This week, Kathi chats with founder and fearless leader of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook Group, Tonya Kubo, about some of the key ingredients to forming lasting clutter free habits. Once upon a time, Kathi was in a perpetual panic, just surviving and trying (but not succeeding) at managing her clutter.  Years into her clutter free journey, she knows the importance of a routine in staying clutter free.

In this episode, you’ll learn three secret ingredients to help you create a routine to lose the clutter. You’ll hear:

  • How to put your house on a schedule and keep moving forward in spite of setbacks
  • The one key to any lasting clutter free system
  • What you need to get started today (hint: you already have it!)

Clutter Free For Life

If you want more personalized, hands-on help Clutter Free For Life is for you! As a member, you’ll receive tons of valuable exclusive content: monthly action plans, coaching from Kathi herself, access to a private, VIP Facebook group, and tons of gentle encouragement and guidance on how to move forward on your clutter free journey.

If you sign up for Clutter Free For Life today, you’ll save 60% off of the monthly price. You’ll get a full year of support on your clutter free journey for the unbelievable price of $118.

Don’t wait! This offer expires on December 31, 2019. Sign up today and make 2020 the year you become Clutter Free For Life!

To learn more about a decluttering routine, check out Kathi’s upcoming book, The Clutter-Free Home: Making Room for Your Life, available for pre-order on Amazon today.

If you’re looking for a magic sauce recipe similar to the ranch/honey mustard/barbecue one Kathi described, click here.

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Clutter Free Academy Podcast #387 

Clutter Free for Life: Creating Your Routine

<<intro music>>

Kathi – Well, hey friends! Welcome to Clutter Free Academy, where our goal is to help you take small, do-able steps to live every day with less clutter and more life. Here with me today is founder of Clutter Free Academy, the Facebook group online is Tonya Kubo. Hey, Tonya!

Tonya – Hey, Kathi!

Kathi – Okay, so I’m very excited. We’re here at The Red House; the almost clutter free Red House. You know, everything is in transition and stuff.

Tonya – You’re so cute. As if anybody else sees the clutter.

Kathi – You know what? I know. I know.

Tonya – ‘Cause it’s 60% clutter free.

Kathi – I think it’s probably more than 60% clutter free.

Tonya – 85%?

Kathi – I’m thinking, yeah. Yesterday, when we were in the kitchen, and we were just talking, and I got to just clean out a cupboard? It made so happy. I don’t have a lot of ‘clean out cupboard’ time. I feel like, “I can do that while I’m chatting with a friend.”

Tonya – Doesn’t chatting with a friend make it so much easier?

Kathi – Oh my goodness, yes. I don’t get stuck in my head with certain decisions and things like that. I just make it happen. I think about where I was fifteen years ago and where I am today when it comes to clutter free. It’s really interesting because, my house has changed, but really what has changed is my day to day life.

Tonya – Right.

Kathi – It’s like, how I get up and operate. I used to be in a panic all the time. The only time my house got “clean”, and I’m using heavy quote marks here, was when people were coming over. It wasn’t clean, it was Stash and Dash.

Tonya – Do you feel like you have more structure to your day, now?

Kathi – Oh, 100%! I was just surviving back then. There wasn’t a plan. There wasn’t intention. So, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. Creating routines. If you’re looking for the magic sauce? We’re going to give you the three ingredients to the magic sauce. I was watching a show the other day, and they had bbq sauce, honey mustard and ranch, and they said, “Combine them all together.” It’s like, “That’s weird!” and somebody dipped a French fry in that, and it changed their lives. I feel like we have the honey mustard/bbq sauce/ranch combo.

Tonya – Can we get that one the show notes?

Kathi – We’ll have to try it. I’m trying to think. Do we have that stuff here? We could make this happen.

Tonya – Do people know we’re in the same place at the same time?

Kathi – I know. This rarely happens, but we’re all at The Red House right now. We’re up in our bedroom. Roger’s in bed. He’s on top of the bed. He’s working in bed. We’ve got little Moo at our feet and we’ve got Ashley, the cat, sitting on the desk. It’s very Kumbaya happy family moment. We want to talk about the three secret ingredients to staying clutter free. So, the first thing we want to talk about is routines. Now, how have your routines changed since you started being clutter free?

Tonya – Oh my gosh! The thing is, my LIFE has changed. I’ve been on my clutter free journey now for going on five years. In just a few months it’ll be my fifth anniversary. I’ve lived in three different houses ranging from a thousand square feet and two bedrooms all the way to twenty four hundred square feet and four bedrooms. I had a baby. I’ve worked full time. I’ve worked multiple jobs. I did grad school.

Kathi – Hey! I had a baby too!

Tonya – You did. Your baby is a lot different than my baby.

Kathi – Yes. She’s teething, so when she goes outside and runs around, she comes back and you get chewed on. My baby is a puggle. She came to us sleeping through the night. That’s not what happens with most human babies.

Tonya – Yeah, mine still isn’t sleeping through the night and it’s been five years. So, for me at least, and I always say this is a ‘we, the people of the clutter situation’. The slightest hiccup. I watch people and they just weather storms. No big deal. They don’t miss a beat. The slightest hiccup and I’m upside down. I forget on little aspect, and I know I’ve talked about this before, like dishes. I have to run the dishwasher before I go to bed at night. So that when I wake up in the morning, I can unload the dishwasher and it’s empty and then I can go about my day. That affects how my after work life is, right? If that dishwasher doesn’t get run, it is three days before I can course correct.

Kathi – Right! It’s so true. That doesn’t mean that when problems come along you can’t fix them. We can fix them. We have the capacity. Here’s the thing: You know how valuable that routine is. You know how much better it makes your life. I’m the same way. After dinner, Roger does dishes, I clean up the rest of the kitchen and the dishwasher is going. So, first thing in the morning, I get up and I can unload the dishwasher, so as the day continues, I can be putting things in there. We’re not dealing with piles of dishes all day long.

Tonya – Right. And I think the other thing that I’ve learned is the non-negotiable aspects of my routine and then there are the ‘nice to haves’. So, I love to organize my girls’ clothes for the week every Sunday night to make mornings easier, but you know what? If it’s between that and getting those dishes done? Getting the dishes done has a way bigger impact on my day to day life, than whether I have an outfit picked out for both girls in the morning.

Kathi – Yes. It makes all the sense in the world. So, let’s talk about the ways to create a routine that can help us live clutter free every single day. One of the things we will be talking about in my new book that’s coming out, The Clutter Free Home, is a schedule for your house. Putting your house on a schedule. It’s not just about you being on a schedule, it’s your house being on a schedule. So, each room has a different day where you’re going to be touching it and getting it clutter free. Now, I know you live by this principle, too. How has that helped? Or has it helped? I guess I should ask that.

Tonya – Well, I think that it does help. So, we’ve talked about this before. I’ve never been interested in cleaning my baseboards unless I have a deadline. Right? I’m not interested. So, it’s very easy for me to just spin myself in a circle in my house. “I need to do this in the bathroom! Oh wait! I need to do this in the bedroom!” So, now, if something bothers me in the bathroom, I just wait until the bathroom day. If something bothers me in the bedroom, I can put it on a Post-It note, tack it to the back of my bedroom door, and now I have a task to focus on when that comes up in rotation.

Kathi – Yes! Because otherwise, you have twenty five competing first priorities.

Tonya – All the time!

Kathi – Yeah! Because every room you’re in, there’s a mess in that room and you want to go and dig it out and you want to take care of it. But you know you can’t do that, so instead, you just let everything lie.  When you have 25 first priorities, what it means is you have 25 last priorities.

Tonya – Exactly.

Kathi – This gives us a way to say, “I’m only going to do fifteen minutes. I’m going to do it in my bedroom today. I’m going to make a small dent somewhere.” Then, as you’re going the rest of the week, you can clean up and tidy and do all the things you want to do, but the next day, you’re in your living room and that’s where you’re going to focus. Now, once a week, I want you to dig into a room for an hour and really clean it out. Get some momentum going in that room, but it’s not every day. That’s overwhelming and you can’t live your real life.

Tonya – So true.

Kathi – Okay, so everyday a different room and every day 15 minutes. It’s actually 20, but 15 minutes sounds so much kinder to ourselves. It’s 15 minutes of decluttering and five minutes of putting stuff away. We do this little routine every single day. Now, how does that manifest itself in your house?

Tonya – First of all, I think that fifteen minutes to declutter and five minutes to put stuff away is still so much less time than I would think certain things need to take. One thing I’ve discovered: I can make a huge amount of progress in my bathroom in 15 minutes. I can do a lot in my bedroom in 15 minutes, if I focus on an area like my closet. There was a day, not too long ago, seasons were changing. I was able to sack up four trash bags of clothes to donate, between me and my husband, just in fifteen minutes. Then, I didn’t need 5 minutes to put stuff away. I just needed 3.5 minutes to get stuff to the trunk of the car.

Kathi – Right. Exactly. That makes all the difference in the world! Knowing that I have this allotted time and I can get something done. It doesn’t seem like it would be magical, but it kind of is.

