Dealing with clutter: decluttering, home organization, storage solutions and tips

This summer we put our house up for sale. It would have gone on the market in the spring but for one thing: the clutter in every part of the house.

We are squeezed in to a house much too small for our big family and, as a result, it is already crowded. I’m not a hoarder, in fact quite the opposite, I would love to live in a beautifully minimalist house where we don’t own much and everything we do own has a place to be stored away out of sight. But I also hate throwing anything away that I believe might be useful one day (the environmentalist in me) and so there were plenty of items that I was keeping ‘just in case’. Add those to an already crowded living environment and four busy children who never seem to put anything away and I would look around at our house and think we have no chance of selling it looking like this.

So there was that.

And then we had some removal quotes done.

Nothing focuses your mind more on decluttering than the thought of having to pay to have the things you don’t really need, or particularly want, moved from one home to another.

There was only one solution and that was a radical declutter and sorting of our possessions.

We have gone further than that too and stored a whole lot of things that we want to keep but don’t need for the duration of our house sale, some in the garage in case I need to access them and some in self-storage. These items have been in storage now for a few months and with the exception of my SAD light (I packed it in the height of summer, not remembering that we might not actually have moved by the time winter comes) and a few children’s board games we haven’t really missed anything.

So for many weeks over the summer while the children were at school I went through every part of the house deciding what would be kept in the house, what would be stored, what could be given to charity and what would be recycled. If I wasn’t sure about an item I used the criteria ‘do I want to pay to move this?’ and it was surprisingly easy to de-clutter!

So I packed boxes for storage
moving house packing boxes decluttering

and I packed store items in the garage
moving house packing boxes for storage decluttering

I sorted many many items for recycling
moving house recycling decluttering

Little boys had fun on some of the rubbish while we worked

and then we hired a skip to get rid of everything else we didn’t need. It was a six foot skip and we filled it to the brim!
skip lorry moving house decluttering

That’s a scary amount of stuff we didn’t need that we were keeping in our house.

I don’t know if all skip companies are required to do it anyway, but the company I chose recycled everything they could from the skip so I was able to feel reasonably confident that we weren’t making too much of a contribution to landfill. Still, that was a lot of rubbish to say goodbye to and I felt a little guilty. And also quite a bit relieved, because it is a surprisingly good feeling to get rid of so much stuff you realise you don’t actually need.

Now we have a policy of one-in, one-out – if we have to buy something new, we try to get rid of whatever it is replacing – I don’t just store it with a vague plan that we might use it somewhere else one day. We don’t automatically keep boxes for the boys to use for craft activities, I bin them unless I have a definite activity in mind. There are always new boxes in the not-too-distant-future, at least while their feet keep on growing and growing like they do.

I donated all the baby clothes I was keeping ‘just in case’. That was hard 🙁 .

We also decided to make the study (which in reality was a junk storage room) into a bedroom. Now there is nowhere just to dump things that I will deal with when I have a minute. Instead I have to make a minute to deal with the item right there and then. It’s harder that way but stops the clutter piling up. This is what our storage room now looks like:
nursery babys room

I can’t find a picture of what it looked like before which is probably just as well as I’d probably be too embarrassed to post it here.

One of the best tips for selling a house is to put all your stuff away but it’s hard work to have to do that every time you have a viewing when you have four small children underfoot. So now we have specific places for items we use every day and my dream of living a minimalist life is getting a little nearer! It also makes cleaning so much easier (which means I’m much more likely to do it) and the sense of peace I get when I look around at my clean and clutter-free house is wonderful:

In addition to the usual cupboards and toy storage, I have three items of furniture that I couldn’t live without because they are great for storage: my beloved apothecary chest (also coveted by others) which, because it has lots of small drawers, is great for storing things you want to keep but don’t know quite where to put.
apothecary chest

I also have my work chest which is the old set of drawers in the hallway in the picture above where I store all my paperwork, school books, pens, folders and items I need to hand every day. There are trays for paperwork in, a file for filed papers, drawers for everything else.

cubby shelf storage unitI also have a Go Shelf which is a cubby storage shelf unit in the hallway where I put everything that needs to go out of the house at some point, so letters to be posted, birthday gifts to be taken to parties, mobile phones, shopping lists and all sorts of paraphernalia can go here and I’m never hunting around for stuff right before I have to go out.

