Clutter: Sources to Solutions

clutter-sources-solutionsIt’s been a little while since I’ve written about clutter, but, after things got out of control in my apartment last week, the clutter and related blog posts are back.  Now that everything’s in its place, I’ve taken some time to pen what’s caused my clutter and how I’ve allowed it to build up to begin with.  Here are the main sources of clutter, along with things I’ve actually said to myself to keep this clutter around:


Source #1: Saving for the future and storing something that I don’t need now, but (I think) I might eventually need.

What I’ve told myself: “I don’t need my nth pair of jeans right now, but if these 7 pairs of jeans get ruined, I need backup.”

Solution: Don’t save “just inc case” for unlikely future scenarios.  Chances are if you jeans aren’t good enough to make the cut right now, they won’t make the cut in the future, either. I you do insist on saving, put a time limit on it (see below).


Source #2: Buying multiples.  Any time I buy more than I need at the current moment, and I may not need more until an indefinite amount of time later.

What I’ve told myself: “I might as well buy 2 bottles of shampoo while I’m here. I’m going to run out again, so it’s good to have more ready when that happens.”

Solution: Buy only what you need now and just pick up the rest later. Unless there’s a significant price break for loading up all at once, your space will just be cluttered by all the extras you have around.


Source #3: Getting new stuff.  This sounds like a stupid thing to have to say, but whenever I get something new, it increases the amount of things I already have. I find this is especially happens with gifts from others.

What I’ve told myself: “I just got this great new HDTV. But I still have the old one, too. Now I have two TVs! Yay!”

Solution: Start a “one in, one out” policy. Got a new shirt? Toss an old one out at the same time. If you know you’ll never use something, don’t let it in at all.  Sometimes I store new gifts for a bit then give it away, and that makes me feel less guilty.


Source #4: Giving myself more storage space.  This could range anywhere from buying more storage containers to keep stuff in the basement to renting out a remote storage unit to house all your junk.

What I’ve told myself: “Wow, I bet I could use a bunch of those Rubbermaid containers from the Home Depot to keep all my stuff lying around my room neat and tidy.”

Solution: Don’t enable clutter.  Before expanding your storage capacity, consider getting rid of anything that you can. A lot of times the stuff you put in storage never comes back out anyway.


Source #5: Laziness.

What I’ve told myself: “I’ll clean up that pile of clothes on the floor later when I have more time.”

Solution: Force yourself to take action right away. Even if it’s just a bit at a time, it’ll make things better.


Source #6: Not keeping track of things.  This might mean buying and storing stuff, only to forget that you already own it. Or maybe you just can’t find it. Then you’re forced to buy it again.

What I’ve told myself: “I don’t see any spare bike tubes around here, so I must be out. Looks like I need to buy some more!”

Solution: Keep what you need organized and keep clutter suppressed. When stuff gets crammed into places that are inaccessible or unseen, the likelihood that you’re going to remember that you have it stored somewhere is going to decrease.


Source #7: Lack of clearing things out.

What I’ve told myself: “I don’t feel like going through all of my stuff before I move, so I’ll just store it and worry about it later.”

Solution: Get rid of stuff when moving to a new house or apartment.  You have to touch everything anyway, and it’s much easier to move with less stuff to pack and carry with you.


Source #8: Lack of rules for getting rid of things.

What I’ve told myself: “I don’t think I’ve worn this sweater lately, but I might want to wear it next Christmas, so I’ll keep it just in case.”

Solution: Set rules like donating clothes if they haven’t been worn for more than 6 months.  This can easily be tracked by turning your hangars around when you wear something.  The “one in, one out” policy is also a rule that can be followed strictly.

As bad as I am about dealing with clutter sometimes, I do feel a huge relief when I finally have space to move around again. If you’ve had clutter for some time now, tak e care of it now. Just chip away a little bit at a time. You’d be surprised how much clutter you can take care of in only 10 minutes.

Remember: Only you can defeat piles of clutter.

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photo by: eflon


  1. Excellent argument, and powerful reasoning. I can relate to much of this. One challenge I find is that my wife and I often don’t exactly agree on what should stay, what should go, or even what constitutes clutter. Further, I’m more of a tidyer (any such word), and she’s more of a cleaner. I will organise before cleaning, and she will clean before organising. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Interesting perspective, Hunter. Perhaps you should have a sort of
      “one for one” exchange for what gets tossed out. You pick one thing
      and she picks one thing. Then it’s more or less fair. Otherwise, if I
      know that someone won’t notice that something is gone, I’ll get rid of
      it for them. Perhaps this is unfair, but I only do it for things that
      I’m certain they don’t need.

  2. Ha!  How timely since I JUST got finished decluttering a few cabinets in my kitchen.  I have the kitchen table full of stuff I want to get rid of but I feel like I have to ask my husband first.  Most of it’s his.  I will have a battle on my hands when he gets home. 

    For decluttering I use the one year rule.  For bringing stuff in the house I use the “never have two” rule.

    I know one lady who has quite a bit of clutter in her house and I’ve noticed that it’s because she never uses ALL of anything.  Like lotions for example, she has 150 little bottles of lotion all over the place that all have one or two uses in them.  It’s like she can’t use it up because she likes it and doesn’t want it to be gone but she can’t throw away the bottle because there is still some left.  And she does this with everything. 

    • That’s great Ashley. Sounds like you’ve got it figured out.

      Good point with the clutter lady you know. I can’t stand have near-finished stuff around. Drives me nuts.

  3. This issue quickly goes away when you get used to moving from apartment to apartment over the course of the past several years. When you move 2 or three times within 2 years, you realize pretty quick that the less stuff you have, the less stuff there is to move. Of course, when that far-off day arrives where I actually settle down and buy a house, I’ll have to remind myself to de-clutter from time to time.  

    • That’s exactly where I’m at, as I’ve actually moved 3 times within the last 2 years. Before my last move, I cleared out so much of my extra furniture and other crap I had lying around. It’s been a big help, but it still takes work to prevent a buildup from happening again.

  4.  Hi Jeffrey. Enjoy reading your blog. I find clutter, especially in the kitchen, quite stressful. What’s your feeling/reaction to clutter?

  5. I totally live by the “one in and one out” method. I actually have a REALLY hard time buying new things unless I have something I know I don’t mind throwing out. “Only you can defeat piles of clutter”. Love it!

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