The Keys to De-Cluttering


Photo courtesy of ShadwwulfAccumulating “stuff” is far easier than we realize. It seems that suddenly, you look around you and realize that all of your living space has been invaded by clutter, and you can barely walk across the room without tripping over something. This is a problem that faces all homeowners, and sometimes getting rid of all of that stuff just isn’t an option. How can you store it all without giving up your space?

Why We’re Asking

Knowing how to organize your space can be a challenge, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Luckily, there are countless tricks and special products to help you keep your space organized. Whether it’s your over-stuffed garage with no more room for your car, a messy work bench, or a kitchen so full of appliances that there’s nowhere to put the food, our experts know how to store things in style. Remember: organization is key to keeping your home stress-free.

So tell us, experts:

How can homeowners fight clutter?

Can the techniques used to hide wiring and plumbing be used for other kinds of unsightly home necessities?

What tricks do you use to keep your tools straight?

Have you seen any particularly clever storage solutions in your years of working with homeowners?

What are your personal favorite storage products?

Clutter can overwhelm a house very quickly, and having solid storage solutions makes life run much more smoothly. We look forward to hearing about the organization tricks you’ve developed over the years!

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!


  1. Fighting clutter in a home in New York City is the key to peace. It’s more than hiding wired, it’s creating spaces that are multifunctional. My living room and terrace were recently renovated for a design show and one of the things I shared with them was my need to have an appropriate workspace with room for storage. I was adamant about not wanting a television to be an eye sore so the flatscreen actually looks like a nice framed mirror instead of a hovering chunk of technology. The design team put in a built-out bookshelf which looks stylish but also has incredible storage. Keepsakes that are gadgety (and even borderline tacky, who are we kidding here?), I suggest a time capsule. Wrap the items that are significant in a time capsule and tuck it away in storage. For homes with space limitations, like many New York City co-ops and condos, a good storage space is a homeowners best friend and is well worth the investment. I am a Container Store junkie…thank goodness I have my addiction under control.

  2. This is one of my company’s most requested services-Clutter Counseling! My clutter philosophy is that clutter is “the physical manifestation of your emotional baggage”…Your stuff & where it accumulates can show where you’re stuck in your life (relationships, finances, health…). Using the 3 Questions on each & every item you own (starting w/a drawer or cabinet) you can clear the mental, physical & emotional clutter that affects your health & well-being.

    The 3 Questions are: Do you LOVE it? (do you have a positive attachment to an item or does it bring about feelings of ill-will & negativity) Do you USE it? Do you NEED it? (you may need a pen but do you need 10 boxes of pens?).

    In answer to your questions:

    What tricks do you use to keep your tools straight? Slatwall & peg board in garages/sheds, along w/plastic bins & rolling carts are wonderful organization & storage options for tools & accessories.

    Have you seen any particularly clever storage solutions in your years of working with homeowners? I love to install 3-4” shelves at plate rail height to store collectibles, stuffed animals, trophies/awards & the like. This creates a decorative border, displays cherished items & keeps seldom used items out of the way. This is great in man caves for sports collectibles/trophies & children’s rooms for stuffed animals, toys, collections & dolls.

    What are your personal favorite storage products? Along w/the above, I love using slatwall & peg board, as well as multi-use furniture (storage ottomans…).

  3. One easy way to cut out clutter, Is to sit down and have a family conversation about what items are important. If it has to go in a box or in storage chances are it is not as important as you originally thought. Especially for the love ones we have lost, We often hold on the things that we should discard. If you ever find yourself in that situation remember that people are not things and keep just the most important items and then put away the others. The simple method of creating a keep and discard pile when you’re going through things can help you keep your clutter way down.

  4. Clutter is something that service business’ witness almost daily. Entering peoples homes day in and day out we witness how much ‘ stuff ‘ people can accumulate. This large amount of clutter can hinder the way that we service the clients home. Not only a fire hazard, but also a harborage for pests. Our tips for organization are – Keep it simple, Stupid! It is easier for us to keep things then throw it away. A great rule of thumb is if you haven’t used it in a year then throw it away! Many people have a problem throwing something away because they feel as if they may need it. After a year, if you dont find you need it and dont want to throw it away- Then donate it! No need to be selfish, there are many people who can use those items you no longer need.

