Five mistakes that lead to clutter
Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff in your house is not unusual, but I’m pretty sure it can be avoided. This is easy for me to say now, of course. Looking back on how I got into this mess, there are five clear mistakes I made. Addressing these have made a huge difference in reducing the amount of clutter in our home.
• Shopping – I did way too much!
I shopped when I was happy, I shopped when I felt low and needed cheering up. I shopped to celebrate and to commiserate. I shopped when I was bored. Shopping was an activity to do on a rainy weekend with the family (not all that enjoyable either!). I didn’t really stand a chance because it’s quite difficult to peruse and not buy. Temptation is everywhere. Eventually I would give in, but all these little ‘one off’ purchases added up to a fair old amount of stuff and clutter.
You need to be fairly disciplined if you decide to limit your shopping habit. The call of a bargain can lure you in almost anywhere. While doing the weekly foodshop you can look at fashionable affordable clothes, beauty items and electrical gadgets at the supermarket. While emailing or texting on your mobile phone or computer you can easily ‘pop in’ to Amazon, Ebay or your favourite department store to have a look at what’s in stock. Travelling means negotiating the duty-free stores on the ground and in the air. And then there is the advertising, trying to pull you in at every opportunity; on your phone, your computer, on TV, in the cinema, on the radio and in every newspaper and magazine. What a minefield!
These days I try not to go out shopping for shopping’s sake. I go if I really need something. When I do I stick to a list (well, I try, it’s early days yet!). Online food shopping has stopped me popping new items into my trolley while scanning the aisles. Thinking very hard about a purchase, and, if it’s a beauty item, trying a sample first instead of buying the whole bottle, has helped me. Another trick is delaying buying an item that takes my fancy for a set number of days, e.g. 3 weeks. This really does work. More often than not the urge to buy is lost after a week or so.
• I was lured in by the perfect lifestyles on YouTube
I love YouTube. It has been a real eye-opener for me and I really wish I could have watched it when my children were younger and I was at home going crazy! It is fantastic to actually SEE other people in the same position as you, how they live and what they do. However, some of the lifestyle channels just suck you in – they did that to me. Here in Britain we just do not have the size of house needed to accommodate masses of seasonal decorations, bulk-buys of food products and endless numbers of beauty items I watched from the US. I have learned that although I love to watch these channels, I cannot copy them. Do I really need a festive towel for everyone in the family at Christmas? No. One in the guest bathroom is enough.
• I chose quantity over quality (shopping again!)
This got me every time. For some reason buying six items for the same price as one was much more appealing. But then what? More often than not I didn’t wear them, or they would fall apart after a couple of washes. And there was always the storage issue. Now I am really trying to buy quality when I can. This way I buy the things I love and naturally accumulate less while doing it.
• I saved for ‘best’
This was possibly one of my worst mistakes (I still struggle with it everyday). I liked to save things that were special for ‘best’ or special occasions. Beautiful clothes, bags, candles, even food. The result was a lot of my clothes still had the tags on and never saw the light of day. Food had to be thrown away. I fell out of love with expensive bags and shoes that lurked in the back of the wardrobe as my tastes had changed. This is a very difficult habit for me to overcome but I’m doing my best. I am slowly learning to wear all I have – fabulous clothes are to be worn not saved.
• I stored clutter, I didn’t clear it
When my husband and I moved in together before we got married, we amalgamated two flats’ worth of stuff. It didn’t occur to me to get rid of anything. After all, I might need it in the future, right? Wrong! Plus, having a lot of clutter did not seem to stop me buying more. So as the new stuff came in I had to find somewhere to store it. Never easy. This dilemma stayed with me until recently, when I learned that you don’t store, you clear some of the things out. Now I do the ‘one in, one out’ rule and try to declutter on a weekly basis.