Secrets to a Clutter-Free Home

You’ve scrutinized every drawer, sifted through every piece of clothing, and yet, that clutter you worked so hard to get rid of keeps coming back. Is there a way to stop it once and for all? Yes, and no.

Clutter will always enter our lives. Through mail and little one’s artwork, through gifts given, through life itself. Clutter is part of life. But don’t you wonder if there isn’t a way to maintain a clutter-free home? I’m here to tell you, there is.


The World Before This One

I lived a different life before I moved to the Pacific Northwest. In Minnesota, with my husband and two boys, our home was a constant source of activity. I don’t think there was a single sport one of our kids didn’t try, all the way through their high school years. When they were young, I’d drive home after work, pop food in the oven, and run to whatever activity was going on that night.

A few years later, I quit my desk job to start a daycare in our home. Six children, Monday through Friday, ten in the summer. It was hectic, to say the least.

Four years after that, I began homeschooling while working two or three part-time jobs, and managing a house. (No need to say it, yes, I know I was crazy.)

My oldest son attended private school during his high school years, and our youngest remained homeschooled. They had many friends, and when the weekend arrived, you could usually find six of their friends hanging out in our 1500 square foot home (yup, eight teenage boys all weekend long. Some of the best memories of my life.)

In all those years, with all those activities, constant commotion, tons of sport equipment, job projects (did I mention I worked at home?), daycare necessities, and the requirements of life, you would think our house would have been a disaster. But it wasn’t. In fact, parents often told me how neat and tidy our home was.

“What’s your secret?” they’d ask.

“I’ll never tell,” I’d say with a smile.

It really wasn’t much of a secret. I’d always been a bit on the minimalist side (completely opposite my guy), quite a neat-freak (again, opposite of a few people – I won’t say who this time, Honey), and loved cleaning (yes, I know, weirdo).

Still, with all that stuff going on in one home, it was a lot to keep the clutter from taking over our lives. Somehow, with a few little tricks up my sleeve, I managed. Below are my secrets to a clutter-free home.


Steps to Controlling Clutter Before It Controls You
Number One:
Keep ‘Stuff” In Designated Spots.

Daycare requires a lot of ‘stuff.’ Papers, crayons, markers, paints. Beads and strings, glues and tiny scissors. In boxes, marked, kept in one spot. The trick here isn’t just keeping it tidy, it’s about controlling buying habits. I love craft stores, and could have bought more than I ever did, but I had to learn self-discipline, and buy only what I knew we would use.

Even when buying toys for the munchkins in my daycare, I needed discipline. I bought basics – blocks, building toys, rattles for the babies, books and music. No more than necessary. You know what? They never got bored. The most important part of having toys is putting them away after playtime. I told them it was a game – they loved it, which made my job easier.

Homeschooling also requires a lot– books, paper, games, crafts, and science projects. Seriously, I could have purchased a truckload. But I didn’t. After all, one can only use so much. Again, everything was kept in one place.

Our home had a designated place for shoes and coats. Whether just our sons coming through the door, or their friends following them, everyone was expected to use that spot.

Number Two:
Keep a Designated Place for Items to be Given Away.

Keep a bag or box handy for thrift store donations. (It seems there is always something to get rid of.) Place it by the back door, or in an accessible and visible spot in the garage – somewhere you can quickly grab it and bring it to your local charity. Mine is in my coat closet. I see it every time I grab my shoes or jacket. It’s a great reminder to let go.

Have a handy place for items you are giving to friends and family. I use a closet shelf for this. Whether you have outgrown children’s clothes you are saving for a friend, or books and movies for the library, put it a spot you can’t miss.

Number Three:
Be a Tosser.

Get rid of garbage. Ever open a cabinet and see outdated medications, or sit down in your office to a pile of papers? When you know something is trash, toss it immediately.

That goes for mail as well. And packages. As soon as they arrive, take care of them. Open the mail, recycle the junk, put away the important stuff.

Toss extras from take-out, like those ten ketchup packages and napkins. (Will you ever really use them?) Toss old drawings from your children. (You can’t keep everything, plus, trust me, they will never know.) You can even toss those old little Happy-meal type items that sit in the corner of a closet.

Number Four:
Purchase Only What You Need.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever bought extra because it was on sale. Guilty! Two summers ago, I was shopping the outlet mall for a new pair of shorts. I hardly ever wear shorts, so I only needed one pair. Yet, when I walked into one of my favorite stores, there was a deal going on I couldn’t resist. Yup, a two-for-one sale. I bought a second pair, even though I didn’t really like them. And there they sat in my drawer till I gave them away. Buy only what you need, even if the deal is amazing.

