You did it. You finally de-cluttered your home or closet. Slowly, though, you’ve noticed that items have begun to creep back in. Now you have more knick-knacks again than Great Aunt Ida. What happened? Well, decluttering is only half the battle. The other is to have a plan put in place to prevent clutter from sneaking back in. But first, make sure you read the post “Live More With Less: Are You Holding Onto Items Others Could Use?” to de-clutter if you haven’t already.
5 Tips To Maintain a Clutter-Free Home
1.) Learn contentment
The first step in preventing clutter is learning to be content with what we have. If not, we will continue to bring in unnecessary items. For some people, this means continuing to shop with reckless abandon.
I know. I’ve been there.
In the past, when I had a bad day there was nothing like a little retail therapy to perk me up. But after wearing a new dress a few times it begins to lose its, well, newness. I often found I wanted to buy something new to get that feeling back again.
For other people, the need to find a deal prevents them from keeping clutter out. Guys, I love a good deal. But don’t let a good deal spur inspire you to buy 20 mini tents you will have to store in your garage. (I actually had a boss who did this once.)
A good deal is only a good deal if it is on something you need or have been eyeing for a while. Otherwise, our possessions can’t spark joy, only Christ can do that as Gina writes so beautifully about over at Money Savvy Living.
This is where contentment comes in.
If we view our possessions as filling needs instead of filling all our wants, then we will not only be more grateful for them but no longer feel the need to keep bringing more stuff into our homes.
I often talk about how much we have to be grateful here at Pretty Simple Ideas and it is true every day. If you’re like me, you may forget occasionally.
For further encouragement on gratitude, you might enjoy this post, What To Do When You Don’t Feel Grateful to bump up your thankfulness meter.
2.) Be Intentional About New Purchases
The next step is to be intentional about each and every new purchase we make.
Why? Because when we forget the reason for wanting to clear our house of clutter in the first place, we often leave a larger door open to let it all back in again.
Next time you are about to make a purchase ask yourself these questions:
Do I need it?
Do I already have something like it?
Do I love it?
If a clothing item, will it match what else I already have in my closet?
Do I have a space for it?
Am I buying it only because its on sale?
If I ever feel like I am making a rash decision I will sit on it a day or two. If a few days pass and I still feel like it is a good buy I can go ahead and get it. In some cases, the item is gone (Craigslist) or no longer on sale. In those cases, I shrug and remind myself I saved money. The even better part is a week or so down the line I’ve forgotten about that item.
Along with sale items, don’t feel like you have to bring things into your house because it is FREE. Sure, free is good, but do you need it? Will you even use it? Or are you taking something free that someone else who actually needs it could use more?
Now, if you want it and love it and it’s free then it’s a triple win for you. It’s good to pause and ask ourselves these questions before agreeing to take it.
3.) If something new comes in, something else must go out
In with the new – out with the old! (Not as catchy, but you get the point.)
I’m not an extreme minimalist; I do like to buy new things. But I also have a rule: If something new comes in, something old must go out.
Of course, this rule doesn’t always apply. I recently accepted baby clothes from my sister. I didn’t own any baby clothes so I didn’t have any to get rid of. Also, we are bringing a new human into our home so she will need clothes!
But for other items, this rule works great. Did you buy a new pair of jeans? See if you can find an old pair to donate. The same goes for: spatulas, towels, shoes, sheets, mirrors – you name it.
This rule is not exact, either. But it is good to get in the mindset of getting rid of items if we bring more in. That way we can keep the clutter at bay. Don’t forget to check out my new post, “5 Questions to ask when decluttering” to take the stress out of the process.
4.) Create a spot for every item to prevent clutter
A daunting task, right? But I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “A Place for Everything and everything in its place.”
If you want to keep your home organized and clutter-free you must have a place for each item in it.
You need a place for socks. (Yes, you even need a place for solo socks that lost their partner so when you find it you can reunite the two!)
You also need a place for utensils, bills, necklaces, cleaning supplies, towels, cards, etc. As you come across items start grouping them together. Or in the very least create a list of items that will need a permanent home.
When we don’t put organization systems in place stuff starts to pile up. Why do you think so many of us have junk drawers? We don’t know where to put certain items.
