Decluttering Cure

12 Things Proactive People Do to Stop Clutter Before it Starts

updated Sep 13, 2019
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Apartment Therapy’s September Sweep is a free 15-day decluttering program, guaranteed to leave you with a lighter, leaner home by the end of the month. Sign up here so you never miss a lesson, or go here to view all of the assignments so far.

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Clutter isn’t like a wine stain on the rug or a scuff on the wall, because clutter isn’t ever truly gone from your life. It’s only stuff, and stuff simply collects.

When you grab a magazine you want to read, or buy a jacket for the cooler season coming up, you’re bringing new things into your home. Those things might be clutter, or they might not be (or maybe just not yet). Thinking this way, you can start to see how clutter is merely a necessary byproduct of living your life. It is things you once wanted, but no longer need.

If clutter is just a collection of things, then decluttering is the process of deciding what things to keep and which ones to remove from your home. And you know one way to make decluttering happen easier and quicker? Start with less stuff.

Today’s Assignment:

Do one thing to “attack the source” and stop clutter from coming in.

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. Start to realize that your frustrating clutter problems start long before the drawers won’t close and the closet won’t shut.

Then, take that newfound clarity and let it inspire you to do one thing—just one!—from this list:

  1. Cancel a magazine subscription.
  2. 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.
  3. Unsubscribe from email and paper newsletters.
  4. Request electronic delivery of your regular paper mail, like bills or bank statements.
  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. Set up a permanent donation basket near the front door and commit to making weekly or monthly trips to empty it.
  8. Make a budget or set up a spending plan for shopping.
  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 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”. Laugh all you want, but you will be inspired to stop messes before they start.

And don’t forget:

Clear three things from your monster zone.

How are things going here as we kick off week two? Drop a comment and let me know how you’re feeling!

All month long, we invite you to share your progress here in the comments and on Instagram with the #septembersweep hashtag. Or join our Apartment Therapists Facebook group to start your own conversation.

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