how to simplify your home

I usually write about de-cluttering when I’m in the midst of a purge. At the moment I’m going through a lot of my clothes; applying a newfound ruthlessness to the process and saying goodbye to some much-loved but no longer worn items. I’ll admit, it’s a relief to open my wardrobe every morning and actually see everything (no searching required). Whilst I have written many posts about de-cluttering I don’t think I’ve ever really shared how I do it. There’s no tricks of the trade but I have found, over the past few years, that a certain mindset is required for a successful simplify.

The act of simplifying is profound – for your home and your life. It’s a beneficial process on every level and whilst I won’t go too deeply into the emotional side-affects I will say that it gives me both clarity and satisfaction. When you simplify you are ultimately creating breathing space; regardless of how small the room is. Let it be known that calm and clutter do not go hand in hand (in my experience, anyway).

However, if you set out to de-clutter your entire home it’s expected that you’ll feel overwhelmed; for some it’s a daunting task that gets put off over and over and over again. But there are some steps you can take to ensure it gets done, quite literally, one drawer at a time.

  • consider the home you want to live in – do you want to be surrounded by stuff or surrounded by space?
  • be determined and focussed and have a clear goal in mind.
  • apply the 15 minute chore rule (set the timer to keep you motivated and stay clear of online distractions). Start with a drawer or surface/benchtop that is used regularly eg. cutlery drawer, tupperware drawer, bathroom cabinet, hallway shelf where the keys, mail, miscellany lives
  • when de-cluttering the kitchen have a good think about the items that you use at least once a week – keep them and then place everything else to the side. Do you really need it all? Probably not (I had a big clear out of my kitchen cupboards recently and took everything to the op-shop – the next week I found a $6 cast-iron frying pan waiting for me – op-shop karma).
  • go through your pantry, your medicine cupboard and your bathroom and throw out everything that is out of date. Be warned, you might not feel so good when you witness all that waste.
  • your energy and motivation will easily wane. Keep reminding yourself why you’re de-cluttering…create a mantra if you need to.
  • some people like to wander around the house, choose 30 items and take them straight to the op-shop. A good option for those who prefer spontaneous, ruthless de-cluttering.
  • when deciding whether to keep or donate an item, ask yourself: do I need it? What does it mean to me? Is it beautiful? Is it necessary?
  • think of the stuff on benchtops, under beds and jammed into cupboards as distractions; items that weigh you down. Clear space and you’ll breathe easier and sleep more soundly.
  • when it comes to baby clothes keep the sentimental/really beautiful items and pass on the rest. If you are planning on having more children remember: there is always someone ready to donate a bag of wondersuits to you.
  • look at your wardrobe – if you haven’t worn something for a year then you might want to consider whether it’s worth keeping. Or just get rid of it. 
De-cluttering is just the beginning of simplifying, though. Once you have created more space it’s time to consider where everything lives in the home. The family home can be complex, too – there is always going to be toys, books, artworks and lego lying about somewhere. I’ve come to realise that simplicity doesn’t mean tidy; my home is often messy but cleaning it is much easier than it used to be because there’s less stuff to pick up and put away. I also make a point of clearing walkways as often as I can – if I can walk from one end of the house to another without tripping over or dodging items I don’t feel hindered.
Then there is, of course, the buying aspect of simplicity. What’s the point of de-cluttering if you’re just going to buy new things to fill the spaces? Let it be known that yes, I buy non-essentials and I like shopping. But when I do purchase (whether it’s new or pre-loved) I run through a checklist to make sure I’m applying mindfulness and awareness. These points comes from a book that has become a daily read for me… Rethink: The Way You Live is a constant source of inspiration.
  • consider what you buy
  • don’t fall into fashion fads
  • ask yourself if you will be bored with this object by next year?
  • will it endure my family’s lifestyle?
  • do I really need another one?
…and I add to that list: is it practical, useful, necessary, beautiful?
Tell me, how do you de-clutter? I’d love to hear your tips.
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Showing 44 comments
  • Elle Roberts

