5 Decisions That Can Lead to More Clutter

posted by Andrea | 02/6/2017
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As much as I wish there was a sure-fire, fool-proof way to avoid all clutter for good… there’s not!

Maintaining a mostly clutter-free environment takes continual effort, regular purging, AND lots of good decision making as to what we take into our homes, how we deal with the stuff already in our homes, and if we allow our emotions to dictate what we keep.

There are lots and lots of tips I have shared over the years for how to better organize a space, when and how to purge, my favorite storage containers, etc. etc. But today, I’d like to share more about how a few simple decisions can make a dramatic effect on how much clutter we accumulate in our homes and our lives.

Of course, it’s not always as simple as making a few wise choices… but I do think that if we get in the habit of making better choices on a regular basis, our efforts to declutter and simplify will be THAT much easier.

Below are 5 decision that could cause excess clutter in our homes… as well as a few better decisions to make instead.

1. Saving Gifts, Even If You Don’t Need or Want Them

Do you have unopened gifts from your wedding, your graduation, 5 Christmases ago, children’s birthdays, etc.?

Do you save every scrap of paper, every rock treasure, every piece of “art” your children or grandchildren give you?

If so, there’s a decent chance you already have a fair amount of sentimental clutter in and around your home. Of course, I am not against saving SOME artwork and gifts, but for the most part, once I decide I won’t use the gift and once we’ve displayed the artwork for a period of time, I’m ready to get them out of my house.

If you’re struggling with gifts, here are a few things you might consider instead…

WHAT to do INSTEAD: 

Take a picture of your child/grandchild with the gift or artwork and let go of the actual item.

Allow yourself to purge items you no longer need, use, want, or love — even if they were gifts.

As a friend to help you weed through your sentimental items so you don’t get caught up with your own emotions.

Consider the fact that by donating your unneeded and unwanted gifts, you’ll provide the opportunity for others to use and enjoy them at a great discount price.

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2. Convincing Yourself that You’ll Have More Time Later

  • I’ll put it away later.
  • I’ll get to it later.
  • I’ll do it tomorrow.

Have you ever thought or said any of those phrases? And if so, did you actually go back to “put it away” or “get to it” or “do it” later?

The truth is, we almost never have “more time later”. Plus, putting something off until later not only creates PHYSICAL clutter via the piles of papers, clothing, dirty dishes, or toys you are eventually going to get to; it also creates MENTAL clutter by sitting in the back of your brain daring you to forget, constantly nagging you until you finally do it (or don’t do it).

WHAT to do INSTEAD: 

Just do it now!

I know I’ve said this over and over and over again — but there are very few things in my daily life that I put off until later.

Yes, I suppose if a child quickly needs to go to the bathroom or falls and needs my immediate attention, I will leave whatever I’m in the middle of for later, but I will resume that activity and finish it immediately when the “emergency situation” has passed.

In general, putting something off until later is one of the best ways to assure our homes will have too much clutter, our schedules will be packed too full, and our lives will feel much more stressful.

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3. Stuffing Your Closets and Cabinets with Extras… Just In Case

  • Clothing in all different sizes… JUST IN CASE you lose or gain weight.
  • Extra set of small appliances, steak knives, and dishes… JUST IN CASE you buy a cottage.
  • Bins of baby clothing… JUST IN CASE you have another baby (of the same gender at the same time of the year).

We ALL have a little of this “just in case I might need it someday” clutter; however, the problem arises when we make too many excuses for items we should be purging.

WHAT to do INSTEAD: 

Save a favorite outfit or two in the different sizes and purge everything else. You know as well as I do that IF you ever do lose or gain weight, you can find a bargain on clothing that’s more in style at that point in time.

Purge the appliances — IF you ever get your cottage, you can shop thrift stores for more.

Keep the gender neutral items (onesies, PJ’s, etc.) AS LONG AS they are in good condition — no holes, no stains, etc. — and donate the rest. Someone else will be able to use your items and you will enjoy the extra space in your home. Then, IF you have another baby, the same gender and same time of year, you can borrow from a friend or find deals at thrift stores.

There is no magic number of how much is OK to save and how much is too much… so it’s a matter of separating your emotions from your things and taking a realistic approach.

Realistically, how likely is it that you’ll ever need these things in the future? And IF you ever do need/want them, how difficult would it be for you to find a deal on a similar item? Sometimes, by asking a few questions, we can gain a little perspective on all our “just in case” items and more easily part with them.

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4. Keeping Something Just Because You Have the Space

  • Toys — because you can never have enough toys, and if you have room to store them, why not just keep them!
  • Craft supplies — you have them all stored so neatly that it really doesn’t matter if you only use 1/3 of your supplies on a regular basis.
  • Kitchen gadgets — you never know when you might need that special knife, and it hardly takes up any room in your knife block.
  • Extra sheets and towels — who gets rid of perfectly good sheets when they hardly take up any room? 🙂
  • Home decor items — they’re just in the basement (or attic) and aren’t hurting anything or taking up space from other items.

