Clutter-Free: The Zero-Accumulation Household
We swim in a sea of objects every day. Malls, websites, garage sales, friends, and family all deliver to our doors entire catalogs of new and used — stuff. We accumulate things we need and things we don’t. Over time, our homes become showcases of surplus and we just let the stockpiling continue. But freedom from the stresses of too much can be found in just one simple goal: become a zero-accumulation household. Follow the four steps below and feel your mental space grow as you become clutter-free. (See also: Toss It or Not? 5 Organizational Tips from a Chronic Clutter Bug)
1. Be Immediate
When we bring something new into our home, it’s on a kind of ‘trial period’ as we adjust to it, fit it into our routine, or simply remember we own it. After the adjustment period ends, the item has either become integrated into our life, or it’s been rejected. Maybe that new pair of shoes make your arches sore, or the new bike is slightly too small and uncomfortable. Typically, we keep the items around anyway, in some constant hopeful state that the reality will change — the shoes will correct themselves, we’ll shrink to fit the bike, etc. Meanwhile, we buy a more comfortable pair of shoes, a bigger bike, and our personal inventories grow.
But what if we operated under no such delusions? When it was clear the shoes were torture devices, we returned them if we could, sold them on eBay, or donated them to charity? What if the bike was promptly put on Craigslist? What if we were ruthless and immediate in refusing to own anything that we couldn’t use? What would our homes look like then?
2. Embrace Multifunction
Wouldn’t it be great if every new item we bought was truly multifunctional — making two or three other objects that we already own obsolete? A well-designed hamper that’s also a laundry basket, a rechargeable nightlight that’s also a flashlight and camping light, an end-table with a detachable tray top for serving — all examples of multi-purpose items that are designed with clutter-busting in mind. Shop with multifunction in mind and purge what these objects cleverly replace.
3. Don’t Just Accumulate — Coordinate
We spend more time parking our car at the store than thinking about why we’re there in the first place. From clothes to furniture, we’re tempted by delicious and novel ‘one-offs’ — items that are attractive but don’t coordinate with what we already own or fit into our larger goals. It’s a pitfall of a society that has too much stuff to offer and consumers who have too little time to think. Personal styles get muddled, homes become a mash-up of things that looked great in the showroom but don’t quite fit in at home.
Step back. Take a 30 or 60-day sabbatical from buying and truly decide what you need and then begin looking for just the right thing. Examine your wardrobe — what clothes work together and how can you get more versatility out of fewer items? It’s not nearly the adrenaline charge that spontaneous buying can be, but what you end up with will probably be more classic, of higher-quality, and less prone to the “back of the closet” syndrome.
4. Follow the One-In-One-Out Rule
Once you’ve discovered your ‘golden mean’, defend it ruthlessly. For every new item you bring home, say goodbye to another. You can approach this literally and exchange similar things (old shirt for new shirt, old TV for new TV) or you can mix and match — old pair of shoes for new shirt, old set of dishes for new toaster oven. Donate it, sell it, set it on the curb — just make sure that for every object coming in, one is heading out.
In the end, saying ‘no’ is the best method of reducing clutter and becoming conscious of what we bring into our lives and why. As we all swim against the tide of too much stuff, hold on tightly to that little life preserver called “Enough.”