4 Easy Habits To Keep Life Simple

Minimalists are really no different from anyone else.  We work, we socialize, we have hobbies and husbands and kids.  Stuff enters our homes every day, and if we don't have a system for dealing with it, clutter will reappear.  

So part of the minimalist lifestyle includes learning new habits that keep stuff from once again overwhelming our lives.  

4 clutter-free habits

Use these as minimalist mantras!

1.  Don't just put it down, put it away.

Use the old adage, "A place for everything and everything in its place."  As you declutter, make a home for each item you need, use, and love.

Although the two are often confused, organizing, by itself, isn't the same as decluttering.  If we simply organize all of our stuff in boxes and bins, we might wind up with a pretty system that hides a ton of clutter.

But what if we use our drawers, cupboards, closets, spice racks, book cases, and shoe bags to place limits on what we store?  Instead of rushing to The Container Store, identify your favorite belongings, put them away, and get rid of lesser-loved things that crowd the space.  By giving your most useful and special items priority, you can feel certain that it's okay to declutter the rest. 

Items often end up "homeless" because we have too much.  For example, if your bathroom counter is covered with bottles and potions, you probably have too many.  

  • Get rid of the duplicates, the things you used once and didn't like, and the outdated creams and remedies. 
  • Consider streamlining your beauty regimen. 
  • Use the medicine cabinet and vanity drawers to store the necessities that are left.

Try to keep the counter clear of everything except hand soap.  It's more soothing and spa-like and makes cleaning so much easier.

Don't waste another minute searching for your misplaced phone or a clean pair of yoga pants.  Find a specific home for these items.  Even when you're tired or in a rush, don't just put them down, put them away.  It will soon become a habit that only takes a minute or two.

2.  Practice one in, one out.

When you purchase something new, discard something comparable.  That way your containers don't overflow and everything still has a home.  For example, if you replace a worn pair of sandals, discard the old ones.  New laptop?  Recycle the old one.  

Don't waste all the time and effort you spent decluttering.  Drop your habit of hanging on to old stuff you don't need.

3.  Curb the impulse.

Shopping for the sake of entertainment, novelty, or as some sort of therapy is another habit that needs to stop.  Nothing derails your decluttering efforts (and your budget) more quickly than impulse buys.

Be aware of your weaknesses.  Are there certain stores you "can't resist?"  Certain items you tend to collect?  Have yard sales or online shopping become a favorite form of entertainment?  Do you notice that you shop more when you're lonely or bored?  If you want to change your habits, you need to know what triggers them.  

Several strategies may help you:  

  • carry only cash
  • remove credit card information and disable one-click online purchasing
  • change your route so you don't drive by the tempting store
  • wait three (or more) days before making an unplanned purchase
  • use non-shopping strategies to boost your mood, such as chatting with a friend, taking a brisk walk, sitting in the sunshine, listening to your favorite music, watching a funny movie, taking a nap, doing a kind deed, or keeping a gratitude journal.

4.  It's a lot easier to keep up than to catch up.

Develop routines for doing household chores, since piles grow when chores are neglected.  It really takes just a couple of minutes to sort through the mail every day.  The longer you wait, the bigger the pile gets and the more you dread the job.  The same goes for doing dishes or laundry.

Do you put off a chore because you hate doing it?  Try timing it.  It may not take as long as you think, and once you realize that, it will be easier to make yourself do it.  So many jobs take only five minutes (some take only one)!  Or trade a chore you dislike with another household member's least favorite chore.  My husband vacuums and empties the dishwasher for me, and I never ask him to dust or fold the laundry.

Create daily habits for yourself and your kids.  Be specific about what you want them to do, such as 

  • "Make your bed." (at least pull up bedclothes neatly and put the pillow at the head) 
  • "Put clean clothes away and dirty ones in the hamper." 
  • "Hang up your towel." 
  • "Put toys where they belong."  

These habits should become just as routine as "Brush your teeth" and "Wash your hands."

Instead of letting the house get really dirty and cluttered, which turns cleaning into a weekend-eating slog, make it a habit to clean as you go.  You'll reduce mess, stress, and arguments, and keep your newly decluttered home spacious and serene.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project,* reminds us that "What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while."  It's the daily events, habits, routines, and attitudes that determine the direction of our lives.  When minimalist habits become your daily lifestyle, you'll never have to do a huge declutter again!

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Updated February 2023


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