How to Stop Collecting Clutter

Content Updated on October 14, 2007

No Junk Drawers, Cabinets, or Closets = No Junk

Let yourself know right now that you will not have a junk drawer, cabinet, or closet, so don’t even let yourself think, “I’ll put that in the junk drawer.” Once it goes in, it doesn’t come out. It just piles up until you finally avoid opening the drawer at all.

Where should you put the junk if not in a junk drawer? Where they belong!

  • Put orphan buttons in your sewing kit.
  • Put rubber bands with your office supplies.
  • Label those mystery parts (the weird metal bar that is supposed to go on the bed frame, the bolts for that came with the new appliance for that optional feature that yours doesn’t have, and so forth) and put them in an organization system in your workshop or garage.
  • Put extra batteries in a cabinet or drawer assigned to hold only electrical items (extension cord, light bulbs, and so forth).
  • Trash that collection of bottle caps you were saving because each one had a letter on the bottom, and you were supposed to spell out a word to win a million dollar prize in a promotional contest that ended a year ago.

Know Where You’ll Put Things Before You Buy Them

I love going to the store and SHOPPING (enter choir singing here). I love finding a good deal and items that I love. But then I bring it home and don’t know where to put it all.

Now I have a new rule, the “Where am I going to put it” rule. I must figure out where I’m going to put something before I buy it. If I see a beautiful lamp, the first thing I ask myself is, “Where am I going to put it?” And I’m not allowed to say, “I’ll figure it out when I get home.” If I can’t figure it out right there in the store, then I don’t get to buy it.

Use a Shopping List

When you go to the store, only buy things on your shopping list.

If you see something that isn’t on your shopping list, write it down, so you’ll remember it. Then, when you get home, think about whether or not you really need that item, and if so, where will you put it. If you still want to buy it, you can add it to your list for your next shopping trip, or if the purchase is urgent (such as for a deal you just can’t find anywhere else, not even on the Internet), then go right back to the store and get it. (If you’re thinking, driving back to the store is too much work, then you probably don’t really need the item like you thought.)

Don’t Start Any New Collections You Can’t Organize or Display

Let’s say you want to start collecting stamps. The first thing you’re going to buy is… Not stamps!

Instead, you’re going to buy a stamp book, something to help you organize your collection, so you don’t end up with shoe boxes full of stamps. As you collect your stamps, put them in the book, right away. They’ll be nicely organized, waiting for you to take a look at and enjoy them. If you run out of room in your stamp book, you must then decide if you want to start a new book (don’t just overstuff your old book). Then you’ll need to figure out where you will be putting this new collection of stamp books. If you don’t have a place to put these stamp books, then you can’t buy them. You have to know which bookshelf or cabinet those books will hold those books before you can buy them.

The same thing goes with every collection. Collecting teapots? Where will you display them? In a cabinet? Where will you put that cabinet? Etc.

Don’t Start Any New Hobbies You Haven’t Planned On

Another problem I have at the store is the craft section. I see craft supplies, and I just want to buy them all up. Then I get home, put them on the shelf, and that’s where they end up sitting for a few years.

Now, I have to add those inspiring products to my wish list instead of buying them impulsively. Then I go home, get on the Internet, and research the craft. I might even get a book about it from the library. If it still interests me, I’ll figure out where I’ll keep my supplies, and I’ll add the basic supplies to my shopping list (not every little accessory and tool in the supply checklists of the books, just a few basic supplies). If I still like the craft, and I’m actually completing projects, then I can gradually add more to my supply cabinet.

No Subscriptions (Magazines, Newspapers, Books, DVDs Music, etc.)

Those subscription programs sound like a good deal: 10 DVDs for 1 penny! But really, they just force us to collect clutter, especially when those subscriptions require us to send in cards to say we don’t want the book of the month, and we forget to send in the card. And they often require that you buy a minimum number of products at outrageous prices, so they end up forcing you to buy extra clutter and costing you extra money anyhow.

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions aren’t much better. The new issues just keep coming, even if we haven’t had time to read the last issue.

Instead, read news and magazine articles online. Nearly every newspaper and magazine has an online edition. Likewise, buy your music online and download it to your computer. It’s cheaper than CDs (especially CDs that require shipping and handling). If you really want a CD, then burn the music to CD.