Keep Clutter From Coming Back

Getting to clutter-free is only half the job; you'll need to develop new attitudes and habits to keep clutter from coming back. Follow these simple strategies for sustainable clutter-free living.
Unused Clothes

Unused Clothes

Consume creatively to cut clutter -- and lend a hand to Mother Earth. Repurpose or donate gently used clothing, or organize a wardrobe swap with friends to keep clothing in circulation and out of the landfill.

Photo by: DK - House Works © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - House Works , 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Consume creatively to cut clutter -- and lend a hand to Mother Earth. Repurpose or donate gently used clothing, or organize a wardrobe swap with friends to keep clothing in circulation and out of the landfill.

Home, Home on the Range

A primary cause of clutter? It's the homeless ... mail, toys or newspapers. Without a home, common household items wander, lose their way, meet bad companions and make the transition to clutter.

Establish good homes for your stuff. Newspapers may be folded and stacked on a coffee table before being read, then given shelter in a box while they wait for recycling. Devote prime domestic real estate to use as a Launch Pad for each family member: a location for purses, school papers, backpacks and briefcases. Give paperwork proper files so it never has to huddle in lonely stacks on kitchen counters. With a home to go to, good stuff will never become bad clutter.

One-In, One-Out Promise

The simplest way to deny clutter houseroom? Make the One-In, One-Out Promise. For every new garment, game, DVD or magazine that enters your home, resolve that one older garment, game, DVD or magazine must leave. For example, when this month's issue of your favorite magazine arrives in the mail, set aside an older issue to share at the library. Pretty new towels may enter your home only if the older set is recycled for use as car-wash rags or put in the charity bag.

The No-Buy-It Diet

Go on a No-Buy-It Diet to build clutter-free habits and avoid buying more "stuff." The No-Buy-It Diet is simple: find ways to rent, borrow or swap for items you need, rather than buy them. Try these No-Buy-It strategies to share the wealth and cut the clutter without buying new:

DVDs, videos and computer games. Rent DVDs, videos and computer games rather than buying them. Mail-based DVD services bring movies to you without creating video clutter at home - and you'll have access to a far larger library of new movies than that offered at the store. Borrow DVDs and videos from your local library, or arrange a video swap with friends and neighbors for a free movie experience.

Equipment for parties. Throwing a party or reunion? Borrow special-use equipment like punch bowls or coffee urns from friends or community sources. Churches, community groups and fast-food restaurants offer clutter-free access to specialty equipment for your celebration; at the end of the event, the items are returned for others to use.

Youth sports equipment. This can be costly and is often outgrown from season to season. Band with other parents to organize swaps of uniforms and equipment for children's sports activities. For example, ski swaps can outfit youngsters inexpensively before each season, and find new homes for outgrown ski boots at year's end.

Maternity and infant clothing. Expecting a baby? Other moms are an excellent source of gently worn maternity and infant clothing, so swap and recycle instead of buying new. Circulate a "maternity box" of maternity clothing among a group of young-mom friends. After the child is born, remove worn-out items, and add any new clothing before handing the box on to the next expectant mother.

Observe Oosouji

To hold the line against clutter, and start the New Year fresh, borrow a Japanese custom. To prepare for a happy and prosperous New Year, the Japanese perform oosouji, cleaning and organizing homes and offices in the run-up to New Year's Day. By this practice, they tie up the old year's loose ends and outstanding projects, and make room for the blessings and challenges of a new year.

Take a tip from the Japanese, and ring in the New Year from a clean and decluttered home. At year's end, create space in each shelf, cabinet, and closet for the new possessions that will come with a new year.

Trash to Cash

Cut the clutter and fatten your wallet by selling unneeded items for ready cash:

Hold a yard, tag or garage sale. Take out ads, and be sure to note big-ticket items. Use group pricing - "Four for a dollar" or "$5 per bag" - to encourage sales. Arrange for a charity to pick up any unsold items at the end of the sale to make sure you sell out.

Sell online. Online auction sites make it easy to find buyers for surplus books, craft supplies, collectibles or electronics. For easiest online selling, consider using an auction reseller, who will advertise your goods, handle the sale and see to shipping for a cut of the proceeds.

Consign it. Consignment stores aren't just for clothing anymore. Fitness equipment, baby items and children's clothing shops now offer an easy way to sell surplus items.

It pays to advertise. Place low-cost classified ads when selling big-ticket items. Many newspapers and community centers offer free or low-cost classified ads for private sellers. Use this service for a quick way to find new homes-and a few extra dollars-for unneeded appliances, furniture or fixtures.

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