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The very best decluttering tip: don’t bring home clutter in the first place

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If you constantly bring home clutter, you constantly have to declutter or find yourself in a mess in no time. Who has time to declutter 15 minutes a day, or an hour a week? If you do, you’re lucky.

Pile of cluttered items

Ways clutter can sneak into your home

It sounds simple, but clutter is sneaky. It masquerades as the bargain you couldn’t pass up even though you’re not really sure what you’re going to do with that thing. It’s the branded party favor from work that you can’t sell, re-gift or figure out how to recycle. It’s the mound of junk mail that comes every week. It’s those totally nifty things you buy on vacation or when you’re shopping for fun, and they’re so small and harmless you think they can’t cause clutter on their own, but somehow they breed into lots of small, harmless nifty things. It’s that thing your aunt gave you, and she’d be crushed if you got rid of it.

It’s simple – not easy, but not rocket science – to change your thinking and your priorities so you don’t bring home things you can’t use just because it seemed like a neat idea at the time. But what do you do if it makes you sad not to bring home clutter? If bringing little treats home was a pleasure you looked forward to, you need to change your thinking.

  • Put the cost of the clutter item in a piggy bank. When you see something you desperately want to bring home but can’t really use, check what it costs and instead put that amount in a savings jar at home. Label what you’re saving up for: a really useful bit of computer equipment, some clothes you know you’ll wear, a nice evening out. You may find you can pay a whole utility bill (or two) with the money you save this way, which is another cool way to reinforce in your mind how great skipping the clutter is.
  • Find another hobby. Find something you enjoy that doesn’t involve cluttering your life (or body, or mind), and indulge in that whenever you deny yourself clutter.

Getting the household on board

If you live with people who love clutter, it’s tough to get them to change. Odds are you’re the one doing the cleaning (I haven’t yet met a packrat who cleans regularly), so designate areas they’re allowed to clutter. A drawer here, a room there – depending on the size of your home. Warn them that if you find clutter outside those areas when you’re cleaning, you’ll just dump it in a designated area with no particular care, so if they care about their things they should take the time to keep them where they belong – or else they can start doing the cleaning, and to your standards.

If that sounds harsh, try asking them to keep their clutter in designated spaces because you don’t know what some of their stuff is and you’re afraid you’ll drop or break something. Most clutter freaks are collectors, so their “stuff” is very valuable to them and they will understand why you’re concerned about picking up and cleaning over their first edition comic books or shot glasses from ’round the world.

Also consider a storage locker for the clutter. Whether you’re keeping collectibles or junk, this can be an inexpensive way to confine the clutter.

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