Tips for living clutter free from a formerly messy person

August 11, 2019

Written By

Tabitha Dumas

I’ll start by saying I’m a naturally messy person. Growing up, I always struggled with keeping my space tidy and I still default to “controlled chaos.” I love STUFF, I can function in disorder and too much cleaning up just feels…boring. It use to be that the more organized I got, the harder time I had finding things–until this summer when I worked on putting categories together! But the process to living clutter free has been truly transformative for not just our home but our lives. It’s true–less stuff means more time and energy for the best of life.

In fact we spent almost all of 2015 decluttering and Konmari-ing our house then I took most of 2019 summer break adjusting it. Having older kids and a toddler required some modifications and I really wanted to be DONE. It feels good! Now I want to pass along some tips. These are not fluff or hacks–they’re what actually worked for me!

Real Life Tips for Living Clutter Free (from a formerly messy person)

1. Have a vision for your life.

This is the “why” behind living clutter free and not only will it fuel your efforts but it will help guide your decisions because clutter is, after all, postponed decisions. I have a few.

  • To be able to host company regularly and at the last minute (my mother-in-law is coming into town tomorrow? No problem!)
  • To offer hospitality effortlessly (tea for two this afternoon? Got it!)
  • To access my stuff easily when I need it (you need to borrow rock painting supplies? Easy!)
  • Hosting women in my home office/craft room
  • To free up time to serve others
  • For a peaceful home for our family

What would life be like if your home was more user-friendly and you weren’t bogged down with so much stuff?

The big key to decluttering for good is to focus on creating the life you want, not on what you’re getting rid of. I am so invested in serving the community and loving on people that given the choice between that and an item, I choose people every time.

2. Consider hiring a professional.

I brought in a professional organizer to help with my home office years ago and I’m still benefiting from what she implemented. Even when it gets crazy messy I can get it fully recovered in under half an hour. A few of my favorites:

  • Create zones. On my 5×5 IKEA bookcase, I have items arranged by activities so I can grab exactly what I need. All my crafting supplies are together and so are my office supplies, my books, etc. My office space also has a spot for visiting with guests, a more private writing area and Kate’s play area.
  • Containerize. In my sewing bin, I have individual gallon Ziploc bags with cotton fabric, needles and thread, buttons and finishings, etc. to make things easy to find. My card-making embellishments are separated by category (flowers, letters, seasons).
  • Avoid piles. Keep things horizontal as much as possible so you see what you have.

She also helped me see the value in the next tip.

3. Limit your categories.

What do you tend to over buy or even hoard? Party supplies? Coffee mugs? Silly socks? It’s easy to keep collecting unless we limit ourselves–physically! I tend to collect note cards and stationary/office supplies (among other things) so I have a bin for those items and when the bins are full, it’s time to purge! Yes, I have made a round of cards just to be able to buy cute new embellishments. Burn the candles, use up the napkins–but don’t keep buying if you don’t have space for it. And limit that space!

4. Store like items together.

This one has taken me the longest and has had the most impact. One of my favorite aspects of the Konmari method was Marie’s suggestion to tackle one category at a time (instead of, say, one room at a time). You have to deal with ALL of your clothes at once. ALL of your summer gear. ALL of your books. It’s eye opening! The big one for me was art supplies. I had them in five different locations all around the house so I never knew where they were or what we had. (Side note, I never need to buy crayons again).

I eventually realized how much time I was wasting looking for things. You know how it goes–you’re taking a weekend road trip and you have to gather your travel size toiletries, an overnight bag, a cosmetic bag, your emergency poncho, a neck pillow…and they’re spread all over the house in random areas. Some you can’t find and end up buying new just to realize later that you already had one. That was happening all the time and driving me crazy.

Now all my tea party paraphernalia is stored together in the laundry room–down to the napkins, tiny dishes and little silver tongs. My everyday tea items (tea for one sets, the actual tea, measuring spoons, honey sticks) are in one kitchen cabinet. My baking supplies are also all in one kitchen cabinet. One kitchen drawer is just for entertaining like extra trivets and serving utensils. Everything we’d need for a picnic is IN THE PICNIC BASKET. Life changing.

5. Consider less seasonal decor.

Clutter often comes from 1. too much stuff combined with 2. a lack of consistent maintenance…so this tip addresses both.

As much as I love home decor and decorating for the seasons and holidays, it was sucking up valuable time, space and money that I needed to invest elsewhere. Not only does less seasonal clutter make your house look more streamlined, it also saves you from storing and maintaining it all. Living clutter free requires consistent maintenance and doing all the decor switch-a-roos takes time away from that. I now use my “generic” trays, hurricanes and pedestals and just switch out some colorful books or one branch instead of dealing with two or three giant bins every time. I also highly recommend The Cozy Minimalist ecourse and book for how to get the cozy look and feel without all the STUFF. You can read more at Cozy Minimalist.

6. Embrace the useful/beautiful philosophy.

“Have nothing in your home you don’t either know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I say, preferably both!

The point is

  • find a way to make practical use of pretty things
  • choose pretty functional items as often as possible

Use what you love…and don’t settle for ugly, practical stuff!

Tab's Tips for Living Clutter Free from Tabitha Dumas former messy person

Your big lemonade pitcher should be one you love enough to leave out on display but useful enough to….use.

“Decorate” your bath tub with pretty things you can actually use. (as seen in my bathroom above)

Display your scarves and jewelry so you can enjoy looking at them, and remember to wear them.

Don’t keep sentimental crap if you don’t love it.

I hope these tips for living clutter free were useful to you! Let me know your favorites!

I offer home decluttering, staging and organization to my husband’s real estate clients! If you need the services of a trusted, full time Phoenix valley Realtor, let me know and we can set up a meeting. You can also check out We’d love to help love your home more or find a home you love.

Tab's Tips for Living Clutter Free from Tabitha Dumas former messy person


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