10 TIPS FOR CLUTTER-FREE LIVING: MAKING SPACE FOR WHAT MATTERS
Clutter isn’t just the stuff that takes up space in your closet, garage or drawers. Clutter is anything that comes between you and being able to live your fullest, most rewarding life. In this article I’m sharing 10 tips for clutter-free living and making space for what matters to you.
WHAT IS CLUTTER?
Clutter isn’t just the stuff that takes up space in your closet, garage or drawers. Clutter is the stuff that weighs down your heart and mind, invades your home, confuses your mind and overstretches your schedule. Clutter is what pulls you off course, makes you feel overwhelmed or unsettled.
Clutter is anything that comes between you and being able to live your fullest, most rewarding life.
Sometimes we know instantly what constitutes clutter, sometimes it takes time for us to work out what’s not supporting or serving us. We try to deal with it, make a few false starts, take one path and end up changing direction.
Life is a journey that’s all about identifying what’s clutter in our lives and what’s not. That journey reaches far beyond just our messy kitchen junk drawer.
Related post: What is clutter? 7 ways to think about your stuff
Clutter creeps up on us without us realising. Whether it’s emails in your inbox, another activity in your diary, an errand on your To Do list, yet more junk mail sitting on your kitchen counter, a friendship that’s turned one-sided or an unhealthy habit that you’ve slipped into… the ‘clutter’ of everyday life just keeps on coming.
The trick is to be vigilant for when it does, feel comfortable making decisions about what to do with it, learning to let go and say no, and setting up little systems, routines and habits to keep that clutter at bay with minimum effort.
Related post: For a complete guide on becoming (and staying clutter-free), read this article on How to Declutter Your Home and Life for tips, resources and information.
10 TIPS FOR CLUTTER-FREE LIVING
In this article, I’d like to share some tips for clutter-free living. Not just ideas to keep your home clutter-free, but your life clutter-free too.
They might not all be right for you, but I hope they encourage you to think about what can clutter your life and how to deal with it.
1. Know yourself
First and foremost, listen to your body and mind. If something feels off, there is usually a reason why you’re feeling like that. It could be physical, emotional, psychological. Talk to someone, journal your thoughts, seek advice, give yourself a break, be kind to yourself and if you need to, take action. Nothing clutters your life more than indecision, fear, forcing yourself to keep doing what you’re doing when the signals are that you need to do something different.
Related post: How to be kind to yourself
2. Buy less
Shopping unwisely clutters our home but it also drains our bank account. Before you shop, ask yourself whether you really need that item, is it going to add value to your life in some way or are you pressing the ‘buy now’ button because you’re bored or stressed. Shopping is fun and necessary so I’m definitely not saying don’t buy things. Just be sensible about your purchases and if you don’t need something, think twice before buying it.
Related post: Minimalism and shopping – 18 ways to shop with intention
3. Have less furniture
It may seem silly on the face of it, but I find if I have less furniture I tend to have less stuff! Fill a blank space with a bookcase and I’m tempted to buy books to fill it. No bookcase, then no books (I borrow from the library instead). The same goes for storage options. Declutter first, then store what remains. Don’t try to organise your clutter without decluttering it first. Less clutter requires less storage which in turn requires less furniture.
4. Prioritise your health
Self-care for your body and self-care for your mind are always important. A clutter-free life is a simpler one, but that definitely doesn’t mean empty. It does mean that you have space for what’s important and there’s isn’t much that’s more important than your health. Take exercise, breathe in fresh air, eat healthily, get enough sleep and drink plenty of water. Avoid slipping into bad habits and listen to yourself (see point 1). A healthy body and mind supports you to get the most out of life and be there for those who need you.
Related post: Simple tips for healthy eating
5. Do one thing at a time
I know this is difficult sometimes and busy life requires us to multi-task. Wherever possible, I encourage you to try to focus on one thing at a time. Go to the park with your kids, have a laugh and run around, then come back and phone the dentist. Get the housework done and then sit back and watch that film. Be present, be mindful. Things can often wait and don’t need to be done all in a rush. Focus on what you’re doing, do it well and then move on. Multi-tasking confuses the brain, prevents us from doing things as well as we can and makes each task take a lot longer because we’re not getting it done as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Related reading: 12 reasons to stop multi-tasking
6. Do less
As I write this, we’re just coming out of Covid lockdown and I’ve been home-schooling my kids and doing my ‘day job’. Multi-tasking is inevitable sometimes and in those seasons of life we just have to roll with the punches. In general, however, when my diary or brain feel overstretched, I know that’s a sure sign that my life has become a little cluttered. I make a conscious decision to do less until I’m feeling more in sync. That could mean I postpone an appointment, decline an invitation, let the housework slide for a few days, say no to another after-school activity for my kids this term. Doing less means feeling comfortable with saying no, listening to myself (back to point 1 again) and doing something about it. Doing less isn’t about never doing something, it’s about being intentional with my time and where I spend it.
Being intentional about my life is at the core of my clutter-free lifestyle. It’s really just a fancy way of saying I think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. I go with choices and decisions that feel right to me, support my life in a constructive, positive way or align with my priorities and what I want out of life. With intentionality (whether that’s about my spending habits, what’s in my schedule or anything else in my life) comes less scope for clutter. That’s not to say an intentional life is a perfect one but it does help to weed out the things that get in the way of an easier, generally less stressful every day!
Related post: What is intentional living? A beginner’s guide to finding clarity and direction and living aligned with these every day.
8. Define your priorities
When you don’t know what you want out of life, it’s easy to clutter that life in the hope you’ll find out exactly what it is you do want. A little bit like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it will stick! Of course, we all change and evolve as we get older and part and parcel of being young is about finding ourselves and what we want out of life. However, right now, try thinking about what’s truly, deeply important to you at this very moment. What are your core beliefs, personal values, goals, ambitions, what do you love and what makes you happy? Make a list of these things and try to do something every day to honour and nurture them.
“If everything is important, then nothing is.” (Patrick M. Lencioni)
Related post: How to define your priorities and why it matters
9. Put things away when you’ve finished with them
File, throw, recycle or shred paper when you’ve dealt with it. Clear up the kitchen whilst you’re cooking. Put the clean laundry away as soon as it’s dry. Tidy your desk at the end of the day. Put your home to bed before you head for bed. Doing a little bit often with regular routines is the key to keeping on top of the clutter without you really even thinking about it.
Related post: 20 daily habits for a clutter-free home
A simpler, clutter-free life isn’t an easy one, but it’s much eas-IER than an overstuffed life full of things that we’ve chased for or let slip into our lives but which don’t really make us happy. If you’re always chasing the next big thing – car, home, designer shoe collection, your life becomes a series of targets. Chase this, achieve that, tick it off, right… what’s next..? Self-development, improving oneself, aiming high, and personal growth are all important but so too is appreciating the little things. Your life may be marked by amazing highs and lows but what about those all-important bits in between? Your life is the sum total of both the big and small things so make those small things count. Cut through the clutter to get crystal clear on what you have right now and make space for the little things to shine through.
Related post: How to start a gratitude practice