What This Messy Lady Learned From Her Clutter-Free Friend


I have a friend who lives like a true minimalist. She is one of those women who has a single great purse that goes with everything, a tidy desk, and a small apartment where everything is in its place. My apartment, on the other hand, looks like my childhood bedroom did before my parents hollered at me to clean it: books, clothes and stuff everywhere.

So I invited my friend Natasha over to talk to me about her clutter-free life. I cleared the laundry off the sofa so she’d have a place to sit, and then asked her a bunch of questions about how she managed to keep so organized and whether “less clutter” truly meant “less worry.”

Me: So… how do you keep the mess out of your home?

Natasha: For me, it’s really simple. I have a place for everything in my apartment, so I always know both where to find it and where to put it when I’m not using it. I also follow the “landing strip” rule: as soon as I walk into my home after work, I stop and put everything away. I take off my shoes and put them in the closet. I take off my coat and hang it up. I put my briefcase under my desk, and sort the mail. That way, I’m not dragging clutter into the house.

You’re saying that if I take the time to put my coat away every afternoon, the rest of my apartment will clean itself?

No, not exactly, but take a look. Right now, your coat is on top of a chair. If you had hung it up when we walked in, your home would be that much cleaner. For me, the landing strip rule is like a habit. If I take the time to put away my stuff when I get home, I also remember to take the time to put away the clothes after washing them, and put away books when I’m not reading them.

How did you build this habit? 

For me, it was when I moved to Denver. I had spent some time living on my own, and was tired of my home always feeling cluttered and dirty. So before I moved, I did a really big purge — I got rid of everything I didn’t want to take with me. Then, when I moved into my new apartment, I started by putting everything in a specific place, and told myself I would always put it there when I wasn’t using it.

What if you don’t have enough space for all of your stuff? I feel like I couldn’t put everything away even if I wanted to.

Yeah, it does look like there’s a lot of stuff in this apartment! Well, you really have three options: you can throw things away, give them away, or put them into storage. After I moved, I had to look into the kind of self storage Denver could offer because I simply had too much stuff for my small apartment. Storage is a great way to take care of the belongings that don’t quite fit into your home but that you need maybe once or twice a year. I just got my Christmas tree out of storage, and it’ll go back into the unit in January.

What else do you do to stay clutter free?

I try not to buy duplicates of things I already own. I also read once about keeping an “empty shelf;” the idea is that your home looks cleaner if parts of it are empty, and it looks more cluttered if there is stuff against every wall. Tops of surfaces are also huge. Simply making sure your kitchen table is cleared off, or your desk isn’t a mess, is a great way to make your space look clutter-free.

Do you think less clutter equals less worry?

I absolutely think that less clutter equals less worry. The more belongings you have, the more you have to worry about them and the more time you have to spend putting them away. But it’s also more than just clutter: it’s about deciding what kind of energy you want to bring into your home, and how each of your belongings represents that energy.

After my interview with Natasha, I started practicing the landing strip rule and looking into self storage options. Turns out that offered some good options as well as a bunch of great organizational tips, which I am going to put into play before I decide whether to rent a unit. I cleared off my kitchen table, and am no longer hanging my coat on the back of a chair.

I probably won’t ever be as clean as Natasha, but my home looks better than it has in a long time.

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