This goes for everything, from toiletries to food. It’s so easy to purchase more than we need, because it looks like an amazing deal. But guess what, there will always be a deal, somewhere. I guarantee it. (It’s a trick retailers use to get us to buy, always making us think there will never be another special on that item. Don’t fall for it!)

Number Five:
Put it away!

Grab shoes and laundry that are sitting on that bottom step, and bring it upstairs with you. Hang up jackets when you get home (and teach children to do the same – install hooks at a lower level if you need to). Drop your purse, wallet, etc., in their designated places.

That goes for everything. Fold clothes and put them away immediately. Put groceries in cabinets as soon as you get through the door. Make children put their things in their rooms.

Number Six:
Stop the Unnecessary Gifts.

This is tough. People love to show affection by giving. I know I do. Giving is great, only it’s easy to end up with too much stuff. Ask anyone with children.

I wrestle with this myself. I want to give, but I don’t want our children and their families to be overwhelmed with too much ‘stuff.’ I also want to be a good receiver, but how do you tell someone to not buy anything for you?

Lucky for my husband and me, our family has figured out how much we’ve minimalized, and how little we want or need. In the last few years, they’ve given us some amazing gifts – wine, food, hot sauce making kit, slippers, and a gift certificate to a restaurant.

Be honest when someone asks what you want for your birthday, or any occasion. Let them buy something that you truly desire. And do the same for them.

Number Seven:
Use Your Time Wisely.

The biggest secret of staying clutter-free is efficiency. We all have a few extra minutes in our day, whether we think so or not. (Granted, if you ask me, extra minutes should be used for prayer and just breathing, reading a good book, or strolling through a park. But sometimes that’s not possible, and sometimes it really is only a minute or two that we can spare.) While you’re waiting for a tea kettle to boil, or for a child or spouse to come out to the car, something can get cleaned out. Go through a drawer, your purse or wallet, toss old condiments from the fridge, throw those old insurance papers sitting in the glove compartment.

If anything needs extra minutes, it’s the kitchen, the most used room in the house. This is the one room you never want to get out-of-control, and the room that always does. It’s the catch-all for everything from our own work to our children’s, sports equipment, jackets, boots, and mail.

Keep designated spots for all items, baskets and hooks for each family member. Keep paperwork in a different room. No matter what you do, the kitchen will get messy. It’s where we eat, laugh, and create. And truth is, as tidy as I am, I can make a mess as well as anyone else. But I’ve learned a few things to keep my kitchen clean: Wipe-up as you go. Rinse utensils and bowls, and place them in the dishwasher immediately. Wash counters as soon as you spill. Clean pans right away.

There you go, my secrets to a clutter-free house. It’s a lot of information, I know. But it doesn’t all need to be done at once. Life is a journey. One step at a time. Besides, no matter what we do, how hard we try, life will always be messy and a little clutter-y. I know mine is. I kind of like it that way.

Enjoy life!

I would love to hear your secrets for keeping a clutter-free home.

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Why I Did a Social Media Cleanse

It’s safe to say technology and I are not the best of friends. It took me years to figure out my cell phone (and I still don’t take advantage of all the bells on whistles on it); I still press the wrong remote when turning on the television set; and I’ve yet to figure out what all those extra buttons are on my camera.

Which is why it took me so long to accept social media. Social media felt like an extension of technology, one more thing to learn, one more thing to drive me crazy.

But everywhere I turned, authors and publishers assured writers that social media was a necessity, an outlet for writing, a way of networking, and a way of advertising oneself.

When I began writing, all I wanted was to share my message and inspire others, but as the realities of today’s technological age set in, I knew I had to give in and accept social media.

I opened a personal Facebook page. Initially, I did nothing but read a few posts by others. Soon, I learned how to use Facebook, and found cool writing groups to join. I joined one, then two, until I soon belonged to seventeen different groups.

I liked being part of those groups. It was new, different, and gave me a bit of high. I searched other social media outlets and found more to join – LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Medium. Along with my blog, and two extra email accounts, I was a true social-media-addict.

But the problem was, social media was stealing my time. I couldn’t keep up with it, let alone keep up with my writing. I needed a solution. I began to get up a tad earlier, extend my working hours a little later, skip lunch, and do social media on the weekends (which I swore I’d never do).

Still, my writing was suffering. It’s funny how the very reason I had begun social media was the very thing I could no longer find time for.

Writing became something I talked about more than I did. More about networking and advertising, and helping myself more than helping others.

I pondered this last week, and decided what I wanted, and needed, was to go back to the beginning. Well, maybe not the very beginning, but closer to where I once was. It was time for a social media cleanse.

