20 Minimalist Living Tips for the Most Organized & Clutter-Free Year Yet

Stacy Lenz | Jan 24, 2019 Home & Garden
20 Minimalist Living Tips for the Most Organized & Clutter-Free Year Yet
Image: kazoka30/iStock.com


“Does this spark joy?” We have been hearing the phrase repeated everywhere: from our book club that reads Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, echoing in our homes as we half-watched Netflix's Tidying Up while doing the dishes, scattered across Internet articles and even as we sarcastically said it ourselves as we held up what would otherwise be labeled as garbage while our child insisted that it did, in fact, spark joy

With all these decluttering and minimalist living tips floating around, how come our house is still frustratingly filled with useless stuff? Couldn’t something have sunk in through osmosis? Since the answer is apparently no, we set out to research minimalist living tips so hopefully one day we will live in a house that would make Marie Kondo herself proud, or at least not walk in and say “I’m so excited because I love mess.”

Our research involved paying attention to dear Marie’s teachings, this time with full focus and scouring the Internet for the best minimalist life tips, the same way we will scour our countertops once they are free of the piles of mail and that toaster oven we’ve been meaning to take to get fixed. 

These tips are effective for anyone completing the full tidying process as well as people just trying to do the Cliff’s Notes version of it so the house won’t look quite as shameful by the time it’s their turn to host the next play date. These shorthand tips will cut down on the clutter, making one’s home (and life) easier to move through literally and metaphorically. 

After following through with all of these tips, we’re not saying we are living so minimally that our belongings would fit in a tiny home, but at least the HGTV-inspired daydream is not as laughable as it once was. Hopefully these practical tips and tricks will spark joy in the cleaning process, take it from someone that’s been there. (And by "there" we mean stuck in an almost Hoarders level amount of junk.) Good luck!

  • Get Rid of the Easy Stuff First 


    Before anyone starts a teary-eyed trip down memory lane sorting mementos, tackle the easy stuff first. Broken items, clothes that are rarely worn and always-actually-hated-this-but-felt-guilty-getting-rid-of-it items should find their way out the door first.

  • Attack That Mail Pile 


    Carry that looming pile of mail over to the recycling bin and start reviewing and tossing. The menacing stack of pending papers should whittle down to hopefully only several pieces of actionable mail, making carrying out those tasks feel a bit more manageable. 

  • Throw Out Those Instruction Booklets 


    We are guilty of keeping instruction booklets for our appliances and guess what? All of the information featured is Googleable. To the recycle bin! 

  • Take Lots of Digital Pictures 


    Sorting through mementos and sentimental items is difficult, especially items one is likely to stumble upon and reminisce about but never actually use. That ratty T-shirt we were wearing when we met our partner? Take a picture of it and then out the door it goes, perfect for reminiscing without taking up valuable real estate!

  • Make a TBD Box 

    Elitsa Deykova/iStock.com

    Nothing holds up the tidying process like stopping to ponder if an item sparks joy or not, Marie does not allow for a “kinda” but we do. If unsure about an item, put it in a box to be decided later. Store the box for six months and if it wasn't needed in those six months, the answer becomes clear.

  • Throw Out Old Socks & Underwear 


    Good enough isn’t actually good. For socks that slide down as the day goes on or underwear that is embarrassing in its threadbare status, throw it out. It’s better to have items that work properly and that are comfortable than have a lot of them that are only half-functional.

  • Get Rid of Duplicate Pictures 


    Right now, it may seem important to keep every single photo of our children’s faces, but when dealing with printed pictures we probably don’t need 900 versions of the same exact scene on the same exact day. One photo from each photo burst will definitely suffice and make the photos easier and more enjoyable to look through in the future. (Plus we are still totally keeping all the digital copies.)

  • Go Through Those Books 


    The Internet has been in a huge uproar about what to do with books when tidying, but the answer is pretty simple: only keep what sparks joy. Bad plots and that Microwave Cooking for One cookbook can go, making more space for books to keep and care for.

  • Clear Off Kitchen Counters 


    Clearing off kitchen counters is basically like remodeling the kitchen (except much, much cheaper.) Marie says clear off everything, but we support leaving items that get used every day, like soap and the microwave. 

  • Cut Back on Gifts 


    Once we began tidying the tidying process, the idea of getting gifts and then having to keep and store them was not as appealing as it used to be. Rather than exchanging gifts, encourage exchanging shared experiences, it’s both emotionally fulfilling and saves us from having to find a space for that glowing fish nightlight. (True story.)

  • A Place for Everything 


    The reason things seem to never get put away could be because they don’t have a proper home. Store items where they are more likely to be used and they will be more likely to be put away. 

  • Bags in Bags in Bags    


    Store all like items together. Nest handbags inside each other for optimal storage. Never have a home for an item in multiple places.  

  • Fix It (or Don’t) 


    We are guilty of holding on to appliances, shoes, dresses, and other items that we intend to get fixed one day. Either fix it within the week, or admit it will never actually get fixed and let it go to someone who will actually fix it. 

  • Involve the Whole Family 


    While decluttering, involve the whole family in the practice, even if one is just doing the shorthand version. It helps each family member take ownership of the house, leaving the mess feel less like it’s weighing only on our shoulders.

  • Involve the Whole Family, Part 2 


    Let children (and the partner) decide where things they use every day go. It will cut down on them asking a million times a day where their stuff is. Everyone wins. 

  • Reduce, Recycle, Upcycle 


    While tidying, separate items into piles to throw out, recycle, and donate. Don’t let the piles languish in the hallway for years -- take care of it right away. If getting out of the house feels overwhelming, look to Facebook Buy Nothing groups where willing people will come to the house and take all that junk. 

  • Wait to Buy Fancy Storage Containers


    It’s difficult to fight the urge to go wild at the Container Store to psych ourselves up for a tidying project, but fight we must. Wait until the whole process is completed, and only buy exactly what is needed.  

  • Make Future Donations Easier 


    Set aside a box or bag in a closet for future donations. That way, when we stumble upon something we don’t actually need in the future, we put it aside until the bag is full enough to warrant a trip to the thrift store to drop off.  

  • Buyer Beware 


    Be careful not to undo all the great progress made by filling up the newly decluttered space with new purchases. Exercise the “one in, one out” rule, meaning every time a new purchase is made, an existing belonging must go! 

  • Rinse & Repeat 


    Decluttering isn’t a one-time process, but it becomes easier each time it's done. Continue to assess and prune, as needed.

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