Très bien! How to declutter like the French for a truly tranquil home

Forget the 'move out' decluttering method: it's time to learn how to declutter like the French

A calm and decluttered living room, painted in French blue
(Image credit: Future PLC/Blackmore Photography Ltd)

Learning how to declutter like the French is one of the quickest ways to transform your home into a chic and minimalist Parisian abode – without moving and setting up house across the Channel, that is.

If you're always on the hunt for the best ever cleaning tips, you will likely already think you're in possession of the ultimate decluttering checklist

Here's the thing, though: all of the decluttering tips favoured by the French are incredibly intuitive, which means they're well worth pursuing. Especially if you want to channel some serious maison tranquille vibes.

How to declutter like the French

If you're anything like us, you've undoubtedly been won over by the so-called 'French cool girl aesthetic' on social media – and spent ages researching natural beauty tips, effortless style hacks, and high-quality basics to fill your wardrobe with as a result.

Living room with blue wallpapered chimney breast, blue walls and a blue fireplace.

(Image credit: Future PLC)

The trick to that inimitable style is all about the undetectable: tinted moisturiser instead of foundation, nude nails rather than a bright manicure, and so on. 

And, when it comes to learning how to declutter like the French, you better believe it's all about creating a similarly effortless effect.

'French people tend to have a minimalist and thoughtful approach to organising their living space,' explains Craig Hoareau, APDO member and Managing Director of A Tidy Mind London

A serene pink bathroom, decluttered in the French-style

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars Ltd)

'The French are very good at the concept of less is more, and focus on quality over quantity, striving to create a harmonious and functional environment,' adds Craig.

Lifestyle and travel writer Alessia Armenise, who has spent the past decade living in Paris, agrees.

Alessia Armenise
Alessia Armenise

Based in Paris, Alessia is a talented trilingual writer and editor, as well as an expert in all things lifestyle and travel-related. To learn more from her, you can subscribe to her newsletter, The Toe, read her webzine, Pretty Slow Life, or listen to her podcast, Pretty Good Business.

'French style can be defined as a minimalist version of maximalism,' explains Alessia, noting that the French tend to 'have very little overall, but a lot of the things they love and that embody their identity'. 

'Always have a tidy house, even when it looks a bit messy,' she adds. 

'Sometimes you will see things just lying around a French home, like unmounted pictures on the floor, or books in piles instead of on shelves, but these decisions are very deliberate and tidy in their untidy look – a bit like a messy bun or a fringe that actually takes ages to style.'

Yellow kitchen with curtain

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Still confused about how to inject that je ne sais quoi into your own cleaning calendar

Here's how to declutter like the French, broken down into easy-to-follow tips.

1. Say no to excess

Space is often limited in French homes, especially in cities like Paris where apartments are smaller. With that in mind, then, it's important to focus on quality over quantity.

'This principle applies to possessions, ensuring each item that you have serves a clear purpose,' explains Olivia Young, cleaning expert and product development scientist at Astonish.

Close up of a bed with a padded leather headboard framed by the pale oak frame and a shelf displaying black and white framed photographs

(Image credit: Future)

To get started, Olivia suggests you have a look at your belongings and ask yourself – does this item serve a purpose for me?

'Keep what aligns with your current lifestyle and let go of what is no longer needed. Items that are neither functional nor used will cause you more problems than solutions, as they essentially are sat gathering dust!' she says.

2. Avoid the 'just in case' cycle

We're all guilty of hanging onto the things we don't really need, just in case we may need them someday down the line.

'Keep only the things you truly need and love in your home, and avoid holding on to items "just in case”,' advises professional organiser Craig. 'If you need it once in future, you can hire or borrow it, but there’s no need for it to take up space in your home.'

Alessia agrees, although she notes that the secret to decluttering like the French 'is not to keep as little as possible, but to treat your home as an extension of yourself.

'Steer clear of filling your house with things that you feel like you are "supposed to have", and stick to your actual needs,' she stresses. 'You'll probably have more than a few unused appliances lying around, so start there.'

3. Have a list of cleaning tasks you stick to daily

White vinegar, lemons and bicarb for cleaning

(Image credit: Future PLC)

When learning how to declutter like the French, it's important to know that they stick to a list of 'small but impactful cleaning tasks that you incorporate into your daily routine,' says cleaning expert Olivia. 

'The reason that cleaning your home often becomes a laborious task is because the longer you leave it, the worst things tend to get – causing you to need to spend hours and hours deep cleaning and decluttering every room,' she explains.

To make like the French, add the following chores to your daily to-do list:

  • Pop a load of laundry in
  • Do the washing up
  • Wipe down your kitchen worktops
  • Put toys away
  • Clean your toilets

'Try to think what will most benefit your household, keeping it clean and clutter free – then add it to your list,' advises Olivia. 

'By doing these things daily, they’ll soon become second nature and you’ll notice a big impact.'

4. Streamline your cleaning cupboard

To make it even easier to keep your home clean and tidy, Olivia advises that you opt for cleaning products that have multi-use, such as a Multi-Purpose Cleaner Spray or Cleaning Paste. 

'This will reduce the volume of cleaning products you have, simplifying your routine, and will reduce the clutter in your cleaning cupboard – a double win!' she says.

