The idea of living a simplified, uncluttered life with less stuff sounds attractive to many. They have considered the benefits of owning fewer possessions: less to clean, less debt, less to organize, less stress, more money and energy for their greatest passions. They are ready to declutter but some get quickly tripped up by the very next question… where in the world do I begin?
Many begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and defeated around the idea of de cluttering their homes. There is a bedrock belief among the clutter-afflicted that if they could only get rid of all the clutter, just once, the clutter problem could be solved.
It’s not quite so simple. True, it’s easier to maintain a decluttered environment than it is to achieve it, but there’s more to the problem than the mere absence or presence of clutter.
Clutter doesn’t arise out of nothing. If everyone in the family dumps book bags, briefcases, handbags and outer clothing on the living room sofa, clearing the sofa today isn’t going to prevent tomorrow’s deluge. Twenty-four hours later, the clutter has returned. Decluttering alone will not cure the real problem: the lack of family launch pads, and the failure of family members to use them.
To conquer clutter once and for all, focus on these clutter prevention ideas:
Get Rid of “Homeless” Items
A primary cause of clutter? It’s the homeless…mail, toys, or newspapers. Without a home, common household items wander, lose their way, meet up with bad companions and make the transition to clutter.
Establish good homes for your stuff. Newspapers may be folded and stacked on a coffee table before being read, then given shelter in a box while they await recycling. Give paperwork proper files so it never has to huddle in lonely stacks on kitchen counters. With a home to go to, good stuff will never become bad clutter.
Establish Clutter Preserves
There’s no such thing as clutter-free living. Even the tidiest among us still tosses clothing on floors from time to time.
Accept reality by establishing dedicated clutter preserves. Like wildlife preserves, these are limited areas where clutter may live freely, so long as it stays within boundaries. In a bedroom, one chair becomes the clutter preserve. Clothing may be thrown with abandon, so long as it’s thrown on the chair.
A kitchen junk drawer can house rubber bands, clipped recipes, and shopping receipts unwelcome outside their clutter preserve.
Children may use a flat-bottomed plastic laundry basket to corral stray playthings in bedroom or family room. A large magazine bucket in the living room is fair game for catalogs and magazines, so long as they can fit inside the bucket.
Build Good Habits
Focus on stuff-related household activities to get a handle on the clutter process. Build good habits to choke off the tendency to create clutter.
For example, establish a “returning home” habit or routine. As you shut the back door, hang the car keys on a hook just above the light switch. Put jackets and coats in the right place instead of throwing them all over the place.
Habits, once adopted, kick in as a mindless protective device. To stay clutter-free, work hard on new clutter-busting habits as you declutter.
One In, One Out
For more exotic clutter contenders, adopt a one-in, one-out rule. From here on out, when you buy a new pot, shirt or magazine, an old pot, shirt or magazine must be discarded, recycled or donated.
One-in, one-out keeps the level of stuff below the clutter point by limiting total numbers. Want to bump up downsizing? Adopt a variation of the rule: One In, Two Out. You’ll reduce surplus stuff, painlessly.
Observing the One In, One Out rule can also save money. Charmed as you may be with that colorful antique bowl, buying takes on new importance when one of your current favorites will have be discarded as a result.
Finally, focus on out-of-house resources to whittle down the sheer number of things that enter home. For example, there’s no need to buy, keep, sort and store back issues of magazines once you realize that the public library provides this very service for free!
Rent, don’t buy specialty tools for home repair projects. Swap garden tools or hobby equipment with a neighbor. Borrow books from the library instead of buying books you will never read hence creating more clutter.
The less you permit stuff to get a foot in the door, the less clutter will grow in your organized home!