By Bryce Dallas Howard

Published on September 26, 2015

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What is your philosophy on clearing clutter in your home?

Following the “less is more” mindset, I began to rid my home and life of unnecessary clutter. It was a transcendental freeing throughout. I continue to police myself and stay active in not bringing a lot of stuff into my life that doesn’t hold a specific purpose.

Changing my habits to eliminate clutter has been and continues to be hard work, but is profoundly worth it. It has left me with a household of things that I don’t take for granted, as everything inside these four walls holds real value to myself or a member of my family. For me, organization isn’t just about having systems in place, but also about discovering and implementing a philosophy for living that will provide peace of mind. 

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What is the hardest thing for you to clear in your home?

The hardest thing for me to do is to purge books, but before the school year starts, I make a point of reviewing the bookshelves. I’m a huge book hoarder because I write notes inside and consistently go back to reference books, but I noticed with my kids that when their shelves were filled with books, they had a tendency to go to the more familiar ones rather than branch out—the opposite of what one would think.

And I found that this was also the case for me. So, before the school year starts, I try to pick out 12 to 15 books that I intend to focus on for the season, and I force myself to review the remaining hundreds of books to ensure that I’ve touched them at least once in the past year. If I haven’t, I pack them up, send them to storage, and by the end of that season, I decide whether to donate or recirculate them. I’m trying to encourage a similar review process with my husband and kids—but books are also so personal—so I give them more space to figure out what works for them. We also try to go to the library as much as possible—we’ve got a great local library.

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You travel so frequently, what do you do to avoid build up clutter?

Something essential is to unpack immediately upon my return home and put the suitcase back where it’s stored. So, often, before we had our kids, I would be living out of a suitcase from home, since I didn’t unpack right away, and I’d end up procrastinating and unpacking for days!

Before I downsized the amount of stuff in my life, whenever I traveled I’d end up taking at least a dozen books and far too many “what if” outfits and trinkets. I was always the lady lugging around 3 suitcases when it could (and should) have been one. But now that I have a more focused and smaller wardrobe, before I pack, I think to myself, what is my plan to use this (rather than, will I maybe need this)? As a result, I only bring items that are worth the investment of space. I plan to use them and use them frequently. An insight that living on location for a long time has given me is the chance to evaluate what I actually use in my day-to-day life.

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How do you transition from summer to fall?

Since the kids are back in school, we take a look at their closets and make sure they have items that are appropriate for the school season and the transition to fall—we make sure to try on every item to ensure that it fits right and doesn’t need mending. Since the weather doesn’t change drastically on the West Coast, we only need to pull out cooler weather clothing for the kids if we travel. 

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What are the organizing rules you live by to make sure everything stays organized all the time?

I aim to perceive organization not as a set of rules necessarily, but perhaps as a set of principles, philosophies, or practices. And minimalist bloggers and authors that I look up to all have certain practices and boundaries that help put their values into action.  

What tools do you use to help you stay organized? 

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas on the horizon, we love being able to have an active relationship with our storage service, Clutter Storage, which allows us to browse the catalog of our items and decide if we want to pull anything out of storage at any time. Websites such as The Real Real and Thred Up take pieces on consignment. Organizations like Safe Place for Youth and Dress for Success put second-hand clothing to the best use. We also use Next Worth to sell our electronics that we have outgrown, and Gift Card Granny for all of those gift cards that we will never use. I am also into using the app Stylebook to help with the organization of my closet.