Clutter doesn't appear out of thin air: At one point or another, you carried each of the items in that pileup over your threshold. And before that happened, the stuff got into your hands one of two ways: by purchase (meaning you paid money) or by acquisition (meaning you got it for free). Use this guide to slow down the influx before it's out of control.
Because it's public, you're more likely to keep things pared down—closed cabinets and lidded boxes make it too easy to tuck away new stuff.
Limit items in a collection, like memorabilia or craft supplies, to one drawer or bin. When it gets full, purge! (And do not buy another bin.)
: $3, Avery Removable Print or Write Color Coding Labels,
Track whether you really use something (or don't): Tag an infrequently used item with a removable dot sticker labeled with the date, then peel the sticker away the next time you use the object. If it still has a dot after a few months, pack it up and donate it.
Yes, if it's good in pink, it might be great in purple…but do you really need both?
Buy things because you'll enjoy them, not just because you feel you have to complete a set.
If you have to add an item to your cart just to get the freebie (or a percentage off, or free shipping), consider whether you'd really pay that extra cost—$5? $50?—to buy it outright.
Bulk packaging isn't always a good idea, particularly if you have a small family. Buy bundles of nonperishable items only when you truly have the space.
It doesn't matter how much something costs if you don't need it in the first place.
Buying for the sake of buying always leads to purchases you don't really need.
Read reviews online to be sure you're getting what you want—especially for big-ticket items.
Keep one on your phone or in your purse so you'll stay focused at the store.
Look out for these no-cost sources of clutter:
1. Giveaways Nobody really needs a logo-emblazoned flying disc, calculator or T-shirt.
2. Hand-Me-Downs Take clothing or books only if you'll really use them, not just to be polite.
3. Presents You should graciously accept them, but you're under no obligation to keep any gift, period.
4. Inherited Items Grief can make it hard to let go. Use the tricks at right so you'll end up with the items that bring you the most joy.
Here's how to accept fewer things you won't use:
1. Know Your Needs Something may be "perfectly useful," but not useful to you. Unless you'll reach for it within the next season or so, pass.
2. Consider the Hidden Price Do you have a place to store this item? How about for the next 40 years?
3. Decide Off-Site Determine what to keep before bringing anything home. Once something's inside, it'll stay for a while.
4. Get a Second Opinion Have a friend or a hired helper distinguish between items with true value or utility and ones that are purely sentimental.
If you aren't going to use something, try one of these responses:
1. "Thank you, but I don't have very much storage space right now."
2. "Thank you, but those seasons and sizes aren't going to match up with our kids."
3. "Thank you, but these won't work for our lifestyle. My friend Julie could probably use them!"
Ask these five questions before you pay:
1. Who owns it already and might share it with me?
2. What do I have at home that is similar?
3. Where will it be stored?
4. When will I have time to use and maintain it?
5. Why do I really want to buy it?