I’m so much happier with the way things are now and I feel more inclined to keep the house clutter-free.

How do you deal with clutter?

Friday ClubWelcome to the Friday Club Carnival, a weekly carnival held here. Sorry for the delay in publishing but it’s here now: this week’s Carnival is all about dealing with clutter and here are the other entries in this carnival, please click through and read these great posts:

Lasso The Moon posts Take 100 things off your house’s waistline.

Kooky Girl Blog posts Ironing and Clutter and Stuff.

Jennifer’s Little World posts Dealing with clutter in the home.

Living it Little posts De-clutter or die.

Inside The Wendy House posts Clutter.

Midlife Singlemum posts Clutter: A Straight Exchange.

Green and Tidy posts Five ways to have a clutter-free Christmas.

Who Teaches Whom posts Clutter.

Live Otherwise posts Decluttering – a dream.

Multiple Mummy posts Clutter or Memories?

Freckles Family posts De-cluttering – My new hobby.

Mymumdom posts Clutter.

Kate on Thin Ice posts Reflections on Clutter.

Here Come The Girls posts How to clutter your home.

Thank you to to all these lovely bloggers for taking part and for their patience in the carnival being published this time!

Have you subscribed yet? Get free updates via email .

43 thoughts on “Dealing with clutter: decluttering, home organization, storage solutions and tips

  1. Cherished By Me

    Awww sorry Ella completely out of the loop and hadn’t realised the Friday club was back. De-cluttering feels so good doesn’t it. I couldn’t believe how much junk we were holding on to and although I got rid of so much before we moved I’ve probably got rid of a third of that again since we have moved…what a waste of money in removals. 🙁
    Your house looks lovely and good luck with the selling. x

    1. ella

      Sometimes though you don’t know what you need in a new house until you get there and it’s only then that you realise you can get rid of more stuff, so don’t feel too bad!

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  4. Tasha Goddard

    Wow! I’m very, very impressed. This is what I want to do, so much, but it is very hard – especially without the impetus of putting the house on the market. The Go Shelf sounds particularly useful. In my mind, I have a set of boxes or baskets in the dining room (all rooms/stairs kind of lead from there, so it’s a bit like a hall) destined for each room, and then I (and maybe even other people) would take them to that room when going that way and put the contents where they go. No idea if it would work, of course! But it sounds good.

    1. ella

      I love the idea of baskets Tasha. We do it the other way round and have baskets in each room which I can throw odd bits in to when I tidy with the idea that I can sort them when I have a moment. It sort of works but your idea sounds much more workable!

  5. Rebecca

    Sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate. Hope all going well with the house move. You’re house looks great. I love that apothecary chest.
    I could do with a big sort out too. Worried as Christmas is coming and that will bring yet more stuff! I’m trying to do an area at a time but it’s slow going.

    1. ella

      Oh yes, Christmas – more stuff coming into the house!

      Sorting out a small area whenever you can is a good way of doing it, that’s what I try and do now to keep the clutter under control when I don’t have a lot of time to spend doing it.

    1. ella

      The storage furniture has only come to us recently and I can definitely say that it has made keeping the clutter under control much easier. I still have my eye on a few other items that would help too!

    1. ella

      I won’t lie, it was a massive job. If we hadn’t have been putting the house on the market I think there’s no way I could have forced myself to do it….

  6. Sophie

    I would love to get rid of all the rubbish we have acquired over the years. I think it will have to be when we move though! The skip is a great idea, it would make it much easier.

    1. ella

      The skip is an expensive way to do it and in future I’ll be more mindful of recycling and donating things little and often so that we don’t have to do it again. It was a good way to declutter quickly given we had a deadline though.

    1. ella

      Thanks Rachel, that’s a lovely thing to say. I avoid publishing duplicate content across the web though so I can’t do the guest post but if I write another similar post (perhaps an update?) I would love to let you know before I publish it here in case you would be interested.

