3 Essential Steps to Clutter Control

by Tameka Norris - Date: 2007-11-22 - Word Count: 1353 Share This!

Ever wonder why you have so much trouble with clutter taking over your home? If so, there are 3 essential steps you can do to keep clutter under control.

Step 1: Decide whether you are living in what-is land or what-if land.

The first thing you can do is decide if you are holding onto a lot of things as a result of "just-in-case" scenarios.

You may be indirectly inviting clutter in your home if you are keeping things in order to prepare for situations that rarely occur.

Preparation is fine but only up to a certain point. It's one thing to keep some things you think you might need. But there comes a time in which you must draw the line and learn to live with the circumstances of "right now."

Truthfully, you may not enjoy hoarding. You probably just want to be cautious, but haven't found a logical system on how to separate items which may be essentially important to you from items that are no longer substantially important to you.

As a result it becomes difficult to figure out what items belong on the "must keep" and "must go" list.

So, it all really boils down to strategy.

And once you find the right strategy, you'll find that letting go of things is a heck of a lot easier.

And that's what we're going to talk about now.

Step 2: Set guidelines for quantity-in/quantity-out flow.

The second thing you'll want to do to control clutter is to set guidelines for yourself.

Setting guidelines is what I consider to be the short-term clutter clearing process.

It is done routinely. It's handled on a daily and weekly basis, and it's what keeps clutter down to a minimum so that when you finally get around to doing the big clean-up it's a lot easier to handle things.

As obvious as it might seem, the majority of us do not have a set of guidelines for quantity-in and quantity-out.

We allow plenty of things to come into our homes without giving much thought to keeping things balanced. Spring cleaning once a year just can't compete with the consistency of buying things every couple of weeks.

And as a result we end up having more things than we know what to do with.

To get things back on track your quantity-out flow should be on par with your quantity-in flow.

That means when you're buying certain items for your home, it's a good idea to consider getting rid of equal amount of items at that point in time.

Let's use DVD buying as an example.

Just about all of us love movies. I'm a movie fan just like anyone else, and although I like to watch movies I'm very specific about allowing too many movies into my home.

I am particular about it for several reasons. The most obvious reason is clutter. Another reason is that I don't want to spend too much of my quality time watching movies. If I am a fanatic about DVD collecting, chances are other things in my life are getting neglected.

So in order to keep the balance I only allow a certain amount of DVDs in my home at one time.

Generally this number ranges around 5-7 DVDs. Maximum allotment is no more than about 10 DVDs. Once I reach my range of 5-7 DVDs and I've grown bored with them, I sell one or all of them and replace them with new movies of interest.

In the midst of all of this I rent or check movies out at the library so that I still have the chance to see new movies, but I never own more than my quantity allotment at one time.

And as I said above, this helps me keep clutter down to a minimum. And it also keeps me attentive to how I spend my quality time.

It keeps the quantity-in and quantity-out flow in harmony and I don't have to seek extra storage for a habit (of movie collecting) that's grown out of hand.

This is how I handle many things in my home, from dishware to books. I create a simple (mental) quality-in and quality-out allotment and I'm careful not to step over the boundaries.

I frequently ask myself...

1. What will I allow in my home?

2. What is the designated allotment of a specific type of item that is allowed in my home (quantity-in) before it's time to replace that allotment (quantity-out)?

...so that I can control my items rather than having my items control me.

The end result is a simple organized system that puts money I've spent back into my pocket many times over while reducing clutter.

Step 3: Take inventory every 3 months and do a major clean-up.

The third thing you can do for yourself is take inventory and do a major clean-up every 3 or so months.

This is what I like to consider the long-term clutter clearing process. It's handled on a monthly basis or every several months and it helps you tidy up what cannot be achieved daily or weekly basis.

Generally, getting rid of things is often a black and white process for many people, but in my opinion there's actually a gray area in between that's often ignored or overlooked during a major clean-up.

This is the area that I believe helps a lot of us transition from being hoarders to getting rid of things appropriately.

As well, I think it also helps most of us hold on to things we may need in the future rather than dumping them prematurely.

It is the safety-net phase. The phase that makes all of the difference.

What you would consider as a grace period.

During a major clean-up there will be times in which you run across items you aren't quite sure you should get rid of. An item in which you might want to keep "just in case."

To make certain that you're not keeping items that should be gotten rid of, you should ask yourself this...

"How will I manage if it turns out I need this item and I don't have it?"

If it's going to be some major trouble to get it and it's gone, then you've got your answer. Chances are good you should keep it.

But if it's easy to replace with a few bucks and a few minutes of your time if you should ever need it again, then chances are good you can get rid of it (donate it or sell it) without any trouble.

But what happens if you're really not sure and it would be a big mistake to get rid of it?

Well, this is where the grace period comes in.

Rather than decide for certain what to do with that item, you can place it on your mental inventory list and give it a 3 month grace period.

That is, simply leave it where it is. Don't get rid of it. Let it be.

Allow yourself 3 more months before you return to it (during your next major clean-up). And once you return to it again you can then ask yourself whether you still need it.

If you're not sure, you're welcome to give it another grace period but generally once you've reached your 6 month grace period and you haven't used it it's usually safe to get rid of it.

Use your common sense and gut instinct. There will always be certain situations in which these rules don't apply and you will have to go on your own intuition.

However, the basic set of guidelines will help you remove doubt with most items. This will in turn help you reduce clutter and gain control over your possessions.

And isn't that the point...

Gaining control of your possessions so that they no longer continue to control you.

About the Author
Tameka Norris has been living in small spaces since she was 10 years old. She now runs a website titled Furniture for Small Spaces to help people who go through the same frustrating circumstance of trying to make big bulky furniture fit in places that barely offer enough room. She offers nifty tips and tactics, a Q & A section for people in need of answers, photos of her own small space trials, projects for the DIYer and recommendations on furniture choices.

Related Tags: clutter control, clear clutter, organizing clutter, minimizing clutter

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