, in this case to two. Because they’re clear it’s easy to see what’s inside, because I use only two sizes they stack easily, because they’re rectangular they use closet space efficiently.

    A third way is label, label, label. I like the rewritable labels from The Container Store (link below). They’re pricy and I’ve never seen them used, but mine have lasted over a decade. They’re even dishwasher-safe. Most of mine are on food containers – always label what’s in the freezer! – but I use them for the clear bins as well, if it’s not obvious what’s inside. Such as the difference between spare travel toiletries and travel toiletries for long trips.

    Finally, I use drawer inserts to organize my kitchen drawers. Now it’s easy to grab a rubber spatula rather than a wooden spoon.

    rewritable labels:

  • Ln says:

    One of my rules is “If it takes less than 2 minutes to do, then don’t put it off till later.” So if I’m playing with the kids and I notice something that I could do in less than 2 minutes I do it. That way, I don’t have all of these quick little jobs to do when I’m working on a larger household task.

  • Get Rich Slowly ran a great post earlier this week on “Spending for the Lifestyle you currently have” – meaning you spend your money on what you are right now, not what you hope to be (ie: don’t buy clothes a bit too small hoping to lose weight, don’t buy how to books when you don’t have the time to learn, etc.)

    I think it’s a fabulous mantra for decluttering – Own things for the lifestyle you currently have.

    Though I couldn’t have put it in such concrete terms but this is why I borrowed a wedding dress from a friend – I don’t need to store it now.

    Ohh – and one of the best things I have done lately for decluttering, which is something my husband asked me to do 4 years ago and to my shame I didn’t!!, was to move all our dvds to a big cd wallet and throw out all the cases. Wow what a difference!

    Thanks for the upbeat blog and challenge to live simpler 🙂

    • Wendi Sisson says:

      @Jessica @ Boy Terrain, I do binders/cases to store dvds, cds, video games, etc. But I do keep the original cases stored away because it makes them more valuable for trade-in at Hastings, Best Buy, Once Upon a Child, GameStop, etc.

  • Jeanne says:

    I am having a garage sale in May with our neighborhood. I have got to get started on decluttering my home quickly. I have two boxes out at all times and have been filling them up with things we don’t need. Then I get two empty boxes and start all over again. My daughter (16) has even been going through her room giving me clothes that don’t fit and other stuff she doesn’t want. My little advice is to keep filling up those boxes. Mine are in our bedroom and not hidden. When one is full, I take everything out and mark prices on each item while I am watching tv. That way when the sale comes up, I have my husband set up the tables in the garage a few days early and I can just unpack everything as everything has been marked already. I have to go through the whole house now in one month so I had better get started!! Good luck to everyone.

  • Cate says:

    I second the “no piling” rule! My husband’s a diehard piler. He’s gotten better about it since we’ve been together, but his desk still amasses piles. I try to ignore it, since it’s HIS desk and not bothering me!

    Keeping on top of the mail is key.

  • Meyi says:

    I love your espresso machine, it is gorgeous. Did you get a great deal on it?
    I want one just like it but I am so unwilling to pay the price.

    • Crystal says:

      I wish that were my kitchen; it’s beautiful! I actually got the photo off of CC on Flickr (thus the photo credit).

      (And yes, I should not be coveting here, should I?! I don’t *need* an espresso machine or a beautiful kitchen!)

  • Ellen says:

    I wish I had some good advice but I’m a clutterite myself, learning as I go. I do however (usually) deal with the mail as soon as it comes in. It’s funny you mention that old saying…I was just remembering about that yesterday. My grandfather held to that very much (he knew where things were, everything had a place, he was a big saver too – knew how to get the most of something and reuse it, repurpose it, or do without (remembered the GD.)

  • Annie says:

    Wow! I really need this! I’m overwhelmed by the clutter in our house. I wouldn’t mind to throw a bunch of stuff out, but my husband is a major pack-rat. I am motivated to tackle the piles in our living room though, since the living room was our first assignment!

  • Michelle says:

    I keep a paper shredder in the kitchen. The kitchen is sort of ground zero for all clutter and all initial mail sorting. So all junk mail can go right into the shredder and be done with. I’m not comfortable just throwing away those pre-approved credit card applications. My cousin had one stolen out of her trash can and someone was able to open the card and charge $15,000 on it which caused her huge headaches to try to get things straightened out and delayed the purchase of her house. (She shreds everything and I mean everything now). Having the shredder in my initial mail sorting place has cut down the clutter in our home office tremendously.

