30 Simplifying Tips


Many of these tips and so much more are in my ebook Simplifying Home. This is a quick jumpstart or refresher...

1. Get rid of stuff.

Too basic? I don't think so. Getting rid of the excess is the number one most effective way to simplify, organize, and enjoy your space.

2. Get a lazy susan for deep cupboards.

This is a pretty specific tip, but one we've used in two separate homes. Some cupboards, especially corner cupboards, are too deep to make good use of the space. If you have lots of cabinet space, that might not be a big deal. But for limited space, a lazy susan is a helpful way to use the back space while still being able to see and access everything.

3. Start a "keep box."

Each person in the family needs one tub to keep their favorite items, whether or not there's a good explanation. This gives a designated place for keepsakes or mementos from the past, while also putting a limit on them. A climate-proof tub will help preserve them.

4. Use the outbox idea.

I learned about the outbox from Maxwell in Apartment Therapy. It's a great way to try out getting rid of something (or lots of things) without fully committing. You put anything you're not sure about in the outbox which could be a tub, a shelf, or just someplace out of the way. Anything you didn't need or miss after a few days or a couple weeks can be safely gotten rid of.

5. Implement the one-in, one-out rule.

For every item that comes into the home, one should go out. This works great for items you're replacing--baking pan in, baking pan out or new shirt in, old shirt out. It can also work just to keep up with simplifying--every time you bring home a bag of stuff from the store, use it as a reminder to go through a closet or drawer and get rid of some things.

6. Set limits for your stuff.

Beyond simply limiting emotional keepsakes to a singular keepbox (#3), it can be helpful to set limits for other items, too. After you simplify, designate items to a space or container and use that as your guide. When the items no longer fit, it's time to go back through and get rid of some things.

7. Use white space.

Intentionally leave some space free on your walls, shelves, and flat surfaces. This isn't about making your home literally white (unless that's your thing); this is about leaving breathing space in and around your stuff that gives your mind and your body some breathing space, too.

8. Find versatile products.

Instead of owning lots of things to do only one job each, aim to buy products that can be used for multiple purposes. This is true for clothes, kitchen gadgets, and more.

9. Simple doesn't always mean less.

In most cases, I simplify by getting rid of stuff. There are some instances, however, when I intentionally aim to own more. Like our dishes. We own around 16 white plates and I don't have any desire to limit that, even though we only have 5 people in our family. There have been many times when we've had company over and I loved not having to rely paper products to serve everyone.

10. Love it, need it, or lose it.

The two questions I ask the most to help decide what I keep and what I get rid of are Do I love it and do I need it? If the answer is "no" to both of those, then there's a high chance it's something that needs to go. This idea is shared in a variety of ways, like in the Kon Mari method where it's about keeping only what sparks joy.

11. Use containers and bins.

Along with setting limits (#6), use containers and bins to help keep things categorized and organized and with natural limits. Simplify and get rid of stuff first, then decide what size/type of containers are needed. When those containers eventually start to get too full (because that almost always happens), go through and get rid of things instead of buying more containers.

12. Lose the knick knacks.

It's possible there are lots of items that fit in the "love it" category--or at least you think they do. Especially decorative type items that we've bought because they're our style. In these cases, try to limit or do away with the knick knacks. Aim to have only a few key decorative pieces in each room and do away with the others.

13. Get bigger art.

In place of those smaller knick knacks, a larger piece of art on the wall can serve as a simple focal point that helps bring a space together.

14. Fix something.

Our belongings usually get the focus when we simplify or organize, but sometimes we've just gotta address the bones. Replace some light bulbs or repair a hole in the wall or remove stains in the carpet or whatever that nagging thing is that you've ignored so long you forgot how it's supposed to be. Look around your home and take stock of these, then do something about at least one or a few of them.

15. Buy matching hangers.

They don't have to be the fancy wood ones, although if you're going to simplify your wardrobe, then why not? It helps your closet look and feel more orderly, and can help keep you accountable to simplify and let of clothes as new ones come in.

16. Learn to refuse.

Instead of doing all of the hard work in deciding what to get rid of, the decisions could be made before things even come into the home. Learn to say no, whether it's to yourself or to others who end up selling to you or giving you freebies.

17. Simplify seasonally.

Getting rid of things isn't usually once-and-done. For us, each spring and fall is usually when it's time to go through clothes and closets and cupboards. The first couple times seemed to be an almost whole-house process; now it's just key closets and junk drawers that need re-addressed.

18. Do a little deep cleaning.

In addition to taking a break in the simplifying to fix something (#14), the occasional deep cleaning can also help jumpstart things. If you keep up with regular deep cleaning, great! For the rest of us, make a weekly effort to at least go through the home and clean floors and surfaces. Or set the timer for 20 minutes and clean as much as you can in that time. Or scrub the places you haven't touched in a while.

