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Clutter Busting: The One in, One Out Rule

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Decluttering Help: The One in, One Out Rule

Clutter busting is a necessity in maintaining an organized home. Things can accumulate, multiply and pile up in the absence of active clutter busting.

Our decluttering help articles give you tips, motivation, and small places to begin on what may be a little clutter stash or a huge hoarding issue.  Whatever your level of severity as a  hoarder, we can help you declutter!

Today, we’re going to focus on staying clutter free after you’ve put in the time and effort to declutter your home. This little rule is something I call the “One in, One Out” rule. How does it work?

Basically, for every new item you bring in to your home, you have to take one out. Give it as a gift, donate it to charity or put it into the garage sale/eBay box. It doesn’t matter where it goes, just as long as it goes!

More Clutter Help: Simple Decluttering Criteria for Clothes

Identify your top clutter areas and use the “One in, One Out” rule for just these areas. If the clutter level in your home is high, you can use the “One in, Two Out” rule to get things under control even faster.

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Minimalist Mom: Decluttering with a Big Family

I’ve had this aversion to “stuff” for quite some time.  I feel trapped and unable to move forward when my house is filled with things.  In fact, the more there is in the house, the less I get done and the less productive I feel.

With every round of decluttering, I longed to be rid of all the items surrounding me and have a clear, mostly-empty house.  Every time I decluttered, I sent tons of bags to the recycle, the thrift store, and the trash.  How, then, did my house always still feel like it was swallowing me up and tapping all my energy?

There is a word that I was trying to work towards, I just didn’t know what it was called.  It’s called minimalism.  When I told my husband each time, “I just want everything gone,” I didn’t know that I was really telling him I was crying out for a minimalist lifestyle.

I’m a minimalist mom trying to strike a balance between big family functionality and a peaceful and productive house.  Is that even possible?

Is It Possible to Be a Minimalist With a Big Family?

Is it possible to be a minimalist when you have a large family?  With myself, my husband and four kids in the house, it seems someone is always bringing more items home.  As fast as we declutter, more junk shows up to be dealt with.

Then, add to the mix 2 babies and a toddler and all the large specialty gear that comes along with those ages.  Add loads and loads of laundry due to 3 kids without full potty training.  Toys, bottles, board games, trash, strollers, books, clothes to hand down, clothes to grow into, decorations for every holiday, craft supplies, homeschool supplies, still-packed boxes from a move 6 months ago, items which didn’t sell at the last garage sale…

Does this list sound familiar?  Are these things choking your house too?

While having young children does add a lot of stuff you must keep around until it’s outgrown (car seats, bouncy chairs, play gyms), you can still set reasonable limits and make sure you don’t duplicate gear or keep too much of one thing. 

As the household manager, it’s your responsibility to set limits for what can be in your house.  Just because there is room for more stuff, it doesn’t mean that empty area should be filled up.  This is often the hardest with kids, who seem to accumulate clutter like magnets.

How Do I Get My Kids to Declutter?

First of all, you’ll need to set limits for each person and space in your home.  It can be a simple limit for your teen, like all  makeup has to fit in one cosmetic organizer.  Or that your kids’ dress up clothes all have to fit in one dress up bin. 

Once you set these space requirements for possessions, it becomes your kids’ responsibility to declutter (with your teaching and guidance in the beginning).  They must make sure everything fits it its own space. 

If they want to get something new, they’ll have to get rid of something old to make room for it.  The kids will be deciding what stays and goes to stay inside their limits, so they can’t blame mom or dad for getting rid of all their “favorite stuff”! 

Start teaching kids to declutter at a young age and they’ll develop an attitude of appreciation for what they have, not a craving to accumulate more and more.  When they have to be responsible for making choices about items, they’ll be less likely to ask for new things every time you go to the store.

How Do I Streamline the Necessary Items for a Big Family?

While you can’t cut down to the absolute bare bones when you have a lot of kids, it is possible to streamline your house and its processes to free up your time and space. 

Laundry: Laundry is a huge space and time sink if you don’t set limits.  The old “1 outfit per day” rule is a great starter for those with tweens and teens. This means they need less clothing in their closet as well.

Assign each child a beach towel for their bath towel.  Have them hang their beach towel up to dry after their bath instead of going into the laundry every time.  This trick cuts down significantly on the loads of towels you’ll have to wash each week.  Plus, you just eliminated the need to own more than a handful of bath towels for your kids.  My family has 4 kids and we have only four bath towels in their bathroom.

Dishes:  Assign each child a special cup, sippy cup, or water bottle each day that they can have their drinks in.  It’s up to them to make sure their cup is rinsed after drinking from it so the same cup can be used for a whole day.  If each person in the house only has 1 drinking cup per day, your dishwasher’s loads won’t fill up as quickly. 

Plus, you won’t need to own stacks and stacks of kids’ cups if each person has only 2 (1 to use for a day, 1 to use for the next day when the first one is in the wash).

It is possible to have a minimalist outlook towards your possessions, even if you’re a mom with a big family.  Remember that just having more things doesn’t make people happier.  If you have 50 board games but the tall stacks make them so hard to get out that you always tell the kids no to game time, it’s time to trade in some things in favor of people.  Happy decluttering!

Cut Down the Plastic Grocery Bag Clutter

We all think we need more space, but how well are we really using the space that we have?  I explored this recently in switching to a new system to cut down the plastic grocery bag clutter. 

Plastic Grocery Bag StorageThere are a certain number of plastic bags my family has to keep because we use them in the diaper pails and small trash cans.  Remember when I showed my new plan to save money on trash bags?  It worked like a charm and we whittled down our grocery bag stockpile.  Then, I just needed to find a more compact way to store my plastic grocery bags.

Previously, I used a slimline white plastic trash can to store only plastic grocery bags.  The system worked alright, but most of the time it was completely full and overflowing.  The bags were so puffy that the lid just wouldn’t stay closed.  Then I came upon a storage container called SimpleHuman Upright Bag HolderPlastic Grocery Bag Storage

At right, you can see the difference in size between my old container and the SimpleHuman container. 

The SimpleHuman bag holder is quite a bit smaller, and it’s so compact that it can sit on a shelf or countertop.  I’ve now got it tucked into the spacenext to my microwave on the kitchen counter, which is space that would have been wasted anyway. 

It’s stainless steel and has openings both on the top and the front so that it’s easier to put the bags in and get them out.  I wanted to see if the SimpleHuman bag holder could really store as many bags as my large container, so I challenged my son to move them over.  He got to work…

Truett with the Bag HutchPlastic Grocery Bag Storage

…and what do you know?  All the bags which were in the large white container fit into that tiny stainless steel one.  There is definitely something to say for confining stored items.  I found out a little later that SimpleHuman also makes a bag container similar to this one which mounts on the wall.  I’m thinking of getting one of those to hang on the wall in the pantry for when they’re needed in rooms other than the kitchen. 

I’m loving this handy plastic grocery bag storage solution (which we call the bag hutch – the kids love it)!  What have you found to corral your plastic grocery bag clutter?  Let us know in the comments.

Cut Down the Grocery Bag Clutter is linked to Works for Me Wednesday, 11th Heaven, and Tackle it Tuesday.

Disclaimer:  This post has no material connections.   ISWM may or may not make money from anything you see, read, or click on our family of websites, including affiliate links. 

Declutter This Today: The Bathroom Closet

Declutter This Today: The Bathroom Closet

Today’s chore is to declutter your bathroom closet.  It’s fast and easy to declutter a bathroom closet, and you know you’ve been meaning to get that closet cleaned for quite a while!  If you don’t even know where to start, don’t worry.  Whether you’re a hoarder or just haven’t kept up on your organization, our step by step directions below show you exactly how to declutter a bathroom closet.

How to Declutter a Bathroom Closet: The Quick Version

Get the old clutter out of the bathroom closet!  It’s time to pare down the contents to what you actually need to keep in the bathroom closet:

  • The items you use on a daily basis
  • The items you use weekly
  • The items that belong in the bathroom but rarely get used

We’re not cleaning today, just decluttering and getting rid of things you’ve been hoarding in that bathroom.

How to Declutter a Bathroom Closet: Complete Directions


  • Trash bag for garbage
  • 1 container or box for items that belong in a different room
  • 1 container or box for items to keep

Decluttering Guidelines:

  • Holes: Toss all bath towels and washcloths that are ripped, torn, frayed or stained.  These can also be moved to a cleaning closet to use as cleaning rags.
  • Limits: Keep only 3 towels per person in your family.  This means a family of 4 should have no more than 12 bath towels in the bathroom closet.
  • Expired: Throw away anything that has passed its expiration date.
  • Old: Throw away any health or beauty items that are so old you don’t remember when you got them.
  • Not sterile: Throw away all first aid items that are opened or no longer individually wrapped and may be contaminated.
  • Cosmetics:  No old makeup gets to stay.  If you haven’t used it in 6 months, it goes in the trash.


1.  Start with the very top shelf.  We’re going to work from the top down, one shelf at a time. 

2.  Take everything off of the shelf and line the items up neatly in the floor, on a counter, or even in the bathtub.

3.  Set up your 3 containers: one for items that belong in a different room, one for items to keep, and a trash bag for the garbage.

4.  Pick up one item at a time and decide on which container it goes in.  Take no more than 30 seconds for each item; this is a fast decluttering process.  Put each item in its proper container.

5.  When you’ve finished with all the items from one shelf, start again with the contents of the next shelf.

6.  When all shelves in the bathroom closet have been emptied, you’re ready to deal with your containers.

7.  Take the trash bag out of the bathroom, tie it up, and take it outside.

8.  Take the container of items to keep and put them into the bathroom closet neatly.  Items you use every day go on the middle shelf (this likely includes towels and washcloths).  Items you use weekly go on a higher or lower shelf.  Items you rarely use that really belong in the bathroom (like a curlers set or humidifier) go on the very top shelf.

9.  Take the container of items that belong in a different room and go on a walk through the house.  Put back all items in the correct rooms until the box is empty.

Now you’ve got your declutter directions for the day.  Go tackle your decluttering your bathroom closet with confidence.  Don’t miss our next edition of Declutter This Today for transforming your house into your Home Ever After!

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 Declutter This Today: The Bathroom Closet is linked to Tackle it Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday and 11th Heaven.

Garage Sales and the Weather Forecast

Remember the garage sale I was supposed to have last weekend?  Well, thankfully I planned it for 2 days, that’s all I can say.  We got to have the sale on Friday for 2 1/2 hours before getting rained out. 

Saturday we weren’t so lucky.  The weather shut us down before we even got our yard sale set up Saturday!  At least we made enough money on Friday morning to pay for the newspaper ad.

However, I’m a trooper with a mountain of decluttered items I must get rid of, and so – the garage sale round 2 is coming up next weekend.  I’m hoping the weather will cooperate and there will be no rain.  Please cross your fingers for all of us garage sale-holders in Fairbanks for some sunshine and warm temperatures next Saturday!

Special thanks to my friend, Barb, from the Forever Neighbor for sitting with me and occupying Truett during the garage sale on Friday.  She’s the best!