    I just sold off my boys little table and chairs. He LOVED it when he was smaller, they were handmade by a dad for his boys and sold to me when they out grew them. I wanted to keep them. But I am trying so hard to declutter and he is simply too big to sit at them now. I sold them.
    The lady just came to pick them up and her two year old boy waved furiously at me from the car window. He is excited to be getting a table and chairs of his own.
    Silly I know but I cried a little on the way into the house, not because I was sad, because I am not anymore. I am so excited that we used them, loved them and have now passed them on to be loved and cherished again, instead to holding on to them and leaving them to get dusty in the shed.

    • Jessica Thiessen

      That is so lovely!! (And totally not silly that you cried – I would have too).

  • nikoandnonnie

    This is a wonderful post, Jodi! I found your blog earlier this year and am really enjoying it 🙂 We are in the midst of a de-clutter in our household as well. We live in an 850 sq foot cottage on the coast of Southern California, and with 3 children and another one due in July, it is time to rip through the house again! We move around quite a lot with my husband's job, so I find that we are always having to cope and re-negotiate the spaces we live in, but I am getting seriously bothered by the excess- especially when you feel like you were ruthless the first time and yet, there is still so much you don't actually need. It feels like it jams your brain, and you end up resenting it because tidying and cleaning take time away from when you could be playing with your children or sitting down with a still-hot cup of tea.I think clear sight lines are key: if everything has a purpose and a place in your home than you can justify it being there, or just enjoy it for what it is.Storage lockers/garages, etc. when available can be game-changers, just as long as you remember not to jam those too full! My tip: put things in rotation, and if you feel like when you unearth it again that you really did live without it (or even thinking about it) then out it goes.

  • laluuu

    I think one of the most salient points you make is that of the buying aspect, and the hardest area (for me) not to develop clutter in is that of things for my girls. It's so hard to not buy some of the beautiful clothes on offer, or their own copy of a toy they have enjoyed on a playdate.

    Recently, I have been devising some 'rules' for myself in order to avoid falling down the rabbit hole of kid purchases and have decided that I will only buy ethically made clothing for the girls. Being that they tend to be more expensive than unethically produced clothing, I will not be able to afford to buy too many, and in turn will avoid making too many purchases.

    I also like to focus on the concept of negative space when I am furnishing a part of my house. It fits nicely with wabi-sabi and results in every room of our home feeling airy and light. Luna. x

  • Karen

    I continue to battle against clutter. For many years our family moved often and our belongings were parred down to a bare minimum. I loved living like that. After 14 years in one place, four children and a partner who likes to keep 'in case' I truly feel that we have too much stuff. With two children now at uni I am taking the opportunity to slowly get some of the stuff out of the house. We have a basket by the front door, anything that is unwanted goes into the basket; when it is full it goes to the charity shop. I have got rid of so much this way and no one misses it as it drips out of the house. Sneaky but effective!

  • Lou

    Some great ideas! Thanks! I find it hard to stay on track and get distracted all the time. The 15 minute rule sounds like something I should have a crack at. I'd like to go through the whole house before we move in 5 months. We have so much stuff we don't need/still in boxes and I'd rather not take it all to our next location and have to sort it out there. Even if I can minimise the 'stuff' it would make the move a lot easier!
    Love reading your posts!

  • Katrina@capturingmoments

    Once a year, I do one room at a time. I put things that I don't think we need or want into a box and store it in the shed, clearly labelled for around 6 months. If it hasn't been opened in that time, I part with it. It has worked well for us so far. The exception has been with toys, with those I simply rotate…things in the box come out for a play and other toys go in…keeps the boys happy and their bedroom far less cluttered!

  • Emma Steendam

    So, so, so timely Jodi! We just packed up AGAIN, and moved interstate AGAIN. Each and every time we move (about five times in the past six years) I go through the de-cluttering, the simplifying. Yet still packing up this time there was heaps of 'stuff' I want to sell, throw out, take to op shop. We did do a big op shop run, but being over an hour to town we could have done loads more, instead packing it all up and I'm planning when we unpack I'll be donating lots (currently stuff is in storage). I'm saving this post away to refer back to – thank you!

