My Top Eight Decluttering & Organizational Tips

by Katy on January 15, 2014 · 17 comments

Drawer organizer

Sometimes it seems like the decluttering experts read one another’s tips and then just regurgitate them over and over again.

“Take everything out of your closet and bag up what you haven’t worn for a year.”

“Put out three boxes, keep, giveaway and unsure.”

Blah, blah, blah . . .

But I’m someone who needs new ideas and motivation to get me off my duff and into decluttering mode.

Here are eight of my favorite decluttering tips:

  1. Return everything to its proper owner. If someone left something at your house, or if you simply borrowed something from a friend or family member, get it out of your house before it just becomes part of the background. Make this happen by putting whatever it is in your car, purse or next to your front door. Then, give it back!
  2. Return all your library materials. Sure, those books seem to be renewing indefinitely, but sometimes you need a clean slate. If you haven’t read it within a week of checking it out, chances are you won’t.
  3. Find better homes for your stuff. You may own it, but if you don’t use and appreciate it, find someone who does. I am Jewish but my family does put up a Christmas tree. (My husband is not Jewish.) I went through our Christmas ornaments and realized we somehow had a baby Jesus that never saw the light of day. I gave it to my neighbor’s granddaughter, whose family is Christian. Now it’ll get used and there’s one less thing in my house.
  4. Borrow instead of buy. I like to this of this as proactive decluttering, as it keeps clutter from ever entering your home. My friend Sasha is hosting her son’s Bar Mitzvah this weekend, and so far I’ve lent her my husband’s dress shoes, a tripod and a digital frame that my father was given for “45 yeas of service.” (Never even taken out of the box.)
  5. Figure out a organizational system using stuff you already own. With three soccer playing guys under my roof, keeping all the supplies organized is kind of a nightmare. (And it doesn’t help that those slippery nylon jerseys and shorts are impossible to keep folded!) I went ahead and used zip-up mesh laundry bags to make separate categories for shirts, shorts and socks, which then sit in a fabric-lined basket. These laundry bags were required for my son’s summer in Japan a few years back, and had been sitting in a drawer. No need to take out a second mortgage for organizational products! And don’t forget my no sew drawer organizer!
  6. Know your weaknesses. I held off on having a piano for years, as I knew that extra horizontal surfaces mean extra potential clutter catchers for me. And you know what? I was right! Keeping the top on my piano clear is a constantly losing battle at my house, and no one even plays it! I should have known better and resisted my free piano.
  7. Embrace Sameness. Use a single style of drinking glasses, dish ware, socks, etc. You can avoid that higgledy-piggledy look by choosing one classic and functional item and sticking with it. My drinking glasses are the working glass style, which are always available in thrift shops, so if/when we break one they’re simple to replace. Have exactly the amount you feel you need and know that replacements exist.
  8. Fix and Mend. By endlessly holding onto broken stuff, you’re likely to acquire new versions while you still possess its previous counterpart. Avoid setting stuff aside to deal with later, and deal with it now! Take those worn down shoes to the cobbler, take that coat with a busted zipper to the dry cleaner and get out that tube of glue. Try to own a single version of your stuff rather than multiples.

Okay people, organize your house so it’s easier to keep clean and is welcoming to your family and friends!

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Twitter.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Instagram.
Click HERE to join The Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook group.
Click HERE to follow The Non-Consumer Advocate on Pinterest

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

A. Marie January 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm

All excellent advice, as usual. Re: #7, I’ve started using various styles of small Ball canning and jelly jars (all acquired secondhand, naturally) for drinking glasses. Inexpensive, tough, easily replaceable, double-duty (in case I ever actually get around to doing any canning), and a tribute to my Tennessee roots (“Drink my liquor from an old fruit jar…”). A sophisticated NYC friend has admired the jars so much on her visits here that she’s started her own collection!


Carla January 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

I did have cohesive drinking glasses but that was years ago, and over time they have become dishwasher scarred and and look awful, plus quite a few have gotten broken over time. Interestingly, my mother (now deceased) had those “working glass” glasses but I had no idea they are called that. Daddy still uses them.


Katy January 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm

I love theses glasses, and when I get short of refrigerator storage, I pop a lid on one and shazam, they work great for leftovers!



Sharon January 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I have used the ideas from Don Aslett’s book “Make Your House Do the Housework” to incorporate easy-t0-clean options when we do renovations and when we make decorating decisions.

I realized that high-end items were used by people who could afford to hire help to clean and maintain them. We regular people can’t have silk drapes that puddle on the floor — because the cats will try to climb them and they will magically attract dust bunnies. So I keep my house looking cleaner and less mangy by choosing pull-down shades in a decorative fabric with no dangling cords and no long curtains.

Not as elegant as puddling curtains. But very neat and tidy.

