It’s easy for most of us to collect clutter over the years. As humans, we tend to expand to fill our spaces. At a certain point, which is different for all of us, we find ourselves asking where exactly it all came from. That question usually comes up when trying to put all that stuff in boxes to move or when someone finally reaches the breaking point of too much clutter and decides to do something about it.
Can I be completely blunt and honest for a minute? In most cases, we’re the ones who put the clutter there. It wasn’t elves or gremlins or someone playing a prank on us. It may have happened little by little over time, but we (with a little help from some family members, for sure) are the ones who accumulated it. Now let me be clear -- THIS IS NOT A CHARACTER FLAW. A cluttered space doesn't make you a bad person, nor does it mean it's impossible to change.
So now that we’ve taken a minute to admit the problem, how do we deal with it? It’s all about creating good habits to minimize the clutter before it becomes overwhelming.
Shiny new objects
Compulsive shopping is a real thing, and it can happen on many different levels. For some people, it’s buying three extra boxes of pasta at the grocery store because it’s a great price. For others it’s that new pair of shoes or new purse or three new books just because there's a sale and the things look good.
Advertisers are great at convincing us we need that shiny new thing, whatever it may be. But do you really *need* it? Even if you’re shopping at thrift stores and garage sales and getting things for a fraction of the retail price, it doesn’t benefit you if you don’t actually need it in the first place. You’re still spending money, and it still contributes to the clutter. Resist the temptation!
Try to focus on what is a NEED versus what is a WANT when it comes to shopping. Ask yourself if you really need it, where it’s going to go, and if you’re realistically going to use it. If you don’t need it, then don’t get it. Another option is to institute an in/out rule—for every new piece of clothing you buy, you have to remove one piece of clothing from your closet. And if you're ambitious... take out two items for every one new one you bring in.
Mountains of mail and paper
Mail and other paper is a huge source of clutter for everyone. Every day your mailbox is full of paper, and 90% of it is probably useless to you.
Review the mail you get and look for opportunities to switch to paperless billing or automatic payments. You’ll eliminate the possibility of losing the electric bill in a pile of mail, plus you’ll have one less piece of mail coming to your house in the first place.
It’s important to have a system for processing mail. You know it’s coming every day, so figure out a system where you can sort it right away. Glance through the mail on your way back from the mailbox. Then when you’re in the house, toss junk mail in the recycle bin (or shredder if it includes personal information) and take immediate action on anything else.
Want to stop getting some of that junk mail altogether? Check out this resource from the Federal Trade Commission on ways to opt out of prescreened credit card offers, telemarketing calls, and other direct mail marketing.
Gifts and memories
Do you have a stash of frog figurines, board games, birthday cards, or other items that you’re hanging on to because they were a gift? Seashells from that beach vacation you took for your honeymoon or an entire box of baby clothes that your now 20-year-old once wore?
Gifts and memorabilia are another big source of clutter for many people. They’re often hard to deal with when it comes to reducing clutter, and that’s okay. It’s all a process, and it can happen a little over time.
But it’s important to recognize that once an item has been gifted to you, it’s yours. That means you decide what happens to it, not the person who gifted it to you. You can keep it, re-gift it, or donate it.
The same goes for sentimental stuff. If you still feel extremely connected to that particular item, that’s okay. But be sure to revisit those sentimental items periodically to see if you’re ready to let go. Over time, some may be less important than others, or you may decide to take a picture and let the physical item go.
If you need help sorting through your clutter, contact us to schedule a free phone consultation. We promise we won’t make you get rid of your sentimental items! We can help you decide what to keep and what to let go, as well as how to better display and honor those memorabilia that stick around.