Today’s post is all about clutter creep. What it is and how to prevent it to keep your home clutter-free for good!
What is clutter creep?
Has this ever happened to you?
You declutter and organize a space, let’s say your bathroom drawers. They look awesome, function beautifully and make you happy every time you open them.
But over time things get added and find their way into the space.
Maybe you buy a few new products to try. Or you start using a new tube of mascara but don’t throw out the old one.
Or maybe one day you’re quickly cleaning up before guests come over and shove a bunch of stuff into the drawer, promising yourself you’ll deal with it later.
Over time, those beautifully clutter-free and organized drawers get full of clutter again and turn into a big mess!
That is clutter creep.
Clutter creep is when clutter finds its way into your home slowly and gradually over time, undoing all of your decluttering work. And unfortunately leaving you right back where you started and needing to declutter all over again!
Clutter creep is normal!
The good news is, clutter creep is completely normal!
We are all human and live in our homes, use our spaces and use our stuff. And it’s normal for more things to find their way into our homes over time. And it’s also normal for us to not always be as consistent as we’d like about putting things away where they belong or dealing with “stuff” perfectly all the time.
Not only that, but your needs and interests shift and change over time, so the stuff you need and use shifts and changes as well.
For example, when your kids are babies, you’ll need different stuff compared to when they are toddlers or big kids. The baby gear can become unused and unnecessary clutter if you don’t deal with it.
And one of the biggest reasons for clutter creep is simply because clutter can be sneaky!
It often comes into our homes slowly and gradually. Each piece of future clutter seeming innocent enough on its own. But it all starts to add up over time when each piece of singular clutter builds up together.
How to prevent clutter creep?
The even better news is preventing clutter creep is easy!
After you’ve decluttered and simplified a space, keeping it that way and preventing (or remedying) clutter creep doesn’t have to take much time or effort.
The key to preventing clutter creep is having a few habits and routines to stay on top of clutter so you never have to start decluttering all over again.
Instead, after decluttering and simplifying your home, it’s simply a matter of maintaining your clutter-free spaces to prevent clutter creep and keep your life and your home simplified.
Here are 12 ways to prevent and remedy clutter creep to keep your home simplified and clutter-free for good!
1. Do regular maintenance decluttering sessions
One of the easiest ways to prevent clutter creep is with regular maintenance decluttering sessions.
Maintenance decluttering sessions don’t usually take a lot of time. It’s just taking a few minutes and going through the spaces you have already decluttered and organized and removing any clutter that’s found its way into the space.
Using the example of bathroom drawers again, maintenance decluttering would mean quickly sorting through the drawer and removing any unused items, used up items or items that don’t belong. Then putting everything you’re keeping quickly back in its place.
The hard work decluttering and organizing the space has already been done. Maintenance decluttering sessions simply return the space to how it was after you finished your big declutter.
A great time to do maintenance decluttering sessions is when you’re using the space. Take a few minutes to quickly check for clutter and put things back where they belong as you use the space.
When you get in the habit of doing this often, it will only take a few minutes because you’ll be consistently maintaining the space already.
Maintenance decluttering sessions can be small scale – like when you quickly declutter and reorganize a drawer. Or larger scale – like when you do a quick clutter sweep through the whole house.
A whole house clutter sweep is simply walking through each area of your home looking for anything you no longer use, need or like that you can get rid of. It can be garbage you need to throw out or items you want to donate.
It’s simply a matter of taking a few minutes to purposely look for, identify and remove clutter.
2. Always keep an eye out for clutter
This is along the same lines as maintenance decluttering. Get in the habit of always looking for clutter in your home – anything you don’t use, need or like, and get rid of it instead of putting it away or keeping it.
Again, it can be simple things like garbage that needs to be tossed, clothes that are worn out, toys nobody plays with. Or bigger things like a piece of furniture that isn’t adding value to your home.
Also, keep an eye out for things you no longer use or need in your current season of life. Recognizing that life shifts and changes, and so does the stuff you use and need right along with it is an important way to keep clutter from building up.
3. Be a gatekeeper as things enter your home
A great way to prevent clutter creep is by catching clutter before it even has a chance to come into your house.
Before you bring new stuff into your home, or as soon as it enters the house, take a quick minute to decide if it’s truly necessary, something that will be used, or simply clutter.
Even something as simple as dealing with garbage/recycling right away is a great way to prevent clutter creep from happening.
A great example of how to be a gatekeeper is with mail. When you get the mail, immediately sort through it and toss/recycle anything you don’t need or is junk mail.
Dealing with it right away means it never has a chance to enter your home, pile up and cause clutter and stress later!
4. Be a gatekeeper before things enter your home
Another important way to prevent clutter creep is by being intentional about things before they even become “yours” or make it to your house.
This is especially important when shopping and buying new things. Make a point of asking yourself a few questions to be an intentional gatekeeper about what enters your home.
