Decluttering Cure

12 Easy Ways to Prevent Clutter from Happening in the First Place

published Sep 15, 2020
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Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Apartment Therapy’s Decluttering Cure is a free 20-day decluttering program, guaranteed to leave you with a lighter, leaner home. You can sign up here to get all 20 lessons delivered to your inbox.

It feels like decluttering never ends. Because… it doesn’t. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the stuff you welcome into your home today is just tomorrow’s clutter.

But the good news is: That should make you feel more in control! You have the power to stop clutter before it even happens by bringing fewer things inside in the first place.

The whole concept of “bring home fewer things” comes easier to some people than to others. If you struggle with it, I want you to spend some time today really thinking about how clutter comes to be. You may start to realize that your frustrating clutter problems start long before the drawers won’t close and the closet won’t shut.

Decluttering Tip: Work backwards from your clutter problem areas and find ways to prevent that type of clutter, like canceling catalog subscriptions or making a one-in/one-out rule for clothes.

→ Create Your Own Decluttering Workbook

While it’s not always obvious which of today’s things will become tomorrow’s clutter, there are a few universal things you can do to prevent clutter in your home.

Here are a few to start with…

Credit: Samuel Borges Photography/Shutterstock

Day 8: Make one effort to prevent clutter from entering your home.

Yep, to fulfill your duty to the Decluttering Cure challenge, just choose one thing from this list… and do it. Leave the note, call the customer service number. Then put your feet up and revel in your clutter-stopping superpowers.

  1. Cancel a magazine subscription. That title you haven’t read in a while? Just cancel it, or subscribe to their website instead. Or just buy the one issue you always look forward to on the newsstand.
  2. Stop the influx of catalogs. There’s usually a 1-800 number on the back of every catalog; call and request they take you off the list.
  3. Get your address off physical junk mail lists. There are services that will help you: Check out How to Eliminate Junk Mail (& Email) Once and For All.
  4. Sign up for online statements from your banks, utility providers, and credit card companies.
  5. Set a recurring weekly reminder to digitize any papers you’re keeping “just in case.”
  6. Put a trash can or paper shredder by the door where mail comes in.
  7. Think twice before you print something out from your computer. Could you store this digitally instead? Tape a reminder to your computer, or remove the paper from your printer tray to give you a reason to pause.
  8. Set up a permanent donation basket near the front door and commit to making weekly or monthly trips to empty it.
  9. Implement a one-in, one-out rule for clothes or books or toys.
  10. Talk your friends or family into a “no gift” pact for the holidays this year. Or for next year’s round of birthdays.
  11. Tattoo “Say no to free stuff” on the palm of your hand. (Or leave yourself a reminder like that that’s a little less permanent—like a phone background.)
  12. Watch an episode (or several) of “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo”. You will be inspired to stop messes before they start.

More Ways to Participate in the Decluttering Cure:

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