Practical DIY No. 9: Seven Simple Ways to Declutter Without Buying Almost Anything

One thing that drives me a little nuts is the idea that you have to buy organizational tools to declutter. It’s not hard to find pics on the web of perfectly organized pantries with cutesy clear containers of grains and spices, void of manufacturers’ cereal boxes and generic brand pasta cartons. I always wondered where the Pop-Tarts go. Or how about those crazy expensive organizational systems that roll in seemingly free to get that small closet in order on your favorite HGTV show. Yes, those scenarios present beautiful results. I’d love to have cubbies for sorting all-the-things in my house, but I’m a realist and my budget is small. And even more than that, let me scream it to the mountain tops, “You don’t have to buy stuff to start the process of getting rid of stuff!” The thought that you can organize your way out of clutter is flawed. Organize your stuff AFTER you declutter when your home is left with intentional things that you have chosen to use or enjoy.

I also know I’m just not that organized of a person. I know if I bought 15 matching clear containers to sort my dry goods, they’d look nice for a minute. But as soon as I had something that didn’t fit into one of them, that stark blue Great Value linguine pasta box would just be sitting next to my pretty shelf food and I totally wouldn’t care. So read on, because I’m dropping you 7 simple ways to declutter without buying almost anything.

1. Use Nails for More than Hanging Decor
This is a quick, simple trick I’ve been using for years. Anywhere I can pop a nail into a hidden space I’m going to do it. When I shared a single-size, non walk-in closet with my husband I hammered a few small nails on the wall opposite of the clothes to hang scarves on. This also works for hats and belts. If you want to prevent damages to the walls, Command Hooks work just as well. In the pics below, I’ve popped a small nail into the corner of my kitchen cabinet to have an umbrella on hand when we need to let the dog out into the yard on rainy days. I’ve also used them under my cabinets to hang kitchen scissors and measuring cups.

2. Hide Remotes on the Side of a Fireplace
I can’t take credit for this one. When we moved into our house, the previous owners had installed two beautiful fans in the living room that were controlled with remote controls. I know… Fancy… It took me a few days to figure out how to even work the fans, but anyway, the remotes were attached to the side of the fireplace with velcro. It helps that each one had it’s own case because the case is what actually holds the velcro. Nonetheless, this same idea would work with any remote as long as you don’t mind the feel of velcro on the back side. We never lose those remotes. In fact, I usually just leave them in place and press the buttons from the case just like I would if the fans were controlled by light switches. You could use this same idea to velcro a TV remote to the side of an end table.

3. Keep a Small Basket or Upcycle a Box to Catch Stray Socks
I keep a basket in my laundry room above my dryer to throw single socks in when they lose their better half. I also keep my small mesh wash bags in here as well. When the kids were younger, I’d keep them occupied while I folded laundry by giving them the job of rematching pairs from the sock basket. We have a lot of stragglers, so no wooden “Clean & Single” lost sock sign with a few clothes pin hooks is going to cut it for us. Now that the kids are older, I just ask them to go through it for me from time to time. We’re heavy on the flip flops in this house, even in winter. Those single sock babies can sit in that basket for a while. If I didn’t have a dedicated place to put them while they waited for their reunion I can promise you they would become clutter or trash.

4. Hang Spray Bottles from Wire Shelving
While were on the subject of laundry, don’t miss the opportunity to hang your spray bottles on the ends of wire shelving. I keep my most used bottles here: stain remover, glass cleaner, and a bottle of water to spritz my fiddle leaf fig tree, Merna. This is also a great place to keep small hangers if you have small pants. I try not to bring hangers home from the department store unless they are small pants hangers because even though my kids are middle school age, they still have some pants too small for adult size clip hangers.

5. Create Space by Chunking Thick CD and DVD Cases
I know this is a sin for some people. They can’t bring themselves to throw out the cases for movies and CDs. It just feels wrong. However, this form of clutter can consume so much storage. If you have the room to keep your cases and you want to, go for it. If you’re one of those people that doesn’t really have a deep love for the cases, consider creating a filing system with sleeves instead of cases. We have some favorite movies that I’ve kept the cases for but a whole lot more that I didn’t care either way. I bought plastic sleeves and a small binder for this very reason, but with CDs and DVDs becoming obsolete those storage solutions are getting harder to find. Upcycle paper clutter to make your own paper sleeves and use a small box (think upcycled pasta box or cracker box) to stand them upright in. Not sure how to make a paper sleeve? Download and print a template here. The pic attached shows the difference in thickness compared to a case for just one DVD stored this way. And yes, Napoleon Dynamite is one of my favorite movies.

6. Use a Small Basket to Collect Pens
Confession. I hate tiny baskets in drawers. They’re appealing because they are so cheap, but I do better with an all-in-one compartment tray where the dividing spaces stay in place, like a utensil tray which could also be used for small items other than utensils. If I have several small baskets in a drawer, they tend to get tipped over or shuffled around. I use them sparingly. They are, however, great for keeping pens in place. Pens get lost easily in our house and having one small basket holds several. Don’t want to buy a basket? I don’t blame you. Cutting the long side off of a toothpaste box would work just as well.

With drawers, the trick is to not over stuff them. Think – whatever can fit on the bottom layer. You don’t need layers of items in a drawer just because the depth can handle it. That’s called a junk drawer. Also place items in the drawer that makes sense for the room that the drawer is in. A desk drawer doesn’t need a toenail clipper kit in it if you don’t clip your toenails in the office. This drawer is in our homeschool room.

7. No Nails? Use Thumb Tacks to Sort and Hang Lightweight Items
A bit of a tack onto number one (pun intended). Necklaces in a jewelry box make me a little crazy. I placed these thumb tacks on the wall next to the mirror in my closet to keep them visible and out of the way. I tacked them in months ago and I haven’t had one fall off yet. This wouldn’t work for belts or even bulky light weight scarves, but for chains and headbands it’s perfect. You could also hang drop or hoop earring this way.

And there you have seven simple ways to declutter without buying almost anything. I hope this gets your creativity flowing. Sometimes it’s just a tiny nail tacked on to the door frame to keep a spare key that makes all the difference. I know I sure appreciate having an umbrella within reach when the dog is acting like a diva cause she can’t step on wet grass to go potty. It’s all about making your home more functional and having things where you need them when you need them.

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