Clean Living Masthead New



Reduce Clutter for Peace of Mind and Easier Cleaning!

Quick Tips to Try Today

free stuffThere’s no doubt about it: not only can clutter accumulate in your home, but it can seem to build up in your brain too. The more "stuff" that accumulates, the more daunting it can be to clean around it. And what’s more, the idea of purging your possessions can sometimes feel insurmountable.

But reducing general clutter can be liberating and bring a breath of fresh air wafting through your living space. Start by taking just one hour at a time to take a close look at your piles – and keep these tips in mind.


  • Ask yourself if you really need multiple versions of the same item. For example: how many flower vases or pairs of rain boots do you use at once? Keep the one or two that you love, and donate, sell, or give the rest to a friend.
  • Enlist your kids to help purge outgrown clothes and toys for donation. It’s a great teachable moment to help kids visualize those items they used to play with or wear in the hands of someone who will look at them through new eyes.
  • Don’t buy new containers or storage bins until you’ve measured the space they’ll occupy and the contents to go within them. Take your measurements (and a tape measure) with you when you’re ready to shop!
  • Give yourself a break! It’s easier if you set reasonable goals -- such as one Saturday morning session for cleaning, sorting, and discarding of non-essential items in just one room (or perhaps just one jam-packed drawer) at a time. Make three piles: "relocate," "donate," and "toss." You’ll be amazed at how much clutter you can cruise through if you do it in short, focused spurts. Plan a treat afterward to reward yourself and your participating family members!


  • Another great option is to give a new purpose to an old item. Are glass jars piling up because you think you might make 20 gallons of marinara sauce one of these days? Assign new roles to them, such as storing desktop office supplies, spare buttons, or even using them as "retro" water glasses at dinnertime!
  • Take old storage solutions – like large closet bins you used at a previous home, or a laundry basket that’s too small for your typical load – and assign them new jobs in your organizational system. Spray paint the bin to match your entryway décor and use it near the front door to collect incoming boots and shoes; place the laundry basket in the garage to lasso sports gear. A giant unused vase can be repurposed as a kitschy umbrella stand, too!
  • Kids can take part in your "reusing" efforts, too. Challenge them to invent fun new purposes for old "stuff." For example: craft paint and decoupage can transform old shoe boxes into colorful, jazzy storage containers for CDs and extra device chargers; an outgrown boot with a glass jar tucked inside can have a whole new life as a conversation-starting front stoop planter!
  • Consider a "favorite collections day" for the family. Have each person do a show-and-tell of their favorite saved items – such as school art projects, baseball caps, or cookbooks. Then, rank them by favorites and brainstorm together to think of new "homes" for ones that are lower on the list. Perhaps cookbooks could find a new home at a local school, or baseball caps would be welcomed by a youth organization in town. Framed or laminated school art can be a fun gift for long-distance family members, too.


  • Recycle your glass, plastic, and paper on a weekly basis; keep bins in convenient places (such as the kitchen, garage and home office) to collect items between municipal pick-ups (or trips to the recycling center, depending on your local options).
  • Gather up magazines and drop them off at a local hospital or nursing home on the way to work; donate extra pet supplies and old towels to a local animal shelter; and deliver outgrown or no longer used clothing or linens to a local organization in need of these items (search for "clothing donations [your city/state]" to find locations). Be sure to launder any clothing or bedding before donating.
  • Keep a bag or basket in or near your closet for donations. If you try it on and don’t like the way it looks or fits – put it in the basket rather than back in your closet. When the bin is full, donate!
  • Go through the mail every day, and discard the junk immediately (versus letting it gather dust). Sort what’s left into piles, and schedule at least one hour a week to address urgent matters like bills and insurance premiums. If you have a scanner (or a device app), scan the paperwork and discard the originals. (First check with your accountant or to see what records you should keep for tax purposes.)