We like to think that by this point in the month, you’re starting to get a handle on letting go of “stuff” and reducing clutter. After all, we’ve dedicated all of our content this month to the idea of helping you go clutter-free as a New Year’s goal and are adding content daily to our clutter-free resource library.  So now we need to work on the next step. Even if you’ve only de-cluttered one drawer so far, you still run the risk of re-cluttering it quickly and easily. We’ve given you basic tips on how to stay clutter-free before, but today we’re going to give you some specific advice on how to stop, drop and definitively not re-clutter your space.

It All Starts with a Purchase

Clutter starts with “stuff” and “stuff” starts with purchasing! So if you really want to be sure that you don’t add to the clutter in your space, you need to begin the process at the point of purchase. Primarily, this means deciding how much is enough for you and then controlling impulse purchases. There are two methods to do this. The first is to stop and drop when you’re about to purchase the item and the second is to always give yourself a lapse of space and time to reflect on the item.

Stopping and dropping when you’re about to buy the item means taking time to think through the purchase before it goes into your buggy or bag. Yes, you clearly have a reason (or at least an impulse) to buy the item. But then take the time to walk yourself through these questions.

  • Where will you keep or store the item? How often will you use the item?
  • Do you already have a similar item?
  • What in your home would you get rid of to make room for the item?
  • Are you going to use this item more than once? Is the reason that you are buying this item simply because it appeals to a visual or emotional sense and not because you actually need it?
  • Is the only reason that you’re buying the item because it is on sale?

If, after asking yourself those questions, enough of the answers support the purchase without adding to your clutter, you are in the clear. But chances are good on most impulse purchases you’ll see that there’s actually no real reason to buy the item except for short-term retail gratification.

The other option, and one we often recommend, is to give yourself a lapse of some time. We typically recommend taking twenty-four hours between potentially purchasing an impulse buy and actually buying it. Often, by the time you get home and out of the retail environment, you’ll realize that you never needed or wanted the item to begin with.

One In. One Out.

The other simple rule for not adding clutter to your home is to always, always, follow the “One in. One out.” guide. We’re all working on becoming better in the moment of the impulse purchase. After all, the idea of buying more is ingrained in us almost daily by the consumer media machine, and stores (both brick and mortar and online) are very skilled at setting up impulse purchases that you have to fight very hard to resist. While the best way to avoid clutter as well as the other symptoms of addictive consumerism is to stop the issue at the point of purchase, it’s also possible to address it after you purchase an item. Firstly, before we even discuss the “One in. One out.” rule, remember that you are never obligated to keep an item that you purchased on impulse (unless of course the store has a no returns policy). You can always change your mind the next day and take it back.

But if you do decide to keep your impulse purchase, then the best rule to follow is to purge one item in your home to compensate for the item you bought. So if you buy that pink chandelier-style end table lamp, you need to recycle or donate another item in your home to avoid clutter build-up. For some people, this is a much easier way to control clutter. For others, this is even harder because of the emotional value that they attach to “stuff.” You simply need to determine what solution is better for you.

Finally, Consider Setting Hard Count Limits

If you feel like the two avenues described above are still going to be challenging for you, we recommend setting some documented hard counts for how many items you’ll allow in various parts of your house at any one time. Yes, the documented part is important because everything means more to people when you write (or type) it down somewhere. And it’s also a good idea to post your hard count limits in places that will remind you daily of what they are.

The best example that we can think of here is shoes (yes, shoe addiction is a real thing for both women and men). It’s very easy to wake up one day and be local Imelda Marcos. So set a limit on how many pairs of shoes you can have in your home at any one time – and set that number to be slightly less than whatever the large amount you currently have is! Whether that number is five, ten, twenty-five or fifty – post your ultimate hard count for the number of pairs of shoes you can have and then stick to it. If you’re at your limit, that means you’ll need to either say no to new purchases or follow the “One in. One out.” rule when you do purchase new shoes. Either way, you’ll have a definitive guideline on how many pairs is too many pairs. And, of course, although we’re using shoes as an example, this strategy can apply easily to whatever it is that you tend to allow to build up in quantity and clutter in your space.

Did we miss a way to stop, drop and not add to the clutter that you want to share with us? If so, just tell us about it on one of the social media channels below.

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