6 Easy (and Possibly Surprising) Ways to Keep Your Home Clutter-Free

There's a reason you decluttered, and it's not so you could let clutter take over again. Maintenance is every bit as important as decluttering in the first place.

I'm not an extreme minimalist, but my husband and I live very comfortably in our 800-square-foot apartment, with three young grandsons who visit and play there regularly and even stay overnight sometimes. We own art and books and have hobbies and toys, but it's all very manageable. It's easy to clean, and it's comfortable and welcoming when we come home or if we relax around the house for an evening or the weekend.

If you long to create your own minimalist home, it's important to realize that living with less requires a shift in mindset. If you don't change the way you think and feel about possessions, you won't stay clutter-free for long.

Meanwhile, here are maintenance tips I've found helpful, with some that might surprise you.

Related article: How to Think Like a Minimalist 

pretty bedroom

6 maintenance tips for a clutter-free home

1. Choose less storage, not more.

I know this probably goes against everything you've ever been told. But you know being a minimalist already makes you a non-conformist, don't you?

Just as any job you're trying to finish will take longer if you set no deadline for its completion, stuff expands to fill as much space as you'll allow. And once you add one thing you don't need or use, other things will inevitably join it! What's one more tee shirt, right? Or one more cute kitchen gadget?

Of course, you should work on resisting those urges, but it becomes much easier when you limit your storage space. With less storage, you either reduce clutter or you live surrounded by messy piles. Which will you choose?

2. Make a home for everything.

You've probably heard this: "A place for everything and everything in its place." It's a proverb at least as old as my great-grandma.

What does it mean? It means that I can hand my grandson something he uses and ask him to put it away, and he can, quickly and easily. It means I can ask him to get me something, and tell him where it is, and it will be there without fail. No searching, no digging, no fuss.

The reason this is even possible is because the things we use have logical places to belong. The forks are in a kitchen drawer. The extra blankets are in a closet across the hall from the bedrooms. The toothpaste is on a shelf in the bathroom.

This isn't just about being tidy. These things have a purpose, so it's easy to figure out where they belong. If you can't figure out where something belongs, that might be because you don't really need it.

Once you've established homes for what you own, you need to develop the habit of putting things away when you've finished with them. My mom used to say, "Don't just put it down – put it away!" You can steal that if you want.

3. Declutter furniture.

green couch
Want to make space quickly in your over-crowded home? Don't be afraid to declutter a piece of furniture.

We've picked up the idea that we "need" certain pieces of furniture. End tables in the living room, extra chairs, a desk, an entertainment center, the china hutch. But what do you need for your lifestyle? Maybe you don't need a dresser because the only clothes you fold are underwear and socks, and you like to have those in baskets on a closet shelf. Maybe you don't need bookshelves because everything is on an e-reader. Maybe you don't need a coffee table because you prefer to use your end tables.

I remember a long-ago Miss Minimalist post about her choice not to own a couch.

There's certainly nothing wrong with owning these things if you use them, though keep in mind that items like curio cabinets and sideboards might just be homes for clutter (see item #1).

4. Remove one thing.

The style icon Coco Chanel famously advised, "Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off." While removing a scarf or a bracelet won't leave you underdressed, it does make room for other accessories to shine.

Apply the same principle to your home. As you look at your rooms, flat surfaces, shelves, and storage cubbies, see if you can improve the space by decluttering one thing.

5. Be careful with "one in, one out."

A lot of minimalists swear by this rule, and I've written about it myself. But this practice can be a trap.

  • It lets you keep right on buying things as long as you keep getting rid of old stuff.
  • It doesn't encourage you to buy quality items, care for them and use them as long as possible, and only replace what's necessary.
  • It doesn't keep you from following the latest trends or influencers.
  • It doesn't give you any reason to examine your shopping behavior or the source of your discontent.
  • It doesn't explain or control a tendency to "trade up" for a new handbag, cell phone, vacation, car, or even a new house every few years.

As Jennifer at SimplyFiercely.com says,

This is often a bandaid solution. You might achieve your desired results in the short-term, but in the long-term you haven't learned how to live with less. You're still stuck in the mindset of needing "more" to be happy instead of appreciating what you already have.

6. Make clutter inconvenient.

I used to keep an "out box" (a box in which I was collecting things I wanted to declutter, one or two or three items at a time) in my guest bedroom closet or in the trunk of my car. And there it would sit – sometimes for months.

Sure, I was planning to donate (or occasionally, for higher-value items, to sell), and I would get around to that eventually. And I thought this was fine, until I noticed that a friend still had boxes of stuff I'd helped her declutter taking up half her garage. Oops!

So put that box in the middle of the living room, or in the entry hall right next to the front door. Put it where you'll bump into it or hate seeing it. Make it a pain in the neck and you'll deal with it quicker.

I hope I've convinced you to make maintenance a habit, and that a few of these atypical tips challenged your thinking. I know you'll appreciate your manageable, clutter-free home.

Ready to downsize?

You need my newest book, Downsize Now: The Joy of Decluttering for a Fresh Start.* It's available on Amazon in a handy Kindle edition (readable on any device with their free app) or as a beautiful paperback.

* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


  1. I have a 3-drawer chest of drawers in which the two bottom drawers are empty. But I use the top of it to hold my nighttime needs so it stays. Those needs, except for the lamp spend the day in that top drawer, though, so they aren't clutter then.

    1. Absolutely not clutter. You use them regularly, they have a place to belong, they don't negatively impact your daily life (in fact, they enhance it). Sounds perfect.

  2. Yup - number 5 continues to be my downfall. Thanks for the reminders.

    1. Hi Lucy. Yes, it's a problem for many of us. The root cause is a shopping habit. You might like https://www.maximumgratitudeminimalstuff.com/2021/01/how-to-resist-shopping.html
      and https://www.maximumgratitudeminimalstuff.com/2023/02/decluttering-guilt-when-you-feel-it.html

  3. I have begun to get rid of things to prevent my family from being overwhelmed by everything when I pass away. Since I’m classified as elderly I am aware that it could happen anytime. Many boxes of things have been donated and several things already taken for immediate use by a family member setting up housekeeping for the first time. I still have far too much although the only things not neatly stored are the craft projects I’m currently involved in. Still I know many more things can go and I sort and box one or more things to donate every day. It is getting harder as I get to things that either I or my late husband particularly enjoyed having. However I am staying at it.

    1. Hello and thanks for your comment. As you are probably learning, "neatly stored" is not the same as "uncluttered." It's great that you are continuing to stick with the process, and that you're donating and helping family members too! I hope (and believe) you'll begin to feel peace and a sense of lightness as your project continues. Best wishes!


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