Friday, July 3, 2015

7 habits to stop clutter before it starts.

in our efforts to purge our home, we quickly noticed that getting the old clutter out was really only half the battle. the other (and apparently much harder) half, it seems, is breaking the habits that led to the clutter in the first place so that it doesnt just come back to fill the new empty spaces. i mean, if were being honest here, how often do you get things all neat and tidy only to have the same mess on your hands within the next few months/weeks/days? every time, right? 

well, it doesn't have to be that way. IF you work really hard at replacing the bad habits that created the clutter habits with good habits that stop clutter from happening in the first place. its not easy (especially in a house with multiple disorganized people), but its not impossible. i mean, for the first time, our place is staying clean, and thats saying a lot. 

so, after you make the BIG changes to de-clutter your home (the getting rid of things part), what are the small changes (new habits), that can help you keep it clutter free?

1. make a stuff in < stuff out rule. early on, i noticed that a LOT of our clutter came from overbuying: extra groceries, impulse purchases at target or the dollar store, and clearance rack "deals" that we just couldnt pass up. but i also noticed that curbing our shopping/spending habits was not alleviating the clutter. why? because even though we were buying less stuff, we werent getting rid of anything to offset what we were bringing in. so we made a rule: for every (non-essential, non-consumable) thing that we bring in to the house, we have to get rid of at least that many things that we already have. for example, if we find james two great new shirts, he has to get rid of a minimum of two old shirts, if we get some new coffee mugs, at least that many old coffee mugs have to go out. 

2. use things up and toss the empty containers/anything you wont use. kitchens and bathrooms get cluttered FAST with all the partially-used containers of things that tend to accumulate in them, and while some of that is necessary (i mean, you do have to have cleaning supplies and ingredients to cook with), it can be incredibly eye opening to say, round up all of the lotions in your entire house, throw away the ones you dont like (no sense in keeping anything you wont actually use) and not buy any more lotion until what you have completely runs out (this is a thing i actually did and i did not buy lotion for approximately two years). also, when things run out, throw the container away immediately. this will 1. free up a lot of space, and 2. stop the frustration of trying to figure out which shampoo bottle in the shower actually has shampoo still in it. 

3. deal with mail immediately (and go paperless if you can). bills, grocery store ads, coupons, newspapers, junk mail and the like can pile up and swallow whole tables if left unchecked. it happens to everyone, but who wants to spend forever sorting through all that mess? nobody, thats who. thankfully you can avoid this whole mess (and save a ton of time) by throwing away the mail you wont use before you even set it down (on tuesdays i literally pull the sprouts ad out on the way to the trash with the grocery circulars), and then on the off chance that theres a bill or form or something that needs paid/filled out, take care of that right away (this is also a great way to not get super behind/disorganized with important paperwork). 

4. never throw away an empty box (or bag).  no, im not saying hoard all your boxes and bags. what i am saying is that when you find yourself with a particularly large container thats getting thrown out anyway (like, say, when you receive a very large package or come home from a big shopping trip), take that as an opportunity to do a quick run through of the house to fill it up with any other trash and junk that can go out as well. we kind of order a lot of stuff online, so you wouldnt believe the difference this habit has made in keeping our house tidy. 
5. banish clutter catchers. things like ring dishes, key holders, baskets, letter organizers, and decorative trays are all really good at tricking us into thinking that were being super organized, while all theyre really doing is giving you a place to dump things indefinitely and not deal with them or put them away. i used to love these kinds of things, but when i realized that whatever went into them just stayed in there forever taking up valuable space and making everything look messy i got rid of them. all of them. and things look so much nicer around here. 

6. master the micro-purge. obviously a big, dramatic purge is going to have the big, dramatic results we all hope for when we decide to do these kinds of things, but if you want to maintain a clutter-free space without having to go through the whole ordeal again, it really helps to periodically look through small areas of your home to see if theres anything else to get rid of. for example, every time i do laundry i look over our closets for things that are wrecked, worn out, or that we havent worn in forever, and pull out a couple things to get rid of at a time. i do the same thing when cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, and alices things too, and while it does add a few extra minutes of cleaning time, it definitely helps us avoid bigger clutter problems in the future. 

7. put things away. several months into this process, weve reached the point where the source of our clutter isnt coming from having too much stuff, or not having proper places to put it, or even not dealing with messes as they come in. the remaining clutter that we have sticking around is mainly the result of simply not putting things away when were finished with them. im not going to pin the blame on anyone in particular because all of us need to work on this: some of us are really bad at throwing our trash away, some of us have a tendency to start projects and get distracted before cleaning up, and some of us are three and just dont have a great grasp of where things belong. this may be the hardest habit to master. for us, at least. 

dont get me wrong, changing habits is hard stuff. but the reward of not having the house fall back apart to its pre-purge state as soon as we thought we were "done" has been oh, so worth it. 

do you have any rules, habits, or routines to help keep your living space clutter free? id love to hear about them in the comments!
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  1. Ahhh these are great tips! The clutter has taken over my home lately. So tired of it.

  2. Every letter organizer we have is a mess. It helps keep things out of the way but still another place to hoard things. T.T

  3. yes, the letter organizers are EVIL! when i went through our kitchen i found one filled with bills i paid almost two years ago...

  4. glad i could help, clutter is awful but it CAN be tamed!