But beware of the lie that you need to buy more store and organization items.
Guys, if you need to buy more stuff to store your stuff, you have too much stuff.
The more we let go from our homes the less we need storage to contain it. I always find things fall into place after that. For more inspiration make sure to read 10 Ways to Become a Better Organizer.
5.) Imagine Your Dream Home
This is my favorite tip. Inspiration is the key to keeping a household in order.
What do you want your home to look like?
By this, I don’t mean quartz counter-tops and a farmhouse table (Although I love both) But instead…
How do you want it to flow?
Is it light and bright?
Is it easy to walk around?
Are your drawers nice and organized?
Can you find anything you need at a moment’s notice?
Picture reading a book. What does your space around you look like?
If you’re having trouble I’d recommend creating a vision board. Cut out photos of spaces you like from magazines and put them together on one visual board. Let this be your inspiration to keep things picked up, clutter-free, and clean.
For the record, I am not trying to make everyone a minimalist. In fact, some people feel uncomfortable in minimalistic homes. You might actually prefer Hygge (cozy) over minimalism and that is fine! I’m trying to help you create a home you are comfortable in and that inspires you.
The more we can prevent clutter from sneaking back in, the more we can enjoy our homes and each space in them.
Lastly, don’t forget to grab my guide “Minimalism for Beginners” if you’re ready to create and maintain a clutter-free home for good!
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“Be intentional about each and every new purchase we make.” Yes! This has been huge for me and keeping things organized. I used to grab and buy but now I really do think it through and ask myself these questions.
That’s a great habit, Jen!
Jordan | Read. Eat. Repeat. says
Great tips! I’m a fan of in with the new, out with the old, and not buying something if I have a similar item I can make work. Clutter super stresses me out and I love clear surfaces, so this post speaks to me!
haha clutter totally stresses me out too.
Paula @ I'm Busy Being Awesome says
Fantastic tips! I love the idea of a minimalist lifestyle. I try to keep the “stuff” around my house to a minimum. But all of the challenges you mentioned in your first point apply to me; I am a sucker for a good deal and retail therapy. You’ve really highlighted the need to practice contentment. I do try to follow your third rule about new comes in, old goes out, which helps keep the clutter to a minimum. But if I can be more mindful and practice contentment with what I already have, it will reduce that need AND be more financially savvy, too. Thanks for these wonderful suggestions!
Thanks, Paula! A good deal is also my biggest downfall.
This seems to be a constant struggle in our house. I feel like I just get things cleaned off and the kids bring home a new stack of papers, art projects, etc from school… seems never-ending!
Oh gosh with kids I can’t even imagine. I will find out soon enough!
So many great tips! I find it so hard to stay minimal now that we have a kid! I feel like someone always has something for us and I never want to be rude. However, I am usually pretty good about decluttering her stuff during the holidays and her birthday. But I don’t throw it out because we plan on having another still.
I hear ya! We are having our first in April so I am accepting everything and anything right now.
Imagining my dream home makes me smile. It would be so organized and peaceful. You have some wonderful tips for barring the clutter from coming back.
jenna | the urben life says
I love creating special spots for certain things! These are really great tips, thank you
These are great tips! I read one time that a lot of people will shop when they are feeling down, but it only helps for a short amount of time. You actually become happier when you shop for others than when you shop for yourself. I think #1 really helps you realize that shopping isn’t always the best healer!
Love that! It definitely isn’t and can bring regret later.
I definitely needed to read this! I have got to start clearing out the clutter. We’ve done it in the past. Hopefully with your tips I can keep it under control this time!
Yes! Good luck, Heather
I love these tips. One of the things I try to implement is: if one goes in one must go out. I feel at this point that keeps the clutter about the same so I might implement if one goes out the 2 or 3 go out.
I use that rule too, but agree, if we have too much stuff one in and two our sounds like a great plan!
Sheree Dawn says
The thought of getting rid of clutter was definitely a daunting task. I could never figure out where to start, and so I never started. I finally decided to tackle the room with the least clutter first, and then just go through the house room by room as I had the free time. I am still working on finding the right place to put the things I am keeping, but the progress gives such a feeling of accomplishment that I just love to keep going!
