After reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I immediately started purging my closets and folding my clothes differently. I’ve also binged on her new Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and am currently in the process of piling all of my books in one room to sort through them. (Although, I admit I did refrain from tapping them to wake them up.). I’ve also been following some of the conversation about Marie’s methods and clutter and consumerism in general on Twitter and Facebook.
I’m a minimalist at heart, but I also have four kids. And those two things don’t always align in my life. I know a lot of parents feel the same.
But, now that I’m back on the Kondo wagon, I’m focusing more on only bringing those things into our home that truly make our lives better, rather than just cluttering it up.
So, I wanted to share some of the smartest decluttering habits for families that you can start now — so you don’t have to KonMari your home later. Because starting with less is better for your budget, better for the environment, and better for your family and overall wellbeing. Here’s to sparking more joy!
Related: Feeling overwhelmed? Try this one-thing-a-day method to stay organized. You got this!
1. Give yourself 24 hours before you buy anything
Avoiding clutter means avoiding bringing a lot of stuff into the home in the first place, right? So one of my favorite and most useful tips for keeping my home less cluttered and saving more money has been to wait 24 hours before I buy something I want. This might mean adding something to my Amazon cart and returning to it the next day to see if I really still want it.
Often, I’ve used that time to check around to see if the purchase something I can borrow from a friend or neighbor instead, a book I can check out from the library, or if I really do need to have this purchase, perhaps I find it second-hand instead.
Also, you may realize that after 24 hours, you’re not really thinking about those hot boots or that sexy new piece of technology like you were the day before, in which case you can just delete from your cart — and your mind.
2. Learn to “budget” your closets, and I don’t mean financially
Another great decluttering habit: Decide how many of each type of item you want your kids (and yourself) to have, and make a note on your phone of that “budget.” Like, everyone gets 10 t-shirts, 5 pairs of PJs, and so on. Then, note how many you already have. (Our post on creating capsule wardrobes for kids is a great way to kick this off.)
I find this habit so helpful for avoiding impulse purchases — when I see a “must have” dress for my toddler on sale at Target, then check my phone and see that she already has 8 that fit her right now, I realize maybe it’s not so necessary after all. Or maybe I can buy one size up and save it for when she’s outgrown something else.
This also kind of fits with the one item in – one item out decluttering method that a lot of people like.
Related: 5 genius nursery organization tips, for new parents drowning in baby stuff.
3. Go digital with media, music, books and bills
It’s so easy to purchase your movies and music digitally these days and keep them stored on your AppleTV, in your Prime account, on Google Play, or in your iTunes library without the bulk of actual DVDs and CD cases stacking up.
If you’re a magazine buff, consider getting a subscription to Texture and cancelling your hard-copy magazine subscriptions. (While you’re at it, use Catalog Choice to unsubscribe from all those unwanted catalogs once and for all!) And if your kids are avid readers, in addition to hitting the library for real or borrowed ebooks, also consider a subscription to Epic (above), which gives kids access to thousands of children’s books they’ll love but you don’t necessarily need in your home library.
Also — and we’ve been talking about this for years! — be sure to get in the habit of signing up for online bill pay for every possible utility, credit card, insurance provider, gym membership, your rent or mortgage, or other creditor you have. Get in the habit of doing this the second you add something new. Less mail coming into the house means less clutter, and therefore, less need for KonMari-ing later.
Plus, it’s great for the environment, it makes tax organization sooooo easy since you’re not digging through boxes of bills and receipts (lots of ways to digitize your paper receipts by the way so you can eliminate those too), and you’re more likely to remember to pay that bill promptly since you’re already online when you receive it.
(You are paying bills online instead of writing checks, right? Great.)
Related: 20 tech to-dos to knock off your list to keep you organized this year
4. Make shared purchases
A group of my friends recently went in together to purchase a canoe, which I thought was so smart! It’s an activity some of the parents enjoy doing together with their kids, but they didn’t each need their own canoe. So they split the cost, and the family that just had a big garage (as in, the space to store it) is now keeping it for everyone to use as needed.
If you have a big purchase on your wish lis that can be shared and isn’t for every day use — like camping equipment, beach or pool toys, golf clubs, a lawnmower — discuss with your friends to see if anyone else has been planning a similar purchase. It might make sense to share the cost, which also helps you save the space that those kinds of items take up.
5. Keep track of your bulk purchases
If you’re trying to save some cash on groceries and household supplies, it can be smart to buy in bulk or load up on the BOGO sales. But it’s frustrating to come home with four bottles of shampoo, only to realize that you already had 3 bottles on hand.
I like to use the the Any.do app (one of our favorite organizational apps for parents) to make a list of the items we’ve purchased and used up — (which is even easier with the corresponding any.do Alexa skill, if you have an Amazon Echo). This way when you’re at the store or about to order that 36-roll toilet paper pack, you can quickly check and see, Nope, we don’t need more right now.
6. Keep your cooking basic (but not boring)
My kitchen can easily get cluttered with barely used bottles of spices I purchased for a recipe I tried once, random gadgets I needed for a one-time baking project, and way too many cookbooks.
While we all love experimenting and trying new things, a great decluttering habit is to avoid buying that stuff in the first place. Avoid buying single-use appliances (rice cookers, ice cream makers, bread kneaders, special baking pans) unless you really know you’ll use them a lot.
Also, pare down the food you cook to a handful of favorite meals or flavors, and your spice cabinet and pantry will be free of those never-used ingredients that just sit there. If you do need a special mandolin or a few whole star anise that you don’t currently have, you can always go in on it with friends (see #4) or borrow (see #1). Or, buy the smallest possible size of that spice; even if the massive Costco jar of masala spice mix is a great deal.
Bonus: streamlining your meal plan options is also one of our favorite tips for time-saving from Amiyrah Martin, which she describes beautifully on a recent episode of Spawned.
7. Photograph the kids’ artwork promptly
Any parent knows that those art projects that come home from school can pile up quickly, but it’s so hard to let them all go. We’ve recommended ArtKive (above) for years, because it is such a smart way to keep our kids’ art without actually keeping it. You can snap a photo of each project as it comes in the door, add a stamp with their age and name, then toss the ones you don’t want to keep. ArtKive will organize them into a lovely photo album, so you can look back on it all in one compact package.
Other similar services to look at include Plum Print; or if you want to totally DIY, be sure to look at our comparison of 9 top custom photo book services. (Updated in 2021)
Then of course you can discard all but the absolute most favorite, select pieces of original art, knowing your kids’ handiwork is preserved beautifully forever without fading, wrinkling, or accidental crushing — and your house remains free of that much more unnecessary clutter.