Social media is like everything, it gathers in our lives, fills our computers, clutters our mind. Social media is the clothes stuffed in a closet, the books on the floor. It is the chipped containers and worn shoes. Social media is the junk drawer in our lives.

So I’m making some changes. I’m cutting my blog from three days a week, to two (the same as my FB author page).

I am posting on Medium only once a week, deleting Pinterest from my life, and closing one email account (which will be a ton of work, but worth it in the end).

Instagram is a cheap and easy hobby, and for that reason, I will keep it. Twitter is in limbo, unsure of whether or not it is a necessity.

As for those seventeen groups, they’ve been knocked down to twelve, and soon, six more will be released.

Social media has its benefits. I’ve connected with friends and family I haven’t seen in years. I’ve met others with similar interests.

But social media became my clutter, and stopped me from living my dream. It stopped me from living my life.

Is there any social media you can let go of? What’s cluttering your mind? What’s cluttering your life?

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Full House, Empty Home

Children sit in the living room, texting friends while chowing down burgers from a fast-food restaurant, geometry and science books laying open at their feet. Game systems and electronics fill shelves beneath a blaring tv set. Knick-knacks gather dust. Chairs and sofas line walls filled with many pictures, relatives that no one knows.

In the kitchen, cabinets are piled with unopened mail. Gadgets, most never used, fill every drawer. The mom searches frantically for an ice cream maker she was sure they once owned. “Where is it? That was supposed to be our dessert tonight,” she yells out. But no one hears.

The father is in the garage, digging through boxes of items long forgotten. He has a reunion to go to and wants the jersey he once wore in high school. He doesn’t know if it will fit, or even if he still owns it. But he’s determined to find out.

A lone child plays upstairs, pushing little metal cars across the carpeted hallway. “Zoom. Zoom.” He rushes past one room and then another, stopping briefly in front of the guest room, where shiny ribbons strewn across an unmade bed catch his eye. Gift wrap and boxes, remnants of the holiday season, are thrown on the floor. Sheets and blankets lay haphazard on an old armchair. The little boy squints his eyes, imagining a room filled with children, a house where everyone plays. He looks longingly down the empty hall, then back at the bedroom, wondering why they have a guest room, but never a guest.

This picture is the norm, the scene of a full house. The site of an empty home. Families, even when together, are still apart. Communication is but words across a screen. Noise resonates through silent air. Parents search for things that don’t matter.

When did life pull families apart? When did we forget what’s really important?
I think it began when we crammed drawers with unneeded trinkets, and closets with too many clothes. I think it’s when we piled boxes in once-empty garages, and homes with needless gadgets. I think it’s when we embraced stuff, and let go of life.

We need to get rid of distractions. Whether a cell phone, a kitchen cabinet overflowing with unopened mail, or old boxes in the middle of a garage, we need to let it go.

Distractions are everywhere. Don’t let them be in your home. Turn off your cell phone, if only for a day. Clear a drawer. Toss a box. Stop searching in drawers and closets, looking for things that don’t matter. Everything you need is right in front of you.

What is your distraction? What will you let go of today?

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The $5000 Purge

Last year my husband and I completed cleansing our home, releasing nearly $5000 worth of clutter. We were left with bitter-sweet feelings, the freedom of letting go, the regret of stuff no longer owned.

For the most part, regret has left. But freedom? It continuously grows. There is liberty in a less-cluttered life, something I expected to happen, and have truly grown to love. But what I didn’t expect was this: I have become addicted to a life of minimalism.



It was just over two weeks ago. My husband and I stepped into our garage, intending to clean, something we had avoided since we moved in three-and-a-half years ago. We picked through nails and tools, and made plans to buy containers. Then it hit. Wasn’t this the very life we were trying to leave? Did we really need containers for things we would probably never use?

Another cleanse began. We dumped tools, gadgets, a fridge and a flag. Then we moved inside and let go of more, a telescope, a set of dishes, and other miscellaneous items.

As we made one more trip to Goodwill, I thought about our stuff, and wondered how we missed those items the first time. Then I remembered the first time we had cleansed, and the struggles we had in letting go. We were different people then.

We are creatures in a constant state of flux, ever-changing, always growing. Click To Tweet

Maybe we hadn’t been ready before. But we were today.

Here is the list created last year. In italics you will find the more recent items we have released. This is not a confession, but I place it before you as inspiration. May you find freedom in a life less-cluttered.


Here is my list:

Hangers– How many, I don’t know, but once my husband and I cleansed our closet, the need for extra hangers was obsolete.

Workout Video – We won’t even go there.

Slippers, Tennis Shoes, Dress Shoes – Some we didn’t wear, some we owned way too many of, and, I’m embarrassed to say, one pair of tennis shoes I held on to just because they were pretty (never mind that the bottoms were worn out). We recently let go of five more pairs, three of which were at death’s door.