Same with when we had bookshelves built. I asked the carpenter to make them with doors covering the lower two shelves. Presto — a place for our CDs, and extra school supplies for homeschooling.
When we ordered our chair and ottoman set 20 years ago, I chose the option with a storage bin inside. The wool lap rugs we use everywhere in winter live inside the ottoman all summer.

Now if someone could tell me how to deal with a house full of electrical cords so they don’t collect dust bunnies or trip me up, I would deeply appreciate it.


Maggie January 16, 2014 at 8:31 am

We use paper towel tubes and bread bag tabs to keep our cords organized. Places that have a lot of cords (like behind the T.V.) we’ll take a paper towel tube, run all the cords through it, and label them with the bread bag tabs.


Brooke January 15, 2014 at 1:33 pm

I darned my first sock ever yesterday, thanks to you!! It was so much fun (I’m a geek) and rewarding that I then looked all over the house to find more socks to darn. Thanks!


Katy January 15, 2014 at 2:38 pm

If darning socks makes you a geek, then I want to be nothing but a geek.



Megyn January 15, 2014 at 2:53 pm

#5 is what I try to explain to my clients. Often they have more than they need, and it’s not a lack of organizational materials, but rather too much stuff. Usually we end up with more boxes/containers than needed.


Bari January 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm

Alas, when I started doing some cleaning and purging of surplus clothing et al, I had to admit that I was suffering from “Bondage of Stuff.”
I’ve also comed to learn that horizontal surfaces are clutter magnets. Out! Out! Damned Clutter!
-b in pdx


Elizabeth January 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Perhaps playing the piano occasionally would motivate everyone to keep it clear of clutter. Growing up, we were never allowed to put ANYTHING on the piano as, according to my mom who played with an orchestra for years, it affects the sound coming out. The rule essentially made the piano invisible (except for playing it). It was not an expensive piano. My parents are have always been non-consumers to some extent i.e. take good care of EVERYTHING because they will never buy another.


Shannon January 15, 2014 at 5:23 pm

How did you know about my 2 coats with broken zippers??!


livingrichonthecheap January 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

I just downsized my Mom. We did 3 downsizing rounds. Round 1 only pack things you love. Round 2 pack everything else as the house sold (we had gotten rid of a fair amount by that point). Round 3, you are not allowed to live with things packed in boxes, either you find a home for it within 30 days or we get rid of it. She did really good, and we finished round 3 today. We are now having a very large garage sale come Spring as some things were easier for her to consider selling than giving away. ****One thing I learned from this process. People who have difficulty sometimes purchase many containers (Rubbermaid loves my mother). Just because you have containers doesn’t mean organization! Enough said, thanks for letting me vent.


Allison January 15, 2014 at 8:12 pm

My husband pushed for switching to Mason jars when we got down to only two matching glasses… and we LOVE them! We have 8oz and 12oz regular mouth and the wide mouth quart jars. We use them for drinking and all sorts of storage. I love the big ones as a water glass so I drink enough water each day.

I think they all cost us less than $1 each and haven’t broken yet! Plus they look so much nicer for storing nuts and dried fruit that we snack on.


Louise January 16, 2014 at 7:48 am

I had to laugh about the horizontal surface of the piano. I, too, find that horizontal surfaces are magnets for stuff (ie: clutter). What I have noticed is that if those horizontal surfaces have been decorated, especially with taller items, that they are less likely to get clutterized. For instance, we have a low-riding buffet in the dining room. It kept getting tons of stuff on it that never moved unless I did it. Just before Christmas I started getting guests visiting and they brought me pointsettias. Three plants later and the buffet looks pretty with the plant arrangements and … no clutter! Yeah.


esp January 16, 2014 at 3:29 pm

LOVE the working glasses. I just replaced a higgledy piggledy assortment of glassware with them, all purchased from the thrift store. I love that you can buy lids for them so they can also be used for food storage.


Rachel Steffens January 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

I grew up with glassware – always breaking and being replaced. Last year I replaced out icky plastic tumblers with a set of stainless steel pints from Klean Kanteen, which I like a lot and should last forever. They don’t shatter, and are light and kid-friendly.


tna January 19, 2014 at 6:20 am

I will never make a fabric covered cardboard organizer for a drawer. My only decluttering rule is to have less stuff. If I don’t use something on a regular basis I find it a new home with someone else. One example: I had a hand mixer, mostly for when I made whipped cream or meringue. Then I found I could do just as well with a whisk, just a little more effort. Then I discovered I could do the same job with a large fork. Amazing! Labor saving devices do just that, they save you any effort. And effort burns calories and also builds muscle. Win-win, I get a tiny work out and I save shelve space. Plus I don’t like cabinets and drawers, I like shelves, clean, neat, and open to the world. No hiding my secret mess.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: