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5 More Simple Habits to Prevent Clutter From Entering Your Home

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

Clutter.


You never meant for it to happen. But suddenly, you find yourself surrounded.


What happened?


Let's cut to the chase. In most cases, piles of clutter occur because there was no plan in place to stop them.


And now for a word from Ben Franklin:


"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."


Below are 5 ways to stop clutter from coming into your home in the first place, or give potential clutter an effortless way out.


1. Fill the Void

There is something about human nature that makes us want to fill an empty space. In some homes, that takes on the form of a closet crammed so full of random insanity that you are afraid to open the door. For others, it's the basement that now houses boxes stuff you might need “one day”: papers, photos, musical instruments, a complete set of human leg bones. Wait. Maybe that was just my parent's basement... In the suburbs where I currently live, more often it is a space that is both deep and wide. It is a 1-car or 2-car garage. The only problem is: there are 0-cars inside of many of them.

Instead, they are overflowing with camping supplies, exercise equipment, sports gear, holiday décor, pantry extras, paper goods, hand-me-down clothing, tools, hardware, bicycles, lawn and garden care, grilling supplies, shoes and socks, and an assortment of empty boxes.

Does this sound familiar?

Now, here's the thing. No one planned for this to happen.

What is more likely was that there was no clear plan for the space. Or there was, and then life happened. Regardless, what was once a big, empty space is now a storage unit that lacks climate control.


Garages are a beast to clean out. They are often hot and dirty and filled with a combination of items that have seen better days and items that have no other obvious home.


And while the results of a garage cleanse are initially satisfying, you are still left with a big, empty space just begging to be filled.

So I suggest you fill it up immediately.


Yes I am serious.

Begin by filling it with one or two large, bulky items that take up a ton of space right in the center of the garage.


I think you know where I am going with this. Fill your garage with: your cars.

And then, get really honest and really intentional about what else gets to live on the perimeter. In sturdy, well-labeled bins on shelves. Or hung from the wall. Or suspended from the ceiling.

Do whatever it takes to:


2. Be Superficial


There is a strange phenomenon regarding any flat surface in your home. If you set something down on on the floor or a counter - a box or some mail or a pair of shoes – in no time at all it has invited all of its friends over to join it and voila! A pile is born!

That's why a good rule of thumb is to be very intentional about what you allow to establish residency on surfaces such as counters, tabletops, and floors.

Using the floor as our example, only allow pieces of furniture to establish permanent residency on your floor.

What qualifies as furniture? Well, that is really up to the individual. But here are some examples from my own home:

A bed

A night stand

A chest of drawers

A table

A chair

A book shelf

A toy box

A shoe rack

A plant stand

A piano

A trash can (more on that, later!)

In addition to banishing piles, here are some other benefits of clear floors:

  • Clear floors are easier to clean.

  • Clear floors make rooms feel bigger.

  • Clear floors help eliminate visual clutter.

And these perks hold true for clear tabletops and clear counters as well.


Another great way to help keep those surfaces clear is:


3. Go Postal on Your Mail


Now, I don't mean that you ignore your snail mail box altogether. What I actually mean is that you deal with it aggressively.


Most folks don't have a plan for their mail that goes beyond the pile on their entry table. That eventually turns into a large plastic bin full of old mail. Or several. Or an entire room (true story).

Consider the paper entering your home the enemy and declare war!


Have a battle plan. It can be as simple as opening it on the way back into your house and chunking the junk (which is most of it) into the recycling bin on your way inside.


Next level is being ruthless about going paperless or getting removed from mailing lists. Most mailers have a customer service email or phone number you can contact, or better yet, an unsubscribe option on their website.


The less mail that makes it into your home, the less likely it is to become – you guessed it – a pile.


4. Talk Trash


Many of the rooms that I help declutter have a common trait. They are dumps.


Now before you get offended, that's not what I meant. According to Dictionary.com, a dump is “an accumulation of discarded garbage, refuse, etc... a place where garbage, refuse, etc., is deposited.”

In other words, a dump is a place where you find piles of used packaging, empty beverage containers, food wrappers, and tags removed from clothing.


These are the most common items found on the floors of the homes I help organize. And after glancing around, I understand why.


There is something missing from almost every littered room I've ever been in:


It's a big ol' trash can!

Every time I suggest purchasing one – something realistically-sized so they can get more than a gum wrapper in it, and lidless so they aren't tempted to pile stuff on top of it - I am told that the presence of a trash can will ruin the décor.


I will give you a moment to let that sink in.


When given the choice between living in a landfill or having a trash can, they choose the former.


Let me shoot straight with you. You've got to make getting the garbage out of the house as convenient as possible. And that means, like finding a place for everything else in your house, you need to give garbage a home.


And if you don't like how it looks, hide it in a cute laundry hamper. A lidless one, that is.


;)


5. Admit That Size Matters


House size, that is. Get your head out of the gutter, people!


During consultation calls, folks will often share their confusion regarding the cluttered state of their homes. They just moved into the house a few years ago. This house is twice the size of their old house. And yet it is full of stuff.


I tell them the truth. A bigger house = a bigger container.


Whatever habits you had in your previous home regarding your belongings were packed up and brought with you into your new home.


So, when considering the size of your next home, think smaller. With less storage. And no off-site storage (that's cheating!) It will literally force you to live with less.


Final Thoughts


Most folks can easily identify the sources of the clutter that enters their home, but are unsure how to stop the invasion.


It's time to declare war! It could be as simple as purchasing a trash can for each bedroom and bathroom in your home. Or taking a new route from the mailbox to the recycling bin on your way inside. Or as challenging as making room for your car in the garage. Or clearly defining what can live on the floor. Or moving into a smaller home.


Regardless, if what you have been doing up to this point has resulted in piles of clutter, it's time to get radical. Experiment with some of the new ways of doing things listed here, or in this blog. Give it at least a month.


If you feel overwhelmed and don't know where to begin, there is no shame in asking for help. A professional home organizer near you can be there to help you get fearless, stay focused, and transform your space.

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