28 answers

House Clutter Out of Control!

Hi all! We just returned from a 10 day vacation to our cluttered house. I discovered how much this clutter affects our moods while we were gone - we were much more relaxed until the moment we walked back into the house. I have always worked full time and since my two children (now 5 & 3) came along, my house has become out of control with clutter, toys and just stuff. Really it's too small for us but it is what we have so we have to make do. I've found myself unemployed due to a layoff and had great plans to overhaul our whole house. Well, so far, I'm just overwhelmed. The amount of work and lack of space has me kind of paralyzed and depressed. When I feel like I've made progress during the day, everyone comes home and everything comes out again. I know it's because no project I start gets finished because of time or because I'm overwhelmed.

I'm looking for any suggestions anyone might have to make some progress and enjoy my house. Some way to not dislike being home!!

Thanks in advance for any advice!

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Hello! I want to thank everyone for their great advice. I have signed up with the flylady and can see how this really is a great help. I'm one of those people who always looks at the big picture and wants it all done now. I will take everyone's advice and just take it one corner at a time. Thanks again for taking the time to offer your advice!!

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Like so many other moms have suggested...try flylady!
I've just started and I can already see such a difference. And my boys (10, 7 and 2) have so much fun doing a 27 fling boogie! It's all about the babysteps.
Good luck!

I have the same problem. It has really helped me to write a chore list of what I need to do that day. Also, just concentrate on one room at a time. And don't be afraid to throw stuff out; everytime I go through the same box of stuff I find more stuff to throw out and wonder why I didn't do it sooner.

Start small, maybe have a to-do list with no more than two areas to tackle a day... as you do have the youngsters with you, right? I would separate items into "keep or give away" if you don't have time for a yardsale or craigslist. Then I'd contact Habitat for Humanity or GoodWill and give, give, give!! Not only tax-deductible, but it really helps people out who have too little. That's the way to free up clutter. Organizing only works short term when you've got tons of stuff - it may overwhelm everyone to have to remember where to put it all back once their done playing/using it! After you give away some of the bulk - then start to organize what you have left over.

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I have lived with what I call "the slob gene" for decades now - my mom is a total clean freak so I was brought up in a routinely (daily/weekly chores) cleaned house but 24 years ago I married someone (unfortunately) with the complete opposite background. I found that the library has some great books - I read "the complete idiot's guide to de-cluttering" - it has some really helpful hints and ideas and it's pretty easy (quick) to read - the hard part is actually finding time and motivation to complete the task of totally de-cluttering the house/room - and then keeping that way - but if everyone in the family participates it is a lot easier. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

start with one room at a time. devote a set amount of time each day and do it, no more no less, say 2 hrs. go through everything . i usually take everyting out of a closet for example and put it in the middle of a room. or a dawer. then i go through everything and make three piles. if you havent used it in the last year, dont keep it. one pile to throw out the other for a yard sale or to donate. if you find yourself keeping more than in the other two piles dump it out all again and start over. with toys i used to allow my children only what could fit nicely in their toy box. all other toys were put in storage and rotated monthly or given away. clothes are the worst. also find a place for everything and put it there after you finish and teach everyone in the house to do the same. containers for everything and by a label maker so you dont have to search for anything they are about $20 at target. also everything in the room where you use it. like all bathroom stuff in the bathroom. i use ziplock bags a lot. i put bandaids and bandage stuff in one and then into an organizer basket or tub, combs and hair stuff in another. when you get to the kitchen just keep the pots and pans you really use. stuff you need like roasters and want to keep , you can store other stuff that you need but dont use often in them. i go through my dishes about twice a year and find i acummulate a lot of tumblers and i get rid of them. when my kids were small i bought cheap plastic tumblers in different colors as well as towels in different colors for each member of the family. that way i could see who left stuff laying around. bills and paper work, get a filing cabinet and put stuff in there that you really need to keep. when you bring the mail in deal with it right away and trhow stuff out you dont need, write checks for bills and place them in order of when they need to go out in a accordion file somewhere near the door. check the file as you go out the door so they get mailed on time or do it electronically. throw out magazines or take them to the doctors office or nursing homes as soon as the next one comes in. get rid of furniture you dont use it also allows you to redecorate periodiacally. i take my furniture to a consignemnt place and after it sells i either save up for new stuff or take everyone on a special trip.

1 mom found this helpful

Laura, I have the solution to your clutter problems. I am a single mom of an 8 year old boy in NW Albq. I clean and organize homes. I am quite talented at what I do and can teach you how to maintain. My name is M. ###-###-#### or ____@____.com

1 mom found this helpful

Check out www.flylady.net Her systems might really help you find peace in your own life like it did for me. Routines really help, and little bits at a time. It really helps me keep my house clean and keep routines and have a healthy attitude towards it all. Less really is more. It is SO much easier to keep my house clean and organized and the pick up the toys, etc, because we don't a ton of stuff. Also enlist the help of your husband and children. Let your husband what you need him to do in a nondemanding way and without coming across like complaining. Hopefully he'll want to help ease your exhaustion.

My 3 year old takes his hamper full of clean clothes from the laundry room and puts them away into the labeled (with pictures and words) baskets. He also puts away the silverware and empties his own dishes out of the dishwasher into his little cupboard. He also puts his dirty dishes into the dishwasher and has been doing most of this since he was about 2 1/2. It takes time to teach, but it helps me out in the end, plus it's teaching him an important life skill and the value of responsibility and pitching in.
P.S. I work occasionally as a Professional Organizer on the side, and I still have my struggles keeping up with everything we have to balance as moms. But the first thing I ask potential clients is if they are ready to let go of stuff, because I can't work with them unless they are willing to declutter. Clutter is such a hindrance to order and organization. I know it's hard to let go of stuff sometimes, but I really encourage you to. What you keep will become more valuable to you when you have less stuff. Good luck! If you want, I can email you the outline of a presentation I give on organization that may have some ideas that help give you motivation and guidance.
Also, here is a similar request on Mamasource that may have responses that you may find useful: http://www.mamasource.com/request/859561067011899393

1 mom found this helpful

Your free online coach, cheerleader, and fairy-godmother for decluttering and organizing your home and life! Find out how daily reminders can help you clean!! Here is the link sign up for the daily emails. They will change your life!! Good Luck :)



This sooo sounds like something I could have written. I thought w/ my youngest going to kindergarten this year that I would have sooo much time to hit all the clutter and mess, wrong.... I was looking at the big picture instead of taking smaller steps to tackling things. Your house didn't get the way it is overnight, so don't expect to declutter and clean overnight. What helped me was the Flylady, flylady.net I believe is the site. It's free and gives you great ideas to get back on track. Even if you just focus on a task for 15 minutes a day, you'd be amazed what you can get done. You can even sign up for her newsletter to get tips and encouragement every day. I'm still not where I want to be, but things are definitely getting better. One nice thing is that I can clean, declutter, and get rid of things while the kids are in school (I've boxed things up and if it isn't missed w/in a week I donate them). Best wishes to you and let us know how it goes!

Try just working on one room at a time!

The Fly-Lady will be a good start, also start small.
Set a goal for something you can achieve in one day. i.e. one kitchen shelf and apply the "Clean Sweep" principles of "Toss-Sell-Keep" to it's contents.
Then it is probably also time for a family chat to develop rules every one can follow, i.e. no new toy out until the previous is cleaned up or a penalty box for left items that have to stay there for x amount of time until they can be accessed again, or from x to x o'clock it is clean up time for everyone. Even if it is just 15 minutes, 4 people can get a lot accomplished in that time, even if 2 ofthem are toddlers, try to make it a game.
Also write down your accomplishments - it will not take long for the list to get long and longer if you and the gang are committed!

Best of luck and joy in the process!

Start small, maybe have a to-do list with no more than two areas to tackle a day... as you do have the youngsters with you, right? I would separate items into "keep or give away" if you don't have time for a yardsale or craigslist. Then I'd contact Habitat for Humanity or GoodWill and give, give, give!! Not only tax-deductible, but it really helps people out who have too little. That's the way to free up clutter. Organizing only works short term when you've got tons of stuff - it may overwhelm everyone to have to remember where to put it all back once their done playing/using it! After you give away some of the bulk - then start to organize what you have left over.

check out flylady.com SHe is fantastic and realistic (my favorite part) and since we all beat ourselves up more than enough, there is nothing but encouragement here. Good luck, just remember to take it slow nad get everyone involved. It's their house too.

Welcome to the wonderful world of having young children! My kids are 6 and 3 and there are ALWAYS toys laying around, cluttered bedrooms, etc. And yes, it will make you insane if you let it. But I learned a good trick, and it seems to work for us.
I'm like you, as stay-at-home mom, and my husband works (we own a business). He usually calls when he's on his way home, so that's my cue. If there's toys in the living room, dining room, kitchen area - the first areas that get "seen" when he walks in, I just pick up everything and get it to the kids' rooms. That way, the "living areas" aren't cluttered. The kids rooms are messy, but guess what? I can clean those the next day - or at least straighten them up.
I take one day of the week - Wednesday or Friday - and do the real cleaning. Kitchen, baths, carpets, bedrooms, etc. If you do it on Friday, you have a clean house for everybody on the weekend!
It's easy to LET yourself get overwhelmed. Especially if staying home is "new" for you. But just take it in stride. You work at having a routine for your kids, you have to work at having a routine for yourself too!

I do the flylady thing too...it's great!

Dear Laura,

I wonder if your friends would go for a "clutter-control party." ??? Get some snacks, drink amd rock and roll!!! Go though one room at a time until the whole house is done and offer to do the same for their houses too!

Our house is a symbol...a reflection of our body and our life. Usually if our house is not in order...our thinking and feelings are in chaos too. Look at my web site...the Feng Shui page...I help people with this kind of problem. Good luck Dear. :-)

XXOO, J. Fendelman

Hi Laura,
Start by telling your self you deserve a clean, organized and beautiful home! Living with clutter and disorganization is crazy making, an energy zapper, teaches our children bad habits and is totally unnecessary.
Clutter is anything that is disliked, unused, in excess and or disorganized.
Start by choosing a space that you consider cluttered, such as a cabinet, desk drawer, table top, counter top or closet shelf. Start small so you can reap the benefits right away!
Label three boxes or bags:
~Throw away
~Put away
Ask yourself these questions about each item and then place it in the appropriate container until the space you are organizing is empty.
1. Do I love it?
2. Do I need it?
3. Does it support who I am now?
4. Are there positive or negative thoughts, memories, or emotions that I associate with it?
5. Does it need to be fixed or repaired, and am I willing to do so now?
6. If it's time to let it go, when and where is it going?
When you have separated all items into one of the 3 categories:
~Put the throwaways in the trash immediately
~Prepare and label and Giveaways to go their new home-friends, family, charity, etc. - and make sure to remove them from your space within a week.
~All items you are keeping, put in their proper places with love and gratitude for having them.

I hope this helps you as much as it has helped myself and my clients! Feel free to call me or email for any other tips.
R. Rusnock
Mom Owned Business name: Elements and Energy

My daughter used to call me a Pat Rat. Then one day I realized there were things that I DID NOT need. I started with my livingroom in utilizing only what I needed in that room. Then to the dinning room and ect....when I go to the kitchen I had dishes I have never used. I took huge boxes for each room filled them up 3 times per room and used ONLY what you need (give you a future plan on buying new if you get rid of the old) Then I had a Garage Sale and made some money and the rest went to Goodwill. I have never been so happy!!!!! I don't clean as much and I don't have clutter. My house seems like I have more room? If you are not using it get rid of it. I got rid of baby clothes that I know my kids will never want. My kids are so proud of me and when I think of the things that I had and had NO NEED for them it was a treasure for someone else. Our garage is for the cars and that's it. I now label all boxes and have them stacked up on things I need for the holidays or events. Get rid of it and don't look back I did!!! I love my home now and enjoy it so much!!!! Good Luck and I can come and help if you would like also.....


Hey Laura,
You have got to check out this wonderful website! It is www.flylady.net. It is all about getting rid of clutter in realistic ways so you can enjoy your life with your family. She has so many great tools and ideas to help you. She offers support and encouragement every day if you want it. I love her site!!! There is also some great links for meal preparation. Hope this helps.


Girl, we are soul sisters! Long story short, my mom is the clutter queen and I was raised in a cluttered house. When I got my own house, I too had a little of the clutter bug. HOWEVER, it wasn't until I lost my home a couple years ago due to my crappy divorce (aren't they all??) and I HAD to move in with my mom that I saw how bad it is. Well, can I say that living in all that dis-organized clutter completely stressed me out????? I didn't realize how bad it was and made me feel until I LIVED in it! Well, I had a 3000 SF house before the divorce and now I live in a 2000 SF house and I'm still trying to de-clutter! I COMPLETELY understand about being overwhelmed. Here is my advice to you. Don't look at the big picture or even THINK of all you have to do, you will go in shut down mode! Just tackle one LITTLE area at a time. Like a bookcase, or a closet shelf (not the WHOLE closet). It took you a very long time to accumulate all this stuff, it will take you some time to weed thru it! And just get rid of it! I tried to keep it all and have garage sales, but storing it all until I could sell it stressed me out! So now I just give it all to Good Will. Just be done with it! I literally just this morning emailed my fiance and told him we were going to take a 4 day weekend off work and completely bust thru the garage. It's the last thing I need to do and I think I can just do it and get it over with before it gets hot again. Just know that you are not alone...I always thought I was the only one that NEVER got rid of her kids toys or stuff from High School, etc. YOU CAN DO IT! Contact me if I can help or you need a pep talk!! F.

I was once on bedrest for 4 1/2months, literally didn't leave my bedroom for 132 days.
I was only allowed to get up and take a shower every three days...the rest of the time it was lay on my left side and be a good girl or they would hospitalize me for the rest of my pregnancy...

At the end of that ordeal I had the most amazing baby girl in the world and the most cluttered, disorganized, messy house you have ever seen!