Great job! Every little task that you complete I bet encourages you to tackle more.
Creating a spot is what I struggle with the most
Yah, it’s definitely tricky. I’m currently working on creating a system for people to figure that out!
It is so easy to let that clutter sneak back in. Being careful of new purchases is big for me…especially when they’re on sale.
My grandma is a huge proponent of the something in, something out rule. Love it.
She was a wise woman 🙂
Karen Ngai says
My mum has always said if you declutter your space, you’re decluttering your head too. So I have this habit of decluttering before I start doing any blog work in the evenings which has been beneficial in the sense that I don’t get distracted as much nor do I feel constricted by the lack of space.
I love that perspective! It’s totally true and I am going to remember that now.
This article is a great read! I am always spending – as I love clothes too much! I completely relate to your point of wanting to buy more when the newness fades! I will take some of your tips for future reference. 🙂 I wrote a similar piece a few weeks back – about ‘decluttering your wardrobe’ ready for the new year!
Ooh i’d love to read it! leave the link here.
We live by the rule that everything in our house has to have a home. We’re even teaching our 2 year old that each toy she has needs to be put back into it’s home at night before bed. This way we can keep the clutter around here under control. great great post!
Everything has a home – I love it!
L △ U R △ says
Clutter is the bane of my life at the moment – I just haven’t been able to clear all the rubbish we’ve accumulated since Christmas and it’s stressing me out so much! Thanks for the great tips though – I’ll definitely keep them in mind on my next clean up!
Laura ¦ http://www.laurahasablog.co.uk
I need to pass this post along to my mom! They are currently in the process of moving.. and I swear they are taking all their ‘junk’ with them! My dad says when he retires he will have time to go through and declutter… LOL
haha yes! The best time to de-clutter is BEFORE a move, not after.
Jenni LeBaron says
I love this list so much. I’m currently in the process of clearing through my home (and closets!) and trying to be more intentional with each item that comes in.
That’s such a great tip to wait a day or two to buy something. I have done that in the past and it has saved me. It’s hard in the moment but feels good when I realized I didn’t need the item. Great tips!
Love these tips! I feel like no matter what I do I have clutter behind every corner and every time I get rid of toys/clothes/etc. they sneak back into my life.
Try these tips and see if you can’t keep those pesky items from slipping in. haha
Sara Nichols says
These are great tips! I’m such a hoarder and a saver, and tend to pack the house with things I don’t need…
Great tips for everyone who needs to be more organized with just things in general. I always leave my things to clutter until I actually clean them up and I’m trying to improve myself in that aspect. Thank you for this!
Great tips here! I am the declutter queen and agree with all of them. I really like…when one comes in, one goes out, especially for kids toys. I also make it a habit of not collecting things. That causes a lot of clutter. Thanks for sharing!!!
I’m sure for kids toys that is huge!
I try to get rid of things and not bring in anything new, but let’s face it, it’s not happening for me lol. I do try to get rid of thing if I bring in new it’s becoming better at it. I am horrible at putting things in its own spot, however.
Oh I wish I could be strong enough to actually implement these strategies. I have a clothes shelf that gets organised, tidied and then ruined after maybe a week of upkeep. I should definitely have a clear out and then keep to the ‘one in, one out’ rule… Then maybe I might be able to find my clothes! Lol.
You might just need a better storage system, too!
Great tip! I am a minimalist and hate clutter. I chuck things out regularly! Though my husband is the opposite!
Erin | A Welder's Wife says
I love how your tips are for minimalists or really for anyone who doesn’t like clutter! I definitely follow your tip about making sure everything has a home. If I cannot find a space for it, then I probably do not need it.
Yes! I think it works out great that way.
Eileen Mendoza Loya says
Great tips! I particularly like tip #1 (Learn Contentment) and tip # 3 (If something new comes in, something else must go out). These two are inter-related so it would be easy to comply with. If I learn to be content with what I have, I won’t need to get something new!
I love that, Eileen!
We created a laundry system with color coded baskets. Otherwise nothing gets out away properly. It’s been working
Ooh that is a great tip. I will have to try that.