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How to Clear the Clutter in Your Montecito Home


Make space in your life and clear your clutter - female cupped hands around the words CLEAR CLUTTER surrounded by a relevant tag word cloud on a dark ethereal wispy feather background – stock image

No matter the time of year, now is the time to clear the clutter and create positive changes in our lives. Previously, I blogged about getting organized, with my post on tips from organizing guru Marie Kondo.

In this blog, I’m not just suggesting getting rid of the stuff that’s cluttering our lives on the outside. I’m also referring to the clutter inside. And for that, you need to practice mindful de-cluttering. I promise, once you begin mindful de-cluttering, you’ll find it to be a form of moving meditation.

Mindfulness techniques teach us to be in the present moment—not the past and not the future—so, as you clean, move steadily from one small area to another, giving each your complete attention. You might even choose a mantra, like, “As I de-clutter, I free myself to live in the present.” Sound kind of “airy-fairy”? It’s not. It works.

There’s science to back the fact that getting rid of the clutter in your home is actually good for your health. According to a study by researchers at UCLA, clutter can cause or contribute to elevated stress and depression, and aggravate illnesses and allergies. The study shows how living in a cluttered environment is much worse than it appears to be, especially if you’re considering selling your home.

Clutter is actually considered a triple threat to your health; causing physical, emotional and psychological harm.

6 steps to living a de-cluttered life, both inside and out:

1) Get an outside perspective

Invite a friend or professional to visit and offer their opinion. Look for someone who has not been at your house before. If you’re listing your property, your Realtor can help survey the scene and make suggestions on where to begin.

2) Clean for a cause

As you clear the clutter, make sure to have a pile of stuff to donate to a non-profit. To make the process even easier, you can hand your donations to someone who regularly takes items to local charities. 

3) Let it go

Not everything should be donated. Whenever I get the de-clutter bug, I end up throwing out many of the useless (to anyone!) items I seem to collect without realizing it.

4) Put stuff in 3 piles

So, you have your donation pile, your trash pile, and the pile of stuff you want to keep. Here’s a hint: make sure this is the smallest pile!

5) Get rid of health hazards

Do you know Americans spend up to 90 percent of their day indoors, with half of that time at home? Any moldy or dusty piles of stuff can lower the air quality in your home and can ultimately cause or aggravate illnesses and allergies.

6) Reclaim your home

Like most problems, your clutter is either getting better or getting worse. Don’t let the clutter in your home continue to grow – which can happen when you get comfortable with, or even desensitized to clutter. Get rid of it once and for all and reclaim your home.

That makes sense but where should a Montecito homeowner start when their home is filled with clutter? Experts say a great place to begin is the heart of your home: your kitchen.

The Kitchen – Practice honesty

Everyone’s kitchen seems to become a place of clutter. Don’t let that happen! Designate a cabinet or drawer for everything you need, then ditch the items that become dust magnets.

The most important place to clean and clear out in the kitchen is your refrigerator. Think about it. Things can get pretty nasty in there, and quickly. Plus, if one of your New Year’s – or any time — resolutions is to eat more healthfully, a fridge detox is just the ticket.

A Young white boy standing in front of open refrigerator. 3 easy steps to tame your refrigerator: 

Step 1: Ditch the junk

Grab a garbage bag and get your recycling bin ready. The first step is an oh-so-satisfying purge. Toss out any of these:

  • Fake foods
    Ditch the highly processed “treats” like peppermint non-dairy creamer, an old tub of margarine you bought for a specific cookie recipe, and anything else of dubious nutritional value.
  • Check expiration dates
    Chances are, there are items past their expiration date, or simply growing a moldy rim. Eeuwww!
  • Ditch half-used items
    The random, half-used things you obviously don’t truly use or enjoy (or you would have eaten them already!). Jelly and capers, I’m looking at you.
  • Creepy condiments
    How old is that apple butter we bought on vacation? Wait, when was that vacation? Toss it. Also scrutinize labels. Does that salsa or ketchup hide a bunch of added sugars? Ketchup, for example, may contain up to a teaspoon of sugar per serving, depending on the brand.
Step 2: Purify the space

Now that the junk food, highly processed food, and food old enough to join the AARP has been removed, you’ve made a lot of room for the good stuff. Still, take the items you’re keeping out and onto the counter and get ready to detox the fridge itself.

Experts recommend using a hot vinegar blend to clean appliances like the fridge or microwave. Mix one cup of white vinegar with two cups of hot water and 10 drops of lemon essential oil. Put the mix into a glass spray bottle, spray it inside the empty fridge, then wipe it up with a damp cloth. The hot vinegar helps dissolve any sticky, caked-on goo, and the lemon essential oil is a natural sanitizer.

When you go to place your food back into the fridge, be sure to designate a specific space for meat (if you eat it) that is separate from vegetables and fruits, to avoid any chance of cross-contamination. 

Step 3: Replenish with healthy foods

Stock the fridge with foods that make it easy to get quality nutrients, even if you’re dashing through the kitchen on your way to a meeting or activity. With all our amazing Farmer’s Markets, Farm Stands and Gourmet Shops in the area, there’s no excuse not to. Here’s how to get going:

  • See Food
    Put the less healthy food out of the line of vision, toward the back of the fridge, and the superstar foods—i.e., fruit and vegetables—front and center. For example, make it a habit to have a three-day supply of cut-up celery, jicama, snap peas, or baby carrots in a glass dish, staring you in the eye. The glass container trick can also work if you’re someone who struggles with getting enough hydration. Use a carafe of water with some cut-up cucumber, lemon or strawberries floating around to entice you to sip.
  • Power veggies
    If you are into making smoothies, keep beets, cilantro, ginger, and lemons on hand in the veggie bin for quick detox blends.
  • Choose condiments carefully
    Instead of artificial ingredients and day-glo colors, opt for seasonings and toppings such as tamari soy sauce and nutritional yeast.
  • Grab and go foods
    Have basic building blocks—hard-boiled pasture-raised eggs, organic chicken, Greek yogurt, beans, fresh greens, and whole-grain tortillas—so you can mix and match foods for a healthy meal within minutes.