19. Start a rhythm of rest.

Doesn't have to be fancy. Life is all about the dance between work and rest, keeping and giving, staying and going. There's a time for everything, and it's quite possible in our hurried lives, the rest part is missing from your dance which just might swing the others back into motion.

20. Do a challenge.

Sometimes, I need to dive all in to really make a difference. There are challenges that include getting rid of 1 item everyday or 1 bag a week for a set amount of time. There are some challenges that start with getting rid of 1 item on day 1, 2 items on day 2, etc. until the end. There are also challenges that go through checklists and areas of the home (like my Simplifying Home checklist). If you're feeling stuck or stagnant in your simplifying efforts, try a challenge!

21. Find accountability.

Whether it's a friend or family member, or even a group online. Find someone that gets your struggles and can celebrate your successes.

22. Start a home notebook and style boards.

Whether I'm diving into a home challenge (#20) or making a list of repairs our home needs (#14) or deciding layout or color scheme for a room, I need a place to gather all of these bits of info. I started a home notebook years ago when I started doing Apartment Therapy's Home Cure, and have used it many times throughout the years. I use grid paper to mark the main rooms in our home and cut out the size of our furniture to-scale so that anytime I want to rearrange or add an item, I know if/where everything will fit. I also keep inspiration from magazines or for colors. This notebook along with my Pinterest boards that show my home style, helps keep me on track for my simplifying and decorating goals.

23. Start a wish list.

Whether it's items for the home or something for your closet, start adding items to a wish list before going shopping for them. Mark any details you need, like size, dimensions, or color. Then shop around for the best fit for what you need. There's also the chance that the items you write down eventually fall off your wish list when you realize you don't really need it or something else will do.

24. Use a clear shoe organizer for a junk drawer.

The junk drawer is one area that can quickly grow out of control. If you can limit your small odds and ends to one drawer and can still find what you need when you need it, then keep your junk drawer. For us, the clear shoe organizer has filled in for more efficient "junk" storage. This is where we stash those little items that we don't really know where to store. Each compartment is small enough and clear, making it easy to see and reach what's inside. We still have a drawer where we have pens and coupons and other typical "junk drawer" contents, but this shoe organizer helps with the other batteries and flash lights and even some of the kids small items.

25. Use hooks.

Hooks are a necessity at or near the door. A quick place to gather bags or jackets or umbrellas or hats. Hooks can be added throughout the home in a hall or a bedroom or the bathroom, for towels and other bags and jackets and scarves. Hooks can help corral anything that's used daily and winds up on the floor of a closet. I even use small hooks for necklaces and bracelets.

26. Create the illusion of white space.

Especially in smaller spaces, shelves are often full even after simplifying, and this fullness can make the rest of the room feel cluttered or crowded. So, whenever possible, use containers or baskets to corral items and leave the illusion of white space. We have a cube bookshelf, and many of the books are kept in square baskets on the shelf to help the shelf look more cohesive and simple. We also have an open entertainment stand that we use white boxes with lids to hold DVDs and video games.

27. Metal shelves for storage.

After moving out of our small apartment, I was excited to have a basement and garage for our seasonal/storage items, but I was also afraid. Garages and basements can quickly be filled, because if you have the space, why not keep everything? We bought 2 large metal shelves for our basement and this really helps wrangle and limit our storage. This is plenty of space for camping gear, Christmas decor, and even some empty boxes or items we're still not sure what to do with. When things are fitting, it's time to go through it and get rid of some stuff. And now the basement is more easily used for laundry and for the kids play area.

28. Get a library card.

Books and movies and magazines can really take away from the simplicity in your home. Own the books and movies you love and know you will use. For everything else, all of that regularly reading and watching, get a library card. Keep up with reading new books and watching movies without letting it linger and add to your clutter.

29. Replace what if with better questions.

The most common question that trips our simplifying is what if. But what if I'll need that in the future or whatever someone asks me for it or what if...? Really, there's no what if worth keeping things, but the unknown can still make us afraid to let go. So, instead, I try to ask myself better, more specific questions. When was the last time I used it, honestly? How often have I used it? Do I love it, really? Do I need it, really? Does it need replaced? What would the space be like without it? Has it served it's purpose? Could someone else use it?

30. Give freely.

In the dance of simplifying, giving is what keeps it all in balance. Giving things away that have served their purpose. Giving of our time, energy, and money to people we love and causes we care about.  Simplifying isn't just about having our dream home, it's about living our dream life, and for me, giving is a big part of that.

Read more on all of this in my ebook Simplifying Home.

What helps you simplify and organize?


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also see:
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simplifying home ebook
31 days celebrating three-oh
monthly dose of simple