A Simplifed Life – Tips for Creating a Decluttered, Meanginful Home

Earlier this month, while sitting in the court house on my first day of jury duty, I started reading Emily Ley’s A Simplified Life. My friend Evann gave the book to me as a birthday gift while promising me that I would find myself highlighting, underlining and marking the pages as I read it.  Before receiving the book, I didn’t know anything about Emily Ley or her very succesful planners and website. In fact, I was in shock when I discovered that her planners typically sell out just days after being stocked online and that this year’s Simplified Planner isn’t available but there are waiting lists for next years – ALREADY! This, as well as promise, convinced me to read the book versus place it in my bedside table basket of “to read” books.

Unsure what to expect, I opened the book and within minutes, found myself writing notes in the margins and brainstorming how I could apply her techniques to our life.  As she described the feeling of overwhelm, chaos, and the stress and weight a cluttered, unorganized home can add to your life I felt as if she was looking inside our home.  I wanted to make the “physical and mental space for what matters.” I also appreciated that her concepts, recommendations and ideas for the most part, weren’t radical, expensive to apply or extreme. In fact, many of them are quite simple and can be applied to anyone’s life regardless of where you live or what your life is like. In fact, I laughed and shared with Bo the part of the book where she reminded readers that there is such a thing as over organizing and it isn’t necessary to run to The Container Store before starting the project as that often leads to more STUFF.

Before I share some pictures and tips with you all, let me share a bit about me and why this book was such a breakthrough.

Those closest to me know that while I often look organized from the outside, on the inside my life tends to be anything but that. My closets and drawers are always what I call “organized chaos” in that I can find things but if anyone is helping to put clothes away they are scared at what they see and give up before trying. This mess and chaos would often spill into our home and shared spaces such as diaper bags, drawers and closets. On the other hand, Bo’s closets and personal spaces such as his brief case and bedside table, are spotless and organized even during the craziest weeks. While this lifestyle may have worked for me before having a child, now it was driving me insane. Recently, I found myself venting to Bo that I couldn’t handle the mess anymore and needed a change, especially since we have a third person in our life these days. 


Reading this book, which I devoured in just two days, gave me the inspiration and confidence that even the most unorganized person could work to create a simplified life for myself and our family. The book is divided into ten key areas spanning topics like meal planning, personal fashion, parenting and home organization. Even the chapters where I didn’t think we needed much guidance, like personal finances, included at least a few golden nuggets that we could apply to our life. But, the chapters that inspired me the most were home organization and style. With this motivation, I engaged Bo on some of her simplest concepts and dedicated four full days to the process – three Saturdays and a Sunday.   Now, keep in mind, that it took us four full days because we conquered multiple areas – master bedroom, nursery, guest bedroom, pantry, and three closets. There were moments when it was overwhelming but, in the end, we have loved the results and have been able to keep and even improve upon the progress we made.


A Simplified Space & Simplified Style – Creating a Decluttered, Meangingful Home and Wardrobe/Beauty Routine

When given the opportunity to think about our home and jot down the areas of my life that felt “less than simple” I quickly identified my wardrobe, our linen/bathroom closet, and our guest room closet.  Bo agreed and added our two downstairs closets to his list of things that add stress to our life. Once we identified the areas we wanted to tackle we began what Emily calls the ruthless clean-out. The ruthless clean-out allows you the opportunity to see what you have, identify all the things you don’t need and create a home where you aren’t digging through duplicates, clutter and chaos just to find a pair of jeans, gloves, or a spare toothbrush.

My tip:  I would recommend doing this one space or room at a time versus the approach we took which very quickly led to chaos and the feeling of overwhelm.  

Here are just a few of her tips for the process:

  • Start with the area of your home that provides the most stress
  • Choose a space where you can put all the things you’re getting rid of that is OUTSIDE of the space you are working. We chose to use our upstairs balcony/hallway space to store the garbage bags, donation bags and things that needed to be put somewhere else.
  • Completely take out all the contents of the space. Yes, I took EVERY single item of clothing out of my closet before starting so I had a blank slate.
  • Do not fear or feel the need to fill the space.
  • Get rid of trash, duplicates, extras, unnecessary items, outgrown items, broken items, or things that you keep because you “may use one day.”  
  • Keep your favorites, necessary items, best items and treasured, sentimental items.
  • Try every item of clothing on and ensure it fits, is good quality and is one of your favorites. If it doesn’t meet this criteria donate it.
  • Ensure that you check expiration dates for beauty and medical items. You can find easy to reference guidelines online or in her book AND keep in mind that natural products tend to have a shorter shelf life.
  • Store travel size items in your travel bag so they are always ready for business trips or vacations.
  • Store like items together and have a clear place for everything. We found this to be very helpful for items that we found housed throughout our house like umbrellas, lint rollers, screw drivers, batteries, etc. We often forgot we had one or couldn’t find it and bought more. We now have FIVE packs of AAA batteries and FOUR small umbrellas. 
  • Immediately take your donations to Goodwill, Salvation Army or other local spot and throw the trash away as soon as possible. If you’re local, I’ve found that most of the Green Markets in NYC have a clothing donation area where you can easily take bags of clothing and get tax receipts.

