Why is it, that no matter how hard we try, sometimes the clutter in our homes never seems to disappear?
The thing is, committing to a clutter-free lifestyle comes in two parts: getting clutter out of your home AND stopping more clutter coming into your home.
We usually put all our energy into removing items because of that sweet satisfaction of a before and after. However, it won’t stay that way without reducing the influx of new items. More items will quickly undo all that hard work and you’ll find yourself back to square one, needing to declutter again.
Adopt a new mindset about clutter coming into your home and you’ll have more success. You’ll reach your goals of a clutter-free life a lot sooner. This mindset shift means changing thoughts, behaviours and habits to support you in the long term.
If you’re ready to live clutter-free, here are a few top tips to help you stop more clutter coming into your home.
Tell people about your intentions
If one of the sources of clutter in your home is others, tell them that you’re working towards a clutter-free lifestyle. Being open and honest with friends and family will reduce unwanted gifts and donations you don’t need.
It’s possible to express your gratitude for the thoughts and generosity, whilst also saying a kind ‘no thank you’. It can feel uncomfortable at the beginning, but if you want life to change, you need to go a little outside of your comfort zone. Let them know how you want to live your life. They may even feel the same and will most definitely respect your honesty.
It’s also okay to suggest what kinds of gifts you’d love – experiences, making memories or simply spending time with them. It can feel a bit awkward saying no or asking for something specific, but consider that it’s most likely worse that your loved ones waste their money on an item that will go unused and unloved.
Stop shopping. Oh, if only it were that easy!
If shopping is a hobby, simply start by becoming aware of your shopping habits. When do you shop? Is it on payday? Is it in the morning or the evenings? What triggers the shopping? Is it attached to a particular emotion? Is it seeing something on social media or receiving an email? What motivates you to buy? Is it FOMO or perhaps feeling you deserve something new?
Observe yourself and see what you can learn about your habits. Then make small changes to reduce purchases, especially impulse shopping.
You could start with a total reset, such as a no-buy month. Perhaps set spending limits each month. Consider waiting a set period of time before buying something. Remove shopping apps from your phone. Could you live without the Amazon app? (I’m not sure I could!) Stay off social media at certain times of the day. Unsubscribe from emails that are filled with clever marketing tactics.
Anything that encourages you to pause before you buy will help slow impulse buying and reduce the influx of new items into your home. It doesn’t mean you have to stop shopping completely, but small changes to be more intentional with purchases will make a decent difference.
Aim for experiences over things
If you’re stuck in the mindset that rewards come in the shape of physical gifts, it’s time to reconsider.
Instead of treating yourself to that new handbag when you get a promotion, treat yourself to meal out or spa treatment. Switch giving children small plastic toys for filling their reward chart and instead let them earn a trip somewhere. Instead of buying a souvenir on holiday, take a photo and let that be enough.
Once you start to believe experiences are more precious than material objects, your home and life will change for the better.
Say no to freebies
Before you scoop up the hotel shampoo, come home with conference freebies from a work event, or collect promotional products from a make-up counter, consider if you really need them. Is your life abundant enough without them?
They may seem like you’re getting something for nothing, but nothing is free. These might not cost money, but everything costs time, energy and space once it is in your life (and costs the environment too). Before you take a freebie or are sucked into buy-one-get-one-free offers, consider if the ‘free’ item is worth the exchange of your most precious commodities.
Stopping clutter coming in through your letter box is a great way to reduce the volume of items in your home. Say no to junk-mail, go online only with your accounts and cancel magazine subscriptions.
You could also change your habits that generate paper in your home. For example, don’t print things unnecessarily, use a to-do-list app and switch to use an online calendar.
Check through your paperwork pile and see what paper clutter you can banish for good.
Finish one project before starting the next
Crafters and creatives this could be a good rule for you. Try not to accumulate more items to start the next project when you have several on the go already.
Ways to reduce this type of clutter is to finish the projects you have already started – only if they spark joy of course, otherwise you can declutter them too. Then consider limiting the number of projects you’re working on at one time. Could this just be one? If not, make this number manageable and enjoyable for you without generating clutter and disorganisation.
Consider setting a time period that equates to the volume of stock that you own. For example, you could store only as much fabric or yarn for a certain amount of projects, or a timeframe in which you could use them, such as three months.
Alternatively set a physical limit, like the size of a storage box or cupboard, for what you can own and don’t let new stock overflow from these boundaries.
Feel the pain of decluttering
Giving away stuff that you spend good money on is painful. Acknowledging that you’ve never used a gift someone else spent their energy and money on is difficult. Seeing your spending habits laid bare in front of you is tough.
Use this pain.
Let this regret, guilt (and possibly a little self-criticism) be your friend and stop you from making the mistakes of the past and support you to making better decisions.
You can’t change what happened in the past, so don’t beat yourself up over the decisions you’ve made. However, you can use them to create a positive shift that can change your future for the better.
The changes needed to stop clutter coming into your home
Decluttering is more than just removing items from our home. It’s in our minds, our habits and our behaviours. This mindset shift is key to reducing the influx of new items while you’re decluttering and is vital to maintaining your clutter-free home going forward.
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