how to keep a clutter-free home

12:24 PM

I often get asked about how we manage to keep such a clutter free home. I actually don't consider myself a "minimalist" and I'm not going to tell you how to konmari your home. To me clutter starts in the mind and then spills out physically via our possessions. So in order for me to explain how I got to where I am I think it's important to start at the beginning.
I am by nature an aesthete. Like a crow I like shiny pretty things and I like to collect them. When I first became an adult I couldn't get enough of all the pretty things. Having spent my childhood being told no over and over again and longing for the days when I could say yes I shopped with reckless abandon. If I liked it I bought it and it came home with me. Tiny useless picture frames, stacks of stationary that would never be used, kitchen odds and ends that had no purpose other than to delight my eyes for a few months. But there was always a war raging between my consumption and my type A, obsessive-compulsive personality. I longed for neatness and organization and yet behind every cabinet door, basket and box lurked my dirty secret. Let's just say I was the "tidiest" hoarder you've ever seen. But over time things began to change.
As I continued to do the work of unpacking old baggage, changing bad habits and in general creating a life that felt healthier, more peaceful and productive my relationship to money and things began to change. I became increasingly aware of the ways in which we are constantly bombarded with messages aimed at getting us to spend, acquire and consume. Whether it be clothes, food, furniture or cars. The mental tirade is ceaseless. I realized that unless I take a very active stance to fight back I will continually get sucked back into the tornado of consumerism. So I began to police what emails I allow in my inbox, what feeds I follow on social media, what I watch on tv and what magazines I allow in our home. So much of it can be triggering. A pretty new candle, a cozy sweater for the cooler seasons, a stylish new chair or as simple as a note pad. I love a good photoshoot and can always appreciate attractive styling. But I've realized that I can like something without needing it.
So I came up with a set of rules to live by that help keep me on track and help keep our home feeling simple, cozy and clutter-free.

First and foremost if I'm at a store, looking at a magazine or see something on social media that is aimed to get me to buy and I'm interested I ask myself:

  • do I need it?
  • do I already have something similar?
  • what purpose would it serve in our home?
  • is it made to last, made ethically and can I afford it?
I have also learned to be a much better caretaker of the things that we do have. I learned how to properly stain treat items, when and how to wash linens and bedding to make it last longer and how to care for wood items. I regularly wash, dust, clean, shine and mend items. I've slowly changed almost all of our family's clothing to quality denim, wool and linen items or organic cotton as they last for years. With each new year I find myself buying less and less clothing and instead re-wear last year's clothes that I keep in storage because there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Real wool doesn't pill or shrink or fall apart like a cheaply made sweater. Good quality, often vintage, jeans can last a lifetime. Organic cotton keeps it shape and color wash after wash. Real quality leather shoes can also last for years and years. I can't stand living with a million different pairs of shoes so when it comes to our kids I keep it very simple - they each get one pair of sandals in the summer, one pair of rain boots, one pair of sneakers and one pair of casual and "going out" shoes. That's it. When summer is over the sandals go into storage and we only keep what they need for any given season. Same for myself - I own two pairs of leather boots (one black, one brown), one pair of rain boots, a pair of sneakers, slip on shoes, sandals, slides and a three pairs of heels. I've worn the same pair of sandals for over five years every summer and until they fall apart I see no need in replacing them. They serve their purpose just fine. 
And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we have learned to enjoy experiences over things. Sometimes you hear this from people who travel constantly to exotic locales and it sounds empty and hollow. That is not what I mean. When I say experiences I mean a picnic in the park, a hike through some woods, a walk through your favorite town, a game of bingo with our kids, a camping trip or quite simply a beautiful drive. Once we realized and began to appreciate the fact that these experiences leave us feeling much more nourished, peaceful and fulfilled than any purchase our life took on new meaning. The world offers us so many cleansing, beautiful and memorable experiences that are completely free. We've just been tricked into thinking that fun is synonymous with spending. Unlearning this takes time but once you do you feel more free, more yourself and happier than you could ever be in a big house full of "pretty things."

*top image via

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