Now that the refrigerator is full of healthy, clean foods, the only growling in the kitchen will be coming from your stomach. 

Practice releasing emotion as you clear the clutter

A decluttered living room inside one of Cristl's Montecito listingsLiving rooms tend to accumulate sentimental clutter. Ask yourself if you really, truly love an object or the person who gave it to you. If you don’t, give it away.

When it comes to de-cluttering the living room, family room, or any room of your home, there are a few questions you can continuously ask yourself as you go along to help determine if the item should stay or go. If you have to think about your answer, chances are very likely that you don’t need it. As you are evaluating your items, keep these questions in mind:

Do I use this?

You shouldn’t really have to think long about this.  You either use it or you don’t.  Take note that the question is not “Will I possibly use this one day?”.

Is this item extra?

How many bottles of body lotion do you really need?  Do you really use that sparkling eye shadow?  Evaluate what you need and use on a regular basis.  Remember that almost all beauty products have a life span, so it’s not always wise to “stock up”.  Choose your favorite and toss or donate {if unopened} the extras!

Would I buy this today?

I find that this is a really helpful question when looking at decorative items.  Ask yourself if you still love it and if it is still your style.  Is it adding beauty or function to the space or is it just adding to the clutter?  For beauty products, think about whether or not you really like the colors on you, if it works for your skin type if its as effective as you thought it would be, etc. If the answer is “no,” it’s time for it to go!

Does this help make my life easier or better?

There may be some items that you don’t really need, but you do use regularly, and they help to simplify things or give you pleasure in life.  You can definitely splurge on some items – just make sure they are useful to you or provide you with joy.

Can the space that this item takes up be reduced?  

For items I’m keeping, I always look for ways to reduce its footprint.  Can the packaging be removed for more condensed storage?  Do I have multiple bottles of the same product that can be combined?  Can I transfer the item to a smaller container?  Is there more appropriate storage that would make it easier to store and/or access?  It’s amazing what a little creativity can do to minimize space!

The Bedrooms – Practice daily

Bedrooms can easily get overwhelming because we tend to clean public areas of the home more often. Either eliminate the clutter by getting rid of it or invest in more storage. But don’t stop there. Take the time to banish closet clutter. I’ve covered this topic before in my previous post, Celebrity Closet Organizing Secrets. Yes, even the famous must tackle clutter!

When it comes to your closet, practice discipline. Make this your mantra, “One In, Two Out.” Anything that comes into your home needs to be balanced by two objects leaving. According to Eco Watch, every second, a garbage truck’s worth of textiles is either dumped into a landfill or burned. Less than one percent of material is recycled to make new clothes. Experts say to mindfully de-clutter your closet, consider these three things:

  • Assume the one in one out mantra, meaning, for every piece of clothing you buy, donate something to the charity of your choice.
  • Invest in better quality and stay away from fast fashion. We’re referring to the inexpensive, easy to grab, cheap choices out there.
  • Invite your friends of similar size and taste to a clothing swap. Real Simple Magazine recommends inviting no more than 20 attendees, serving snacks, and having fun with it.

The Bathrooms – Practice acceptance

Clean your cabinets and decide what to let go of and what to save. Pay special attention to the following:

  • Towels

Take a good look at your towels and see if they are all in good shape.  For those that have seen better days, you can either use them for rags or look at donating them to the Santa Barbara Humane Society.  Determine how many towels you actually need to have. (I limit ours to two bath towels per person plus a couple of extras for the rare time that we have house guests stay overnight} and donate any extras.

  • Cosmetics

Start by going through all of your make-up and tossing those items that are passed their expiry date.  Next, go through what’s remaining and determine what you actually wear and what you don’t.  Unfortunately, some colors just look better in the packaging than they do when we put them on ourselves. Keep only what you use and makes you feel pretty.

  • Medication

Medication should not be stored in the bathroom, due to the temperature fluctuations and steam caused by the bath and showers. So, find a new spot for them. While you’re at it, go through all medications and gather items that have expired or you no longer need/use. Toss in the garbage if safe to do so, or return them to the pharmacy for safe disposal.  

The OfficePractice letting go

A stylish and clean office from one of Cristal Clarke's listings in MontecitoGet all that paper you’ve accumulated out of your house. From now on, choose digital instead whenever you can.

“Of all the clutter in our homes, paper pileups are some of the biggest bugaboos,” according to Fast Company writer Jane Porter. “it’s not just stuff, it’s emotional baggage and unfinished business that’s standing in your way.” 

By getting rid of unnecessary paper, you’ll feel lighter, freer and more creative than ever. Here are some expert tips to follow when taking on that task:

  • Release judgment
  • Shred like Shiva, the Hindu creator, and destroyer
  • Redefine your idea of a job well done

When getting organized, remember: any improvement is better than none. Focus on getting it done, not making it perfect.

Are you ready to clear the clutter in your Montecito home? Before you begin, take this quiz from Better Homes & Gardens to discover your organizing personality.

Meantime, allow me to help you organize your search for a new home in Montecito, Hope Ranch or any of Santa Barbara’s upscale communities. Just call (805) 886-9378 or email me at I’ll happily add your listing to my portfolio of fine homes in the area and find your new dream home where you can get organized from the start!


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