  5. As an interior designer, it is my job to get my clients organized. The best weapon against clutter is organization and by that I mean, a place for everything and everything in its place. If you have a place for your belongings, the chances are good that you will actually put them there.
    I start at the front door with a place for keys, mail and coats. Then one by one, each room in the home becomes organized by designating certain spots to tuck away belongings. Paper seems to be the biggest offender, so i help my clients with things like file cabinets, bulletin boards, recycle bins, a bill paying station and all sorts of other clever solutions to cut down on clutter.

    For surfaces that can pile up with belongings like coffee tables, end tables or buffets and sideboards I design the tops of these pieces with things like lamps , paperweights, sculptures and picture frames; not cluttered but simple, clean arrangements of beautiful decorative items to prevent my clients from placing unsightly things on top of those surfaces.

    My best advice for people drowning in clutter is to get a one or two hour professional consultation with a designer or organizer. There are many inexpensive tips and tricks than can be learned from a pro that can stick with you forever. When a client has me back a year or two after I’ve organized their space and it still looks wonderful, I know I’ve done my job!

  6. Great subject, especially how it relates to pest control business. Clutter is a homeowners enemy in many ways. The vary word clutter, can be made up of many things. I typically see clutter as “items that will no longer likely be used” but we hold onto it. But if you absolutely need to have it, and in the home, then there are lots of smart choices that can be used to make these items and the space in which they are stored more organized.

    Garages seem to be the first stop for storage. Best practice is to store items in sealed containers, such as boxes or plastic tubs when possible. Be sure to mark your boxes, such as holiday decorations, books, etc. Place these items that require frequent access in easy locations and staged according the the frequency of use. As a pest control professional, storage is a homeowners worst nightmare when it comes to resolving issues of pests, especially rodents. If you have lots of containers that will not be used often, consider a storage unit rental.

    Garage overhead space products are excellent for keeping things off the floor and out of the way. Wire rack style shelving helps view items from below and avoids horizontal surfaces that gather dust and possible nesting sites for all sorts of pests.

    Inside storage is always a challenge, so there are many products, such as Rubbermaid tubs that fit under beds and are clear, so items like wrapping paper, tape, ribbons, gift bags, and tissue paper can be all in one area and out of the way. Some of the biggest pest issues can start under beds, because they are one of those “out of sight, out of mind” places. Having storage inside rolling tubs make it easy to remove and clean under regularly. Shoes and purses take up a lot of space in most homes, so proper storage can condense the space needed for these items. Using plastic, clear, shoe size tubs make this a great option for that shelve over your cloths racks. Closet organizing companies or DIY kits are great for adding storage in these spaces.

    Papers and documents take up tons of space, even if you have them in filing cabinets. With todays technology products like NeatReceipts, ( a document scanner can make your world paperless and free up clutter, and at the same time organize all your paperwork.

    Clutter organization is about what you need, want and must have, so separate your items and organize accordingly.

  7. I have three suggestions, mostly based on personal experience of being a dad to two clutter-inducing daughters. First and foremost, accept that some degree of clutter is going to be part of your life, if you have a family. Only if you make picking up a full time job will you be able to contain it. Having said that, **designate one room to be the clutter-allowed room**. This way, you can allow the creativity and playtime that creates clutter, but you can also contain it or at least hide it. We built a whole upstairs addition just for the kids. I never go up there, but I hear its a fun, chaotic room.

    Secondly, find items that can contain clutter easily, without it being totally organized. My two favorite items are storage ottomans and end-of-bed benches (see “” for example). Both of these items have two-fold practicality. First, they are a spot to sit upon, or put your feet up, or fill a space. Secondly, you just need to lift up the top and voila! Instant organizing space. Another item popular with our customers here at Carolina Rustica are storage beds, which allow for under-bed storage and eliminate the need for a boxspring or foundation. These typically add $300 to $500 to the cost of the bed, however, and can be an expensive option.

    Clutter is a fact of life, it just has to be contained and/or hidden away!

  8. I have preached getting rid of clutter for decades. So to hear all of you younger designers/service experts giving such great advice is actually a dream come true–I can rest assured that the battle against clutter will be carried on by a new generation. You have made my day !

