Simple Ideas for Controlling Clutter

Simple Ideas for Controlling Clutter


Clutter is like that last Christmas party guest that won’t leave.

They’ve eaten your cheese dip and knocked an ornament off your tree and ensconced themselves in a chair telling you about their trip to the grand canyon for the fifth time.

You look longingly at the door.

Leave clutter, leave, you tell yourself.

But it never does.

Take charge.

Take control.

Take over….

….and show that cheese-eating, ornament-knocking, grand-canyon visiting clutter to the door.

Here are my very best simple ideas for controlling clutter.

1. Start small

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was clutter.

For one week set aside 10 minutes a day.

10 minutes.  That’s easy, right?  10 simple minutes.  Set a timer.  Set your watch.  Set your phone.

Choose the clutter pile that gets on your nerve the most.  The one that makes you shudder when you walk by it.

And then?

Don’t give it any more cheese dip.

Take 10 minutes and sort through that pile.  Throw away papers.  Toss old magazines.  Put bills in a folder in your office or work space marked bills.

But here’s the key.


And when you are done.  Walk away.  Pat yourself on the back.  Tell yourself how amazing you are.  Call your mom and let her know she can stop by for a visit.

But return again tomorrow to show that clutter pile the door.

2. Baskets are your friend

I know the basic adage of organizing.  A place for everything and everything in its place.  The hardest part of that whole idea is figuring out what all the places look like.

I get it.

I understand.  I really, really do.

That’s where baskets come in.

First of all, baskets are cute and pretty and have sides that hold things.

Here are some ideas that I use baskets for.  I use a basket for mail.  I use a basket for the kid’s papers.  I use a basket for random coupons and business cards and tiny pieces of who-knows-what that collect on the counters.  I use a basket for things I need to do.  I use a basket for items I want to donate.  I use a basket for dog supplies.  I use a basket for unfinished projects.

And on and on and on.

Around here everything has a basket.  It all goes in there if I don’t have time to sort through it or deal with it or think about it.

It just hangs out looking cute in a basket until I’m ready.

And then?  When the basket overflows I go back to idea number one and spend 10 minutes on it.

3.  Keep the surfaces clean

In every home there are a few surfaces that invite clutter to pull up a chair.

I don’t know why certain surfaces get cluttered.  I wish I did because I would be a zillionaire.  The key is figuring out which surfaces attract clutter and focus on keeping them clutter-free.

That’s where the baskets come in.

Every night, I check the surfaces and put the stuff from the surfaces into the baskets.

And then?

When the baskets overflow it’s back to our 10 minutes again.

4.  Donate, donate, donate

Our house is full of stuff.

Stuff that we don’t really use any more.  Stuff that I walk by and wonder what I should do with it.  Stuff that stopped fitting into our life in 1999.

On the first of every month, I go through the house (some from the basket where I put it waiting to be donated) and gather up two garbage bags of stuff and donate it.

Someone else might need that stuff way more than me.

And my baskets thank me.

4.  Be kind to yourself

I think that’s where clutter defeats us.

It’s why so many have tried to show clutter to the door and fail.

We look at the clutter and it overwhelms us and we sigh and look away and tell ourselves that we’ll handle it tomorrow.

Why not make your tomorrow start today?

You got this.

You can do it.

Yes,  yes you can.

All you need are 10 minutes and a few cute baskets to show clutter the door.

Here’s to a great day. 🙂

PS  This picture has actually nothing to do with de-cluttering.

Or surfaces.

Or cheese dip.

I just found it when I was looking for organizing pictures and it made me smile.

I thought it might make you happy, too. 🙂

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  1. Great idea on the 10 minute rule. I will have to try that. Your house always looks beautiful and uncluttered.

  2. Great tips- and I’m smiling:)

  3. Love this! Clutter makes me unnnnnnhappy!!! Baskets are a must. I love your iron ones!! And definitely 10 minutes is doable for everyone… 🙂 Now just don’t look in my hall closet , lol.

  4. love the blues and oranges in that picture! 🙂
    also love the Ten Minute Rule.

