Before It Gets In

Keeping Stuff Out

Clutter is a lot like a bad habit: once you have it, it is hard to get rid of. One of the best weapons we have in the battle against clutter is to keep it from getting into our space in the first place. Here are a couple of ideas for stopping the clutter before it gets in.


Erect a Mail Barrier

Paperwork is a common clutter culprit, as it arrives each day in the mailbox. Remember to always sort the mail pile as close to your door as possible, trashing/shredding whatever you don’t need. Common items to pitch include outer envelopes, advertising inserts, and catalogs. Immediately triage the rest into action folders (e.g. “to pay,” “to file,” “to read,” “to respond.”) The key here is to avoid dumping a large pile onto the kitchen counter to deal with “later.”


Keep Sports Gear Out

If you or your children enjoy sports, chances are you’ve got gear. Try to avoid letting this into the house by keeping the bulk of it either in the garage, in the trunk/back of the car, or right inside the entry. Hang sports bags on hooks and remove the clothes that need to be washed, carrying them right to your laundry room. Equipment can also be hung or stashed in a rack.

Storing sports gear


“Spot” Before You Shop

Often we buy items on the spur of the moment, without having thought through where we will keep them when we get home. From a clutter perspective, this is dangerous. Instead, don’t let yourself purchase anything unless you can identify ahead of time the spot you will put it in when you enter your space.


Beware the “Freebies”

Whether it is a free gift at the makeup counter, free samples from an event, party favors, or a Happy Meal toy, “free” often costs us space. Just because you paid nothing for it doesn’t mean you should keep it. When you get home, look at anything new you’ve walked in with. Unless you love it, let it go.


Don’t Bring It Back

Many of the events and meetings we attend involve paperwork: an agenda, a speaker list, a brochure, etc. Often, we mindlessly pick up the paper at the end and bring it back to our home or office. Instead, before you leave the room, seriously consider if you want/need this piece of paper. If not, toss it into the nearest receptacle before you leave the room.


Limit Gifts

Even if we don’t buy anything, we may collect items as a result of well-intended gift giving (birthday party presents, grandparent surprises, hostess gifts, etc.) When people bring gifts, they are being generous and thoughtful, so we don’t want to rebuff them. Instead, communicate in advance about your preferences for gifts. Consider stating a “no gifts please” policy on invitations, and speak to family members when a holiday/celebration approaches about alternative ways they can show their affection (e.g. tickets, memberships, “dates out”, etc.)


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Once items are in your space, it takes energy to shed them. Be mindful about letting anything in. What are your best tips for keeping clutter out?