By Leo Babauta
So you’ve been making progress with the clutter (a little at a time, but it’s progress!) … but the problem is the clutter keeps coming back.
This is a really common problem. You’re not alone. I dealt with it myself for at least a year, until I figured out some strategies that work.
If you don’t figure out strategies that work for you, your hard work with clutter will all be in vain. It’ll creep back, until you’re right where you started.
Here are the strategies that work for me:
- Create the habit of putting things away. Don’t let things pile up and then have to declutter again … instead, put them away when you’re done using them. This takes repetition, and you’ll mess up for awhile, but make an effort to create this habit. If you forget, but then notice it a little later, take the time to put it away at that moment. Cultivate awareness, and put things away as you go.
- Get used to the clear space. Once you clear a space, pause and enjoy it. Get used to this clear space. Once this becomes your new normal, your new standard, you’ll notice when there’s clutter there. And you’ll take a moment to clear it.
- Find the sources and stop them. Clutter comes into your house from all different sources. Start recognizing those sources — kids’ papers and artwork from school, junk mail, free stuff you get from events or races, gifts, your own shopping. Notice these sources, and take steps to reduce or eliminating them.
- Talk to people about gifts. One big source of incoming clutter is gifts. I took the time to talk to family and friends and ask them not to give me gifts, and suggested we do things together instead. I also said consumables or experiential gifts are preferred over clutter. Now, some people don’t heed this, but then I talk to them again, and I definitely don’t feel guilty about giving the gifts away if they ignore what I told them.
- Say no to things. When people try to give you things, at the office, at an event, at a race, etc. … just say no. After awhile, this becomes second nature, but it can feel weird at first if you’re not used to it. Just think about this: do you really want this free thing in your life? Do you want to have to deal with decluttering it later? It’s going to add stress and effort to your life, so don’t take it and you’ll avoid all that.
- Regularly review & declutter. Set up appointments to review a room or closet that you’ve already decluttered, and declutter again. A good idea is to do this every month, but choose a different room/closet during that monthly declutter review. Because you’ve already decluttered, it should be easier, but it’s worth doing a regular review so that things never get too bad.