11 Ideas for a Clutter-Free Home

The Spruce / Margot Cavin

So you want a clutter-free home? Most people do, too. And the good news is that a clutter-free home can be yours with a little elbow grease, the right attitude, and some tools (plus some good places to donate your stuff).

If you’re used to an environment where piles of clutter are everywhere, changing that pattern can seem impossible. But once you’ve gotten used to living clutter-free, the little choices you make to stay that way don’t feel like chores; they simply become a part of daily life.

Here are ideas to get you started on the road to a clutter-free home as well as ways to maintain a clutter-free home over the long-term.

  • 01 of 11

    Don’t Let the Clutter In

    not allowing clutter to happen in the first place

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    Stopping something before it begins is the easiest way to make sure it never happens. This applies to clutter and hoarding clutter.

    Once clutter comes in—and most clutter does not announce upfront that it’s destined to become clutter—it’s much harder to get it out again. So just say no to impulse purchases, free gifts, good deals on products you wouldn’t buy otherwise, furniture rescued from the sidewalk, and anything that you don’t need or love. There are many types of clutter, so keep an eye out to make sure you're not ushering it into your home.

  • 02 of 11

    Stay on Top of Your Mail

    making sure mail stays sorted

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    You can take steps to reduce paper clutter, but you can never entirely eliminate it. To prevent papers from piling up, deal with them as soon as you can. The most important thing is to create a system that works for you and puts you in control of the endless flow of paper, not the other way around.

  • 03 of 11

    Make Donation a Constant Way of Life

    donation bin

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    Most people gather up a bunch of old clothes or unused items to donate on occasion—when moving, perhaps, or when a particular charity asks for help. To remind yourself that you can always give away what you don’t need, even when there’s no special occasion, keep a shopping bag in your closet at all times and whenever you spot something you don’t use or wear, place it in the bag. If you’re indecisive, wait three or four months before taking the bag to your charity of choice. If you haven’t gone back to retrieve an item, it won’t be missed.

  • 04 of 11

    Learn to Love Smaller Keepsakes

    window boxes on a coffee table

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    A clutter-free home does not mean a home devoid of decorations or comfort. The way to keep—and continue to add—items you love is to go for what’s either small (such as a souvenir ornament, not a souvenir armoire) or useful (such as a cuddly blanket, not a collection of cuddly decorative stuffed animals). Thinking small and mindfully will help.

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  • 05 of 11

    Buy for Your Needs

    buying for your needs

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    If you're buying housewares, buy them just for the people you serve not for perpetually throwing fancy dinner parties. You can easily cut out a lot of clutter when you begin to shop for your actual needs. If you do regularly serve dinner for 20 or party like it’s your job, you can still maintain a clutter-free or even minimalist home, as long as you’re very clear in your mind about what’s needed and what’s just for show or "just in case."

  • 06 of 11

    Stick to a 'One In, One Out' Policy

    items neatly folded in an organizer

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    This idea isn’t about owning a certain number of possessions but keeping that number roughly stable over time. You can always add items you truly need ​but don’t buy anything you don’t need unless you love it enough to donate something you already own to make room for it.

  • 07 of 11

    Choose Organizing Purchases Carefully

    closet organizers

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    Here’s a paradox: People who love the idea of organizing are usually drawn to every type of box, container, and shelving unit that promises to get their lives in order. Yet those very items, especially if bought without forethought or in large quantities, can create even more disorganization and clutter. Before you buy any organizing product, make sure you’ve decluttered as much as possible and organized using what you already have. If that’s not sufficient, research the right type of organizer before you buy it.

  • 08 of 11

    Allow a Few 'Clutter Zones'

    disguising clutter in a decorative container

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    You don’t have to banish every miscellaneous item from your home. Just make sure you restrict these objects to an organized junk drawer or similarly small area, such as your launchpad. When you have more clutter than will fit in your junk drawer, junk box, or junk shelf, that’s when you need to start culling.

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  • 09 of 11

    Store Like With Like

    books neatly organized on a bookshelf

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    Sometimes what looks like clutter is just the sight of necessary items scattered around a room in a disorganized way. To keep a space looking neat, keep all your shoes, books, plates, and so on in one or two particular places, and always return them there if they end up elsewhere. This especially goes for smaller items that tend to get cluttered such as remote controls, makeup, toiletries, batteries, pens, and pencils. Containerize them so they are always stored in the same spot.

  • 10 of 11

    Define Your Style

    defining personal style

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    Knowing what you like helps you to limit the number of things you take home. Sometimes, the difference between a minimalist and a clutter-accumulator is simply the ability to say, "I like that, but it’s not really 'me,' so I’ll just leave it here."

  • 11 of 11

    Don't Declutter Mindlessly

    keeping items neat and organized

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    Sometimes decluttering is just a waste of time. Why? Mostly because you're doing it wrong. Either you're just moving stuff around instead of dealing with it, or you're decluttering without a plan. Decluttering means making a decision about an item or object. You can either keep it and store it in its proper place, or you can get rid of it through donation, recycling, or consignment. Simply moving trash you are not willing to throw out from one place to another isn't decluttering. If you're just going to move stuff around, then don't waste your time with decluttering. Maybe what you really need to be doing is organizing your home instead.