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  8. Iota

    I once had a dream – this is true – that the doorbell rang, and when I opened the door, there was a soldier on the doorstep. Full combat dress, helmet with branches hanging off it, gun – the works. He said “I am a soldier. I have come to help you in the war against clutter.”

    Makes me laugh when I remember that dream. My poor old subconscious was obviously asking for a bit of help! Funny thing is, I had that dream when I had one toddler, and – I’m guessing – a pretty tidy clutter-free house. Now I have three children, and a house full of chaos, but I just don’t worry about it any more. I am pretty good at chucking stuff out, though. I fill a bag for a charity shop regularly. It gets easier when you’re not dealing with baby stuff, somehow. That is always hard.

  9. Maria

    Brilliant post Ella, it has inspired me to have a go at getting rid of some of the clutter in our house which threatens to swallow us all up!

  10. Make do mum

    Great idea for the carnival. I wage a constant battle with clutter – I’ve just had a good sort through K’s toys and got a big bag for the charity shop, before she is old enough to protest!

  11. Debbie

    Lots of great tips for dealing with clutter there. Thanks for linking to it from my blog. Its amazing how moving house can focus the mind. I’m trying to get focussed myself – although half term has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works….

  12. Mary

    That is really a lot of stuff you don’t need and your house’s transformation is amazing. I found it hard letting go of a lot of things in our house before, but when I had finally decided to throw and sell them, I felt a huge load was taken away from my shoulders.

  13. Suzie

    Wow Ella you must be so pleased, your house looks beautiful! I dream of doing something similar and I just need to find the time to get to it!

  14. Roslyn Shepard

    Its amazing how moving house can focus the mind. Wow Ella you must be so pleased, your house looks beautiful! Great post, Ella.

  15. Steve

    The biggest problem I have….is when to get rid of ‘stuff’ that I think that I won’t use any more, but am not sure. I have a tendency to hold on to things that I probably will never use again. So I’ve come up with a system where I move things I’m not sure about into storage, so they are not taking up space in my house.

    I actually label each item and the date I put it in storage, and periodically look and get rid of the oldest stuff. Not perfect, but it works.

  16. Travis Guevara

    Great tips. My wife and I lives in a small house and we have lots of things. Storage is a big problem for but now that I’ve read this post it will be much easier for us have a much more bigger place.

    Thanks to this great post!

  17. self storage battersea

    Some people keep all the things in their home which they used to use from their childhood and so on. Yes we should recycle the things but we can’t keep so much things in our home. Your policy One-in, One-out is really useful and helpful policy it saves us space in our home and money too.

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  20. Adam

    Clutter, yeah I am not a fan either. Some people call me an OCD person. I accept this and wear it as a badge of honor. Honestly, how can anyone live in a mess with clothes, food, garage sale items, this and that all over the home? It makes me sick just thinking about it. If someone has this much stuff in their home, and it keeps piling up, their problem is way more than my OCD problem.

  21. Decluttering

    Wow! That is an impressive amount of stuff to get rid of in such a short time. I think that you definitely did the one thing that I always advise people to do with clutter – just get started. It seems that most people have a tough time letting go of so many possessions if they let themselves think about it too much. Anyways – congrats on clearing on the house – impressive!

  22. Gabrielle Roark

    I live in a one bedroom apartment on the second floor. Three kids under 5 share the bedroom and the whole family shares one closet. With such limited storage, there is absolutely no room for anything unnecessary! We have a system where categories of items are all corralled into bins, boxes, or baskets with handles for the children. Every month there is a box of things that gets collected and when it gets full I go through and either throw away items , put things by the door for giveaway, or find a proper place for various things in aforementioned bins. Also, the kids earn money by doing chores and keeping the house tidied up, so I do not buy them any new things (other than clothing or necessities) unless they pay for it themselves and they must donate something to charity if they find a good toy outside to bring home (where we live it is mostly sunny and people leave toys out in public parks). These practices, along with daily purging of small, useless things, really keeps our mess to a minimum. I don’t have everything given away that I’d like, but living so minimally makes it easier to live with.


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