Declutter Your Home

10 Strategies for Winning Your Family's Support in the War on Clutter

If you’re looking to declutter your home, you’re not alone.  Most of us battle a constant onslaught of books, toys, games, papers, incomplete projects, dirty dishes, clothes, and other stuff which always seem to be cluttering our otherwise tidy homes.  This is even true of professional organizers!  When you see someone whose home always seems neat and orderly, it doesn’t mean they don’t have clutter; it just means they've figured out how to manage it.  You can manage it as well! 

Let’s face it, you could be the most organized person on the planet and it wouldn't matter one bit if everyone else in your home was disorganized.  It takes a unified effort to declutter your home.  Read on for tips on how to win the support of your household in the fight against clutter.

Do Your Homework

People often struggle with a general sense of disorder, unsure where to begin in their battle with clutter.  Take a minute to identify the most significant problem areas in your home. 

In my home, it’s the informal dining room (we have a formal one as well).  It’s where we eat most of our meals.  It’s where we play games as a family.  It acts as a buffet when we entertain.  It’s where my kids do their homework, and it's where everybody dumps their stuff when they walk in the door. 

When identifying problems, look for areas where you can improve as well.  You are much less likely to offend, or worse, insight rebellion, if you admit to your own part in the problem.  Like everyone else in my family, I’m bad about using the table as a staging ground for projects I’m working on or things that need my attention…later.


Decide which areas you most want to keep clutter free and start there.  Once everyone has tasted of success, you can move on to less troublesome clutter zones.  

Usually the best candidate for a starting place to declutter your home is the most public spot, the place where everyone gathers, including guests.

Get Everyone Involved

Gather everyone together to discuss the problem and the solution.  You may find that others have been troubled by the situation as well and are eager to help in the effort to declutter your home.  It could happen! After all, it’s their home as well. 

Identify the issues and ask for suggestions or present possible solutions and ask everyone to vote on the one they like best.  The best solution will be the one that makes sense to everyone involved and compliments your lifestyle.  

Establish a System

Rather than trying to adapt your lifestyle to the space, look for ways to adapt the space to your lifestyle.  The key is to establish a system, a method for doing things that takes into consideration the way the space is used and the storage needs associated with the room’s function. 

In the case of my dining room, the most important consideration is the many ways in which we use the room.  In order to find a solution that will work, we have to figure out how to accommodate and provide sufficient storage for each of the room’s functions and still keep the table free of clutter when it’s not in use. 

Recommended Reading

Want to know more about what systems are and how to implement them? Click on the image on the right to read Systems for Decluttering. 

Clarify Expectations

Once you have a system in mind, clarify the expectations associated with your system and make sure everyone understands them.  

A simple system understood by all provides a framework in which everyone can work together to declutter your home.

Kids and Expectations

When my children were young, we had a play room which was located just off the living room at the front of the house right where everyone who visited could see it when they entered. 

The children were allowed to play with whatever they liked and get out as many toys as they liked at one time, but they were expected to pick up the toys before moving on to another activity such as TV viewing or playing outside. 

For a while I ran a part time daycare out of that house. My daycare charges quickly learned our system. Instead of asking, "Can we...", they would say, "If we pick up the playroom, can we..." 

Because everything was labeled and had an easily identifiable place within the space, pick up was quick and easy. 

Provide Positive Feedback

Reinforce the behaviors you want through positive feedback.  This can be in the form of praise or a tangible reward.  Rewards don't have to be things.   If you're trying to declutter your home, adding more things is counterproductive to your cause.  Instead, do something fun together to celebrate your mutual achievement - play a game, read a book, go out for a treat, watch a movie, go for a bike ride, or do some other activity that you enjoy doing together.

Keep it Simple

The fewer steps required to accomplish a task, the more likely it is that the task will be done.  This is definitely true when attempting to declutter your home. 

The easier it is to put things away, the better the chance that they will end up where they belong.  

Utilize Open Storage

One way to keep things simple is to use open storage containers whenever appropriate.  They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  You can even make your own from recycled materials.  Most are attractive enough to display.  Keeping them out in the open makes them easy to access and easy to use.  

The simple act of lifting a lid can be a deterrent to picking up.  Eliminate excuses by utilizing open storage containers for frequently used items.

Label it

Labels are an excellent way to keep clutter at bay.  Label baskets, bins, boxes, shelves, drawers, and folders.  Labels make it clear where things belong, thus making it easier for everyone to put things back in their proper place.

I particularly like using labels in kids' rooms.  Labels encourage the development of sight words which help to build reading skills.  They are also great for developing sorting and classification skills in younger children. 

Labels give everything a uniform look and make it easier for kids and adults to keep their stuff organized.  Even friends who come to play can easily put things back where they belong.

For younger children, consider including a picture of the item on the label.  For instance, the Lego box could have a photo of one of your child's Lego creations.

Labels can be homemade or store bought.  You can use any number of materials to create labels: tags, stickers, small cards, etc.  Look for interesting alphabet stickers in the craft store for creating your labels.  Design labels on the computer and print them or handwrite them on stickers or tags.  The possibilities are endless.  Choose labels that compliment your decor for the most pleasing effect.  

Be Consistent

The best system is the system you use consistently.  If you only implement your system on occasion it will be ineffective at controlling clutter.  Clutter is like weeds.  Once everything is in order, it's relatively easy to maintain -- but you have to maintain it.  Otherwise, it will get out of control.  

A unified effort is essential in your effort to declutter your home and keep it clutter-free.  I hope these strategies will help you to win the support and assistance of your housemates in your fight against clutter. 

Recommended Reading

Want more great tips for organizing and decluttering your home? Check out these great pages.

Click here to return to Step-by-Step Declutter.

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