7 Ways To Clutter-Proof Your Life

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Clutter-Proof Your Life

Do you feel like clutter is taking over your life, and sapping your once-great determination to get organized and be tidy?

It might seem inevitable that clutter should overtake your space over time – but it’s not! There are things you can do – simple, but life-changing things – that can insulate you from clutter creep.

Here are 7 easy ways to arrest the overflow of stuff and keep your life clutter-free.

1. Make Cleaning Up Part Of The Task

What this means is that you expand the definition of a ‘task’ to include the pesky tidying-up part.

Um, what now?

You heard me right! You can no longer think of cleaning up as a separate activity to be done later – it’s part of the task, and the task isn’t complete until you’ve done whatever is needed to restore order to the space.

Thinking this way can be a major paradigm shift – and clutter shifter.

Whatever you use, take out, or cook with; whatever the kids watch or play with; it all gets put away as part of that activity.

Imagine how that would look in your life.

2. Become An OCI-OGO-er

OCI-OGO stands for One Comes In – One Goes Out.

Every time something new comes into your home, car, handbag, bookcase, briefcase, shoe collection, closet, tchotchke menagerie, or life – something old goes out.

This is a beautiful concept, allowing you to continually enjoy new things, but without any increase in life disorganization or clutter. The net amount of stuff in your life never grows. No more clutter entropy!

Now doesn’t OCI-OGO sound like a lovely way to live? Decide to become an OCI-OGO-er today.

3. Stop Shopping As A Past-time

Buy what you need, have what you love. Enjoy beautiful, fun, useful stuff.

But!

Don’t go looking for things to buy as a way to distract yourself, procrastinate, pass the time or avoid existential angst. You’ll just end up with existential clutter.

When you do shop, be smart about it and make a list beforehand. While you’re at it, make a ‘What-Not-To-Buy’ list, too.

4. Parse Everything Through The Love/Use Test

Things cost much more than money. They also cost time and energy: to purchase, store, tidy, dust, clean, rearrange, look for, shop for when lost, create mental clutter, undermine peace of mind.

Reminding yourself about the true cost of stuff is like applying a reality filter when you look at the things in your life. It will help you make smart, quick decisions about what to keep and what to lose.

  1. When considering what to buy, remind yourself that Things = Time and Energy. If you don’t need it or love it, don’t buy it.
  2. When considering what to keep, remind yourself that Things = Time and Energy. Whenever you spot something in your home that you don’t need or love, donate or discard it.

Applying this filter will stop you from tolerating clutter in your life.

5. Have A Ready-For-Donation Basket

In fact, any time you notice something you don’t use or love in your home, wardrobe, car or office, simply pop it into your donation basket.

When the basket gets full, bag the contents and immediately place them in your car to drop off at your local charity store or bin. Don’t leave them in the house, where you may accidentally re-discover them with childlike glee and decide to lovingly re-donate them to yourself.

Let it go. You’ll feel good about giving stuff away, and your home will be more organized, too.

6. Set Up An Outgoing Spot

Choose a convenient spot near the door for things that need to be taken out of your home – DVDs to return, library books, the gift for Friday’s party, that crossbow you’ve been meaning to give back, etc.

If you don’t have such a spot, you could:

  • Move a small table near the door
  • Clear a shelf in a hallway closet
  • Liberate a drawer in a hall table.

Make it a habit to check this spot as you leave the house. You’ll ‘improve your memory’ things more often, keep transient clutter out of your living area, and feel much more organized.

7. Do An Express Bedtime Tidy

Spending 10 minutes to do an express tidy every night will help to stop the daily accumulation of clutter.

Just hit the main problem areas as part of your bedtime routine: load the dishwasher, put toys in a toy bin, hang up clothes or toss them in the hamper, use a hand-vac to scoop up the day’s crumbs.

You’ll feel pretty pleased with yourself as you head to bed, and it will put a smile on your face when you start the next day.

Need a little declutter mantra to motivate you? How about: 10 minutes a day/ Will keep clutter at bay. (Yes I know I won’t be getting a song-writing Grammy. Nice of you to mention that.)

How Will You Clutter-Proof Your Life?

You don’t have to surrender to clutter. Defend your home and sanity with these clutter-busting ideas – and you can enjoy a happily organized world.

Which of these strategies will you use to clutter-proof your life?

More ways to declutter your life

[Image by Sean MacEntee]

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Linda says:

Absolutely love the reminder about make the ‘tidy up’ as part of the task. I used to do it with my daughter when she was little – we’d always sing the Clean Up song and put toys away before anything else was started.
Somehow over the years I got outta the habit – wonderful reminder to bring it back in, and gently remind the 16 year old that old habits are worth resurrecting!
Love your posts Michele – thanks!

rkelly703 says:

I will be working to incorporate all of these very good ideas!!

Uriah says:

ive recently started doing these things and, while I’ve noticed difference, I think it should be stated that this is a life change and, as such, not a quick fix. One shouldn’t become frustrated when they aren’t completely clutter free immediately.

What a great question, Judy. Gifts are difficult!

I think this deserves an entire post, so I’ll do one in the next few days and post a link here as well as on the Facebook page. M :)

Judy says:

How do you get rid of a gift? I have no problem getting rid of something I don’t like or use but gifts (especially those from my mother in law) weigh on me. I know she will feel slighted and upset – after all she took the time to pick it out and spend her money on it – if I get rid of it. I understand that my getting rid of it isn’t a reflection on how I feel about her but how do you do this without offense to the giver???

Charlotte says:

I love the OCI-OGO-er idea. I used to save the last bits of my makeup thinking I would still use it after opening the new one. This does not work for mascara. It seemed I always had four or more tubes laying around. Now, I open my new one and immediately throw the old one away. My makeup drawer is so much more organized now. Thank you for your wonderful tips.
Charlotte
Home Organization

@Chloe: You’re so right: knowing WHERE to donate can make you even more motivated to part with what you don’t need or love.

And I totally agree about getting your family to buy in. On that, these posts might have some useful ideas too:

How To Deal With OPD – Other People’s Disorganization: My Top 3 Tips
My Partner is a Hoarder. Help!

M:)

Chloe says:

Hi Michele

I’ve really got to get into the habit of being an OCI-OGO-er (love that!) with my son’s toys, especially at Xmas or birthdays. His toy storage is overwhelmed already and with only 3 months and a bit til Xmas I’d better make a plan now!

I think knowing where to donate to is the key to #5. I would say when you set up your donation basket, think about your options for where to take it when full. I sat looking at mine for ages before doing a bit of investigation and finding the best place to donate to.

I’d also like to add a way: get your family to buy into a clutter free life. If everyone makes a bit of an effort, your life as uber-declutter will be much easier!

Thanks!

Chloe

Colleen Kranz says:

Love the tips! It’s all about being able to consistently stick with it for the long haul and making it a part of your lifestyle. I’m organizing my home office today with free folders I got from Smead.

@Hannah: My pleasure! I like your post-it idea – it’s hard to change habits unles we really remind ourselves. Good luck! M :)

Hannah says:

This article will REALLY help me I think.. I accumulate a lot of new things and always leave cleanups till its really needed.. Im going to write these tips on post-its around my house till it becomes second nature! Thank you so much! :-)

You’ll LOVE the difference it makes, Deb! :)

I do most of these already but LOVE the idea that clean up is part of the task. I do that for cooking etc (would never just leave stuff everywhere), but am definitely guilty of stopping an activity (like reading) or task (like laundry) and not taking it through to the end with putting the book or laundry away right then. I do come back to them later but I can see the value in building it in mentally to the task / activity.