  5. I love your 10-minute approach! I also always have a bag or box collecting give-aways. It encourages me to continually purge more from closets, countertops, shelves, etc., when I know something has a “place to go.” But, I must admit, for years I blamed my kids for the clutter. However, we’ve been empty nesters for more than a decade and the clutter continues. Do you think that means I could be contributing to it? You always brighten my day, Kari Anne! Have a great one yourself!

  6. Rowena Philbeck :

    I think the older we all get the more we de-clutter. We save so much and keep and move it around and never use it. I’m finding that at my house. I do however love it when its clean and neat. I have given my older kids some things and keep on de-stashing items. Now, my job is changing after 24 years and sad but libraries are going away. Now to go thru that and keep what is important.

  7. Thx for a needed idea that sounds doable- 2 houses – many years of collecting- doing rummage sale and donating- will feel much lighter. Then outdoors I go. Sherry

  8. You know I am smiling! Love the blue and white always! Organizing here too! Except garage oh my! Love ten minute go through clutter rule and baskets!!!!! I love to follow Flylady to clean and declutter. One tip is to swish toilet after you use. I leave old dishwashing liquid bottle full of half water n bleach. Everyone knows to swish after flush. Sounds silly but does help. Keep sharing cleaning tips! In the mood to clean but afraid it won’t last.

  9. You are so encouraging and inspiring and always brighten my day!

  10. June Gerstner :

    You know that last picture, the one you thought didn’t have anything to do with the story? Well, it summarizes the whole theme…it has an empty basket!!!

  11. So, you must have been walking through my house when you came up with this post!
    I neeeeed Clutter Intervention! Halleluiah, my timer is set!
    PS. Agatha say’s to tell the boys she sent some goodies for that doggie basket!

  12. You have the best ideas KariAnne! And the most interesting ways to inspire us! Love your blog!

  13. Oh I hate when clutter comes to visit and never leaves! I have been craving a clutter free home more and more. Great ideas!


  14. You are the best blogger. Thank you.

  15. Pilar Cason-Noland :

    Can I just tell you how much I enjoy your blog? Can I? I tell my friends yours is my favorite ( and only) blog. Because when I read your posts it’s like we’re chattering on the phone. Any time I have a moment and I can read your posts they make me smile and inspire me to keep buying more white dishes and platters. God Bless you and your family, keep up your amazing, inspiring and sweet posts.
    Your Friend in Ohio

  16. The last photo so made me smile. I’m a huge blue/white girl. But that pop of color? Swoon.
    And while I’m here….because I don’t comment too often, so happy your girl’s vision is improved. Your mama heart. So much going on with your brave chicks. I may not always say it, but I always wish you and yours well.

  17. I like the idea of going through things for only 10 minutes. Sometimes it’s the thought of how long a project will take to declutter that keeps you from decluttering.

  18. Teresa Gonzales :

    I practice what you have stated and it helps so much!

  19. Which do I hate more? The clutter, or dealing with the clutter?! Hey, I can survive most anything for ten minutes! I can do this! Thanks for the great idea, delivered, as usual, in a witty way that brought smiles.

  20. Leslie Watkins :

    This post is why we are friends. Clutter always follows me…like a shadow that never leaves. Thanks for sharing my dilemma and cheering me on!

  21. Great post, Karianne… and I’m definitely smiling, and reading this to my daughter over the phone. 🙂

  22. I have a box in my home office where I put things I come across that it’s time to give away. When the box is full, I take it to the thrift store, and start another box.

  23. And don’t forget that sometimes
    “later” is clutter’s best friend!! : )

  24. SUCH great tips! Clutter totally has a way of sneaking up on you – it’s definitely a balance between getting rid of what you can and perfectly organizing what’s left. And I agree, baskets are an organizer’s best friend!!!

  25. KariAnne: This is a great post. Clutter is hard to contend with. Right now my house is pretty much clutter free, except the dining room table where I put everything from the kitchen that I didn’t know what to do with during the reno, and that’s been awhile ago. I walk by it each day and think I’ve got to get to it, but it is a big pile! I will give your ideas a try and if it turns out, maybe I’ll post about it myself. And, you are right again, that is a happy picture and I pinned it. Autumn is my favorite time for decorating..Happy Thursday..Judy

  26. Dear KariAnne,
    Thank you for your very encouraging blog post. I am sitting in my home office right now looking around and thinking, “Where do I start?”