    • Karen Barnes says:

      @Michelle, I have the paper shredder near my kitchen as well and shred as I go through the mail each day. It cuts down on clutter immediately and makes me feel our identity is safer.

    • Kim says:

      @Michelle, I gave the shredding job to my son (he’s now eight) last year, and it’s his favorite “chore” now!

  • Emily says:

    Thanks Crystal! I am in the spring cleaning mood right now and your posts are just want I needed to inspire me to complete my home clean-up. Yesturday I finished my office, bedroom, and family/living room. Now all I have to do is tackle the kitchen and our “spare” bedroom (which I am leaving for hubby!). It feels great to clean things out and get organized!

  • Wani says:

    I don’t have a garage sale box but I do make regular drop offs to goodwill every couple of months.

    • Karen Barnes says:

      @Wani, I donate to the goodwill as well. I keep a box in the corner of my bedroom that I add the kids clothes to as they outgrow them. Then when the seasons change I go through all of their clothes and take the box(es) to goodwill. The idea of having a garage sale does not appeal to me. 🙂

      • Christy says:

        @Karen Barnes,

        I have no room for garage sale boxes or piles–townhome, no garage or attic–storing outgrown clothing, etc. in hopes of another child as someone else mentioned so I too, drop off at Goodwill even if it is just one or two things–it does help that I pass Goodwill on the way to grocery shop so it is not out of the way!

      • Ashley Anderson says:

        @Karen Barnes, Instead of immediately donating to Good Will I first take all my kids items by “Once Upon A Child” and my household items by another used item store in our area. It takes about an hour to do and they will usually purchase about 1/4 of the things I bring by, and last visit I put 73.00 in my pocket! It helps, of course, if you can take a few minutes to spruce up your items before you go.

    • Merrilee says:

      @Wani, I’d like to do a yard sale, but living in a row home makes it tricky. Instead, we’ve been donating to Goodwill. I keep a sheet of paper on or near the box in which I’m collecting, and I keep a tally of the items I put in, for tax receipt purposes. Last year our donations were $560! I don’t know that we’d do much better than that with a yard sale. But I’m definitely in need of some major de-cluttering in every part of our home. I’m going to try to keep up with Crystal.

  • Great post! I need to do some serious decluttering! Your tips are great! I spent the past week packing up my parent’s house of twenty-seven years so that they could move to an apartment closer to my family. Lots and lots of “stuff”. Talk about some motivation to get busy around here!!!

  • Pam says:

    Like you, I have ongoing “garage sale” boxes. To make my life easy the day before a garage sale though, I keep masking tape and a sharpie near the box and I price each item before I put it in the box. Then, for a garage sale, all I have to do is put the items out – they are already gathered and priced. Makes a garage sale a breeze and keeps extra clutter out of my house!

  • Emily says:

    Great Suggestions – that clutter free furniture rule really made me smile. My husband recently wanted to get a kitchen island and I didn’t think that was such a good idea because it would become a clutter magnet. (o;
    My husbands dresser is a pile too. heh heh

  • Eric says:

    It is insane to me that you don’t use a desk to manage this site! I’m sure you use a lap top and the kitchen table, but I could not imagine not having a work space to do all that you do. You are definitely one organized person! Keep up the good work, I’m enjoying this series of posts.

  • Julie M says:

    I keep a paper grocery sack at the end of our kitchen counter which is where I usually go through the mail. All the junk mail, empty envelopes, etc. go straight into the bag which goes to our recycling bin before trash day. I also keep a paper grocery sack next to my chair where I read and all magazines and catalogs go directly there for recycling when finished.
    I am looking for a way to organize the bills and mail waiting for action. Right now they just pile up on the counter. I was thinking of a hanging shoe organizer behind the door. Any other ideas?

    • michelle says:

      @Julie M,

      I have a bulletin board right next to my main calendar. When I get a new bill the due date goes on the calendar and then the bill gets pinned up on the bulletin board in due date order. I put the stamp on the envelope and stamp it with our return address before putting it up so everything is ready when I get ready to send out the bills. Extra stamps and return address labels are also pinned up there. I would much rather have the board up there looking at me daily instead of a box that could get lost or forgotten about.
      I would also recommend shredding the junk mail that has personally identifiable info on it.
      Recycle centers are huge magnets for identity theft people. Just think about everything they could get from a bag of junk mail (pre-approved credit card offers, extra pages from bank statements with your account number on the page) add up all the stuff if they just take the whole bag and there is more then enough information to do alot of damage.