Ask yourself why you want to buy it – is it truly needed? Or is it an impulse purchase, an emotional purchase, etc.? Do you have a place to keep it so it won’t cause clutter?
Another great way to be a gatekeeper is by waiting before you buy something. Wait at least 24 hours, or ideally even more time, between deciding you want to buy something and actually buying it.
Often when you give yourself time and space to think over a purchase you can recognize what is a needed, thoughtful purchase, and what isn’t totally necessary.
5. Use the one in, one out rule
When you do decide to purchase something or bring something new into your home, the one in, one out rule is a great way to maintain the amount of stuff in your home and prevent clutter creep.
Whenever you bring something new into your home, make an effort to find one (or more!) thing(s) to get rid of in its place.
6. Have an ongoing decluttering box
As you get in the habit of always being on the lookout for clutter, having an ongoing decluttering box is essential. It gives you a spot to put anything you’ve decided to get rid of, keeping it contained, until you are able to drop it off at the donation center or get rid of it in another way.
Keep your decluttering box located somewhere convenient, but not too visible. You don’t want you or your family second guessing your decluttering decisions and taking stuff out of your decluttering box.
Then, either when the box gets full, or on a set schedule like every 2 weeks, drop the stuff in your decluttering box off at your donation center and start again!
7. Embrace the white space
Learning to embrace the white space you create when you declutter is a great way to prevent clutter creep as well.
When you declutter a space and are left with some empty (or less full) space, don’t be in a rush to fill it back up with new stuff. Instead, live with it for a while and enjoy the breathing room you’ve created.
You don’t need to fill every empty space in your home. Embracing the white space, until that empty white space becomes your norm, is a great way to prevent clutter creep.
8. A place for everything, and everything in its place
One big cause of clutter is simply items that don’t have a home. These are the kinds of things that float around the house, sitting on counters or floors, causing clutter wherever they go!
Each item you choose to keep in your home should have a place to keep it.
If an item doesn’t have a home, either find or make a home for it. The more you declutter, the easier it will be to find homes for the items you’re keeping!
And the easier that place is to access (and put the item away in) the better. Make it easy on yourself to put things away where they belong when you’re done using them.
Then get in the habit of returning items to their homes when you’re done using them. The more consistently you can do this, the easier it will be to maintain a clutter-free home.
9. One-touch rule: don’t put it down, put it away
Another simple habit to keep clutter from piling up in your house is using the one-touch rule.
The idea is simple: aim to touch an item only once after you’re done using it. Instead of putting it down somewhere to be dealt with later, put it away in its home right away.
10. Do daily resets
As nice as it would be to know you always put items away every time you’re finished using them, sometimes real life happens and things don’t get put away.
That’s where the beauty of daily resets comes in.
A daily reset is a quick sweep through your house picking things up and returning the space to its baseline state where things are put away and tidy.
The more consistent you are with your resets, the quicker and easier they will be. Simply because the space doesn’t have a chance to get completely out of control between resets.
Pick a time of day, or a couple of times of day, and reset your spaces to stay on top of clutter and mess.
11. Notice and remedy clutter catchers
Some spaces have the tendency to become clutter catchers – spots where clutter tends to pile up on a regular basis.
The first step is to notice where your clutter catchers are in your house.
Common examples of places clutter and “stuff” tend to pile up are kitchen counters, coffee tables, bedside tables, kitchen tables, entryway tables, etc.
Clutter catchers are usually in high use, high traffic areas, and are often flat surfaces that can seem like magnets for clutter.
Once you’ve identified where your clutter catching spots are, start brainstorming ways to remedy those spots.
It could be hanging up hooks for keys, giving each member of your family a basket for their stuff in the entryway, designating a basket or hanging file for papers, etc.
The key is coming up with a way to deal with the stuff that usually ends up as clutter in your clutter catchers in a way that’s less clutter-causing and more efficient. Try to work with your and your family’s tendencies so the solutions will be easy and convenient to use.
12. Use space limits to tell you when clutter has built up
Sometimes clutter builds up slowly and gradually, so you don’t even notice it happening.
But giving yourself a visual space limit for each category of “stuff” in your home is a great way to notice how much stuff you have and notice when you have more than you’d prefer. Which is a great way to notice and catch clutter creep.
For example, maybe you designate one shelf for your book collection. When that shelf gets full, you know it’s time to declutter and simplify your book collection.
Another example is with seasonal décor items. Decide on a space limit and only keep what fits within that designated space.
This is also a great strategy for helping kids simplify and declutter. Designate a specific basket, shelf or container for their things and tell them they can keep as much as will fit in that space, but if there’s too much to fit, it’s time to declutter.
Prevent clutter creep to keep your home clutter-free!
Decluttering is an important part of the process to simplify your home. But equally important is having strategies and habits to maintain your decluttered, simplified spaces once you’re done.
I hope these 12 tips will help you avoid clutter creep and keep your home simplified and clutter-free in the long run.
What’s your favourite way to prevent clutter creep?