  • Angela @ nourish me naturally

    Oh gosh, I have tubs in my garage just waiting to go to the op shop, I find, for me, if I leave a box of stuff sitting around too long I tend to go back through it and pull things back out again, telling myself that I promise to use them this time and I never do!!! Im so frustrated with myself for hanging onto "stuff" that is clearly useless to me when I know that it would be a treasure to someone else out there. Childrens clothes are a big issue, we have so much I feel guilty for keeping them all, so am constantly sorting through them and culling the 20 t shirts in half, but really thats still too many tshirts, and im not a crazy shopper, we just get given so much stuff by other families, its a blessing in some ways as we have not had to buy our wee boy of 18months any clothes whatsoever, they are all handme downs from familys in our town. Dont even get me started on the book
    s and toys….haha…it feels like im always de-cluttering these days

  • The Wholefood Mama

    Great post Jodi. We live in a small house so de-cluttering is a weekly task to keep on top of 'stuff', my problem is books! Even though we are not at all big consumers somehow via gifts and who knows how else we end up with stuff! It is nearly midnight but your post has inspired me so much I feel like going and throwing some stuff out now! I will go to bed instead and tackle it one drawer at a time in the morning x

  • joana

    I've been doing this for the past two years and it was a hard but needed experience. When I became unemployed I started to think about my life and the things around me, and I realised that many things in my life where unnecessary, that there was to much 'noise'. I started with my closet and slowly extended this to rest of my house and my life. I've even cleaned my husband's closet. I still do!
    Bottom line, now, it's a way of living: I don't buy unnecessary things (clothes, shoes, food, etc.), I try keep it simple in every aspects of everydary life (work, housekeeping, parenting – what's the problem of not taking a bath once in a while?)… and yes, I do use dry shampoo.

  • danielle

    really helpful tips here, thank you! setting out to create some breathing space in our home today…

  • Jessica Thiessen

    These are some great tips! I especially love how you emphasize that clutter isn't just material junk but also mental. Beautifully put.

  • Becka

    At the new year, I put as much of our clothing on hangers as possible and turn all the hangers backwards (hook facing out instead of in). When something is worn, washed, and put back on the hanger, I turn the hanger the right way. You can quickly see what is worn frequently and what, while beautiful, is not functional or practical or just not reached for. The solution presents itself: either make an effort to wear it, or put it in the OP bin at the end of the year. Those backwards hangers will grow to haunt you.

    For all other items, if I can't remember a recent time that it was in use at all, into the OP bin it goes. If it was used recently but not THAT recently, it goes into storage and out of the way. If it hasn't been used in 6 months after that, it really needs to go.

    When I was young, we were quite poor and didn't have much at all. My growing up family is still really challenged when it comes to letting things go, and I don't want to pass that on to my children. I'm constantly dreading going through my mother's things when the time comes, and I don't like the idea of passing on a burden of stuff to my children. When someone has to sift through my life, I want it to be a beautiful experience of things that mean something, full of memory and history, not piles and piles of useless junk.

    I divorced a year ago and parting ways with half of the family goods was honestly so wonderful for my mindset. I had no option but to have a clean slate. As it turns out, you really don't need all those kitchen gadgets, twice as many towels as there are people in your home (and we don't even have a washer/dryer at home), or any of the other accumulated clutter. I told myself that if I really missed something that had gone with my ex, I would replace it when I could no longer go without it. It's been a year and I still don't miss any of those things.

    I love the mantra- "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without". And I search for the intersection of useful and beautiful. If it is neither, it doesn't belong here. Ideally, it should be both!

    • emma summer

      hanger thing – so brilliant.

    • Jodi

      So many brilliant ideas here, Becka. Thanks for sharing x

  • des

    we have a steadfast rule in our home, especially when regarding toys, one thing in-one thing out.

