How to get rid of clutter with 9 simple and effective habits

As a professional home organizer for over 13 years, I have discovered that if you long for your home to be tidy most of the time, the key to success creating new habits.

And trust me, "most of the time" is good enough! No one (not even me!) has a home that feels totally decluttered and organized in every minute of every day. We live, work and play in our homes and thus there is a constant energetic flow of items from an organized state to a disorganized state again and again. The question is: can you quickly bring your home back to an organized state in a relatively short period of time? If you can, then color yourself organized!

How to get rid of clutter with 9 simple and effective habits:

1.  Stop Clutter at the Source

See our free "Stop Clutter" PDF resource. If you don't allow unneeded things into your home, you won't have to clean, organize or declutter them! Watch your buying habits (beware of bargains!) and do your best to stop unneeded items from ever entering your home.

2.  Mindfully Create Systems

Begin by noticing where clutter collects. These clutter-attracting places are your "hot spots." Pick one hot spot and create a plan for where to keep the items that have collected there. Remember that like begets like and clutter attracts more clutter. It can help to put something pretty like a decorative vase or fresh flowers on a surface that was formerly a hot spot as a visual reminder to keep the space beautiful. For more on this topic, see also our post on decluttering surfaces.

3.  Create Landing Places for Important Items

There are some items we need regularly: often we can't leave the house without them, but it's easy for them to get lost amid our things when we're home. I'm talking about those everyday things like keys, mobile phone, and wallet or anything else you tend to lose!

Even if you keep your wallet, mobile phone, and keys in your purse or briefcase, your mobile phone will often follow you around the house and your wallet may end up by the computer for a purchase! To avoid this annoyance, create  a designated place for each of these items. When you grab your keys to get something from the car, return them to their place when you're finished. The place could be a surface with three sticky notes: one that says "keys," one "phone," and one "wallet." Or you might use an attractive bowl in which you deposit these items when not in use. Or you might choose to create the habit of always returning such objects to your purse or backpack!

4.  Say "NO Thank You" to Free Stuff

There is a lot of free stuff floating around our lives. From swag bags at conferences to hand-me-downs from friends, a lot of the clutter in our homes came to us free, and it's hard to say no to free stuff!

But remember, most things are not truly "free." If an item brings you stress, it's taking a toll on your energy. Even if you didn't buy it, it has a cost! Try gently declining free things, even if it feels counterintuitive. The more you do it, the stronger that "muscle" or habit will become. Your future self will thank you for less clutter. For alternative gift ideas that do not create clutter, click here.

5.  Have Donation Containers Ready

As you go through your daily life, you may come across something in your home and realize "I'm ready to let that go." Have donation boxes or bags ready for items like this. If you don't have a designated place to put the item, it often stays right where it is and continues to brings your energy down.

As soon as you are ready to let an object go, put it in the donation box. You will immediately feel the effect of less clutter in your living space. At your earliest opportunity, donate it! Then you can celebrate the full effect of letting your items go and reclaiming the energy that was tied up in them. Full donation containers that stay in your home long-term still drain your energy, even if they are out of sight. If you are finding it difficult to take the item to a donation location yourself, schedule a pickup. We offer a list of donation places on our resources page.

6.  Declutter Regularly

For many of us, "slow and steady wins the race." Try designating five to ten minutes every day for decluttering. For some, winding down in the evening is a good time to declutter. For others, five minutes after coffee is the magic time.

Identify a time that works for you. Set a timer and spend your time putting things away, tidying, and making your space look the way you want it. When the timer goes off, stop. Now, relax! If daily doesn't work for you, try setting aside an hour each weekend. Stephanie Vogt's book Your Spacious Self: Clear the Clutter and Discover Who You Are outlines this "slow drip" method of organizing and outlines why it is likely to be longer lasting and less stressful than the popular KonMari method.

7.  Keep Recycling and Trash Receptacles Throughout Your Home

Placing recycling and trash container in every room (and within easy reach) goes a long way toward keeping clutter at bay. For example: use a small paper bag for paper recyclables, a waste basket for trash, and a box or bag for "in transit" items. For more on this topic (complete with visual aids!) see our blog post on receptacle readiness.

8.  Beware "Gonna Fix That Someday" Projects

Fix, donate, trash or replace broken things in your home. Set a timeframe for completing a repair project and if you do not complete the task in the time that you committed to, simply admit (without beating up on yourself!) that it is not really on your priority list.

In one of my favorite books, Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui, Karen Kingston mentions unfinished projects in one of the first chapters! Set aside time to complete any unfinished projects scattered throughout your home. You saved those materials for a reason, so make the time to use them. If the project no longer seems joyful, pass the supplies on to someone else!

9.  Negative Energy

Say goodbye to any items that have negative associations or memories. A wedding dress from a divorced spouse; a vase from your aunt who never had a nice thing to say about you; you get the idea! Getting rid of things that bring your energy down will make space for your treasures to shine!

Your space is a reflection of your habits and values, whether long term (leaving half-finished projects undone) or short term (paper piles accumulating due to a stressful time at work). If your clutter brings you stress, consider how changing your habits could dramatically reduce the clutter in your home and make more room for new energy to flourish. In the words of Stephen Covey,

"I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions."

Energy saving tip: Do you have a decluttering or organizing habit that worked for you in the past, but you somehow stopped taking advantage of? Try revisiting that habit. If you try it and it doesn't work, tweak it a bit. You have mastered a habit when you can pick it up again after a period of falling off the wagon.

What are your favorite of these nine habits, and which habits are you less fond of? How would you define a supportive environment for you? Let us know in the comments!

Discover more ways to mindfully declutter your home or office here!

(If you purchase one of the books mentioned here, I receive a small percentage of the sales price as a member of the Amazon affiliate program.)