A Fool-Proof Formula for Preventing Clutter at its Source

You can move clutter around or you can cut it off at the source. Instead of buying new storage containers or calling Goodwill for a pickup, take a look at your shopping habits.

Imagine how much more you can enjoy your weekends and paychecks when you break the cycle of excess consumption. Take a look at these strategies for bringing less clutter into your life.

Strategies for Shopping Anywhere

Buy what you need. Ask questions before you complete your purchase. How will you use the product you’re considering? Do you already have enough similar items at home?

Focus on quality. In the long run, higher priced goods usually offer greater value. A fine cashmere sweater or sturdy kitchen knives may hold up for decades while bargain brands may need to be replaced annually.

Stick to a budget. Decide in advance how much you can afford to spend. Regard occasional indulgences as an exception rather than the beginning of a habit.

Find other outlets. Retail therapy may be masking other issues. Find a hobby or do volunteer work if you’re bored. Talk with a friend if you’re feeling anxious or lonely.

Swap things out. During holidays and other shopping seasons, try discarding at least one item to make room for each new purchase. Give your used computer to a local nonprofit. Sell your old bedroom set on craigslist.

Buy for others. Studies show that spending money on others makes us happier than purchasing things for ourselves. Similarly, buying experiences instead of merchandise leaves no trail except for the pictures on your phone.

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Strategies for Shopping Online

  1. Cool off. Online purchases can pile up before you know it because there’s no downtime for parking and commuting. Try leaving items in your cart for at least 24 hours before making a final decision. You may find you no longer want them once you have a chance to think further.

Stop drinking. Even Chia Pets and novelty ties can look good during happy hour. Save the wine for later if it lowers your inhibitions.

Pay off credit cards monthly. Buying online is so easy it may not feel like real money. Avoiding credit card debt helps you monitor your spending and stabilize your finances.

Go to bed. The internet has no closing time so you’ll have to set your own curfew. You’ll feel fresher and richer in the morning if you turn of the computer and go to sleep.

Strategies for Shopping at Stores

  1. Resist sales pressure. Be skeptical of limited time offers and long-term commitments. Tell sales clerks you need time to think, and do your own comparison shopping. Don’t let freebies make you feel obligated to buy something in return. Ask that any verbal promises be put in writing.

Carry a list. Write down what you need to pick up before you leave home. Go straight to the stores and aisles where you can find your products.

Look away. The more time you spend wandering around sales displays, the more likely you are to wind up with goods that sound like a bargain but wind up as clutter. Be especially careful in the checkout area that’s designed to trigger impulse purchases. Also, avoid touching any item that’s not on your shopping list or it might wind up in your garage.

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Next time you’re at the mall or buying online, remember that today’s clutter is yesterday’s shopping spree. Save time and money by accumulating less. You and your home will come out ahead.