There is a trend these days to downsize and de-clutter our homes. Maybe you’ve watched the Netflix’s series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, read the book, or gotten acquainted with FlyLady. Each home organizing specialist has a unique way of kicking the chaos out of our homes. Which is a good thing – because less chaos means more time, energy and money that you can spend doing what you love, supporting causes that you care about, and growing your wealth for the future.
So, today, I brought in a special guest to talk to us about how to live in a clutter-free home. Originally from Chicago, Karen Furman – the Klutter Koach – is a professional organizer and de-cluttering expert who lives near me in Israel. Her tools and tips can help you sort your stuff, reduce your stress, and live clutter-free. Take it away Karen!
How to live in a clutter-free home
My advice comes from personal experience so let me share some background about myself. Growing up in the Chicago suburbs, we were the stereotypical family of four – but without the pet. My younger brother and I each had our own bedroom with a closet. Our 1960s raised-ranch style home had a basement, some storage under the basement steps, a hall closet, a coat closet, and a bathroom closet. In the backyard, there was a storage shed for my dad’s lawn mower, snowblower, and tools, plus the bicycles. That’s a lot of storage space! As a contrast, the poorly-designed kitchen meant there was very little counter space and cupboard space. So we had to limit our purchases.
Growing up in the 1970s, there weren’t computers, the internet, online shopping, or warehouse clubs. There were department stores. But Target and Walmart didn’t exist yet. I think the pull to shop just for fun wasn’t as strong as it is today.
The Becky Box
Since we were a one-boy-one-girl family, we didn’t stack used clothes for a younger sibling. Instead, any outgrown items went into what was affectionately called The Becky Box. Auntie Becky volunteered in a resale shop and happily accepted all our donated items.
The Becky Box taught me from an early age to give generously and not hoard items that no longer had any use. Since shopping habits were different a few decades ago and we lived in a decent-sized house we didn’t have a big clutter issue. My mother was highly organized and my dad less so but there was always room to put things and opening a cabinet never caused an avalanche of things falling on our heads.
The first step in conquering clutter is to grab hold of the reins on consumerism. When you bring things into your home whether a box of cereal or a pair of shoes, each item has the potential to become clutter. This item will be used frequently (not clutter) or something that will barely be used, if at all (clutter). As a home organizer, I help clients make decisions about what they’ve already purchased. Only you as the consumer can make wise choices of what you buy. The less you buy, the more money you have to build wealth. Below I share with you how to live in a clutter-free home – and I help you save money in the process. Isn’t that a juicy combination!
De-clutter & Save Money
There are innumerable suggestions on how to trim our budgets and save money. Times have changed since the 1970s. As someone who loves to live in a clutter-free zone, my tips on how to live in a clutter-free home may just be the right ones for you.
Let me give you my example: from a medium-sized three bedroom house, I now live in a small three-bedroom apartment in Israel with 8 people. My storage is limited to a small storage room and closets in two of the three bedrooms. We have bookcases and our buffet has a cabinet and drawers for storage. One bed has a mattress that lifts for storage underneath. With that said, here is my advice for being a smart consumer and avoiding clutter especially if you have a small living space, but my advice applicable to everyone. Here are my tips on how to live in a clutter-free home.
Don’t shop in bulk.
“But…but…” you may splutter with a counterattack ready to tell me why bulk is better. Shopping in bulk can save you money in the short term – but where will you store it all? Will you remember what you have? Will you eat up all that food before it goes moldy or reaches the expiration date?
I’ve worked with people who had so many multiples of things that when we grouped similar items together they were astounded that they had so many. For example, plastic utensils were stashed in multiple drawers and cabinets because there simply was no room to keep it all in one place. The client forgot about the other places she had stored them so she just bought more. That’s money down the drain that could have been saved or spent on other, more important things.
If you know your family’s going to eat all those fruits and vegetables before they go rotten, go ahead and buy them. Will your family devour the entire jumbo pack of 100 granola bars before they go stale? Great! Enjoy! But only one box at a time.
Don’t shop at sales.
