The Single Most Important Rule To Keeping Your Home Clutter-Free

This one rule will keep your home free from clutter.

The Single Most Important Rule To Keeping Your Home Clutter-Free getty

Are you tired of being surrounded by clutter, but don't know how to declutter your home — or where you should even start?

The simple truth is that organizing your home and avoiding clutter comes first and foremost from limiting the amount of items you're bringing into your life.

By following this one simple rule, you can help stop clutter from turning into a nightmare in your home before it even starts.


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The single most important rule to follow is: "One thing in, one thing out."

This means you need to remove an item for every new item you bring into your home.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it before. Still, it's a rule people rarely follow.

You may forget when you're out shopping for a pair of jeans that you need to donate an article of clothing you're replacing. Instead, you'll just add to your collection of whatever it is you're shopping for, rather than eliminating clutter.

Three questions to help you stay clutter-free. 

This past weekend, I was at the mall shopping for clothes for my granddaughter. On the way to the store, I passed by a shoe store and noticed they were having a sale on my favorite shoes. I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to get them cheaper than I normally would.


So, I stood outside the store and asked myself these three questions:

  • "Do I need new shoes?" (I decided I did.)
  • "Which shoes am I replacing?" (My sneakers, flip flops, and a pair of sandals.)
  • "Am I honestly willing to part with my old shoes?" (Yes!)

I decided that I would replace three pairs of shoes. I promised myself that I would remove three old pairs before putting my new ones away.

Since I figured out which shoes I was replacing, I went inside the store to have fun shopping.

Here are six more questions to ask yourself to keep yourself on track.

To keep your home free from clutter, always ask yourself these six questions before buying something new:

  • Do you need it?
  • Will it replace an old item?
  • When will you remove the old item it is replacing?
  • Do you want it?
  • If it isn't replacing something, where will you put it?
  • What purpose will this new thing serve?

Have the answers to these questions ready before buying something.

If you can’t answer the questions, walk away.

When you keep bringing things into your home and forget to let old things go, the excess becomes clutter.

Remember, clutter is anything that you don’t use, love, or that doesn’t serve a purpose in your home. Remind yourself of this to keep your home free from clutter.

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You can apply the "one thing in, one thing out" rule to almost everything in your home. I already gave you examples of applying this rule to clothes and shoes.

Magazines and newspapers. 

If you pick up a magazine at the store or have a monthly subscription, plan to read it before the next one appears — either at the store or in your mailbox. This means you have approximately three weeks to read your magazines.

Once you have read it, remove it from your home. And if you read the newspaper, recycle it after you read it.

This keeps the magazine and newspaper pile to a minimum, which keeps your home free from clutter.

Moisturizers and beauty products. 


Let’s say you see an advertisement for a new moisturizer or beauty product that will make those wrinkles vanish. You want to get this product, but your current moisturizer is only half empty.

Your rule could be that you will bring in the new product when you finish your current one. This keeps clutter (too many moisturizers and beauty products) from accumulating.

Set boundaries with toys and kids' items. 

It can be next to impossible to apply the "one thing in, one thing out" rule to your children. I can’t imagine removing a book or toy from a child’s room every time a new one came in.

This is where it is important to set boundaries and to take time to re-evaluate the collections.


How much is enough?

If the toy shelf or basket is full, take a few minutes to remove toys that are too young or not played with anymore.

If the puzzle is missing pieces, remove it from the collection. If the clothes are too small, pack them away and either save them for a younger child or donate them.


Teach your child how to keep their rooms free from clutter by helping them re-evaluate what they love and use on a regular basis. This will help them maintain the organization in their rooms. Plus, this demonstrates that it’s OK to let things go.

Setting boundaries and applying this simple rule helps keep your home free from clutter.

This is not to say that every now and then clutter won’t sneak back in. Clutter can appear in your homes seemingly overnight. Learning how to recognize when something is clutter and then scheduling time to deal with it keeps your home as free from clutter as possible.

In the meantime, just follow this simple rule: "One thing in, one thing out!"


You'll eliminate the clutter before it can start.

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Diana Quintana is a certified professional organizer and the owner of DNQ Solutions who teaches people how to become organized and maintain order in their lives. For more information on how she can help you, visit her website here.