The One Task That Will Keep Your Home Clutter-Free

The One Task That Will Keep Your Home Clutter-Free via Clean Mama

If you are new here, chances are the title of this blog post reeled you in.  If you’re a regular reader, you know that I am big on simplifying and streamlining tasks around the house.  Keep reading for some realistic action steps you can apply today to getting and keeping your home clutter-free.

If you can relate to at least one of these statements, chances are you can benefit from ONE TASK that will help you and your family keep your home clutter-free:

  • You are always trying to de-clutter.
  • You struggle with too much stuff.
  • You feel crabby when things are left out around the house.
  • You can’t find things quickly.
  • You have threatened to throw out or give away all.the.things.

Ready for the ‘secret’ task that will change everything you know about cleaning house?  That’s a little bit overboard but if you and your family put it into motion, it WILL change how your home looks, feels, and functions.

Take it out, put it away.


Mind blowing, right?  Not really, but it’s a simple thing that will save time and energy every single day when it is put into practice.  When you’re running from one place to another or rushing around, it’s so much easier to just leave that makeup on the counter, those toys on the floor, the dishes on the sink, etc.  Think about how much time you’d save if things where were they belonged AND think about how you’d feel if your house felt less cluttered and messy.

Makeup Out - Makeup Put Away via Clean Mama

Maybe you try really hard to put things away or maybe you remind your kids multiple times a day to put things away, but you still have that cluttered feeling.  Need some realistic and  attainable action steps that you can put into practice TODAY to try this one simple task?

Toys Out - Toys Put Away via Clean Mama


  • WORST CASE SCENARIO | If your home is cluttered and needs some attention immediately, grab three garbage bags and load them up with things to donate or toss.  Still cluttered?  Repeat until you can see the floor and you feel less overwhelmed with the current situation.
  • BEST CASE SCENARIO |  If you simply have a couple scattered things that need to be put away, run around and gather them up in a small laundry basket and put them in their proper places.  Enlist help from other members of your family and get it done in a hurry.
  • SOMEWHERE IN BETWEEN | Grab a garbage bag and fill it up with things to toss or donate.  Fill a small laundry basket with things that need to be relocated and put them away.



  • TAKE IT OUT, PUT IT AWAY | Put this simple phrase into practice.  Think about it yourself throughout the day and really try to put things away as you take them out or bring them into the house.  Teach your kids how to put this into practice as well by enforcing the rule throughout the day.  It’s amazing what a difference it will make!
  • CLUTTER | Take care of it daily.  Every single day of the week take a couple minutes to put things away.  For kids, a nightly quick clean up is helpful for putting the habit into practice.  If you notice on my cleaning routine, CLUTTER appears daily.  That’s because it needs to be dealt with on a daily basis.
  • MAIL | Mail and paper have a way of multiplying if they aren’t dealt with routinely.  When you bring the mail in, process it.  When the kids bring home papers, process them.  Don’t let the paper pile up or it will take over your counters and kitchen table.

Mail Out - Mail Processed via Clean Mama

Take it out, put it away.


What do you think?  Is this simple phrase going to change your life?  Tell me what you think in the comments and tell me what tips and tricks you use to put this into practice!

The One Task That Will Keep Your Home Clutter-Free 2 via Clean Mama

If you like this post, check out this post – 6 Things I do Every Day to Keep the House Clean!

Six Things I Do Every Day to Keep the House Clean via Clean Mama


  1. Lindsay says:

    I hope some people chime in with ideas for how to teach kids this step. It doesn’t come naturally to my six! I have noticed it works better for some parents, and not just those that are naturally tidy (they aren’t common but they do exist, I’ve seen them!) It is so much easier as an adult who cares to teach themselves this VERY IMPORTANT skill. How do I teach my kids? Especially my preteens?

    Thanks for this great post. It really is the key to keeping things up, simplifying to where you can take care of what you have and then putting it away. 🙂

    • Sandra Miller says:

      It may be too late for preteens but if this is taught from the time they are very little, it should become a habit in time. Letting them play until they are done, then go put the stuff away.

      • if I might add, let them play until they’re done, then escort them as they put away the toys. and tell them this is the new system ahead of time, maybe( hopefully!) they won’t take out every toy they own.
        ( Rather than putting their toys away, supervise the kids doing it, so you know it’s been done and they know you’re checking.

    • We have daily chore charts for our kids. Each child has six different chores, then they all have clean room, make bed, brush teeth, and do homework. It helps them to have a list (with pictures) where they can check off each thing.
      I also tell them: if you cannot quickly get out of your room without tripping over or stepping on something, then I cannot get to you. If there is a fire, an emergency, bad dream, somebody gets sick…I need to be able to get to you in a hurry. This helps keep things picked up daily.

    • I struggle here too! As a starter, I have better success when I say, pick up your age…12yo picks up 12 things, 11yo 11 things etc…now do it again! My kids are ages 12-3 but this one is gets the best results for all the kids. Somehow giving them a number of things helps. Then we progress on to getting rewards based on their room being a 1-5 star condition.

    • I’m sure there’s lots of different tips for different ages. We are in the toddler stage so what works for us is to sing the clean up song “Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do their share.” We clean up together. Another thing is that I tell my son that we can’t move on to a new activity or a new space to play until we have picked up our current activity or space. If he refuses, I usually just tell him that I will sit and wait until he is ready. It usually doesn’t take long before he is willing to help. I think sometimes he just wants it to be on his terms so telling him I will sit and wait until he is ready gives him a sense of control/choice in the matter.

    • I did a “put it away properly or lose it for a week or so”. Earn it back by doing something extra, like washing dishes or doing laundry. If course, it depended on their age. I wouldnt expect a 3 or 4 yr old to put laundry in washing machine etc. But maybe help gather clothes to do that.

    • Hi Lindsay – I’m not sure if some of your kids are still small, but I just found an app called Chore Monster that really has done wonders for my two little boys. It’s cute and silly and fun, it has a reward system built-in, and allows you to customize both the chores and the rewards. Oh and it’s a free app. Maybe it can help… Good luck!

      On a side note: i just love love love this website: thank you clean mama for all the helpful tips and info.

    • Rosa Lee Johnson says:

      In our house if it isn’t put away at bedtime it belongs to me! Then has to be earned back with points they have to earn. Doing things like helping your sister with her hair in the morning before school (without fighting) or helping an elderly neighbor with a chore. Extra chores can get points or random kindness shown to anybody.

      • How do you enforce that with reading time and all that? My fear with my kids is that they will want to give up reading to avoid losing their things.

  2. Chantal Pearson says:

    I will have a pretty bin to do the declutter. I believe if you have something you really like then you will use it more., Spend the money and it will be worth it. I have these green bins from IKEA and they are wonderful to use for anything. I have 5 of them.

  3. Melanie says:

    Yeah, its great in theory. I live like this. Unfortunately most of the clutter comes from my other half & it doesn’t matter how i try to explain this magical concept of putting things away when your finished with them. I get left with all the mess all of the time & nothing i say or do will change that. *sigh*

    • Exactly. My kitchen can be neat and clean when I go to bed but in the morning there are coffee splatters all over the sink, used dishes and utensils scattered, crumbs on counters and floors, and that’s just the start. I swear he doesn’t see the difference. He never notices and doesn’t care whether the house is clean or dirty unless guests are coming! After 46 years of marriage he won’t change. It would be great if we both just put away things after using them, but when one has to pick up after both it gets old.

      • That could be the problem. You pick up after him and he knows it and depends on it. Leave his stuff where it is and take care of yours as usual. If he asks what’s going on, just say, the maid quit last week. My husband used to put socks and shirts in the laundry inside out or in a ball. I did the laundry as usual, but left everything that wasn’t turned. I did warn him ahead of time that I wasn’t going to stand and turn smelly socks before washing them. When he ran out of socks by midweek and saw the balled up ones in his hamper, he got it. Not the first time either, I might add. Consistency and follow-thru is the name of the game whether dealing with children or spouses.

  4. I am seriously trying to get my family to do this. I have followed your blog and have been implementing Flylady for a few months now. My house is staying cleaner, but I’m still having to pick up after everyone. Well, I guess have to is not quite true, but if I want it done… It’s hard to enforce when not everyone is on board with picking up after yourself.

  5. I used to be like this when I lived on my own but now having been married for almost 17 years to a lovely man who just leaves a trail behind him I’ve given up otherwise I just spend all my time picking up after him! Interestingly though we have just moved house that is in a bit of a mess because it needs a lot of work done and it drives him nuts. He’s also got a new job where he gets really hacked off if people don’t clear up after themselves so maybe change is in the air. Keep you fingers crossed for me ladies x

  6. Reading these comments make me feel so much better. I was driving myself NUTS because I was working so hard to get myself organized only to have my family undo it in a very short period of time! I realize I am not the only one dealing with this. In fact just this morning my son could not find the screwdriver. I kept saying, “if it is not put back in the exact place you found it when you are done, we will never know where to find it.” Sure enough, my daughter had taken the screwdriver the night before and just left it laying around. AHHHHHH!
    My husband is just as bad. I feel like I spend all “MY” time picking up after everyone else. They won’t do it. “I didn’t make that mess so I am not cleaning it up” they all say. Selective Amnesia! *sigh*

    • haha – i’m not sure if it’s “too soon” to laugh, but I remember this EXACT scene playing out when I was a teenager. My poor mother. You could just let it go to crap and see if anyone notices. 🙂 Also perhaps a – if you live in my house, you abide by my rules – discussion? I remember getting that one! haha. funny. I was a MESSY teen but am a total neat freak now. There’s still hope for your kiddos! 🙂

  7. My children (10, 8 and 6) do job cards and that is a great clean up and they are engaged – but the house does get away regardless of this system… I am going to try the throw, donate, and put away basket. My guess is that will motivate them to put away before they reach the other 2 baskets! Wish me luck! Thanks!

  8. I don’t have preteens yet, just little ones! (1 and 2 years old) but I’ve heard people say to their kids – if I see it out of place after it’s supposed to have been cleaned up, I’m taking it for a month. Or donating it. Depending on the item & the system you want to put in place. Extreme, but I’m guessing only a couple things would have to be donated before they stopped doing it? I don’t know!

    With my littles, for anyone else out there who has little ones and little-one-clutter… we start teaching how to put things “in” around 10 months. We do night-time toy clean up – takes less than 10 minutes for the whole house – every night before bedtime routine. At first, my husband and I have to help a lot. But by 18 -24 months, a toddler should be able to pick up their toys with a few reminders along the way about not getting distracted. Also, depending on the activity and the type of day we’re having, we do the “take it out, put it away” rule before getting other toys out. If you want to build blocks, take out blocks and build blocks and then put it away when you’re done. Don’t leave a trail of junk out. BUT we do have stay home all day, make a mess, rainy day type days and then it’s a free for all 🙂 And it just gets picked up at night.

  9. Don’t remind your children to pick up after themselves if they are capable. Just pick up their stuff and hold it hostage. Have them “buy” it back from you with cash or extra chores. No need keep asking them over and over. This worked for me. I also had to charge my kids for being late for school since it makes me late as well.

  10. I just started to follow Clean mama 1 week ago and Love your ideas. I have a 2 year old son that stay home with my husband. When I come back from work the house is a mess, actually sometimes I think I have 2 sons. Working full time it is very difficult to keep my house clean, and even if I clean it I feel like I didn’t do anything. My husband works from home but he is very messy and likes to keep everything just in case he will need it, that drives me crazy, becuase there are boxes and bags all over the palace. I decided to do a full clean and have it ready by end of August. Started to clean my whole kitchen, from cabinets to above the refrigarator and looks good. I decided to do one room at a time (don’t know if the best idea) but just from the kitchen I took 2 boxes of stuff that I don’t use and is only taking space. I been in that house for almost 12 years and never had a Yard sale, I dont know where to start and what do I need to do. Do you have anyting that can help me orginized and finish with my dilema.

  11. How much do you let your kids or husband decide when the mess is in their space and not communal space. For example I have no tolerance for messes in the living room, kitchen, dining room, bathroom etc. However when it comes to my husbands spaces the shed, his basement office, the top of his dresser I feel like that’s his area he should keep it how he wants. BUT then it drives me crazy to see those messes, and I am definitely not cleaning up those places. Thoughts?

  12. Ernestine S. Bonicelli says:

    It is simple and for me, has been one of the greatest stumbling blocks. “I’m going to use it again soon”, “It will be easy to pick up later” (one thing is, but by the time you do that a dozen times, you have the mess.
    Paper is at the top of my list of unmanageable clutter. I cannot come to a conclusion about the best way to handle it. So much of it comes in every day and I already have mountains of it and I feel constantly frustrated and defeated by it!!1

  13. Jennifer says:

    I’m a total freak when it comes to clutter… Even in my own opinion. My husband calls me crazy but it seriously bothers me to no end if there are even a couple things out. I feel bad for my kids sometimes because I know it isn’t normal how it bothers me and I don’t allow any clutter or stuff to be left out. My mom tells me that it’s ok Jen if your house looks lived in… It doesn’t always have to look perfect… People do live here. It’s funny because clutter even at other peoples houses bothers me. Hubby’s right… I’m crazy and probably making my kids exactly like me.

  14. I know people who do toss the excess. I have a request. If I made it (or any relative or friend) and have put in the love and time, then in respect to that person (not slavish duty, just simple respect) don’t treat said objects as trash. The ones who leave them in the wrong places could return them with an apology or make the choice to put them in a suitable place.
    As a former preschool teacher I found a Clean-Up song at the end of the morning, or any transition time, accompanied by my help, got everyone in gear and working. I never just sat back and said, ‘do it.’ That made it a game of sorts and it worked. Before I left I did my own straightening, too. At home this was a bit harder. 🙂 I was tireder and just let it slide.

  15. I absolutely struggle with paper clutter. I have tried so many times to come up with a system that everyone will adhere to around here! I think I’ve finally found a solution with a stand up file holder in my kitchen. I keep it at the back of one of the counters. Not totally out of sight (therefore, out of mind) but also not totally in the way (and an eyesore) either. One file is for incoming mail, one for outgoing, one for things that need to be signed/returned (my kids’ school papers, usually). Since I can’t always deal with the paper/mail right then and there, I find that this helps keep it from stockpiling on the table. Every evening the “incoming” file is emptied and the appropriate action is taken…ie bills go into my bill paying system…permission slips, lunch orders, etc. go into the “to be signed/returned” file. So far, we’ve been sticking to it!

    Love Clean Mama!

  16. When I teach little ones how to de-clutter, I tell them to collect one type of item. I will tell them to pick up all of the shoes on the floor and put them together. I will tell them to pick up all crayons, markers, pencils, and pens and put them into a specific place. When they repeatedly organize one type of item at a time, something clicks as they get older.

  17. I have found over the years that to get the family on board for picking up or cleaning, I have to make it worth their while. Eventually they see the HUGE benefits to helping and cleaning up after themselves. When they are little, “If you help out your stuff away in the livingroom mommy will have time to take you to the park.” When they are older, “Hey if you get the dishwasher unloaded, and sweep the kitchen I’ll have time to drive you to your friends.” Or bake cookies, or whatever. You see how it works??? And with the hubby?? “When you help out in the evening it means I don’t have to do it all. It means I can relax a little, and have some energy later.” (wink, wink) And I always ALWAYS tell them how much I appreciate it, and thank you, and that they are the best. Over the years they learned that it really helps them, to help me. The result is that they are eager to jump in and help anytime I ask.

    • That is an awesome system! I so wish I had done that with mine. They are teens now, so it will take more time, but I think I will start this one! Thanks so much for sharing, Fiona!

  18. I find with de cluttering that I set myself achievable goals. Just one corner at a time. Never look at the whole picture or you will feel overwhelmed. Just sorting one corner of a room can make a huge difference. You may even find yourself on a roll and do some more . I just love de cluttering and cleaning

  19. Here from s FB page.
    My problem is, I don’t have homes for stuff because I’m so disorganized! And when I try to make homes, I forget and things go to you- know- where in a hand basket quickly.

  20. karen wischmann says:

    Tried & tried ALL the different methods. CAN NOT get organised. Wasted hours of my life “googling” ways to get organised, to no avail. My mum has OCD, that means she is absolute clean freak. I have avoided her visiting my home for 10 years from pure genetic shame!! She would leave for a full time job at 8am with whole house ship shape & dinner half prepared for that night!!! I live in a pig sty. Sorry, had to vent……..

  21. All the posts by moms trying to teach little ones this routine reminded me of a great one that Montessori teacher taught my daughter ages ago.
    Start by getting some carpet sample squares. These can often be gotten free or for a dollar or so from a carpet store, from previous years merchandise. I think we got about 4-5 wool samples in pretty colors, rose color, green, brown and more. We used the green and brown as “grass” and “ground”. Next you need a cardboard box. We rolled the carpet samples into individual tubes, then stand them in the box, placed next to play area. Each time a toy or set is chosen a carpet sample is chosen to play on. When finished with that toy or set, put the toy away, put the carpet sample away.
    Only one toy/set out at a time. This method worked well for preschoolers. Perhaps something similar could work for a wider age range.

  22. Just yesterday, I threatened my DH that I would throw away lots of things that are hidden in the far end of his closet, down the workshop/heat pump system room (lots of old canisters of paints, oils and other things that have been there for more than 10 years without being used!).

    I was reading your post and smiling!

    He promised that he would start getting rid of these old things! Sigh!

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