My husband and 3 boys LOST CONTROL of everything I worked daily to maintain. All my amazing organizing systems (baskets for everyday clutter control, designated "drop zones", alphabatized pantry with lables facing out for Pete's sake, completely organized craft closet, laundry station, game closet etc) it was GONE all GONE! It looked like 4 cavemen had been living in my home!Apparently all my "systems" didn't work without a daily supervisor and DH had his hands full working 65 hours a week and raising the boys virtually alone...

So I sent them away. Perhaps this will help you. I know everyone will advise you to "start small" but seriously the only thing that brought my sanity back was to have three solid days to myself to make sense of my home.

My husband took everyone to a local hotel and I worked from sunup to sundown starting in one corner of my house and not stopping until everything was organized, clean and efficient. Perhaps that is what you need...ask a friend who is good at that sort of thing (and won't play or talk you ear off) to help and do it all in one big marathon clean sweep.

I got my sanity back in 3 days...if I had to do it a drawer at a time I would be in the nut house by now!
Good luck!

Most of the toys and other things that are not being used right now should go out of the living space. You haven't described your house, but you may consider putting boards across the rafters in the attic space where the workers crawl in to fix things and put boxes up there. I found that having only a few things to play with at a time really works for kids. Then, once every few months, trade them out and play with the ones in the attic. It is almost like Christmas again.

I don't really have any advice, but I do commiserate with you! Our house is the same, it's very small and we have clutter in every corner. Especially since Christmas, yikes! I think a lot of it is just from the joy of having children, they can be messy. I feel relieved when I see that other families have messy houses too and I'm not the lone slob in the neighborhood. Haha, I should send you pictures of our house, THAT should make you feel better!
Also losing your job can be very stressful. I know when I get down it's hard to get the motivation to clean, and when you are caring for young children at the same time it can be impossible.
Maybe try working on a corner a day may help relieve the clutter? Personally my goal for today is my laundry/art room. Will see how that goes?! Good luck!

Like so many other moms have suggested...try flylady!
I've just started and I can already see such a difference. And my boys (10, 7 and 2) have so much fun doing a 27 fling boogie! It's all about the babysteps.
Good luck!

First of all, congratulations on making a decision that will positively affect your whole family! Many times a neutral third party is the help you need to de-clutter. It can be hard to get rid of stuff unless someone else helps us determine what we really NEED. Have you considered hiring a professional organizer? Also, your children are definitely old enough to clean up after themselves. Put toy storage systems in place and train them to clean up after they take things out. You can also involve them in some "Keep" "Sell" "Toss" piles as you go through older toys and clutter. I have done this with each of my kids in their rooms and their playroom every year, and now they do it themselves! Find a corner in your garage and start a pile of things for a springtime garage sale. Or put aside things for donation if you don't want to sell them. Good luck and don't give up!

I feel your pain. I am constantly overwhelmed by our house. Try going through your stuff one place at a time. For example today I am going to tackle one closet. And store, give away or organize. Try breaking it into smaller pieces and try to get the family on it with you. Have the kids learn to organize their toys or put their shoes away when they get home. Hopefully this will help. Good Luck!

I have the same problem. It has really helped me to write a chore list of what I need to do that day. Also, just concentrate on one room at a time. And don't be afraid to throw stuff out; everytime I go through the same box of stuff I find more stuff to throw out and wonder why I didn't do it sooner.


Doesnt work perfectly for me (I think I am seriously cleaning-impaired) but the principles I have absorbed from her (I am not on the emails anymore) like 15 mins at a time and fling boogies and 'cleaning done imperfectly still blesses your family' have all helped.

I feel like it is a mental thing - my husband has it, I most certainly dont and it bugs him so bad and I feel bad but dont know how to KEEP control once it gets clean.

Shelves have also helped - things have to go SOMEwhere.

Wow! I think a lot of us can relate to this one!

What I've found that helps me is to celebrate small victories. Take one area or room instead of the whole house, then focus on tossing things that are not usable any longer, breaking it down into groups of things to keep and things to donate. We made a game of it with our kids when the were very young. We'd also "recycle" their toys, meaning I'd take a box and put toys in it that were not getting played with as much and put them away, and then give it back to them a month or two later when we boxed up the stuff that they had gotten bored with again.

The biggest challenge is to break it all down into small, manageable pieces, and then really celebrate what you've accomplished instead of looking around at what is left to do. What is the saying . . .? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

All the best to you as you take "dominion" over your home.


Hi Laura -

Instead of looking at the house and it's clutter as one big project, pick one room at a time. If that one room is too cluttered, pick one corner of the one room. Make you a list - like a schedule - outlining which room or part of the room you will do each day or every other day. Even if you just spend an hour or two, you will see the progress.


M. M. Ernsberger, HHP
Certified Life Coach

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