Clothes – I didn’t know we owned that many – Ripped shirts, shrunken pieces, old items no longer worn – we let them all go. I’m not certain how many items we let go of in the last couple months, but I do remember at least three sweaters, dress pants, old t-shirts, and a jacket I liked better in the closet than on my body.

Cd Covers – Why did we have these?

Martini Glasses – Not sure when or why we purchased these, considering we don’t drink martinis.

Chop Sticks – This is funny, since neither my husband nor I are coordinated enough to eat with a fork, let alone chopsticks.

Meat Pounder – I don’t know.

Hat, Jackets – Some barely worn. We still own too many.

Books, Movies, CDs – Books we will never read again; Movies we have outgrown; CDs – we own an IPod – need I say more? More books have left our home – some given to family, some to the thrift store.

Decorative Plates, Knick-Knacks, Trinkets, Vases – I hate little things decorating the house, they make me insane. Most of these items were already tucked away in boxes, so it was easy to let go.

Tie Clip – My husband received this item many, many moons ago, from his coaching days. It was time to let go, especially considering he never wears a tie.

Butter Dish, Napkin Holder, Candy Dish, Creamer – I will never use these. A ceramic beverage dispenser, large pretty plates, and a kombucha maker just made their way out the door.

Two Dressy Dresses – These were probably the most difficult items for me to release. They were dresses I wore to my sons’ weddings. The weddings were ten and seven years ago, and I haven’t worn the dresses since. It was time for someone else to enjoy them, though they may be out of style by now.

Purses, Ties – Unused, unneeded.

Cookbooks – Some given to the thrift store, some to my daughters-in-law.

Table Runner – I don’t know why I owned this.

Desk, Shelf, Patio Umbrella, Craft Table, Work Bench – Letting go of big items freed-up space in our home. A large tool (don’t ask me to name tools or describe them), a table for a saw, a flag, a large shelf, two small dressers, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Never mind the last one – I may still own that.)

Curling Iron – Once upon a time, in another life, I used this.

Craft Items – Beads, and all things that go with jewelry making; Embroidery hoop and yarn; Card making items – blank cards, glues, etc. These were a little difficult to let go, yet I felt stressed each time I thought about them, knowing I didn’t have time to work on anything. It’s a subject I will delve into another time.

Spice Jars – Really, how many jars does one couple need? More spice jars. Yup, we had a lot. These last ones were used to hold nails in the garage.

Dust Pan, Laundry bins, Garbage Can – These were no longer needed in our new home.

Sandals – Goes with the shoes – too many. I found out I only have two feet.

Pedometer – Never going to track how many steps I take. Never, never, never.

Frames – With nothing in them. More frames.

Toaster, Crockpot – We no longer make toast. It’s a whole diet/allergy issue. Again, another subject for another time. The crockpot, I admit, is something I’ve missed more than once. But at the same time, it’s one less large item to store, and I will never have to replace it.

Exercise Ball and Pump – This is the only item I gave away that I actually ended up buying again. It seems it kept me in better shape than I knew. It takes up a lot of space, but I decided that the space is worth my health.

Fifteen Photo Albums – I tossed blurry old pictures, duplicates, and goofy photos we didn’t like. The fifteen photo albums were now only four large ones (that took up a lot less space).

Rug – Unnecessary. Plus two smaller rugs.

Twelve Reusable Grocery Bags – They are always giving these away somewhere, especially at holiday time. I’m learning to say ‘no.’

Two Game Systems – We kept Wii, for the child in us.

Two Aquariums and Miscellaneous Items – When taking care of fish became more of a chore than a hobby, my husband decided it was time to let it go.

Lamp – Part of the move – no longer needed.

Robes – How many does one person need?

Christmas Stuff – Lights, decorations, ornaments, they were all released. No regrets – not even one. One more subject for another time.

Cookie Scoop, Frying Pan, Kitchen Utensils – So easy to collect kitchen items. My husband enjoys buying them for me more than I enjoy receiving them. I finally had to tell him to stop (I told him nicely). Large pretty plates we never used.

Two Coolers – How did we get so many? Heaven only knows.

Two Fans. – We were already cool. (Sorry, couldn’t pass that one up.) A large shelf and a television antenna.

Necklaces, bracelets, dresser knobs, candles and holders, other miscellaneous tools and kitchen items. Plus, two dressers, an armoire, a grill, a fridge, and a telescope.


This is not the whole list. But it does give you an idea of the types of items one can let go of.

My life will always be a continuous motion of cleansing. Isn’t that what life is, releasing the old, discovering the new?

What will you release today? Where will you find your freedom?

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