• Sheena Saydam

Clutter: 15 Ways to Avoid It (And Save Money Along the Way)

Atop nearly every agent's list of things to do when their sellers are ready to put their home on the market is "clear out clutter."

Most of us simply have too much stuff -- and it's weighing us down. It's stressful, and it costs a lot of money. In fact, the storage business has been growing like crazy -- we have so much stuff that we are buying more space to just to house our stuff -- it's a $27-BILLION business!

When it's time to sell your home, dealing with all of the stuff can sometimes feel overwhelming. There are endless books and articles dedicated to decluttering. I've written a few articles on this myself. However, what you see less of is how to actually AVOID clutter.

I've spent the last few years learning strategies to keep things relatively minimalist in my own home (because I was tired of picking up 7,243 items even before I could start to clean). Over time, it does become something of a fun challenge and once you get into the habit of not accepting clutter, you get pretty good at it.  Here are my top 15 tips for avoiding clutter in your home. We'd love to hear your ideas and eventually add them to our ever-growing list.

Without further adieu:

1. Don't go shopping. Ever. Yes, we all need to go to the store from time to time, but this is how we end up purchasing things we don't need. It's hard to say NO when cool stuff is all around you; you have to avoid the places that bring on the temptation.

2. Resist shopping for the kids. When you do have to shop, don't purchase anything "fun" for your kids while they're with you. This way, they learn to not ask for things they don't need, and when you do buy them things every once in awhile, they are super satisfied and don't feel the need to have more stuff all the time. 

3. Don't accept swag that isn't actually something you can use. And by use, I mean within the next 30 days. If it's just something you could maybe, sort of, perhaps in an emergency use, then don't bring it home.

4. Don't let your kids' artwork/schoolwork leave the school. I know this one is really controversial -- but, if your kids are anything like mine, they'll work up another 40 samples before the week is out. If you must, keep one or two items each month and take photos of any others so you can remember the art work. 

5. Cycle your books. This one is hard, but these can really add weight - figuratively and literally! Consider giving at least two books away for each new book you bring into your home. 

6. Cancel and don't order magazines. If you must indulge, try an online version or grab them from the library.

7. Take note of your beauty products. Lots of people have multiple shampoos, conditioners and body washes. The truth is that you only need one of each. If you can stick to limiting yourself to one of each - your favorite, perhaps -- you won't have so much to move around when you clean and you will have more space to dance in the shower!

8. Keep reminder notes to a single place. Love writing reminder notes to yourself? Consider a notebook you can leave open with the day's reminders. Or, try your phone's calendar.

9. Don't buy stuff on vacation or at sporting events, carnivals, etc. It's all about the experience anyway, right? 

10. Resist those 'life hack' products. When you walk through CVS or the dollar store -- or watch those sponsored videos that pop up in your Facebook news feed -- and you see something that could be super helpful and make life easier but isn't necessary, skip it. See: Your store's "As Seen On TV" section.

11. Limit birthday and holiday gifts. For birthday parties and holidays, consider asking that guests don't bring gifts. If they must bring a gift, kindly request something that it is actually needed or provides an experience rather than a material item.

12. Carefully consider family heirlooms. Another touchy subject, I know. I've heard countless stories of people feeling pressured to hold onto things their parents' parents once owned. And, like their parents, they kept everything in a box, stored away. Consider who else might be able to use these items or if it just might be time to take photos of the items and send them out the door. If they weren't used before and can't be of use now, it's probably okay to move on.

13. Avoid window shopping online. If you must, then before you hit that purchase button, ask yourself, "Do I really need this? Could I find another way to satisfy this need by using something I already own?"

14. Limit the number of shoes each kid owns. Kids' shoes can be pretty limited if you really think about it. Consider just one pair of tennis shoes (maybe a second pair if your kid is super active and shoes require breathing), and one pair of flip flops and, if you get a lot of snow in your area, perhaps some winter boots. Kids really don't need anything fancy, and they grow so quickly that limiting pairs will save you money, too.

15. Don't buy containers or additional storage items. This gives power to that urge to purchase more. If you don't have places to store stuff -- especially cool/pretty/fun boxes or furniture -- you'll feel less comfortable purchasing things that you don't have a way of storing.