How to Simplify Your Home

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Excessive clutter can cause frustration and stress, but it can be difficult to manage. In the 19th century, philosopher Henry David Thoreau advised people to simplify their lives and possessions, and this advice is still relevant today. If you find yourself constantly searching through clutter to find what you need, you’re not alone. In fact, a 2008 survey found that two-thirds of respondents felt their homes were disorganized, and 70 percent believed that better organization would improve their lives. By reducing clutter, you can save time and improve your quality of life.

There are many reasons why clutter accumulates, such as difficulty making decisions about what to keep and what to discard, fear of needing something in the future, or sentimental attachment to objects. This article provides practical tips for managing clutter and improving organization in your home. It includes advice on tools and techniques for decluttering, cleaning, and maintaining an orderly living space.

Decluttering your home may seem overwhelming, but it’s achievable. It’s like going on a diet – you can’t expect to lose all the weight in one day. Instead, focus on changing habits that lead to clutter and developing organizational skills. You can tackle one room at a time or focus on specific problem areas, such as overstuffed closets or cluttered desks. Remember, some clutter is normal, but excessive clutter can negatively impact your well-being.

To simplify your home, start by implementing some basic strategies.


Effective Strategies for Simplifying Your Living Space

Knowing what to keep, store, and discard is key to reducing clutter.
Dag Sundberg/Getty Images

Not all items that take up space in your home are clutter. Many are useful and necessary, but they need a designated place. The following methods can help you organize your home and make the most of your space.

When it comes to decluttering your home, there are a few guidelines that can help you keep things organized. One tip is to keep items where they are used most often, which saves time and frustration. Another is to make sure that the most frequently used items are easily accessible and visible, while out-of-season items should be stored in out-of-the-way spots. To make the most of your space, get creative by using walls, ceilings, and obscure nooks and crannies for storage. It’s also important to discard expired items, even if they don’t have official expiration dates. These are just guidelines, however, and different systems of organization work for different people. When your space or home design doesn’t lend itself to efficient storage, there are tools and aids that can help. From racks and hooks to adjustable clothes rods and lazy susans, there are many small accessories that can make a big difference. Larger items, such as multi-tasking furniture and individual wall shelves, can also help you make the most of your space.

To make a piece more versatile, consider adding extra features. For instance, you could attach a towel rack to the side of a bathroom cabinet or microwave cart. Alternatively, you could add wheels to a child’s toy box so that it can be easily stored in a closet.

One common source of clutter is paperwork. To keep it organized, consider implementing a filing system, such as a set of folders within a drawer or a small cabinet. For even more space-saving, you could scan the documents and store them digitally, keeping the hard copies in a secure location either inside or outside the home. For documents that are no longer needed, a shredder can be used to dispose of them safely and prevent identity theft.

For items that are no longer useful or needed, set up three bins for recycling, donations or garage sales, and regular trash. When deciding which bin to put an item in, ask yourself how easily it can be replaced, how much it adds to your quality of life, and how often you use it. For example, fine china may only be used a few times a year, but it may still hold significant value for you.

Once you have decluttered your space, it is important to maintain it. Setting realistic rules for tidiness and organization can encourage family members to keep the space clutter-free. It may take some time and practice to develop good habits, but the following guidelines can help.

To maintain an organized home, it is important to allow time for regular cleaning and decluttering. Setting rules that enforce tidiness, such as cleaning up messes before leaving a room and getting rid of old items when new ones are purchased, can also help. Using a shopping list and practicing mindful consumption can reduce waste and unnecessary spending. Repurposing old items and taking advantage of recycling programs can also be beneficial. Donating or selling usable items can not only help others, but also free up space in your home. Decluttering is an ongoing effort that can have numerous benefits, including saving time, reducing stress, creating a safer and healthier environment, saving money, and being environmentally friendly.

Donating your unwanted belongings can greatly benefit those in need. Clothing can provide warmth to those experiencing cold weather, while extra appliances can assist families who have lost everything in a house fire. Social service agencies can sell less practical items to raise funds for their programs. Additionally, decluttering can bring a sense of pride and satisfaction as you take control of your life and realize how few possessions you truly need. However, as long as you have items, you must deal with clutter. With dedication and effort, you can gain the skills and confidence to manage clutter effectively.

Tips for Simplifying Cleaning

Assigning tasks to family members, such as cleaning specific areas of the home, can streamline the decluttering process.

Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Cleanliness and clutter cannot coexist. Cleaning can be a daunting task, but efficiency and a positive attitude can make a significant difference. Here are some tips to simplify cleaning:

  • Assemble a basic but suitable collection of cleaning supplies – large and small brooms, a dustpan, a mop, sponges, rags, glass cleaner, and furniture polish can assist in cleaning debris and repairing damage caused by clutter.
  • Use simple products – low-tech items are typically cheaper and more environmentally friendly than commercial preparations. Using items already on hand can reduce future clutter, such as using toothpaste to remove water stains from wooden surfaces.
  • Avoid creating extra work – carry small supplies like glass cleaner and rubber gloves in a plastic tote or bucket to save steps. Clean rooms from top to bottom to avoid dirtying surfaces already cleaned.
  • Make cleaning enjoyable or less tedious – listen to music while cleaning and choreograph your movements to the beat. House cleaning can provide a good physical workout.
  • Collaborate – assign tasks based on each person’s abilities and schedules. Taking ownership of a task or area can instill a sense of pride and responsibility.
  • Rotate tasks – rotating responsibilities ensures that no one feels burdened with the most unpleasant jobs or gets away with the easiest ones. Learning different jobs can also be rewarding.

For more information on decluttering, visit the links on the next page.

Additional Information

Related Articles by HowStuffWorks

  • Tips on Maximizing Storage Space
  • How to Organize Your Seasonal Clothes
  • Guide to Organizing Your Closet
  • Organizing Closet Accessories

Sources Cited

  • Dahl, Timothy. “Removing Water Stains from Wood Furniture.” (Feb. 25, 2010)
  • Donohue, Paul. “Get a Workout — Cleaning the House.” Dec. 19, 2009. (Feb. 25, 2010)
  • Erie County Department of Environment and Planning. “Central New York’s Solid Waste Reduction.” (Feb. 23, 2010)
  • Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital. “Avoiding Asthma Triggers.” (Mar. 1, 2010)
  • National Association of Professional Organizers. Residential Time Management Statistics.” (Feb. 23, 2010)
  • ScienceDaily. “Environmental Impact of Increasing Food Waste in America.” (Mar. 1, 2010)
  • Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods. “Quotations Page.” (Feb. 16, 2010)


1. What does decluttering mean?

Decluttering is the process of removing unnecessary items from your home. This includes getting rid of things you no longer use, need, or want. Decluttering can help you create a more organized and functional living space, reduce stress, and improve your overall well-being.

2. Why is decluttering important?

Decluttering is important for several reasons. It can help you free up space in your home, reduce clutter and mess, and make it easier to find and access the things you do need. It can also help you save time and money by eliminating the need to buy duplicates of items you already own, and reduce stress and anxiety by creating a more peaceful and organized living environment.

3. How do I get started with decluttering?

To get started with decluttering, begin by identifying the areas of your home that need attention. Start with one room or area at a time, and sort all items into three piles: keep, donate, and discard. Be honest with yourself about what you really need and use, and be willing to let go of items that are no longer serving you.

4. What are some common decluttering mistakes to avoid?

Some common decluttering mistakes to avoid include: trying to do too much at once, not having a plan or strategy in place, getting distracted by sentimental items or memories, and not being willing to let go of things that are no longer serving you.

5. How can I decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

When deciding what to keep and what to get rid of, ask yourself: have I used this item in the past year? Does it have sentimental value? Is it something that I could easily replace if needed? Be honest with yourself about what you really need and use, and be willing to let go of things that are no longer serving you.

6. What should I do with items I want to discard?

When discarding items, consider donating them to a local charity or thrift store, selling them online or at a garage sale, or recycling them if possible. Be sure to dispose of items properly and responsibly, and avoid simply throwing them in the trash.

7. How can I maintain a clutter-free home?

To maintain a clutter-free home, make decluttering a regular habit. Set aside time each week or month to go through your belongings and get rid of anything that is no longer necessary or useful. Avoid impulse purchases, and make a conscious effort to only bring items into your home that serve a purpose or bring you joy.

8. What are some benefits of a clutter-free home?

Some benefits of a clutter-free home include: reduced stress and anxiety, increased productivity and focus, improved sleep and relaxation, and a greater sense of peace and well-being. A clutter-free home can also help you save time and money, and make it easier to entertain guests and enjoy your living space.

9. How can I involve my family in the decluttering process?

To involve your family in the decluttering process, make it a fun and collaborative activity. Set aside time each week or month to work together on decluttering projects, and encourage everyone to be honest about what they really need and use. Make it a goal to create a more organized and functional living space that everyone can enjoy.

10. What are some tips for decluttering sentimental items?

When decluttering sentimental items, it can be helpful to take a photo or make a digital copy of the item to help preserve the memory. You can also consider donating the item to a local charity or museum, or passing it down to a family member who will appreciate it. Be honest with yourself about what items truly hold sentimental value, and be willing to let go of items that no longer serve a purpose in your life.

11. How can I make decluttering a part of my daily routine?

To make decluttering a part of your daily routine, set aside a few minutes each day to focus on one small area or task. For example, you might spend five minutes each morning decluttering your nightstand, or ten minutes each evening sorting through your mail. By making decluttering a regular habit, you can gradually create a more organized and functional living space that reflects your values and priorities.

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