A cluttered home can start to feel like an unfixable problem after a while.
When you go through your house, decluttering over and over again, and you feel like you end up right back where you started, it’s SO frustrating. And really, you can declutter every day of your life, but if you don’t find a way to stop clutter before it starts, it’s just going to come right on back in a hurry.
If you feel like you’re STILL drowning in clutter even after spending hours going through things, it’s probably time to look at the behaviors that are causing the clutter. This is tough because it requires some actual behavior change.
It’s so much easier, though, to keep clutter from from accumulating than to deal with it after you’re drowning in it.
How to Stop Clutter Before it Starts
Let’s start with the hardest one first: mindful purchasing. It is so hard to stop and pay attention to what you’re doing when you just don’t think about it.
Clutter easily accumulates when you don’t stop to think about each purchase you make. If you’re just putting things in your cart and checking out without a second thought, it’s time to become more mindful.
I try to take a minute to look through my purchases before I head to the checkout, whether it’s clothes, toys, food, or gifts (Sam’s Club gets me every time 🙂 ). In that minute, I often find a few items that I don’t really need and can put back.
I try to remind myself that just because I like something doesn’t mean that it needs to come home with me.
Think First with Hand-Me-Downs
It’s a huge blessing to have people that can give you their hand-me-downs. Most of our furniture is hand-me-downs from my parents.
The problem is that hand-me-downs often aren’t what you would have picked yourself. They can fill in some gaps of what you need but they usually aren’t quite perfect for your situation. This can lead to having a lot of extra stuff.
A solution is think twice before you accept hand-me-downs. Or at least, look everything over very quickly and give back what won’t work for you.
The person offering the hand-me-downs is likely just trying to help you out and won’t be offended if you don’t need what they have. This can save you a lot of clutter!
Have a Year-Round Decluttering Routine
Putting in place a basic, year-round decluttering routine can help keep clutter at bay.
No matter how careful you are about your purchases, you’ll still need to keep up with clutter because you will eventually wear out or outgrow things. Take a look at my year-round decluttering routine here for some inspiration.
Put Systems in Place
Having special systems in place will eliminate clutter before it starts (as long as you actually enforce the systems!). Here are a few ideas:
- One in, One out: This works especially well for clothing. Don’t keep your old underwear hanging around after you buy new underwear! If something new comes in, something old has to go out.
- Open your mail by the trash as soon as you pick it up: This way, only the important papers make it into the house.
- Pay your bills right away: Taking care of bills or other paperwork as soon as you can goes a long way in keeping piles from forming.
Don’t Shop for Fun
When shopping is a hobby, you make it a lot harder on yourself to stick to the “mindful purchasing” idea.
It’s hard to buy things if you don’t go to the store! It’s very possible to buy all kinds of things when you wander around the mall for something to do.
Shopping for fun usually leads to clutter with clearance items that you can’t un-see and the deal of the century on five scented candles. Believe, I know this to be true 🙂
Get it out!
Though I do keep a tub in my closet for things I find throughout the house that we can ditch, I try to get things out of the house very quickly once I declutter.
We were given a couch a few months ago that was going to be used as a guest bed in the basement. After we decided that it wasn’t going to work for our needs, I made sure that it was out of the house and by the side of the road with a free sign on it the next morning. I just know that if I hadn’t been determined to get it out, it would have stuck around “just because”.
Donate or sell things as soon as possible once you have decluttered them, otherwise they might not actually leave your house. Plus, you’ll miss out on the fabulous feeling of a less full and less cluttered house if the things don’t actually leave.
Keep Your Eyes Open
The last way to stop clutter before it starts it to keep your eyes open for it. Really notice the things in your house. This is a lot easier once you’ve done some serious decluttering because you’ll see when something is added or is out of place (like I explained in this post about getting rid of counter clutter).
- Don’t just add a recent magazine to your magazine pile. Get rid of the pile and keep the one or two you haven’t read yet.
- If you get dressed in the morning and then change out of your shirt in an hour because it just isn’t fitting right, don’t put it back in the closet, think about if you need to keep it anymore.
- Don’t put the craft paint back with your craft supplies if it’s all globby and gross. Throw it out!
You get the idea. By keeping your eyes open for “future clutter”, you stay on top of things so that it doesn’t get out of hand and overwhelming. Just last week, I put some mugs and in my decluttering tub because we weren’t using them and they were filling up the mug shelf.
It can be hard to switch from decluttering over and over to not letting the clutter accumulate in the first place. It takes some shift in your mindset and habits to become more mindful or your spending, systems, and the items around you.
It’s much easier to stay on top of clutter than to be in a constant decluttering phase. Plus, you avoid the major feelings of overwhelm.
If toy clutter is your nemesis, you might need The Toy Detox. It’s a short course to help you declutter toys and benefit your child’s development (it’s created by a mom with a Ph.D in child development!). “Over 80% of families who complete the Toy Detox report that children play more creatively and innovate more as a result.” Plus, imagine your home without toys covering every inch of it ? Click here to learn more about The Toy Detox.