3 Ways to Keep Clutter from Accumulating in Your Home

Simplifying / Monday, April 27th, 2015

Achieving a clutter-free house, room, closet, or drawer is one thing; keeping it that way is quite another.

It’s an ongoing process.

It’s true that the process gets easier with time, but it’s a process nonetheless.

Here are three strategies I’ve discovered to make it easier.

Skip the free stuff.

Earlier this month Tom and I went to the Kansas City Royals home opener. As we were entering the park, there were people handing out magnetic Royals’ schedules and small Royals towels, and we ended up with two of each.

We have a stainless steel refrigerator at home, so we didn’t have anywhere to stick the schedules, and besides, we both have them on our phones already. I ended up putting one on the garage fridge (where we’ll never look at it) and the other in the trash. Tom can use the towels as golf towels, but we already have four (or is it six?) others just like them from the Royals playoff games last fall.

My experience has been that you get a little rush of adrenaline when you see people handing out free stuff; there’s a bit of “I want to get mine” that surges through you. But our great time at the baseball game wasn’t enhanced one bit by the things they were handing out. In fact, it just became extra stuff that I had to cart around in my purse for the day and then figure out what to do with when we got home.

Despite this most recent example, I’ve been doing better at saying no thanks to all kinds of free things since I’ve discovered that they turn into clutter down the line. The key is to pause for just a second to consider if you’ll use or value what’s being offered. Sometimes the answer will be yes, but more often it’s no, and you won’t end up with extra stuff in your house.

Free yourself of duplicates.

Were your kids pacifier babies? If they were, maybe you experienced the same thing that we did: the more pacifiers we had, the harder they were to find. If we had only one, we knew exactly where it was at all times.

That seems counterintuitive, but the more of something you have, the less you tend to value it. And having more of anything creates clutter.

Obviously, there will be exceptions. If you’re not sure if you should keep more than one of something, ask yourself this question: do I ever use more than one of these at the same time? That will help you get rid of extra sets of coasters, carry-on suitcases, and sleeping bags.

Another tip is to implement the no duplicates policy right away when you upgrade something. Get a new set of golf clubs? Sell or give away the old set instead of leaving it there right next to the new one. The same for a new camera, cell phone, or winter coat. You’re not going to use the old one once you’ve upgraded, so rid yourself of it now to avoid the clutter.

Take the slow road to decluttering.

With apologies to whoever came up with the concept of Spring Cleaning, treating decluttering like a big project can be overwhelming. It’s hard to work up the energy or enthusiasm to clear out a room, let alone a whole house, at the same time.

Instead, let small – even tiny – decluttering projects become a regular part of your routine. Clean out a kitchen utensil drawer while waiting for the spaghetti to boil. Toss stained or torn clothing while doing the laundry. Or edit the contents of your jewelry box while choosing which pieces to take on a trip.

Always keep a cardboard box in your closet or garage for donation items, and put the results of these mini decluttering sessions there. When the box is full, drop it off at your favorite charity while you’re out running errands.

The slow road to decluttering is an almost effortless route to having a cleaner house full of things you love and use. And the positive results may make you feel ready – even excited – to tackle bigger projects too.

8 Replies to “3 Ways to Keep Clutter from Accumulating in Your Home”

  1. Yes! Be purposeful – even about free things.
    I keep a large plastic basket next to the dryer labelled “Give Away.” Rarely do I ever pull anything back out before it is full enough to call one of my friends with younger families.
    However, I have added a new twist to my de-cluttering. If ‘it’ has bad karma, negative emotions that drain away the pleasure I might have had from owning ‘it’, away it goes.

    1. Interesting, Kelly. What constitutes bad karma for you? Also, have you read ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up?’ The author, Marie Kondo, has a similar philosophy to yours, only in reverse: if it doesn’t “spark joy,” out it goes.

      1. Guilt karma! Great Aunt Gertrude thought you would just love to house this family treasure in perpetuity. “No, but thank you for considering us” is a wonderful way to not get those freebies. However, make sure other family members may benefit from the item; junk to you is a priceless treasure to others.

  2. The give-away spot is crucial for someone who might be a little indecisive like myself. Ours is a whole hamper in the guest bedroom closet, but I find it easy to throw stuff in there, knowing it isn’t really gone yet. Then when it fills ups and I recorded it all for taxes purposes, I’m think yeah didn’t miss this.

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