avoid clutter creep

Have you ever started going through your possessions to try and get rid of a few things, when you come across something and think ‘how did this get here?!”. You might feel it’s hard to avoid clutter building up around the home. Maybe there are some piles in the garage or basement, or a junk drawer in some rooms.

It’s one thing to de-clutter stuff that are already in your home, but how to you avoid purchases becoming clutter in the first place? Since posting The 24 Hour Rule, I’ve had some further questions about how to reduce the amount of stuff that comes in the home. I had this question from a reader:

I buy some things faster than I can use them. I’ll use them eventually, so I don’t want to get rid of them. For example, I like candles and they’re fun to buy, but I have way too many and I feel like I need them all! Or I keep too much of something because it’s useful (such as paper and notebooks). I will probably use it eventually and it feels like I’m killing trees if I put it in the recycling bin. But sometimes I’ve had the same pile of paper on my desk for a year and it doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. I don’t use it as fast as it accumulates.”

And so, here it is… 4 tips to sorting things as they come into the house:

4 tips to Avoid Clutter Creep:

1. Does it add value?

When you’re buying something, ask yourself if you actually need it, and if it will add value to your life. Really question this and try to be honest with yourself about how much (or how little) you might use something. Does it add joy to your life, or will the happiness just come with the purchase and fade after a few days. Avoid buyer’s remorse and make sure it’s something you won’t regret buying.

2. Is it replacing something that I already have?

When you buy something, think about what you already own. Do you like this shirt more than the ones you already have? If the answer is no, it will probably be worn a few times and then stay in the closet. You can also use the “One In, One Out” rule: If you buy something to replace an item that is already in your home, stick to this! As one item comes in, make sure the unneeded one leaves the house. 

3. Tame the stockpile.

Of course it’s nice to have more than the bare minimum. This isn’t an exercise in frustration, but rather discovering what you truly need so that you can more clearly see what things are ‘extras’ in your life. We take so much for granted. Yes, there are obviously some pros to buying things in bulk or stocking up, but maybe it’s good to step back and see that sometimes we can use stockpiling as a band-aid for our insecurities or worries.

Do we really need to keep so much? Can someone else use it now? Of course it might get used eventually… but maybe it’s better to share what we have now with someone who really needs it, rather than keeping it for a ‘someday maybe’. There’s something to be said for just having what we need now. Reflect on this and you might be willing to live with less of a stockpile cluttering the house, fridge, pantry, or basement.

4. Be satisfied with less.

Is what you already have enough? You only need one toothbrush. One bottle of shampoo. Reign it in to what you actually need, rather than stockpiling.

If you want to push yourself further, challenge yourself by thinking about the things that you could own one and still be okay. One towel. One coat. One cup. Obviously you’ll probably end up with more than just one, but it’s good to recognize when we’d actually survive with only one.

If you get use to seeing things this way, you’ll find an amount to keep that is right for your home. And hopefully you won’t fall into the trap of buying more because you ‘could always use more of those.’

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