  • Bron Maxabella

    And, as with all things, JUST BEGIN. x

  • Courteney Rodda

    I'm a natural pack rat (especially when it comes to art supplies or fabric) but I also HATE clutter. Because of that I have made a point to do at least two serious purges a year. I have had to force myself to be really ruthless when cleaning. If it hasn't been used in 6 months (or a year if it's seasonal) then it's gone. My motto is that everything has a place. If there's no drawer/shelf/closet for it, I need to rethink things. Clutter makes me crazy.

  • Knicker Elastic Fantastic

    I NEED this post!!! We live in rented accommodation with little built in storage so We are constantly LOOKING at all out stuff as it's out on display! Makes u realise how much you have! I have a little rule to throw out or donate one item a week! 🙂

    • Jodi

      Oh Emma, this is brilliant! I'm inspired x

  • Jo @ Country Life Experiment

    Love a good declutter. I did the spare room cupboard over the summer, and ended up expanding into the rest of the house. It was cathartic, though my husband asked if I was pregnant. Rude so and so.

    • Jodi

      Cathartic and addictive! x

  • Bec - Mumma Tells

    Must.bookmark.this. Or better yet, just do!

  • Jodi Gibson

    I love this! So glad I found your blog.

  • Kate

    I have been inspired. I have been meaning to tackle the bathroom cupboard for days. So much stuff that hasn't been touched in years… all gone. TODAY! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Mindfully Making

    I love this post, perfect timing for me as I am starting to declutter. I am a ruthless declutterer (not sure if that is even a word!) and I just look at the item and say, have I worn it, do I love it, do I need it, will I miss it. When I declutter I need it out of the house immediately too, I can't have it lying around in bags in the garage. Something can of course sit there if I have sold it and it's waiting to be collected.

    Thanks for the inspiration. I think I'll print this post out, if that's ok, and I will have it near my computer as a reminder whilst I go through this process:)

  • one claire day

    Attempting to de-clutter this weekend. I am so overwhelmed! I feel like I can't breathe in my own house. How bad is that?

    The problem is mainly toys though – it's hard to get rid of gifts. But I'm at the point where I've got to put the sentiment aside and be ruthless!


    • Eloise

      One Claire Day – I keep a roller box of the few large plastic gifted toys that would be just too rude/mean to part with (after culling 95% of them, I should add!). That way they're out of adult sight, and I can just bring them out as novelty toys for the day when I feel like it. Works for us! You have to be RUTHLESS 😉

  • Zanni Arnot

    We have spent the last few years de-cluttering Jodi. We have a fairly small house (always have) and yet it's still cluttered even after all those trips to the oppy. I think this will be my life's work. Sigh. Visiting for #weekendrewind. x

  • Sonia LifeLoveandHiccups

    I am always culling and decluttering to the point that I drive my family crazy. I find that clutter crowds my mind and makes it hard to focus when I am surrounded by it. I think my boys are getting good at it now and they too know the only keep it if it is useful or precious.. that said did you know how precious a box of cicada shells can be??? xx

  • rahel

    My husband and I are both creatives (filmmaker and graphic designer). Maybe this is one of the reasons why we tend to find so many potentially interesting, inspiring, useful things (mostly old furniture pieces), to "do something nice with them in the future". Most of our findings ended up untouched in our storage. In the last weeks we did some really serious de-cluttering to transform the storage to a baby room for our 6 month old. It was a hard process but so rewarding. For all the nice furniture pieces, we kept the best ones and set ourselves a one week timeframe to renovate them and integrate them in the house. We gave away everything that wasn't finished after a week. And we decided that all the rest of the things in the house will fall from now on under the "one comes one goes"-rule, that I've been applying successfully for years with my clothes and books. It makes me think twice before buying something new because I know I will have to split with something I have at home.