Let me clarify. Shop only if and when you NEED that item. Clever advertising makes us feel like we need something when it’s really just a ‘want’. Buying a blouse for $100 that was regularly priced at $150 doesn’t mean that you saved $50. You spent $100. A lot of clutter comes from impulse purchases. “Good deals”, sales, and things you probably already have more than one of at home.
You have one pair of feet. Take the time to ask yourself how many shoes do you really need. If you own one pair of sneakers and they are broken, replace them. But if you own five other pairs of sneakers, why not wear those out first? Can you make do with what you already own? Remember, a sale is often a marketing ploy to get you to buy something.
Borrow reading material or make use of technology.
There is no need to purchase every new book that catches your fancy. Books take up a lot of space and they can be pricey. Make use of libraries, borrow from a friend, read e-books, read online. In my family, we only purchase a favorite book and a favorite is one we have borrowed from the library for the umpteenth time. If you do purchase a tangible book then practice the one-in-one-out rule. This means if you buy a book find a book in your collection you don’t enjoy any longer and give it away.
Gift the non-tangible.
Many of my clients are afflicted with something I have deemed as “Generous Relative Syndrome”. Though we love our relatives, the money spent on tangible gifts ends up as clutter and having too much stuff for the homemaker who has no place to put it all. I recommend that you have a sensitive conversation with the ‘Generous Relative’. Emphasize your sincere appreciation for the gifts and how non-tangible gifts like museum memberships and extracurricular activities are very much appreciated, too.
I purpose you say something along the lines of “(Name of child) has wanted karate lessons forever. Instead of another Playmobil set for his birthday/Chanukah/etc., which I don’t have storage space for, would you like to pay for his lessons?” Aside from the karate uniform (which may or may not be provided), the only fee is the cost of the lessons which take up no space. When your son practices his kicks and punches, send a video to Grandma/Grandpa/Aunt Rose of him in action. Your child benefits from the lessons and the Generous Relative receives a gift that keeps on giving because they receive photos and updates of how the lessons are going. And the icing on the cake is that there is no clutter to contend with.
As a professional organizer, the two quotes hear all the time are “Here it is!” and “I’ve been looking for that!” If you are organized you know what you own and where you can find it. Disorganization leads to misplaced items which often necessitates purchasing a duplicate item. Buying the replacement wastes money, time, and adds to more clutter because you now have twice as much stuff.
Stay off the internet.
There is so much temptation to shop online. Keep clicking and your cart is ready for purchase and shipping. Easy peasy. Once, I went to a website and put in my cart everything that caught my eye. I had no intention of ordering anything (and I didn’t). I was simply curious to see the results – and the grand total was a lot of money. What if I didn’t have the self-control and had input my credit card information? Not only would I have buyer’s remorse, but I would be out of money and have a clutter issue on my hands.
Cancel subscriptions from your email. Eradicate the temptation to click and buy. Take my tip to heart and find some good reads at the library.
- Online Shopping is Way Too Easy – 6 Ways to Reconnect with your Spending and Reclaim Balance in Your Life
- 7 Ways Consumer Psychology Influences your Spending Decisions and What You Can Do About It
- 4 Benefits of Clearing Clutter (plus 2 free resources)
Be selective about freebies.
Even though freebies are free, they cost us in space. Say no thank you and walk away.
Are you the kind of person who likes to ‘shop’ at a clothing swap? Be mindful of your correct size and what you really need. If you wear size X and see a pile of items in your size, great! But if the clothes don’t fit properly or if you know it’s going to take you a while to get to the seamstress, pass it up. Those freebies are more than likely to become clutter that just sits there.
These are my suggestions for smart consumption and avoiding clutter. Even if you take just one or two tips and incorporate them into your lifestyle, you will have learned something, saved money, and reduced clutter in your home.
Karen Furman is a professional organizer and de-cluttering expert in Israel known as The Klutter Koach. Originally from Chicago, Karen has a background in teaching and training in massage therapy. She knows how organized spaces positively affect how we function, feel and think. When not organizing Karen enjoys reading, blogging, and doing Zumba. Follow her at www.theklutterkoach.com or on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theklutterkoach/