Do find yourself getting inspired and going on a decluttering spree, only to find weeks later that all of the clutter has returned? Are you wondering why you can’t seem to get a handle on all of your stuff? The answer: bad habits. If you don’t develop effective decluttering routines and strategies, you will find yourself decluttering again and again, year after year. To break this endless cycle, here are the 5 bad habits you need to break, and what to do instead!
Why You Can’t Keep Clutter Under Control
1. You don’t have a home/allotted space for every item
Do you find yourself constantly searching for frequently-used things like a tape measure or the mailbox key? You know you just used it or saw it somewhere in the house the other day, but you can’t remember where, so now you’re stuck hunting for it.
Separate and store things in your home based on how often you use them – daily, occasionally (once a week or month), and rarely (once per year or season). Give every item a home that makes sense considering how often you need it. Here’s how to organize according to the three levels of storage:
- First level: Things that you use daily should be stored close at hand – and returned to their home after every use! These items are best stored in a central location like a kitchen drawer, or in a decorative basket on a particular shelf, where they are easy to find and require little extra effort to properly put away.
- Second level: Things that you use occasionally (less than once per week) should be easy to access, but out of the way. Don’t let items that you only occasionally use take up unnecessary shelf or counter space. The fewer items are visible, the less cluttered your home will look. Closets or garages can be good places to store these items.
- Third level: Anything that you use only a handful of times per year can be put into deep storage spaces like an attic or basement. Don’t make rarely-used items vie for closet space with things you regularly do use. And if you haven’t used an item in over a year, consider donating, selling, or throwing it out.
2. You buy things without a place or function
Do you find yourself doing a lot of impulse shopping? You see something you like or think is cute and have to have it. Or that sense of urgency kicks in when you know this amazing sale is going to end soon. Impulse purchases have a tendency to turn into unnecessary clutter.
Give yourself a 24-hour “cooling-off” period for any purchase over “x” dollar amount. If you still feel inspired and confident about making the purchase the next day, go for it. But most of the time, we end up realizing that we don’t really need or won’t actually get that much use out of the item, however cute or well-priced it may be.
3. You don’t have an “in-out rule”
Does your clutter seem to not only come back but actually multiply, despite your regular efforts to get it under control?
Use the “in-out rule”: If something new comes into your home, something else must go out. If you buy a new kettle but an old one that still works is taking up space in your cabinet, donate it! The same goes for everything from exercise equipment and clothing to coffee mugs and throw pillows. It’s okay to buy and enjoy new things, but donate (or toss) something to give the new item its own space in your home.
4. You accept everything you are given or find for free
Free is nice, right? Do you always say “yes” to free, whether it’s Aunt Freda’s China collection or that “vintage” table someone left on their curb?
Learn to say no, to others and to yourself. Just because something is free doesn’t mean you should take it! Free stuff may not cost you money but it does cost you space, time (in maintenance), and mental blocks when you have to part with it (especially if it was passed down from a friend or family member).
5. You have no overall vision for your home
Would it be relatively impossible to describe your home’s style in a short phrase or two? Do you even know what kind of style you want your home to reflect? This lack of direction can sneakily contribute to clutter. It’s far easier to turn down impulse buys or free offers when you know an item would look and feel out of place in your home. However, if you don’t have a clear picture of what you want your home to look like, you inevitably end up collecting a bunch of mismatched pieces.
Start envisioning what you want your home to look and feel like – and have fun with it! What kinds of color schemes are you drawn to? Is there a style or theme you love, like beach house, farmhouse, shabby chic, or modern Victorian? Do you prefer the look of sleek, minimalist furnishings, or soft, cushy seating? Are you enchanted by vintage glamour or are you a barefoot hippie at heart? Let your home be a reflection of who you are and what you love, and let anything that isn’t really “you” go!
Grab some home decor magazines and brochures from home improvement or furniture stores and create a vision board (or make one on Pinterest!). Start taking a mindful approach to what you allow to take up space in your home – and only give that space to things that you truly love.
Check out these 10 Instagram Closet Makeovers for inspiration!
One caveat – don’t let your theme become a reason to collect more clutter! Just because an item fits the theme of your home, doesn’t mean you need to buy it (or accept it for free). The cooling-off period and the “in-out rule” can really help with this. You don’t need that mirror that only sort-of matches your bedroom set, or that antique tea set you don’t actually have space to store in your kitchen, or yet another wooden sign with “life’s better at the beach” printed on it.
Changing habits takes time, so be patient with yourself! These guidelines should help make the process easier. From now on, before you add anything new to your home, mentally run through this checklist first: Does it fit my style? Can I wait until tomorrow to decide? What do I need to get rid of to make space for it? Do I have a sensible place to store it, considering how often I’ll use it?
When you’re able to let those bad habits go, the clutter should soon follow!