    • Betsy says:

      @Julie M, I only pay bills twice a month and mostly online. I have a list of all the bills I pay on the 1st and on the 15th so I don’t miss any. I have a small organizer box w/ 3 drawers. The top drawer holds my checkbook, calculator, bill list and bills to be paid (they go straight there from the door). The middle drawer holds other mail I need to deal with and the bottom holds misc. order forms/catalogs/ideas for the future.

    • Dena says:

      My grandparents and my mom use an old plastic napkin holder to hold the mail that needs their attention.Hope this helps.

  • The piles are the worst for me. They are everywhere. And yes, my computer desk is the absolute worst. Piles everywhere and I feel like I can’t get it under control. I need serious help!

  • Kara says:

    Our house is kinda fun right now. We are still getting adjusted and moved in. We moved from an 1100sq ft town home to a 1500-1600sq ft duplex.
    Trying to reorganize everything and keep our daily schedule, is a nightmare. The downstairs living areas are spot cleaned everyday to everyother day. DS’s room is clean about the same time. The Masterbedroom on the other hand is out trouble area. We left our bedroom furniture in Hawaii when we moved (wouldn’t make the move), so we have been on the hunt for dressers for a little over a year now (I miss my walk in closet). The garage is getting cleaned within the next couple weeks. DH’s gear is the garage, that alone helps keep down the clutter!

  • Alice says:

    I like to do a quick sweep before bedtime. Put away clean dishes, fold blankets, and put little things back in their place. Only takes a few minutes, and it keeps our home from ever getting too messy.

  • Betsy says:

    My husband and I just did a major de-cluttering a couple months ago. The most satisfying has been a completely toy-free living room. It took a week or so for the kids to get the idea, but now it’s so nice to walk into a clutter-free room to read and relax. The kids have their rooms and the whole basement for their toys so we felt we could allow ourselves a “grown-up” spot in the house. If there are any toys found in the living room they get “vacuumed up” and are not seen again (at least for a while)!

  • Lydia says:

    We have on-going Salvation Army boxes.

  • Jessica says:

    2 questions:

    1. What do you do about those people in your life (a.k.a. family members) who are die-hard gift givers and continue to give excessive amounts of unnecessary items to you and other family members? How do you stay de-cluttered without hurting feelings?

    2. How do you get rid of things when certain family members (parents, children, spouse) continually object to your de-cluttering? I come from a family of hoarders and I married a hoarder from a family of hoarders. I feel like I can only eliminate things in secret!

    • Michelle says:

      We get alot of junky toys from one set of grandparents. I don’t want to offend anyone but you know what I mean the cheap, cheap, cheap plastic stuff that is broken within the first 5 minutes of true play.

      About once a week I go thru our toy boxes (laundry baskets that fit under our train table, made our own Thomas train table) and pitch anything that is broken, missing parts or whatever. Keeps things manageable.

      I don’t know what to say if it’s all good quality stuff except maybe you could encourage them to donate to the kids college fund. We made this suggestion on the premise we don’t want our kids to be so materialistic but it was a failing proposition because that isn’t a “fun” gift. I can’t control how others choose to spend their money.

      • Ashley Anderson says:


        My MIL is a constant source of new and uneeded things for my kids, so in addition to refraining from purchasing those items myself (such as toys I know she’s bound to get them) every 3-4 months I tell the kids it’s time to “share” their unused toys with other children. Because they are so used to sharing with each other (wether they want to or not) it is no trouble to get them to let go of unused items. I get a pile of 10 toys and they get to keep 5 of them. Then I get another pile, etc. Once all the toys have been sorted if there’s a toy in the give away pile they are determined to keep they can swap it with one in their keep pile. I then pack the give away items in a box and store them in a closet for about a week until they’ve forgotten about them all together. That way there are no tears as the box heads to the car.

