5 Tips for Keeping Out the Clutter

While cleaning out the family car recently, I said out loud to no one in particular “where did all of this stuff COME from?!?” It is shocking how quickly clutter can creep into our lives, even when we actively avoid and remove it. But just like exercising and eating a healthy diet are ongoing commitments, so is decluttering. Prevention and maintenance are both necessary. And with that, here are five ways to keep out the clutter.

garbage and recycling

Sort at the door. I go through every bag in our foyer before it gets into the rest of the house. I’m ruthless about this rule. School backpacks, swim bags, shopping bags, my purse (a black hole for the family), mail and deliveries, etc. A lot flows into a house of four people. We have a garbage can, recycling bag and usually a Goodwill bag right there just waiting to be filled, and filled they are.

Remove the temptation to shop. Unsubscribe from emails and catalogs. If we don’t know a sale is happening, we can’t be tempted. (Double bonus: less mail and email!) And by not viewing shopping as a hobby, our leisure time can be spent doing something far more enriching for our lives.

Decline freebies. An obvious tip, but noteworthy nonetheless. My trick for avoiding this trap? I ask myself “would I pay my own money to own this item?” If the answer is no, I know to decline, no matter how generous the offer.

The old “wait 30 days” rule. The idea is to wait 30 days before buying anything other than the necessities (food, toothpaste, toilet paper). Put the items on a list (I use Evernote) and if you still find you truly need it in 30 days, then maybe buy it. When I follow this advice, it is incredibly effective (but easier said than done!).

Know your Achilles heel. Amazon is/was my downfall. I realized it was a problem when I would receive boxes with no clue of what was inside (please tell me this has happened to you). Recently, I placed a moratorium on Amazon for two weeks, and it did wonders to break the habit. If one store plagues you (Target is often a culprit for my clients), then avoid it to see if you can cure the issue.

About That Dress You Seriously Love But Never Wear


Do you own any clothes like this? You love it. You look great it in. You may even get compliments on it! And you think to yourself “this is a great dress.”

And yet. You never wear it. Never. At least not anymore.

I had a dress like this that hung in my closet barely worn for the last four years. I bought it following my first pregnancy when I was out of maternity clothes but still appreciated those loose, breezy cuts. So now when I put it on, I feel like I’m back in that slightly awkward stage. Ultimately, I don’t feel good in it.

These are the hardest clothes to get rid of. The things that look great, fit, are in perfect shape, etc. But you just don’t wear them for whatever reason. The thing is, there always is a reason. It just may not be clear what that reason is.

What to do? Commit to wearing it within a time period (say, two weeks) or it is gone. More than likely you won’t wear it, so you can even just skip this step. Where did my dress end up? Consigned. And it felt so good—better than I imagined—to get it out of my closet.

Do you have anything like this?

Decluttering Technique: Pretend Someone Else is Packing for You

decluttering tip - let someone else pack

Some people have a really, really hard time parting with clothes. Clothes they don’t even like, that don’t even fit, that they haven’t worn in 5+ years. Clothes they never intend to wear again! But I get it—it can be hard. Interestingly, I’ve found that the more clothes my clients own, the more unhappy they are with their wardrobe as a whole.

Here is the tip: Only have things in your closet that you would be pleased to find in your suitcase if someone else packed it for you.

I figured this out the hard way in middle school—as if we needed anything else embarrassing happening then in our lives. I was responsible for my own laundry at this point and was way behind. I wore my last decent outfit to school, so of course it was an ideal time to spill something all over—all over—myself during class. Being the very understanding mother that she was and is, my mom drove over a new set of clothes for me to wear. But. The only clean clothes she could find in my closet were an embarrassing and seriously huge musical theater t-shirt (it was Cats, I believe) and strange gingham shorts that I was mortified to even own. This outfit was … incredible … as you can imagine.

Being about 12 years old I did not go home and radically purge my wardrobe. But I think the moral of this story is pretty clear: Don’t have anything in your closet you wouldn’t want someone to choose for you (also, keep up with your laundry). Things that are too tight or too big, that you feel self-conscious in, that are unflattering, that have rips or stains beyond repair, that you just don’t like, etc. All of this must go.

Having this mindset makes it a whole lot easier for my clients to let go of things—suddenly clothes start flying into the “no” pile. If you need some extra help in this area, maybe give it a try.

Decluttering Tip: Stop Putting Things Away

Laundry basket copy

When I am tidying up our house, folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher, I am considering every item that I touch. Why put away something we don’t need or want when I could easily skip that step and place it directly in the donation bag?

When I tell clients that I purge roughly one bag of stuff per week, they always wonder how I did it so easily and also where the items came from. I’m not usually digging into the backs of closets and drawers. Instead, I am assessing each item I come into contact with by chance and evaluating its presence in our home. Just like we casually examine a piece of fruit before eating it, I casually gauge the items in our lives before putting them away.

This split-second decision becomes second nature with enough practice. I promise I don’t hem and haw over each thing—that would be exhausting! This is quick and painless, and it completely avoids the time-consuming experience of a full-on decluttering session. If you can get into the habit, I think you might find it as effective as I do.

p.s. This applies to broken/ruined items too. These should go directly into the garbage. Putting away these sorts of things is nuts, but we’ve all done it. Break the cycle!

5 Tips for Spotting Clutter in a Room

One of the most helpful aspects of having an outsider’s perspective on a room is that everything is fresh to his or her eyes. When we live with clutter, we stop seeing it. Remember that nagging pile of folded laundry? After a while, it starts blending in. And the stack of catalogs, costumes and papers to deal with … soon enough we forget they are even there. The junk becomes a part of the landscape, and we cease to notice it. This happens to all of us!

If you have really tried to declutter a room but can’t seem to pinpoint the problem, here are five tips that might help:

clutter on surfaces

1. Take a photo of each area of the room. If you don’t have a partner or friend (or me) to help spot the clutter, a quick photo on your phone is a good substitute. See something you don’t like or that belongs somewhere else? Out it goes.

2. Consider your surfaces. Decorative objects seem to breed overnight. It is very common to keep adding accessories and artwork without removing the old ones. One in, two out is my rule. Start by completely clearing the surfaces of your room (side table, coffee table, console, mantle, etc.) and only put back the things you really, really love (if you don’t know if you love it, you probably don’t). And keep it minimal. Less is almost always better than more.

3. Limit the picture frames. Holy smokes, the picture frames. Reduce these by about 90% and keep the remaining ones in a single style (bone, horn or silver are good options). I know you love seeing your family in a frame, but trust me on this, friends!

4. Examine your floors. When too many things “live” on the floor, it starts feeling like a room cannot breath. Rooms frequently have too much furniture, plus baskets, bins, toys and other mish mash on the floor. Clear as much as you can from the floor (other than major things like your sofa or bed). Stick it in the hallway while you look around the space. Doesn’t it feel better already? Return as little as possible, and if you do, find it a home other than the floor.

5. Check your lighting. Two common problems I see: overhead lighting (only) and windows left covered during the day. Overhead lights create a dull, dreary ambiance. Try using lamps, sconces and/or floor lamps before flipping on the overheads. And open up those shutters or curtains! Sunlight makes everything feel and look more beautiful and fresh. The first I thing I do every morning is open the shutters in each room (even if we aren’t going in there). It makes a significant difference in the feeling of a space.

Looking for rooms for inspiration? Follow me on pinterest!