5. Open up your space and clear surfaces

velvet armchair and brass table with blue bannister and white stairs

(Image credit: Future PLC/Katie Lee)

If you really want to learn how to declutter like the French, organising expert Craig advises you 'create open and uncluttered spaces by avoiding overcrowding shelves, countertops, and tabletops'. 

'It is always best to keep surfaces clear of clutter as it s it contributes to a sense of calm,' he says, adding that 'specially curated decorative items will help to add charm without overwhelming the space.'

6. Integrate clever storage solutions

Clever storage solutions that perfectly combine usefulness and style are something the French do very well. 

'Storage is key when it comes to obtaining a clutter-free home,' says cleaning pro Olivia. 'Everything should have a place and if it’s not something you will use or need on a daily basis, then placing it in a secure, but stylish, storage solution is a good idea.'

Adding that a good storage solution is one that doesn't just fit in with your home décor, but gives you maximised space, too, Olivia suggests you hunt for:

  • Ottomans with hidden compartments
  • Stylish built-in shelves
  • Baskets that complement the look and feel of your home

'By opting for functional but appealing storage, you’ll be able to declutter your home but keep it to your taste,' she says.

7. Adopt the one-in, one-out rule

Dining table with chairs leading to stairway

(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

Once you’ve streamlined your belongings, it's time to practice the one-in, one-out rule. 

'When you bring a new item into your home, consider letting go of something else,' says Craig. 'It will help you to maintain balance, preventing unnecessary accumulation and keeps you in control.'

For this same reason you should try to shop more mindfully. 'Before you buy something that's on offer because you think it's a good deal, take a moment to think about whether you actually need it or if it will add value to your life,' he explains. 

'Before you click buy or put something in your basket, think about it in that moment and avoid impulse buying.'

8. Embrace a minimalist mindset

A hot pink armchair beside a clear side table and orchid, decluttered in the French style

(Image credit: Future PLC/Sophie Gale)

No matter what room it is in your home, try to adopt a minimalist look and feel, as 'this will create an elegant and efficient living space, free of clutter and easier to keep clean and tidy,' says cleaning expert Olivia. 

'By opting for a minimalist look and feel throughout your home, you’ll find your wellbeing is boosted and that keeping it clean much easier – and more enjoyable, as you’ll reduce the need for intense deep cleans.'

Professional organiser Craig agrees, adding that you ought to 'focus on spending your time and money on experiences and creating memories as opposed to buying more material possessions'.

'The French prioritise quality time spent with loved ones, enjoying good food, and exploring their surroundings over accumulating clutter,' he says.

9. Maintain, maintain, maintain

Now that you've done the hard work, it's important you continue to declutter like the French – or, to put it more bluntly, that you keep up the good work.

'Dedicate time regularly to declutter and tidy up your home,' says Craig. 'The key is to do it regularly to avoid build up and overwhelm when it gets too much.'

Hey, it still sounds less frightening than the Swedish death cleaning trend, quite frankly!

How do French clean their house?

The French clean in moderation, adopting a little-and-often approach each day rather than waiting for one big cleaning day each week. 

'When done right, cleaning your home doesn’t need to feel like a chore. It can be satisfiying, boost your wellbeing and even become fun!' says cleaning expert Olivia. 

'The reason it often becomes a laborious task is because the longer you leave it, the worst things tend to get – causing you to need to spend hours and hours deep cleaning and decluttering every room.' 

To avoid this, Olivia says it's best to adopt the French way of cleaning and decluttering, and always have a list of small but impactful cleaning tasks that you do each and every day.

What makes a house look French?

'French homes usually feature few pieces, but all of them are very impactful and really represent their owner's style,' says lifestyle writer and Parisien Alessia.

'A large living room will be furnished with only a simple sofa and a table, but there might be piles of books, or records everywhere from below the windows to the door.'

For the French, she adds, 'interiors are an extension of their personal style in which they put just as much effort'.

'The secret is not to keep as little as possible, but to treat your home like an extension of yourself,' she stresses, dubbing the French home a celebration of maximalist-minimalism. 

What is the French way of organising the kitchen?

If you are trying to figure out how to declutter your kitchen like the French, cleaning expert Olivia says that it's best to 'opt for versatile utensils and pots that can help reduce the number of items you need'. 

'Keep your cupboards and fridge organised,' she adds, 'and try to use the food you have before buying more, as this will only lead to a build-up of clutter.'

Your guiding principle, above all else, is mise en place - assign every object in your kitchen a place, and keep it there.

What is the French way of organising the bedroom?

When sussing out how to declutter like the French, it's important to keep rooms tidy – and the easiest way to do so is to adopt a Parisian chic minimalist approach, especially to the bedrooms throughout your home. 

'The French are unlikely to have excessive throws or pillows or multiple electronic devices in eyesight,' says cleaning pro Olivia. 

'Removing these types of items and having a simplified space will not only rid your room of clutter, it will also create a relaxing environment that will help you unwind and sleep much better.'

Kayleigh Dray
Acting Content Editor

Kayleigh Dray became Ideal Home’s Acting Content Editor in the spring of 2023, and is very excited to get to work. She joins the team after a decade-long career working as a journalist and editor across a number of leading lifestyle brands, both in-house and as a freelancer.