Conquer clutter - MoneySense

Conquer clutter

The solution to clutter is not to buy overpriced organizers.


I’ve noticed a trend on websites and in magazines of late: 7, 9, 13 solutions for conquering clutter. Hey, I have one solution for you: Stop buying so much stuff! (Stuff is my word for the far less polite sh*t.)

Inevitably the solution for conquering clutter requires that you buy more stuff: there’s the drawer décor kit that will let you trim-to-fit a silicone mat to stop your utensils from rolling around the in the drawer. Damn I’ve got to get me one of those! Or the $10-a-pop see-through storage boxes for your light-bulbs. I just keep mine at the store until I need them. Or how about a $58 basket to store your pet’s toys because a box is so déclassé.

I’m truly astounded at all the stuff people accumulate. Do you really need seven pairs of sunglasses? And if you already have three salad bowls, why the dickens would you need a fourth? If you’re thinking about buying yourself a caddy for your hair supplies, you’ve got to wonder just how much time you’re spending on your hair!

New professions have sprung up around our obsession with buying stuff we actually don’t need and seldom use. From the therapist that will help you deal with your potential hoarding problems to the professional organizer who will help you decide what to file and what to fling, now we’re also spending money for advice on how to manage all that stuff we bought.

Want to declutter? Serious about simplifying your life?

1. Put away your credit cards and live on cash. Now you can’t be tempted to spend good money you should be saving on stuff.

2. Don’t allow anything new into your home until you’ve decided what it will replace. This is the one-in-one-out rule for keep your house from gagging.

3. One at a time, empty every drawer and cupboard in your house. Don’t forget the basement and the garage. Only put back the things you need and will use. Everything else gets divvied up into three boxes: sell, gift to charity or dump. Whatever you get from selling stuff goes straight into your emergency fund so you aren’t tempted to spend it on more stuff.

4. Keep a stuff List. Whenever you come upon something in a store you’re tempted to buy, write it on your list and walk away. You can go back and buy it tomorrow if you really will use it. In the meantime, all the other stuff on your list that you’ve never gone back for (or never used) will act as a reminder of how impulse shopping leads to clutter.

5. Make a place for everything and put everything in its place. It’ll be easier to find and you’ll be far less tempted to buy more because you can actually lay your hands on the stuff you already have.

If you’re tempted to buy one of those magazines about organizing your clutter or smart storage for your stuff, it’s your brain telling you you’ve got an impulse control problem and it might be time to face up. Instead of buying whatever stuff catches your attention next, transfer the money you would have spent to your new clutter savings account and watch your money pile up. Now that’s stuff worth accumulating!