    Your ten minute approach is like a breath of fresh air because it actually sounds doable.

    Thank you, I truly believe that you have the gift of encouragement 🙂

  27. I love your 10 minute rule, in fact I already set a timer when I clean or declutter.
    This is similar: After a party, I set a 30 minute timer (on my stove), turn on some music, and jump into cleaning up. Sure enough, what looked like it would take HOURS, will usually be done before the timer goes off! Yes, it’s a bit of a game to me.
    Another thing that helps me with the “where do I even start?!” Is to just start somewhere and go clockwise around the room.
    Love your posts– I always seem to relate. Are you sure we’re not “sisters from another mother”?

  28. This is almost pure common sense but sometime someone in AUTHORITY just has to put to you (in a fun fashion)! Thanks 🙂

  29. Thank you!!!!!!

  30. For me, sections works. In the bathroom it’s one drawer…one and done. The next day, it’s drawer #2. In the kitchen, one of four areas in my kitchen. It’s made my life so much easier and I don’t get so overwhelmed that I want to run away!

  31. SO TRUE! I thought I was on top of it….BUT we are getting our house ready to sell. I can’t believe how out of control I had allowed the closets to get. Saving, saving, saving stuff that I will never use again. We’re taking one SUV load at a time to Goodwill.

    IT’S EXHAUSTING. If I had done a bit each week all Winter, I would not have so much work to do. Also don’t save it in the first place. There’s always more where that came fron.

  32. Great, great post! The ten-minute approach really works because it is an easy way to form a habit, and you hit the nail on the head about being kind to yourself. My other favorite trick is the “ten things” trick. Once a day I walk around my house and find ten things to either give away, recycle, or toss. And your last picture IS relevant because it shows a basket LOL.

  33. I need someone to hold my hand. Yes, I do!! I’ve years of cooking magazines I can’t seem to part with and I know I HAVE to. Will I look at them again? I don’t know! But I think they may that fantastic recipe I’ve been searching for years. Oh, I know what you’re saying, I’ve said it to myself countless times, “How the heck are you going to find it in that mess?” But the Bon Appetit are the classic ones, the ones where the food actually looked good and not the recent ones. I’ve got books I’ve read and loved and can’t part with — what if I want to reread it? And then, all that fabric I bought because it was fantastic and I knew someday inspiration would hit and I’d do something with it. I’ve got patterns that I know I’ll make someday. *sigh* I need help!!!! Lots of hugs!!

    • Oh! My long lost sibling! At last, I’ve found you! Lol! Actually, I’m pretty sure we must be related going by your list of things you can’t part with. Except that the magazines that I can’t part with are decorating magazines instead of recipe magazines.

      Wishing you strong resolve in your decluttering efforts!

  34. The colorful plate amongst the blue/white plates and the colorful bowl on the top shelf were the deal breakers in the happy department!

  35. I read a lot of articles on organizing, but none are as original and as enjoyable as this one!

  36. That picture does make me happy! Thank you for sharing. I love your tips and plan to use them when we finish our home renovation

  37. I just discovered your blog and love it! It’s so fresh and full of beautiful ideas and photos. I especially appreciate this post. I work really hard to keep the clutter down but it always seems to find its way back.

    Baskets- I love baskets for everything! I agree with you that they are decorative and functional. I have been looking into getting some of the tin bins and wood bins too just to add more kinds to our collection.

    Thanks for such a lovely blog. Very happy to have found you 🙂

  38. Oh, I love your 10-minute idea … it’s perfect for me!
    Thing we’re just “peachy” here after we extensively de-cluttered for Christmas house guests! But then ~ just a few weeks ago ~ and little by little ~ “stuff” has now started to reappear (and stay) in those beautifully cleared spaces!
    I can DO this, and by adding Sue’s “10 things” rule, everything should be looking great again really soon. If we also donate some of the “hidden/ baskets” stuff, plus more, we’ll help others along the way …
    I know how good that feels: I’ve recently been simplifying my stuffed closet, donating clothes and shoes!
    I needed this little “shove!” so thanks for your post, KariAnne! I now have a 10*10 plan!!!