My tips:

  • Since we hope to have a second child at some point, we put all of Katie’s outgrown items in vacuum bags and have them stored either in large wicker bins above our closet. My maternity and nursing clothes are also in these bins. The toys, gadgets or gizmos that she has outgrown but loved are taken apart and stored under our bed or loaned out to friends with the understanding that we will want them back when their children are done enjoying them. The only area where we kept duplicates were things that we use frequently such as toiletries, favorite kitchen ingredients, or cleaning items. 
  • I moved all of our treasured and sentimental baby items related to Katie into a closet drawer so they are organized and protected until I have time to put them into a baby book or other keepsake place. 
  • Certain items like business clothing, suits and formal dresses I donated to Dress for Success and Operation Prom instead of taking to the clothing donation area at our farmers market. There were certain clothing items and running gear that were either expensive or quite new that I sold via Instagram Stories. Otherwise, I donated things instead of taking the time to sell on Poshmark or other platforms as I found that idea to be overwhelming and not worth it. But, lots of friends LOVE using ThredUp, Poshmark or other sites. 
  • Once we organized our sheets and towels I did a few large loads of wash to deep clean these items so they felt fresh and new going into our closet.
  • Since our sheets were driving me insane, I asked for help via Instagram and discovered that the EASIEST way to keep sheets organized is to fold them and put inside the pillowcase! SO easy!

She also provides tips and tricks for keepingyour place simplified and maintained AFTER the initial process. Below are the ones that we’ve built into our life this month and have found very helpful.

  • Walk through the house with a basket at the end of the day and gather the clutter. Don’t just move it to another room but take five minutes to sort it and put it away or throw it out.
  • Empty trash cans and wipe down the surfaces once the kitchen is “closed.” I’ve also added a quick mop and vacuum of the downstairs in order to ensure our space is clean for Katie’s continued crawling practice. 
  • Do one load of laundry per day and do your best to complete the entire process – wash, dry, fold and put away. The smaller loads are far more manageable for us and have allowed us to stay on top of the laundry versus having piles of clean clothes taking over our sofa.

By the time we were done we donated twelve large bags of clothing, gave away three bags of duplicate home, baby and toiletry items that we don’t use or need leveraging the local moms group, and threw away lots of trash. We found three gift cards, one Christmas card from last year WITH a gift inside, and have found living in our house SO much easier since we can find everything and easily see what we have and don’t have.

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  1. Danielle January 29, 2018 / 11:53 am

    Thank you for this review. I was on the fence about adding this book to my reading list, and now its at the top. We’re moving in a few weeks with our 14 month old (!!) and I’m taking this as an opportunity to purge before we start packing up and setting up shop in our new home. Your towel/toiletry closet gives me hope!

  2. Kate January 29, 2018 / 1:53 pm

    Love this review, thank you! I recently strafed to make my way through Marie Kondo and it’s good too. Have you read that one? I wonder how it compares. After the first few chapters I got rid of 9 bags of clothes and I still have more to go!!

  3. Kath January 29, 2018 / 2:41 pm

    I listened to a podcast with Emily and LOVED her. I have a sample of the book on my Kindle but haven’t cracked it open yet. Sounds like I will love her! I have a Home Neat Home: Closets post coming up this week sharing a similar clean-out process : )

  4. Alyse January 29, 2018 / 9:14 pm

    These are amazing tips – and wow, the size of those donation bags… I’m so in need of some simplification!

    • ashleyd February 1, 2018 / 7:45 pm

      Thank you! I think you’ll love it once you try it! We found it almost addicting if that makes sense 🙂

  5. Bets January 29, 2018 / 11:57 pm

    Wow! Looks like you made some great progress. It sounds somewhat similar to the Marie Kondo method. I’ll have to add this book to my reading list.

  6. Beth February 2, 2018 / 1:59 pm

    We are trying to get our house ready to go on the market, so we are doing this ruthless clean out. It is hard and overwhelming! But I do feel better once it is done. The hardest for me is clothes. I love my Clothes!

    • ashleyd February 2, 2018 / 2:28 pm

      Good luck Beth! I actually found the clothing to be the easiest as if it didn’t fit I said GOODBYE and donated or sold!

  7. SOKPHAL February 5, 2018 / 6:12 pm

    As someone who worked at The Container Store for 3.5 years – I approve of this message! Love the cleaning and your kitchen!

    • ashleyd February 8, 2018 / 11:48 am

      Haha thanks! I’m so glad that you approve of our new home and organizational methods!

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