An Uncluttered Life: Tips for Buying Less

Reaching into the bag of emails today.  Here’s a question from Jess:

    Katie, I think you might become the queen of clutter.  Well, not having clutter I mean.  I have a question.  My boyfriend and I are combining houses and I’m really afraid we’ll have too much really fast cause we both seem to love shopping for new home stuff more than we want.  Our apartment is pretty small. What would you say?  If you were to give a tip about shopping and bringing home clutter, what would you say?  You have me excited.  I hope my boyfriend will be too!  -Jess

There is an age old trick to keeping your house uncluttered: every time you bring something in, take something else out.

It doesn’t work for me.

The idea sounds really good, and quite a few readers have mentioned how well it works for them.  I agree that every time you shop, it does help to think of what you can get rid of when you buy more because a funny thing happens – you quit buying so much!  For me, the problem is that it really takes the excitement out of something when you start thinking of what to get rid of back home.  You also start to hang onto junk items just so you have something to ditch when you buy something new.  Old hole-filled socks?  A picture frame you hate?  Plus one-in-one-out is tough when you’re starting a new home, especially in our case – we didn’t even have stuff to get rid of in our new country of Germany!

I just can’t think that way.  And when I find myself unattached to items in our house, I want to get rid of them right away.  (You might recall my quick trick for pulling clutter from the closet.)

So here’s how I approach the purchase of new stuff:

1.  Do I love it and need it?

I try not to buy what I don’t love.  I try not to buy what I don’t need.  Don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself, though.  If you love the sticky notes with cute cartoons on them, buy them IF you will use them.  It’s easy to want to have them forever.  So try to find joy in using the things you have.  You know – it’s more fun to eat chocolate than have it sitting on your desk.

2.  Where will I keep it?

We have to have a place for it right now.  Not in a month.  Not next year.  Remembering this idea keeps me from scoping out after-holiday sales.  It also makes me question how much I really need the item.

3.  How often do I have to clean it?

Serious!  Nicknacks can be fun.  But remember: every item on the shelf or floor adds a few more moments of cleaning and dusting than if that space were empty.  So pick what you’re okay with cleaning.

4.  Where will I keep it when I’m not using it?

Holiday decor, off-season clothes, craft supplies, stationery – you name it.  It’s good to have a use for something now.  It’s just as important to have a plan for what you’ll do with that item later.

5.  Ask yourself if the stuff represented you, not family who doesn’t live with you or what society deems a perfect addition.

Love it or leave it.  That’s all I’m saying.  Just be sure you’re loving for you.

Looking for more tips on keeping clutter from knocking on your door?  Try these classic tips. Or these oldies but goodies.

Anyone else have some tips on preventing yourself from buying more than you need?  How about successes with one-in-one-out?