Even if you don’t have a large home, there are often still pockets of empty space that seem to beg us to store something inside!

I know friends who have kept (and continue to keep) ALL of their youngest child’s outgrown clothing simply because they have the space to store it. They do not intend to have more children, they don’t have any other relatives who could use the cast-of items, and they have no purpose for the things.

I’m guessing there is some sort of sentimental attachment to the clothing, but these people are using up an enormous amount of space in their basement storage room hanging onto stuff JUST because they apparently have the space.

WHAT to do INSTEAD: 

Be ruthless when you purge — really stop to think: Do I want this? Do I need this? Will I actually use this? Do I love this? and if not, get rid of it… even if you DO have space to store it.

Embrace “white space” in your home and be OK with an empty shelf, an empty drawer, an empty bin, or even an entire empty closet!

Don’t let yourself fill a space unless the stuff you’re filling it with will serve a purpose.

I realize there is some truth to keeping a few extras if you have the space — however, there comes a point when enough is enough, and I can testify to how fabulous it feels to have a little extra breathing room in our drawers, cabinets, closets, and storage tubs. Sometimes less really IS more!

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5. Bringing Something Into Your Home Even if You DON’T Have The Space

  • Piles of junk mail you could have tossed before it even entered your home.
  • Fun freebies and hand-me-downs from friends that you really don’t need or have room for, but it might be fun to have a few more _________.
  • Everything from your parents’ or grandparents’ home after they passed away.
  • The amazing deal on something you think you might use someday… but don’t have a specific need for (or a place to store it).

Throughout the course of my life, I have developed the habit of thinking through EXACTLY where I will store something BEFORE I bring it into my house. If I can’t come up with a logical storage space and I’m not willing to get rid of something else to make a storage space, I don’t bring the item into my home.

Of course, there are PLENTY of items that come into my house without my approval (papers from school, gifts for the kids, etc. etc.) but I do my best to immediately find a home for these items, or remove something else to make space.

In my experience, if you don’t have a home for something, it will sit out indefinitely… and if it sits out indefinitely, it will always be visible clutter in your home until a home is found for the item. If you have many items without “homes”, you have lots of clutter.

On the flip side, if you find homes for these items, you no longer have clutter.

WHAT to do INSTEAD: 

Stop and think before buying anything or bringing anything into your home (especially freebie things and extra-special bargains).

Toss junk mail before it enters your home so you don’t risk the chance of setting it down and letting it become one more pile.

Get in the habit of considering where and how you will store your items… and if you can’t think of any solutions, be willing to pass on the item

Consider renting a small storage unit for extreme cases (like acquiring parents’ or grandparents’ things after they pass away). Normally I don’t suggest renting storage space, but I knows that in some situations, the cost of the monthly rent is very motivating to help people purge or do something with the items inside.

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As I mentioned above, it’s not as simple as just asking yourself a few questions — but these questions are a great place to start.

If we can start looking at our things with less emotional attachment, realize that not every single space in our homes needs to be filled to the max, and stop bringing things we don’t need or want into our homes, we will be well on our way to a much less cluttered home and life!

Have you ever considered any of these questions?

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25 comments

  1. Roberta

    02/20/2017

    This speaks to me so much — especially keeping things because you have space. I was just thinking over the things we keep because we have the space. Slowly, my family is working to clear out the clutter. Thanks for a great list of things not to keep, and why!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Roberta! happy purging 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Links Worth Sharing: Week of February 18, 2017 -

    02/18/2017

    […] 5 Decisions that Can Lead to More Clutter […]

  3. Betty Saboe

    02/07/2017

    For some reason I no longer get your emails. I am signed up and have been for a long time. I hope you can help.

    Thanks, Betty

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sorry about that — I’m not sure if something is going on with the emails or what because I actually stopped getting the emails a couple weeks ago too!

    Anyway, I just deleted your subscription and re-subscribed you again (using the same email address). You should get a verification email soon. Let me know if you don’t see anything tonight. Thanks!

    [Reply]

  4. Meghan

    02/06/2017

    Great article with practical tips! While I don’t always try to implement specific advice you give, just reading your blog has helped my mindset when it comes to purging and organizing. I used to dread dealing with “stuff” and now I love attacking a drawer or closet. Thank you!

    [Reply]

  5. Lois

    02/06/2017

    Wonderful article! Have you watched the Netflix documentary on Minimalism? It made such an impression on me! Not a “how to” rather, a why do we clutter our lives with stuff? On vacation last week filled 10 bags of junk and know I can do 10 more. AND I would never have thought that much was just sitting there, cluttering. I truly feel inspired by you and hope you always continue to post your ideas to inspire the rest of us!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    no, I haven’t seen that show — I might have to search for it though!
    Also, way to go with purging so much stuff! I’m sure it felt great to get that stuff OUT OF YOUR HOUSE!

