There’s nothing more overwhelming than coming home from a long day of work and finding a mess. Whether there are dishes and games leftover from weekend entertaining, or outerwear that is strewn all over the couch, I’ve often found myself on the brink of just throwing everything away.

It’s all too easy to blame our schedules, our obligations, our families and partners, or our need for more free time, but we’re not powerless in this situation. If clutter is something we want to eliminate, we absolutely can!

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The truth about housekeeping

The truth about keeping your home tidy is that it requires time and discipline. Perhaps not too much time nor too much discipline, but stuff doesn’t magically pick itself up. We have to do it– with a streamlined, efficient approach that will keep us from feeling overwhelmed.

As you think about the types of messes you come home too– whether it’s pile of papers, a pile of toys or a pile of dishes– consider what your ideal home would look like. What’s on the tables? What’s on the floors? What’s on the walls?

In the meantime, it’s important to remember that furniture catalogs (by the way, I admire West Elm as much as the next person) hardly reflect what reality is like. Do these homes actually have space for the essentials? Or are they simply filled with decor items?

Finding balance between throwing away clutter, putting away essentials, and decorating with simple accents is a challenge that is worth pursuing. Part of living simply is choosing not to be overwhelmed by excess, but being intentional and deliberate about our time, space and lifestyle.

Ultimately, rest happens when our minds and bodies are in states of relative peace. We all go through weeks and months of high stress and chaos, but this is the time to put routines in place that will help maintain our sanity.

Related: 10 things you should never do to de-stress

Simple Home Guide: everyday secrets to a stress-free home

In the morning

Make your bed. Keep your bedroom simple and clutter-free with just the bed linens you need. Making your bed will take about 30 seconds, but it makes such a huge aesthetic difference.

Put unfinished business on a list. It’s tempting to leave unfinished projects, unopened mail and random to-do’s lying on desks and counters. If you’re afraid you’ll forget to do something, write it down in a notebook and temporarily put away those unfinished items. Transfer that list to your calendar and make time to attend to those tasks. If months go by, you probably don’t need to complete them anyway.

Let in the light. If you have black-out curtains or shades, let the light in. Bright light is perfect for making a home feel more spacious and airy.

Throughout the day

Use a collection basket. Find a large basket to collect all the items that need to be placed in their proper homes by the end of the day. You don’t have to put everything away immediately– just throw it in the basket. Before bed, put away all the items in the collection basket. As you put one thing away, you’ll find it’s easy to put everything else away as you go through the house.

Declutter with a probation bin. Not sure if you’re ready to throw something away? Gather these items daily in a “probation” bin. Store the bin somewhere you won’t have to see it too often. If you find yourself missing something, you know where to find it. Throw away its contents once a month.

Lightly clean with essential oils. If you’re home during the day, set aside 5 minutes to clean up dishes or wipe down surfaces every few hours. I’ve found that using essential oils (my favorite is pine!) in natural cleaning products makes the process so much more enjoyable.

Deal with messes promptly. It’s easy to spill something in the morning before work and tell myself that I’ll clean it up when I come home. But when I do come home, it’s just about the worst thing to have to scrub away my mess. Even if you’re already in a rush, spraying down a spillage or spot-cleaning with a vacuum only takes a few seconds.

In the evening

Put away items in your collection basket. That basket you used throughout the day? Run it through each room of your home, putting things away as needed. You’ll be done within minutes and all your surfaces will be clear.

Finish the dishes. The only thing worse than coming home to a sink full of dirty dishes? Waking up to it. Do your morning self a favor by finishing those dishes. They really aren’t going to do themselves. Really.

Improve the ambience. Once things are put away, it’s time to sit back and enjoy your space after a long day of work. Light a candle, crack open a window, or even build a fire in the fireplace. Play your favorite relaxing music and enjoy the quietness of a clutter-free space!

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Home upgrades: small improvements for any budget

  • Use a color theme when decorating. Choose a color palette that you love and stick to it. Unless you really love an eclectic style, keep your space clean and your design streamlined.
  • When in doubt, add an indoor plant. Green plants provide a calming color while helping breathe life into your home.
  • Make your own cleaning products. I can’t tell you how much this has changed my perspective on cleaning! I used to hate having to breathe in smelly chemicals during one of my least favorite activities. Then I learned from Kristin at Live Simply how to make my own natural, lovely-scented cleaning products.

Do you struggle to keep your home a place of rest? What are your decluttering tips?