Tonya – So, if I may, what’s really magical, just using my clothing example, right, is that I take everything out, and when I walk in, there’s a big dent. My closet is noticeably lighter. That feels good.

Kathi – That makes you want to keep it lighter.

Tonya – Exactly. Then, to know, “Oh wow. All I have to do is come back here in a week.” And now, I can color code my clothes (not that I’m that person, let’s just be honest) but if I wanted to, I could set that as my priority for the following week.

Kathi – Yes, absolutely. Okay, so everyday a different room. Every day, fifteen minutes. You and I were talking. People are often looking for the perfect system. This is why we have people who want to take a little Clutter Free and combine it with a little Marie Kondo.

Tonya – Kondo and a little bit of minimalism and a little bit of this. Let’s just be very honest with each other. I was that person. I had the two book shelves of different organizing and decluttering and whatever because I was looking for the book that would somehow make my house do it all by itself. I’m not going to lie. It’s true.

Kathi – So, I think all of these systems can work, and do work, for certain people. There are a lot of Marie Kondos out there that are just crushing it. That’s amazing. There are a lot of minimalists out there who are just crushing it. I feel like, what our program is, is really centered for the person who has kind of gotten out of control. Whether other people have noticed or not, you know that you feel out of control.

Tonya – And I feel like, for me at least, this is the first time I’ve been able to unbury myself from overwhelm. We talk a lot about decision fatigue. We talk a lot about just feeling suffocated. I think that is what this system does.

Kathi – The perfect system, and you said this: The perfect system is, what?

Tonya – The perfect system is consistency. It’s doing a little bit every single day. Rinse and repeat, time and again.

Kathi – What I see a lot of people do is, “I’m going to tear up my house. I’m going to rent the dumpster. I’m going to do all the things.” Their house looks great for a while, but here’s the problem. A vacuum cannot stay void. We’re going to fill up those spaces unless we’ve created a plan for what we’re doing.

Tonya – We see that all the time in the online group. People talk about, “I work so hard to get this space clutter free, and I don’t understand why it’s like this again.” It’s because they didn’t follow that up. They didn’t close up that loop to keep stuff from invading the space.

Kathi – I am not saying you shouldn’t get a dumpster.

Tonya – I get one every year, you know that.

Kathi – I do! I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. I’m saying that a dumpster is not the answer. It may be one of the steps in your solution. For me, I’ve never had a dumpster. That’s never been where I needed to be. For me, it’s so much better to consistently, every single week, get stuff out of my house, and to limit what I bring into my house. That’s the secret sauce for me in all of this. Then, the other thing hear about is, “I’m just waiting for the right time. I’m waiting for the right time when my family will be on board. When I have the energy.” To me, waiting for the right time means you’re waiting for something that you don’t already have. I believe you have everything you need, right now, to start decluttering. Now, you may not have everything you need to declutter your entire house, but you have everything you need to declutter your sock drawer.

Tonya – I think where that feeling comes from, really, is this perception that we have more time in the future. You have said this. The future version of you never has more time; never has more energy, but we’re so good at telling ourselves, “When the kids go back to school.”

Kathi – When it gets easier.

Tonya – It will get easier.

Kathi – So, here are our things: The right time is right now, is what it is. Every day is a different room. Every day is fifteen minutes. The perfect system, for anybody, is consistency. The right time is right now. So many of you tell us that you listen to the podcast while you’re decluttering.

Tonya – I love that.

Kathi – It makes me super happy, it really does. Once you have your decluttering routine, those routines can spread out into other things. We have out decluttering routine, then we create our morning routine and our evening routine, and it starts to do all of this. Now, one of the things that I absolutely love, one of my favorite things we do as a business and as a ministry is something we started last year. It’s called Clutter Free for Life. It’s taking this every day routine and speaking it into your life. It’s helping it become part of your language; part of your routine. We help you live out this routine. Tonya, tell them a little bit about what they get each month, because it’s just incredible.

Tonya – Well, every month, you get a digital download that has a deep dive into the practical application of living clutter free. It takes into consideration that you have challenges and obstacles in the month of May that aren’t present, or that look differently in the month of August. Really diving deep and really having just, step-by-step, how do you apply this into your life? Also, a calendar to help you stay on top of this consistent practice. I think there is more in the download, we do a “Look ahead. This is what I want to accomplish in the month. This is how I want to feel at the end of the month.” Then we do a look back. We have a Facebook group that’s there for you 24/7.

Kathi – The Facebook group is amazing. It helps you get brainwashed.