  9. As a home stager, de-cluttering is often the biggest task I have to do to prepare a home for sale. I’m often shocked at how most people have no sense of organization, and quickly become overwhelmed by their stuff. My recommendation for keeping clutter at bay is to purge regularly–go through your belongings and decide what needs to be discarded (anything damaged beyond repair), stored (items you use infrequently), donated (anything that is still useful, but you haven’t used it in over a year), or kept (things you use regularly). Once the discarded and donated items are gone, and occasionally used items are stored, most people find they have sufficient space for the items they use all the time. Make efficient use of the space you have by using boxes, baskets, cubbies, organizers, and other items to help keep everything contained and neat.

  10. When it comes to clearing the clutter I have a few rules. What ever it is from plumbers tools to kids toyys. It all works the same if the plumbers in Boise have not used the tools or product in years it time to sell it or get rid of it. With tools or toys find some fold up bins are put either the plumbing fittings or kids fire trucks in them. Organizing can be a task however it is worth your sanity.

  11. Clutter kills a space. No matter how wonderful the room could be it won’t be, you can’t find things and you can’t clean in overly cluttered spaces. You won’t believe how wonderful you’ll feel after de-cluttering.
    Usually it happens at entry points to a home or behind doors in a closet or spare bedroom. Realize where your clutter comes from. Is it the mail, taking off your shoes as you come into the home or super purchases at Costco? At entry points find great looking baskets or anything that looks good and has three matching pieces. One is recycle, one is pay, and one is file (and do have a file cabinet or scan and get on a hard drive & back up). It sounds simple and it is, you still have the same stuff but once a week you toss into recycle, make time to file or pay. In the mean time you have sorted and disguised your stuff. Some people can get this down to two baskets. Your list could include other things, keys phones or glasses that you can never fine. Again attractive storage on a counter, in a drawer but if everyone knows “This is where we keep these” you find them without always seeing them. Big purchases need big space and if you don’t have the space you may want to split these buys with your friends or neighbors especially in apartments and condominiums. Shoes can be hidden in a basket, I’ve even designed cabinets in entries or mud rooms to handle all of the storage I discuss here but you’d never know the cabinet wasn’t a hutch.
    My favorite company for organizing wires, electrical and data messes is Mockett @
    These are some of my favorites below. When you have the opportunity plan ahead and hire an electrician to install a cool power and data pop up in a counter or desk. If you can’t hide them completely at least keep them organized and out of the way.

  12. De-cluttering can be a very overwhelming task for homeowners to tackle. Fortunately for our new homeowners there is no better time to de-clutter than when you move from your old home into your new one. We are sharing a couple of tips that we at Grand View Builders recommend to our new homeowners facing the dreaded de-cluttering process before the big move.

    De-cluttering can be very overwhelming, so it is important to give yourself enough time to properly sort through everything. Do not try and tackle the whole house in one weekend! Feeling rushed will only cause more stress and it takes time to properly organize and sort everything. Before you start, make sure you have everything you will need to accomplish the project (boxes, a shredder, tape, markers for labeling, etc.). Having to run back to the store will break your stride and you may find it hard to get started again.

    One of the biggest dilemmas people face when de-cluttering is deciding what to keep and what to trash. When faced with this dilemma ask yourself if you were shopping today, would you buy this item again? If the answer is no, you probably don’t love it, so leave it (in the trash or donation pile). Many homeowners think that the trash is the only place their old, outdated or outgrown items can go. Remember that items can be donated or sold in a yard sale. Have separate bags or boxes for ‘trash,’ ‘giveaway’ or ‘yard sale’ while cleaning to streamline the process. Donating or selling items will help you part with possessions that may have been difficult to throw away!

    Once you have finished de-cluttering one room or area of your house, make sure you remove the items that have been designated for trash and donations within 48 hours. This will keep you from going back to the items you have decided to get rid of. Seeing the clean and empty rooms you have already tackled will motivate you to keep going!

  13. Having the right storage system in place is key! We’re in the custom closet business and the biggest challenge we see is that so many home owners are stuck with stationary storage in closets, pantries, garages and other spots. This means they can’t adjust it or add shelves to it as their needs change without tearing it down or starting over. When the shelves are adjustable, home owners can truly maximize space. For instance, they can place shelves just above the items they are storing to eliminate wasted space.

    Another big clutter challenge is of course having way too much stuff. We always remind our clients that you can’t fit 25 gallons of stuff in a 10 gallon container. It’s easy for clients to get attached to their belongings, so we challenge them to think about their excess stuff in terms of “is it something you truly love?” “Have you used it in the last year?” “Is it something that others would benefit from if you donated the items?”

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