|From Shadwwulf At English Wikipedia CC License 3.0|
If you're like me, you find yourself having to go through cycles where you declutter. After a while it is exhausting. So I've scoured the internet for tips on how to prevent this constant cycle of accumulation and decluttering.
1) Keep your children away from stores- When my youngest was about a year old, I went in to a pick up a few things from the grocery store. It was around Christmas time and perched at the cashier's station was a jar stuffed with over-sized candy canes. While I was checking out, I missed my child grabbing a candy cane, but noticed that he had one- plastic and all- in his mouth. Slightly embarrassed and annoyed, I smiled at the cashier and said "well, I guess we're buying a candy cane today too."
My children are older now so they don't just randomly grab food and shove it into their mouths, but they do whine and still have impulse control issues when entering a store. I figure if grown adults can't control impulse shopping why do I expect my children to exert it? So I avoid going to stores with them if possible particularly ones that have toys.
If I must, I set clear expectations for them before going into the store. "Now we're going in to get X,Y,Z. You will not get to choose something else." And for longer trips like a huge grocery store trip, "You can pick out one treat (such as a consumable) and you can have it if you behave yourself in the store." They get to choose their treat at the beginning and hold onto it. If there's misbehavior, it goes back on the shelf. And they only choose one. Sometimes they change their mind about their treat, and they're fine with placing the other one back on the store shelf.
2) Encourage people to give you consumable/experience gifts- If you do this, once you consume the gift it's easy to discard. If you are having problems with getting rid of the packaging, you may have a hoarding problem and need to seek help. For my birthday, one friend brought in a bouquet of flowers and another a tin of teas. My mother-in-law has sent my children gift cards to the movies. Perfect.
3) One in, one out- I bought a pair of new sneakers for the gym, but held onto my worn down ones. I justified to myself that I could still use the old ones for every day wear except that was a poor excuse. After hanging onto them and then realizing that I plenty of other shoes, I finally dumped them.
It doesn't have to be about replacing like items either. If I feel that I have too many tops and not enough bottoms, I can always trade them out. That said things need to have some equivalence. A tiny Lego stud does not equal a play kitchen. Sorry.
Another tip, if items function together they are one thing like sneakers. You need one pair. If it can function as a separate item, such as a set of pajamas or a jewelry set then the pieces function as multiple things (with the exception of a pair of earrings.) So the ring and necklace are two, not one. The top and bottom of your nightie are also two. Yes, even if they match.
4) Stick to the shopping list- I don't go into stores that I don't have to very often. If I do, I go in there to look around not to buy anything unless it's on my list. Occasionally I will buy something off the list. This is always a grocery item I realized that I neglected to list. I often meal plan at the same time I'm writing a list so I'm prone to forget staple items until I'm physically in the store. "Oh, yeah, we need milk" has crossed my mind a few times.
5) Spend some time questioning the need for the item- Once you purchase the item, it immediately looses it's value so I really question what I am purchasing. Do I really need the item or is something else still working? What part will this item play in the running of my house? Do I have a space for it? What will I be willing to get rid of as a result of purchasing this item? And so on. It also helps to have a goal in mind for not spending the money. Are you saving to buy a house, go on a vacation, etc. If you have a larger financial goal in mind, it becomes easier to not spend money of frivolous impulse purchases.
6) By pass freebies- While cleaning out a junk drawer, I discovered that I had accumulated three bottles of eye glass cleaner. They were complimentary for purchasing glasses. I usually use soap and water to clean my glasses, but these days my youngest does actually need the stuff. I still don't need three bottles of cleaner. Next time we're offered a new bottle, I'll simply by pass unless we're out of cleaner. Unless you think you will actually use up or can one-in-one-out the item, politely reject any magnets, pens, pencils, pads of paper, and anything else anyone passes along to you and your family. Borrowing, of course, is an exception. You can always return that item back to it's owner or the public as in the case of the library.
7) Deal with paper work now- I don't know about you, but it's easy for me to drown in paper work. From information about the summer reading program to fliers announcing discounts on water park tickets, it somehow finds me. I find that paper work can be divided into three categories: important papers to file like my son's medical reports, temporarily important information such as a school calendar or appointment cards that I need to transfer to my family calendar- much of this is listed online these days such as the school calendar so unnecessary to begin with, and junk like credit card approval notices or business flyers. My method is to sort through any paper work as soon as it enters the house. If it's junk, it's filed in my recycle bin. If it's temporary, I decide to either transfer the information elsewhere or place it where it is needed. And if it's permanent, it goes into a file or our fireproof box in the case of SS cards/passports/birth certificates/marriage license/house title/you get the idea. I'm not perfect about this, but the junk at least definitely doesn't hang around. In some cases it doesn't even make it past the front door, as we keep our large recycling bin close by.
I hope my tips helped and and inspired you on ways to keep down the clutter. Learning these things through experience and also from others has certainly helped me. Have a great day!