Tell me if this is familiar:
One day your kitchen bench is clutter-free and a calming beacon of white space. The next, there are three separate piles of papers, homework, catalogues, bills, handbags, mobile devices, random hairclips and Lego blocks scattered across the surface. You don’t understand where it’s come from, but there it is. Sitting in the middle of your kitchen like it’s always been. Taunting you and your futile efforts at simplicity.
That is Clutter Creep.
It slowly leeches in to your clutter-free spaces, frustrating you and making you feel like this idea of a tidy, uncluttered space is a hopeless prospect.
If you’ve been reading here for any length of time you’ve probably seen a post or two on how to declutter. (If not, or if you’re still looking for help in how to begin, try this A-Z post, this one that asks three questions for decluttering sentimental items and this post on the five steps of simplifying.)
But it’s this hamster wheel of clutter that I want to deal with today. How do we stay on top of the recurring clutter once we’ve finally got it under control? How do we eliminate Clutter Creep?
Last week I turned to my fabulous readers (yes, you!) to see if you had any wisdom to share.
Specifically I asked this question via Twitter and Facebook:
Can you share with me one way you stop clutter accumulating in your home?
And, as always, you blew me away with your generosity.
Just a Note: Some of the following tips are very small, some are quite grand, but all have the potential to make a difference to your home and your life. And yes, some are similar, but even a slightly different perspective can be the key to unlocking a stubborn problem.
34 Proven Ways to Create a Clutter-Free Home – And Keep it that Way!
- No recreational shopping. Stay out of stores unless I really need something. (Jennifer S)
- I reset to zero every night before going to bed. That is, I put everything back where it’s supposed to be. For my husband’s things, I put them on his laptop (my way of asking him to deal with them). When I wake up, I can tackle today because all of yesterday’s stuff is gone! (Alondra C)
- I watch Hoarders for 30 seconds… (Beth W.B)
- Declutter toys before birthdays and holidays. (Leslie L)
- Keeping things because I have an emotional attachment to the memory is a big problem. I’m slowly starting to take photographs of some of these things and it’s much easier to then throw or donate the actual item. (Glenne L)
- Take care of the mail as soon as you bring it in – recycle all that needs to be recycled, open what needs to be opened and recycle the envelopes, file things right away. (Laura L)
- Make sure everything has a place: shelf, bin, rack, etc…I’m very into organizers for keeping items tidy. (Alysha E)
- I purchased a basket for mail. Nothing gets past the front door without being processed before it makes it’s way throughout the house. (Barry H)
- Move out of your home and live in a camper trailer. (Beacon Seekin’)
- Walk from the mail box to the recycle/garbage. Nothing comes in unless it had to, and catalogs never have to. (Rosie S)
- Buy less. Try for a month and see the difference. (Leslie SN)
- Don’t buy or subscribe to magazines or newspapers. You can read all the news and recipes and fashions and crafts and DIY and travel journals etc.,etc., online! (Charles V)
- I stopped impulse buying. I only buy what I need. I research and question the need. Can I live without it? How will it benefit me? Do I have a place for it? (Laura W)
- Reducing our filing by scanning and saving copies of warranty documents, important receipts, letters etc. One back up hard drive or flash drive takes up far less space than piles of paper! (Glenne L)
- Monthly 21-item purges. (It’s an idea I found on YouTube.) You scour your room/house/whatever space you want and purge 21 unwanted items out of there in one go. To recycle, donate, pass on to family, recycle, bin. It doesn’t matter. (Laura W)
- Don’t bring it in to the house in the first place. (Kerin J)
- Kitchen bench must remain clear. I’ve even taken my fruit bowl away. Found things like that were a magnet for clutter. It starts with a button, then a tube of cream, some bobbie pins, the mail… Before you know it there is more stuff than fruit! The goal is to see the bench clutter-free all day. Things get put away immediately. (Rebecca M)
- Say no to things if you know it won’t be used. (Leslie L)
- Stop buying it in the first place, lol! (Kristin – Mamacino)
- Go on a no-spend challenge for 6 months, and don’t buy anything except materials for gifts, and consumables. Experiences are allowed, such as lunch out and time with friends. (Linda S)
- Put things away. You quickly see whether you have room or not and if you don’t, something has to go. But the #1 is not to bring it in to start with. (Patty – Homemakers Daily)
- For paper clutter, I just put a paper shredder at the front door. Shred all the junk mail, put the bills in a bill folder. Go through magazines and catalogs immediately. If I find things I like, I go find it online and Pin it on Pinterest. I wrote about how to hide the shredder so it’s not ugly here. (Christina - Little Victorian Blog)
- I make sure I clean out the fridge and pantry on bin day and shopping day. I find the fridge stays fresh, putting groceries away is less of a chore and we waste less and reduce the tendency to “over shop”. (Glenne L)
- Get rid of multiples and replacing them with one or two high quality pieces. (Christina - Little Victorian Blog)
- Do one extra organising job each day on top of normal cleaning. For example clean out a drawer or cupboard that’s gotten cluttered – that way it doesn’t get so out of control that it seems like a mountain. (Melanie M)
- I have a ‘to donate’ box sitting at the front door – making passing on things I no longer need very easy. I drop the box off at a local op-shop once its full. (Tricia – Little Eco Footprints)
- We withdraw a certain amount of cash every week to live on and stash any leftover to save up for things we really want. That needing to save for things has cut our impulse purchasing right down. (Melinda B)
- Ask yourself one simple question when choosing whether to keep something: “If I lost it by mistake, would I really care – or even be glad?” (Cassie T)
- We’re very particular about what we bring in. And we try to pick up before going to bed. (Rita R – This Sorta Old Life)
- Put things away, keep on top of paperwork, bin what is finished with, don’t keep magazines, keep a charity bag on the go. (Lisa A)
- If something comes in, then something goes out. We try to have a place for everything. (Clare)
On top of these, I’d also add three of my own tips for keeping your home clutter-free:
32. Perform regular clutterbusts.
Whenever you feel the clutter creep taking over (a telltale sign is feeling frustrated or stressed when you look around your home) it’s time to tackle the issue before it takes hold. Take an empty laundry basket and work through your home room-by-room, picking up everything that is out of place. Work as fast as you can, and fill the basket multiple times if needed. Empty the contents onto your dining table or floor and sort through it. Toss the rubbish, bag up any donations and put the remainder back in its place.
33. Do things properly.
When we scrimp on the details – fail to put away the toaster, forget to pack up the craft supplies, leave folded laundry on the bed – we are creating opportunity for more clutter. This is something I am guilty of, and can hear Sparky nodding in agreement. But it really is a key way to keep clutter at bay. A clear surface motivates you to keep it that way, whereas a cluttered surface invites more clutter.
34. Understand the limitations of your current situation.
While not technically a decluttering tip, it is one worth hearing. Unless you want to live in a constant state of stress and anxiety, it’s important to accept the fact that some things cannot be changed. If you have young kids, there will be toys. If you have school-age kids, there will be papers, and bags, and homework. These limitations are part of life. Rather than battling them every day, do what you can to minimise the problem, keep it from getting out of hand and then let it go.
Do you have a favourite tip for keeping your home clutter-free? I’d love to hear it in the comments below.