Most of us prefer the look of an uncluttered home. For many, clutter is distracting, so clear space makes us feel better. I call it Clutter-Free Zen. It’s definitely part of why we ooh and ahh during the big reveals at the end of various HGTV shows.

Clutter is often a challenge in real life, regardless of the size of your home, but especially for those who live in smaller urban homes. This is especially true if you grew up in a larger suburban home and are used to more space, like I did. When my husband and I decided to live in a more urban environment, we had to accept a smaller living space in exchange for a more urban, walkable neighbourhood, and had to learn to limit our stuff.  We’ve come a long way from the days in our old urban home where we had stuff everywhere.  How did we do it? Here are my top clutter control tips.

Make time to purge

The key element here is to schedule time to actively take steps to purge your stuff on a regular basis. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen unless life circumstances force it: a move, divorce, death. In our case, it was the rebuild of our home. There’s a ton of planning and preparation to do, so this just added pressure. However, with all the costs we were about to incur, I was not willing to add the expense of storing things I didn’t really need. Determining what to keep wasn’t always easy, but we developed criteria. We gave away a lot of stuff, and the boxes of “maybes” sent to storage were few in number. Interestingly, when we moved back into our rebuilt home, most of the maybes were recategorized as “unnecessary” and we purged even more. We now schedule regular purges to avoid a repeat of this massive task.

Think twice about purchases

After experiencing the exhaustion that came with the complete purge, I am very careful about refilling my home with stuff. When considering a purchase or even a freebie I ask myself four questions: do I really need it, how long will I use it, do I have room to store it and how will I dispose of it. It’s amazing how this has decreased purchases and the collection of freebies. I also no longer look at the flyers. If I need something, I can look for good buys, but I don’t need to look for things to buy. Purchases have become more thoughtful and planned.

Get stuff you aren’t using on the move

For the items that do enter the house, I have systems to avoid regressing to the passive habit of collecting, especially now that I enjoy the restful quality that comes with the absence of clutter. Make your regular purge easier by moving unneeded items along a path and out of your way. I have boxes in different closets for items no longer used.  Those boxes are emptied whenever it makes sense. For example, my children’s closets include boxes for their outgrown clothes. I toss things in as I go, and once full, they are sealed and handed off to family, friends or organizations that can redistribute them to those in need.  Tossing one sweater into a designated box, when you realize it doesn’t fit anymore, is much less work than dedicating chunks of time to sort through entire wardrobes to remove clothes that no longer fit. If you are looking for places to donate clothes in Toronto, here are some options.

Use space-efficient storage options

Having space for the stuff you need that keeps it off the floor and tidy, or out of sight, is also essential. Modular built-ins in our rebuilt home proved to be great replacements for various pieces of stand-alone furniture, like hutches, buffets and drawers. Unlike these furniture pieces, modular furniture can be stacked together, permitting more storage in the same space. Much of it is also closed, which I find easier on the eye. For example, the wall of white kitchen cupboard doors is much more restful for the eye than seeing all the colours of the contents of the hutch combined with all the colours of the other decorative elements in the space.

Thinking about renovating or rebuilding? Make sure you take advantage of this opportunity to create clutter-free zen by paring down your belongings. For us, decluttering was an unexpected positive benefit of our overall process. Interested? We can reduce the stress of the planning stage by helping you add this process to your overall plan.