  • Sarah Stone

    Love this post, Jodi. My husband, daughter and I live in a very small, city row home. Keeping a hand on all of our clutter is a constant struggle. I think my husband and I are on the same page about a mindful and uncluttered living space, but it feels like a constant battle with our three and a half year old daughter. In fact, as I was reading your post aloud to my husband just now, our daughter came running into the room with a brand new, unopened game given to her by a relative. Do you have any suggestions about teaching and instilling a more simple way of living in your children?

  • Elle

    Over at our house we try so hard to live simply. It truly is harder than is sounds. Sounds – simple… but even after we sold EVERYTHING in our garage, including the car – and our home including most of the fixtures and fittings we still find it impossible to find a home for everything in our apartment. We are away travelling indefinitely in May and the thought of what we're going to do with all our 'stuff' turns me cold. I am not attached or sentimental at all to objects – I genuinely think they multiply over night while I'm not looking!

  • Seana Smith

    Hello, I'm having Tuesdays as my house day – a bit of work at home but first I go around the house decluttering, last week I went to the charity shop and to the tip as well. With six of us there will always be things to sort out… this Tuesday it's my clothes drawers and old school text books, and passing on some of the toys the twins don't need any more. Feels good to pass things on to folks who might need them too. Nice to meet you via the Rewind.

  • Tanya Flood-Proof Mum

    A great post and a welcome reminder to continue with my declutter. When we flood we are forced to declutter, so we don't have an excess of things. It's more that we aren't always organised as to where things go…at least some people in the house aren't anyway – something I need to work on. I love order and being able to find things 🙂

  • dear olive

    We rented out our place on air bnb when we were away over christmas (and for the last week too actually) – and as painful as it can be doing all that cleaning, it's also a wonderful exercise in forced de-cluttering! I barely recognised our sparse environment arriving home last night …. and it's inspiring me to do more – the thought of another child with all their crap arriving into the mix soon is filling me with fear! Kellie xx

  • babbleoncity

    Thanks Jodi … this was just the (gentle) kick up the backside I needed!
    xx Jo @ BabbleOn City xx

  • Cor

    Thank you Jodi! This post could not have come into my life at a better time — right when I'm needing to lift my game and make room for a new addition to the family so simplifying my home is exactly what I need to do. Some really wonderful tips that I plan on making a lot of use out of. xx

  • mamapossum1954

    Really enjoyed this post!!! I come from a long line of "pack rats" or hoarders! My parents were the type who totally "cleaned" the apartment 1/2 an hour before company was coming – and hardly any other time. Unfortunately, I became that way, and so is my 22 year old son (he still lives at home). He recently had me watch a video about tiny homes, and it made me inspired to google sites that would help me simplify my life, and yours was the first hit. Hopefully I can get this done this time, because 59 years of living this way is really too much to handle.

  • sirkadelic

    My method is firstly to exhaust what I have at hand, whether that is dvds, clothes, toiletries etc. That way I only shop for the essentials or something that I am going to put to use immediately. The stuff that I can't part with mostly because it was pricy I either donate to someone that I know will use it (I have a large extended family so there's ample takers here!) or find a buyer which is honestly harder and takes a alot more time. Everything I'm left with is being used, has a purpose (sentimental eg from my grandparents who passed away) and "lives" somewhere in my home. The "lives" part is critical to me since I can get extremely organized and find anything quickly. It also makes cleaning easier eg. with all my books in one place there's only dusting to do, do a quick check to pull out to sell/donate the unused ones and I'm done! No need to wonder if there are any magazines, leaflets, books somewhere else in the house.
    And lastly my friends apart from not buying into the consumerism when I do purchase I limit the amount of paper such as manuals, boxes, packaging etc. before I even reach home. That way there's less junk to discard and I am only left with the essential item to place where it now lives.

  • S L C

    Loved your article. The emotionsl attachment is key. We have a 5,000 sq ft home that we bought about 10 years ago and have been remodeling (slowly). It's amazing how much clutter can accumulate under these circumstances because we actually "might" use a lot of it since we are doing the remodel as we have cash. BUT I am hoping for grandkids in the next few years and the clutter HAS to go!!! Thank you!!

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