    [Reply]

  6. Rhonda

    02/06/2017

    I would add (as it relates to purchases) “just because it’s a good deal”. What gets me (and I admit, I have been guilty of this in the past), is that some people just can’t pass up a good deal – for example, my MIL has bought things (for her husband, myself and my husband, or my children) that they don’t need, just because it was so cheap! To me, two Halloween costumes (in addition to the one that I had already bought), is crazy! “But it was just so cheap” isn’t a good reason! It’s not a good deal if you don’t need it. I like the quote I once read that “the most expensive piece of clothing you own is the one you don’t wear”. So true, and can be applicable to almost anything else.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    YES!!!!!!! I know I have been guilty of this in the past — but not much lately. Even if I see a great deal, I make sure to consider if I actually need it, if I have a place to store it, etc.

    On the flip side, we also have people who give us (and especially our children) things we don’t need or want just because it was a good deal. There have been plenty of times when I put the items directly into the donate bin before even giving them to the kids or using them for Dave and I. I know we don’t need or want them, so I donate them right away. Sad, but true.

    [Reply]

    Rhonda Reply:

    I’ve started to do the same with gifted items that I know we won’t use. Now I just have to convince my husband! He still feels too guilty getting rid of gifts, especially from his mom.

    [Reply]

  7. Linda

    02/06/2017

    My children never wanted to get rid of ANYTHING, so started telling them that our family was very blessed, and that some children don’t have as many toys as we did, and that God wants us to share our blessings and be generous to others. They seemed to grasp this idea well, and as I would go through their things and come across something I knew they didn’t play with any longer or had duplicates of, I’d ask “do you want to share this with some children who don’t have any toys” or “You know how much you’ve enjoyed playing with this in the past. Just think how much another child will enjoy it next,” or something similar. They would more often than not agree that someone else would love it also, and it really helped them release their things. Sharing with other children versus “trashing” their stuff really helped them become more generous!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This is great advice. Thanks for sharing Linda!

    [Reply]

  8. Olivia

    02/06/2017

    So…totally random question…why do you have so much cheese in your freezer??? =D

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    It’s probably not as much as it looks — it’s just the rest of the freezer was totally empty at the time. However, we go through many pounds of cheese each week so I always stock up and buy a ton when it goes on sale.

    [Reply]

  9. Janice

    02/06/2017

    I read a great motivational tip which has really helped me get rid of things I don’t need or use. The idea was to think of SHARING with others who might really need the items more than you think you do. This helped me to go through my linen closet after tornadoes destroyed a large area of Joplin, MO which is not far from where we live. I was able to take several bags of sheets, blankets, and towels that we did NOT use to the local Salvation Army Tornado Relief Drive for Joplin. I think it would have been the height of selfishness if I had held on to those things “just in case” I might need them someday. Thanks, Andrea, for continued reminders that we hold on to way too much.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Exactly! I try to always think of how happy I feel when I find just what I was looking for on Craigslist or at a thrift store. Then I imagine others feeling that excited and happy about finding my cast-offs at a thrift store. It definitely helps me purge more!

    [Reply]

  10. Debbie

    02/06/2017

    Good read! I need to go through all my music books and music chord sheets I no longer play. I’ve got binders for church music sheets and it’s filled to the max and taking up room in our bookcases. I don’t even play them anymore but I’m keeping it just in case. Why?

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, music! I’m sure my mom and mother-in-law would agree that purging music is difficult. I suppose you could always give some of the music back to church??

    [Reply]

  11. Bonnie'sMama

    02/06/2017

    I love that definition of clutter–items that have no home.

    I will be looking around my home for Homeless Stuff, finding a home or getting rid of it.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yeah, that’s something I’ve said for years and years. If you don’t have a place to put it, it will sit out and be clutter — all the time, always! Even if you don’t always put the thing away, if it has a home, it won’t be clutter.

    [Reply]

  12. Beatriz

    02/06/2017

    I enjoy your decluttering posts, it’s a little reminder each time you write one to me that I need to re-evaluate what I have in my home. Recently I went through pots and plates and have a good stack that I need to donate or just throw in the bin. I am not great at doing this all the time but reading posts like this are a great help 🙂
    Bea

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Beatriz — I do think it helps to be reminded every couple of months or so. It’s amazing how quickly STUFF creeps back into our homes!

    [Reply]

  13. Anne McCormick

    02/06/2017

    I love your ‘what to do instead’ suggestions. My biggest challenge is saving just in case clothing for me and my little one.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Anne! And you are not alone in your desire to save clothing “just in case”!

    [Reply]