10 Ways to Prevent Clutter

“How did I let it get this way?”

A look of disbelief and regret typically accompanies this statement and I hear it a lot from family, friends, and customers.

Clutter happens. Unless you are vigilant, intentional, and extremely aware, it happens.

Here are three ways you can keep clutter at bay.

Stuff In = Stuff Out Any time you find yourself bringing in new clothing, new kitchen tools, new decorating elements, find something that can go away. When my girls were in the house, I found it interesting to see them shop for clothing, then go straight to their closets with their new “permission” to get rid of shirts or jeans that had grown weary with wear. When something comes in, something else needs to go out!

Donation Location Designate a permanent bin for collecting donation items. You can use a shopping bag, a laundry basket, lined trash can. Having a designated bin encourages its use and develops the habit of items flowing out of your home.

Ask the Question Train yourself to ask this question of everything in your home: what gives you the right to live in my house? If you train yourself to look at why you’re keeping stuff, you’ll establish a filter that will become second nature as you go through daily routines. When you reach for the travel mug and see old Sonic plastic cup sitting at the back of the cabinet shelf, you’ll toss it in recycling without breathing hard. The sweater that you never wore this winter will find its way into the donation bin with one toss.

Be a House Detective Look for traffic jams in your home. Where does stuff pile up? What direction does life flow through your house as people come in the door, dump stuff, then leave? Observe your household’s behavior and you’ll find important clues for areas that may need hooks installed on walls for jackets or backpacks, a basket on a countertop to receive the daily mail, or a handy paper recycling bin for sorting through the day’s papers.

Think Out of the Box Just because the floor plan says “pantry” doesn’t mean you have to store food there. Just because the closet is in a bedroom doesn’t mean it has to store clothing. A closet can transform into a small office. A pantry may serve you better as a craft supply room. I heard about a family that turned their formal living space into a bunk house because they had so many kids spending the night with their children. This is your house — make it work for you!

Pick Up as You Go This is a big one. Developing the habit of picking up as you go, and teaching the other members of your household to do the same, will change your world. Before you go upstairs, what can you bring along with you and put away, along the way? Before you walk to the other end of the house, what can you carry along and deposit in the hall closet as you pass by? Avoid double and triple trips through your home — pick up and put away as you go.

Make Your Bed I know this one sounds crazy but it’s true. When you thoroughly make your bed, accent pillows and all, every day, something clicks into place in your attitude that puts you into a disciplined mindset. Your room immediately looks better. And the momentum begins.

Treat Paper Like a Pet When you have a disobedient critter, you find yourself saying, “NO!” a lot. Treat paper the same way. Don’t let it in the house unless it’s absolutely necessary. Create folders, files, or boxes that house every paper that you need to find again, and a special place for papers that require timely action. When you buy a dog, you designate a place for it to sleep, be it dog bed or dog house. Same with paper. Don’t take it into your home unless you’ve created an appropriate place of its own.

Treat Your House Like a Pair of Jeans Do you fit inside your home? You may be trying to fit size 14 stuff into a size 6 house. Take a hard look at your life and home. Do they reflect one another? Does your home represent who you are now and support your current life and position well for where you’re headed next? Your time and energy, as well as your stuff, need room to breathe. Remember, your stuff is here to serve you, not the other way around.

Connect with Your Heart . . . Consistently This is the big one. If you get so busy that you can’t even pay attention, stuff will collect. It will get ignored or just become “normal” in any room until you don’t even see it anymore.

Create time to breathe and take a slow walk through your house. Scan each room. How is it serving you? What areas aren’t working well? What part of your home creates stress for you?

Your home can reflect your heart and the vision you have for your life, your family’s life. Consistent home-vision check-ups are the only way to keep a well-fitting home that supports your ever-changing life.

Cars need oil changes. Furnaces need new air filters. Lamps need new bulbs. Even soil in the garden wears out and needs refreshing. You and your home are no different. Keep tabs on your heart and home to keep your vision fresh, focused, and connected. Keep tabs on these basic tools to defend your home and keep clutter out!

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