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.

Please follow and like us:

The Simple Key to a Beautiful Home

My husband and I didn’t own much when we were first married, an old flowered sofa that took up one wall, a stand on which our tiny television sat, a big scooped blue chair that promptly fell apart when someone sat on it, a tiny metal table with drop leaves plus two chairs for the kitchen, and a (fake) brass bed whose paint was peeling. Sounds hideous, doesn’t it?

But we didn’t care. We were young and in love, and just needed something on which to sit, sleep, and eat. And sometimes, you when you have nothing, you will take anything.

Time went by, and pieces fell apart. We grew up, and so did our furniture.

We moved into a nice apartment building, bought a formal oak dining set, and a living room set complete with a large brass lamp.

The furniture was nice, expensive, and just what everyone expected of us. But for me, it was a bunch of wood and material taking up space.

I never loved the pieces we owned, they were a reflection of what I thought others expected of me. They were formal, grand, straight-backed, not-cushy at all, and none of it my style. Sometimes, I wonder if they were purchased to prove we could, and to impress others.

Our furniture moved with us into our new home. We purchased a couple of indestructible loveseats for our family, ones that two boys and their friends could never destroy. They weren’t comfortable (hard armrests you couldn’t lay on), and not pretty, but they worked.

Barren spots resided in the corners of each room, and though my husband and I never minded, it wasn’t long before well-meaning family members filled the empty corners and walls with their own discards. We never had the heart, or the guts, to say ‘no.’

Our house quickly became a mismatched orphanage, complete with spindly-legged peach chairs, a large curio cabinet holding cups and saucers, a grandfather clock, and other random pieces. It was pretty, but none of it was my style (or my family’s, for that matter).

Our home became a house of formalities, a place I didn’t feel I belonged. I tried to fit into our house, wearing pencil skirts, perming my hair, and putting on too much make-up. But I never felt like me. I had become a tangled mess of emotions, a simple hippie trapped inside a formal body, and inside a formal house. I even tried to change my family, which of course never worked.

Everything around me felt foreign. When I closed my eyes, I imagined a new home, complete with a deep-sinking sofa and a place on which to rest my feet. I wanted to rescue old wooden tables, strip their paint like flaky skin, and make them new again. I wanted comfort.

One day, we moved far away. Most of our furniture was left behind. The few pieces we brought were eventually given to a thrift store. We purchased a sinking sofa, and a large, cushy chair. But by then, I no longer knew who I was.

It is only now that I’m beginning to figure it out. With each furniture purchase, I look for a reflection of my personality. I look for simplicity, comfort, and love. I still make furniture mistakes, but I think I’m getting closer to who I really am. The good news is, in each mistake I have learned a lesson.

Lessons Learned:
I have learned that no matter what sits in my house, it is beautiful when it becomes a home.

I learned that even when I hated my furniture, I loved my home. I never thought about furniture when family was near, while sitting on a hard sofa reading a book together, or while listening to a large upright piano being played by a child. I never thought about it while eating pizza and playing games around an oak table. Even while leaning against a hard oak loveseat, watching movies and eating popcorn, the furniture was erased from my mind.

I learned that life was never in the clock or the chairs, in whether my furniture was formal or relaxed, it was in my family.

I learned that when family was near, that’s when I knew who I really was.

Our possessions may be a reflection of our personalities, but our family reflects our soul. I guess that’s all that ever mattered.

Please follow and like us:

I’d Rather Have a Dust Bunny than Be Martha Stewart

I will never be Martha Stewart, and I’ve given up trying. I once wanted that perfect home, and worked day and night to achieve it. I lined my seasonings in perfect order, baked perfect little cookies with perfect pink icing, and made perfect Christmas meals fit for a magazine. I stripped wood, painted, redid floors, and cleaned my home until mirrors sparkled and tile shone. I dusted and vacuumed and created till dawn. And two days later, I did it all over again. I was determined to be the perfect mom and housewife, the perfect replica of Martha Stewart.

But I never was.

It was the day I tried to fold a bottom sheet that I figured it out. My corners didn’t line like Martha’s, my edges poked out everywhere. My sheet was a lumpy, bumpy piece of coal sitting on top of my dryer, while Martha’s looked like a little box, perfect square corners and neatly aligned edges.

So I quit. Not just the sheets, but everything. I’ve learned to let go, to simplify, to stop trying to be the Martha Stewart that I never was.

Windows are streaked, tiny reminders of children whose hands glided across the glass.

Doors hold fingerprints of small ones, and large ones too. They have opened to guests, and closed when we’ve said goodbye.

Walls are dinged and streaked from suitcases rubbed across walls, memories from those who have visited.

Beneath the sofa and living room rug live dust bunnies, curled together as my husband and I curl above, taking a nap.

Kitchen cabinets filled with grease, tiny bits of food I can never remove, signs of a well-fed and happy home.

A dent in the floor, a scratch on a chair, a stain on the dining room table where a child once painted. Life. Character. Stories. And I was a part of each.

But none of it matters, the scratches, the dings, the pieces of dirt. My home is happy, and clean enough for me. And though I admire Martha, I can never be her, and I’ve given up trying. I will take a home filled with love and memories. I will take a home filled with dust bunnies.

Please follow and like us:

A Simple Quote

The following is a simple quote that has inspired me, motivated me, and changed me. It’s the quote I think about every time I am about to make a purchase. It was the quote I used on my own personal journey towards minimalism.

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

Reflect on these words. Use them in your own home. Are the items you have in your house useful? Do they bring you joy? Do you find them beautiful?

Make your house a home you truly want to live in.

Please follow and like us: