Six Organizing Systems Everyone Needs — System #5: Clutter Flow

How well are your organizing systems working for you?

In the introduction to this series I shared the following:

What is a system?
What 6 organizing systems do I think everyone needs?
What 5 questions can you ask yourself to see if your systems are still working for you, or if they need tweaking?

Now let’s take a closer look at each system…

What is your system for managing clutter flow? Does it need tweaking? Click To Tweet

System #5:  Clutter Flow

WHO brings things into the house? WHO will take care of using, putting away, and maintaining new items? WHO will ensure that unwanted items leave the house? WHO is responsible for clearing daily clutter?

WHAT sort of maintenance will new purchases require? WHAT sort of bin/hamper/box will work for collecting items for donation? WHAT will you get rid of in order to make space for new stuff – Multiples? Anything that you don’t use or love? WHAT are your criteria for tossing things in the trash?

WHEN will the new item expire or outlive its usefulness? HOW OFTEN will you gather unwanted items for donation – Ongoing, as they are identified? Monthly? Annually? HOW OFTEN will you declutter “hot spots” (places where clutter tends to accumulate)?

WHERE will new items live in your home? WHERE will you locate a recycle bin and a donate bin (“donation station”) – Closet? Basement? Garage? WHERE will you donate unwanted items in good condition?

WHY do you need a system for clutter flow? Because, as comedian Steven Wright said, “You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Also so you can find what you’re looking for easily; so you walk through your house without tripping; so you can live in a serene and inviting space; and so you can stop worrying about what people will think if they come to visit!

What are your challenges and tips for managing clutter flow?

Please share in the comments below!

Next System: #6 Getting Stuff Done

Previous System: #4 Paper Flow

If you need help tweaking your systems, or implementing new ones, ask a friend or call a professional organizer.

Copyright 2010-2017 by Hazel Thornton, Organized For Life.
Social media links directly to this page are encouraged!
Please contact me for other types of reprint permission.


Share this:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


  1. Seana Turner on January 29, 2018 at 7:33 am

    “What kind of maintenance will new purchases require?”… yes, yes, yes! How often do we exclusively focus on the benefit of a desired item, without considering the additional “work” it will bring (storing, cleaning, polishing, etc.) Every item brings with it a bit of weight.

  2. Linda Samuels on January 29, 2018 at 8:20 am

    I love all the questions that you ask, Hazel! You made me think about our own clutter flow and who takes responsibility for it. These days it’s just my me and husband managing the “stuff” of life, as our daughters are now grown and out of the house. We each have our own sense of when it’s time to move things out. I tend to do this a bit more frequently than my husband. It’s become an organic part of living. We don’t have specific times for doing this, but there seem to be things that drive it. So for example, change of seasons is often a time that I’ll go on a decluttering quest. Another time that clutter exits is before a big event when we’re having company over. That always motivates my husband to declutter. Most frequently the “outs” are staged in the garage before they get donated, sold or given away. While we don’t have a specific bin or box, we have a general area that things ready to leave go. It all seems to work.

  3. Sabrina Quairoli on January 29, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Thank you, Hazel. Giving people questions like the ones you mentioned above gives them the guidance they need to make a better decision on their items.

    I find that by asking your question, “WHAT sort of maintenance will new purchases require?” before bringing something new into the house helps me since I am the one who usually has to take care of broken items. If it involves me changing yet another filter or cleaning yet another piece of furniture, I don’t want it.

  4. Janet Barclay on January 29, 2018 at 10:57 am

    “WHAT will you get rid of in order to make space for new stuff?” is a really important question. Whether we live in a large house, a tiny apartment, or anything in between, we only have so much space!

  5. Kim on January 29, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    Where will things live in your home is a great question? This is something that needs to be thought out before bringing it into the home. Some great questions Hazel.

Leave a Comment