        For adult related items such as vases, picture frames etc, if the item is not absolute junk then I try to repaint it or fix it up in some way and either sell it or give it as a gift. Because it doesn’t look the same the giver almost never recognizes the item later on. For an overabundance of homecare products like soaps, shampoos etc I donate those to our local rescue mission. I find if I don’t bring it up they don’t either 🙂

        Though my husband, MIL, and even sometimes my children take offense to my cleaning actions I tell them in no uncertain terms that
        (children) since I am the only one trying to keep my house clean I will decide what stays and what goes. 🙂
        (MIL) We just have no space, this apartment is so tiny! 😉
        (Husband) If you really cared about it wouldn’t have been on the floor and got broken/ripped/etc. Ocassionally his ripped clothing which he still wears to my embarrasement just magically dissapears one day. 😛

        It’s not always popular but I don’t really care.

  • Chelsea says:

    My husband would probably hate me if he knew the specifics of how I do this, but I go through our home periodically and simply throw or give away unnecessary items, even if its his stuff. I’ve tried asking him sweetly to go through his side of the closet and get rid of everything he doesn’t use, but it just works better if I do it. This goes for every room in the house. I can count on one hand the number of times he’s asked me where something was after I’ve pitched it, so out of sight out of mind must really work!

  • Kellie says:

    ha ha I just printed this out – to add to a pile! When will I learn??? 🙂

  • Christy says:

    I have to ask, how do you only have one tiny file cabinet–I feel overrun with files for all the things we HAVE to keep–tax info for 10 years, check stubs for 1 year, health insurance info, receipts, flexible spending acct. info (goes with tax stuff), home improvement info (for when we sell). I keep every flier for every item that my child owns in case of recalls. I feel like I am always cleaning out and shredding outdated stuff, but we still have two large file drawers in my husbands desk, and two file boxes. And I am thinking of adding another small file box for my coupons!

  • Hannah says:

    I’m excited! I haven’t had much success with yard sales in the past, probably because I priced things too high. Hearing you all talk about it, though, I think I’m going to give it a try this year. Right now I’m thinking if I can collect 50 items to sell at a dollar each, that wouldn’t be such a bad profit! So far I’ve collected 15. Thanks for the challenge.

  • Ashley Anderson says:


    In my home there is a solid rule when it comes to decluttering: since Mommy does the cleaning Mommy decides what gets thrown away. The only stipulation is that I only throw away things that are “trashy” such as broken toys, ripped clothes (my husband is determined to wear them anyways despite the 6 inch gash right across the stomach area). If it’s not trash then we have a declutter day and people have to justify keeping anything that has been on the floor for more than two days. If you liked it it wouldn’t be on the floor. It might sound strict but my house isn’t a democracy… it’s a heirarchy and Mama is queen 😀

  • Nicki S. says:

    I have an 820 square-foot apartment that my husband, three (yes, three) cats and I share. Space is at a premium! By nature, I tend to throw things in piles and don’t have a lot of doors to store shoe racks. I’m open to any ideas that the small-spacers have.

    I found that the winter/summer clothes sorting works well on keeping our closets in check (and the vacuum bags store the other season until needed), but I have nowhere to put items that I stockpile. I’m thinking of adding a shelf to our master bedroom closet for this purpose.

  • Kristin says:

    “I’ve found that when there’s no place to collect piles, you are much less apt to make them.”

    Sigh. Well, unless EVERY surface is eliminated, INCLUDING THE FLOOR, I will most likely continue to find, and make, piles.

    We live in an apartment (family of 5). We do not have an overabundance of furniture, or storage space. What I’d really like sometimes, is some more storage-type furniture (like bookshelves and dressers, a file cabinet might be nice) to stack things in, and the space to put them.

    On a slightly philosophical note. Piles is piles. For example, that stack of clothes in your dresser is a pile. You just can’t see it so it doesn’t bother you so much!

  • ashleyD says:

    i always price my items before i throw them into the ongoing yard sale boxes!! i keep sticker dots with our tape and scissors to make it super easy to do!!

  • Great advice.
    I do pretty much all of these methods. (not perfectly I might add)
    However, I love the final suggestion. I do have a very large desk. And I’ll admit a little secret… It’s always a mess. I’m always organizing it.
    I just may have to think about getting rid of it. Hmm…. Gives me something to think about.

  • Love these suggestions, Crystal, and I love your site! I have been making my way through the Make Over Your Mornings course. What a refreshment! Another thing I have recently done to avoid clutter is clothes consigning. Even small towns sometimes have these little shops, and it is a great way to earn extra cash!

  • Liz says:

    I have a large desk, too, but I clear off the excess papers weekly. I need the room for the electronics equipment.

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