Even once you’ve simplified your whole home, clutter always seems to creep back in! Use these strategies to keep incoming clutter at bay, AFTER you’ve done your initial purge!
You’ve done it. You’ve decluttered–past tense–your whole house and confronted every object you own.
Clutter has an insidious way of creeping back in.
Have you noticed that? Have you ever wondered: Where did all this stuff come from? Why does my home constantly feel messy? I’ve sorted every closet but now they’re bursting at the seams again!
A simple home takes maintenance. Yes, it feels amazing to do that initial purge, but there will always be an ebb and flow of things, and you need to figure out how to channel it or you’ll end up drowning in clutter yet again.
Today I’d like to present you with the sequel to your simplifying spree.
Here are seven strategies to prevent clutter from returning:
1. Take Off Your Blinders
A curious thing happens when you grow very accustomed to anything, whether it be people, objects, or places. You develop blind spots.
You cross your own lawn so often that you become blind to the bare patch in your yard that might be obvious to a newcomer. You’re around yourself so much that you don’t even realise your posture is horrible (I had to put it on this list to remind myself!)
And you’re so accustomed to your living space that you no longer see the clutter hiding in plain sight. The first step to keeping clutter in check is to recognize it for what it is.
2. Give Everything a Place
Everything in your home must have a place of its own, or it will turn into that clutter that’s lurking in plain sight. For some reason, it took me awhile to learn this. Whenever I straightened the apartment, there were some things I just never put away because they didn’t have anywhere to go!
Case in point: Recently my sister gave us a bag of empty baby food jars. Little Dude has started solids, and we wanted to use the jars for homemade baby food. But I had nowhere to store the jars in our little kitchenette! So they sat on our table for a week, looking every bit like clutter. Finally I turned to Eric for help, and he worked his magic to re-arrange a pantry shelf so that they had a place of their own. That’s all it took! Now they’re actually useful to us, rather than speeding up the process of entropy.
3. Tidy Up Daily
A mere five to ten minutes of daily tidying does wonders to keep clutter at bay. I make it part of my evening routine. Don’t use this time for housework, just strictly for putting things away. Clear off your kitchen table, put away keys and shoes and mail, hang up jackets, gather every knickknack and toy that’s come out to play and put it back in its own spot.
4. Reevaluate Frequently
I’m a better simplifier than I was five years ago. The more I practice decluttering, the better I get at honing in on what has value for our family.
After you simplify your wardrobe or weed out your kitchen cabinets, wait a few months and do it again. No matter how thorough you were the first time, you will always find that there’s more you can get rid of. Pay attention to what you haven’t used lately, or what no longer holds meaning for you. I know it sounds like a lot of work to re-simplify, but it’s much, much easier the second or third time that you declutter an area.
5. Set a Budget
You might not think that budgeting your finances and keeping clutter at bay have much to do with each other, but they do. Through periods of faithful budgeting and not-so-faithful, I’ve learned this: If you don’t keep track of what you’re spending your money on, you’re going to spend more of it. And while some of that money is spent on consumables, a good chunk of it translates into physical objects that fill your space.
Set a budget for everything: a monthly or yearly clothing budget, a budget for home goods, a budget for items you need for the baby. Setting a budget will slow the pulse of your spending and force you to think through purchases. You’ll end up buying less.
6. Be a Policy Maker
Developing policies for the items you bring into your home makes you intentional about everything that crosses your threshold. Here are a few sample policies you can set for your stuff:
- When you buy a replacement for something, don’t keep the item it was meant to replace. New walking shoes? Get rid of the old ones!
- Wait a few weeks (or months!) to purchase an item you want. Are you managing just fine without it, or would it truly be an improvement?
- Don’t let your books, clothes, etc. exceed the current amount of space allotted to them. Bookshelf or closet getting full? Reevaluate!
- Try to allow only quality items that you know will have value for you. Is this something you’ll end up purging six months down the road, or are you going to get full use out of it?
Talk with your family about what your “stuff policies” should be. You don’t have to actually write them down (you can, though!), but make these policies a part of your mindset.
7. Understand That “Free Stuff” Isn’t Free
When someone offers to give you something, it’s tempting to just say “sure!” and accept it. After all, it’s free! But just because it’s free doesn’t mean you are obligated to take it.
Personally, I had to realise that money is not the only valuable resource. Space is a resource, too, and you must be careful about how you spend it. If you accept everybody’s free stuff with open arms, you’ll end up feeling anything but free.
If you’re ready to get serious about decluttering, I’ve written a book to help you. Your Simple Home Handbook walks you through 30 different spaces in your home and gives proven strategies to simplify each one.