  39. “Things were just “peachy … ” is better!

  40. Lanita Anderson :

    Great tips! I really like the 10 minute rule, too…..because, you are right, the task of decluttering can be very overwhelming at times (actually most of the time)!! But it feels so much better when it’s done, and if 10 minutes at a time can help with that, its definitely worth a try! Happy Friday, Friend! 🙂

  41. I have a similar strategy that I share to possibly help others. I call it “A bag a week.” I keep a large, strong tote bag handy, but you could use any type of container (basket, plastic bag, etc.) As I dress from my closet, something that doesn’t fit quite right, or look good, etc. goes into the back instead of back into my closet. Sometimes I’ve worn clothing to work that I thought looked good when I put it on that morning and throughout the day I’ve tugged, or scratched the itchiness, or just didn’t feel good wearing it — yep, when I come home, it goes into the bag. If I’m working in the kitchen and come across that one random glass wondering why I kept it, it goes in the bag. As I sort through a drawer, or clean a room and run across objects that I’ve not seen or used forever – they go in the bag. Whatever your method, each week as I live in my home, I fill the bag with unwanted, unused objects, and at the end of the week I take the bag to our local Hospice Thrift Store and donate it. The next week I begin fresh with another empty bag. It is amazing how one bag each week helps clean and reduce the clutter. And, like your 10 minutes — it doesn’t seem like an overwhelming task.

  42. You might want to try 15 minutes and then take a break and go back to it if it needs more attention. I find it amazing what you can get done in that amount of time; and set a timer so you don’t get overwhelmed!!!

  43. Barbara Moore :

    I have looked at pictures of your house a gajillion times. And I n.e.v.e.r. tire of it. No only are your rooms beautifully styled, your photography skills take them to another level. Man, I love looking at your blog…. And reading it? Well, that’s the cherry on top. Buying baskets today.

  44. Good tips! Have I told you I drool every time you show that darling bunny plate.♥♥♥

  45. I love your baskets idea, but where do your baskets go?? Are they on desk tops or in closets or in drawers? Are they all alike or are there different baskets for different items? Even if I use baskets, I still feel like everything looks cluttered. I can’t put things out of sight or I forget about them, and that doesn’t work well for bills, lol!! I gather a basket of stuff that my husband needs to deal with and give it to him……….he takes the basket away and I never see it again – he’s as bad as I am!

  46. Hannah Whalley :

    Feeling so motivated, thanks for the tips!

  47. Thanks for the great tips! Keeping organized is something that I have to consistently try and stay on top of. It makes me feel so good whenever I’ve accomplished a task like going through a pile of junk mail and cutting out all the coupons.

  48. These are great ideas! I hope to do more decluttering and this will definitely help!!

  49. I’ve slowly been working on my clutter, but your 10 minute tip might save my sanity. Also, I can see why you threw in that last picture – if that was my house, it would make ME happy too! 🙂 #MerryMonday

  50. Love the 10 min Rule! I will have to try this. I love the idea of no clutter!

  51. I come from a long line of hoarders and pack rats, so I’m doing my best to get through all the inherited papers and junk, along with my own household, to break the cycle. It’s very overwhelming, so I appreciate blogs like yours that give us not only some really good usable tips, but also add some humor into the situation! It helps us to feel that we are not alone, and if we keep “chipping away” at it, we can do it. Thank you so much! It was just what I needed to read this morning : )

  52. I completely live this post. How did you know that I decided that April was for tidying? I have been building and framing for months and months and my mother-in-law is coming on April 27th. I thought it might be nice if the house looked polished. So hi ho, hi ho, a decluttering I will go. I started yesterday. But it’s kind of addicting to get rid of crap. I always ask myself two things if I am trying to decide between keeping or donating. 1. Will I remember I even had it once it’s gone? 2. Am I willing to put in the work to care for it properly? If the answer is “no” to both if either, out it goes. I am very sentimental and this has helped a lot.
    Have a happy day, friend,
    The Other Marian


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