Tonya – I love my people.

Kathi – Yes!

Tonya – I know they’re our people, but I love them.

Kathi – The brainwashing is super-important, and I mean this in the most wonderful way. But to start to think about your life as a clutter free life, and start to get things out; start to change your thinking around stuff. It’s hugely valuable.

Tonya – You have a member, and what she does is, she takes those reflection questions and the last day of the month, she answers them in the group. Nobody else has to join her, but more and more people every month have started to join her in that look back. She shares it in the group for accountability, because she needs to be reminded how far she’s come. It has helped me so much. I’m not always thinking, “Oh! How has my thought process changed in the last three months?” But she’ll post them and I’m like, “I used to think that, too!” Then, I’m trying to think about when I stopped thinking that way. What I do know is that once I embrace the daily practice, and once I embrace the fact that it’s not one-and-done. I’m going to have to go into my bathroom and declutter something all the time, because I live with people.

Kathi – And those people will just kill you.

Tonya – They’re just people.

Kathi – They’re just people. So, you get the Facebook group, which is amazing, you get the downloads. You also get two trainings each month. I love doing these. These are about a half hour. It’s just answering questions in the group. If you’re struggling with something that has to do with clutter? I mean, I’ve been there, done that. I have too many t-shirts. I declutter them, though, so it’s okay. I know the answer to that clutter issue. We have a Facebook Live twice a month, where we go in and answer all those questions.

Tonya – Let’s be clear. That’s with you.

Kathi – That’s with me!

Tonya – Our listeners who are with Clutter Free Academy are used to seeing me on Facebook Lives, but in Clutter Free for Life, that’s you. They get their time with you.

Kathi – Right. So, this is a paid program. Normally, it’s $25/month, so $24.99, but here’s the beautiful thing: Because we want to on-load everybody at the same time and we want to get you in there, we are running a special between now and December 31st. If you sign up, and we’ve got the link right here in the show notes, if you sign up, it’s $24.99/month. It’s normally $299/year. However, if you sign up with the link today, you’re going to get the entire year for $118. It’s so much easier to on-load everybody at the same time. That’s what we want to do. We want to get your all at the start. We want you to see a difference in 2020. We want you to see a difference in your life. How does your year start and how does your year end? So, we want you in there to experience the freedom that everybody has. So, not only do you get the entire program for less than half. $118. That’s less than $10/month.

Tonya – I will believe you, because we all know that math is not my strong suit.

Kathi – Yes! The only reason I know that is because it would be $120/year for $10/month and this is $118.

Tonya – Oh yes! ‘Cause you add a zero. Gotcha.

Kathi – Yes, exactly. So, not only do you get the $118/month price.

Tonya – Not a month!

Kathi – Oh, I’m sorry! A year! It’s worth $118/month! No.

Tonya – It’s worth it to me.

Kathi – You know what, it is worth it, if you clean out a storage shed that you’re paying for. We have one member, it’s cool, every month she posts a picture of $70.

Tonya – Yep! In cash!

Kathi – In cash! That’s going to her vacation fund, instead of going to her storage unit. It’s beautiful. But, in addition to the $118/year for the entire year, all the downloads, getting to be in the group, you also get our online course Kickstart to Clutter Free. This is seven days of getting you down and dirty; getting you up and running to get stuff out of your house. I want you to get 500 things out of your house in one week. I know you can do it! I know you can do it with Kickstart to Clutter Free. So that is normally $49, but you’ll get it free, and you’ll get lifetime access to that for free when you buy the year at $118. So, December 17, starting today, through the 31st, sign up and you’ll get all of this. We will really help you with creating routines. That’s a huge part of what we do in this group.

Tonya – I’m in there every day and part of what I’m doing is helping. How do you apply this to your life? Some people have small children. Some people have teenagers. Some people have kids who have a million and one activities every night. Right? The routines look different, so we’re able to help you figure out what works for you. All you have to do is show up and consistently work that routine in your home.

Kathi – It’s a beautiful thing. Tonya, thanks so much for being on with me today.

Tonya – Thanks for having me.

Kathi – Friends, thank you for joining us. I hope you’ll join us over on Clutter Free for Life. It’s my favorite place to hang out. Thanks for listening to Clutter Free Academy. I’m Kathi Lipp. Now, go create the clutter free life you were always intended to live.


*see show notes in podcast post above for any mentioned items


Meet Our Guest

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo

Tonya Kubo is the illustrious, fearless leader of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group. A speaker and writer, Tonya makes her home in the heart of California with her husband, Brian, their two spirited daughters and one very tolerant cat. Visit her at or

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