Setting reasonable rules for tidiness can get family members a little more on track for a less cluttered existence.

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Maintaining a Clutter-free House

Methods and tools are good only to the extent you use them. Getting into that habit may take time and practice. The guidelines below can help.

  • Allow time for organized living -- Clutter sometimes accumulates when you don't have -- or make -- the time to keep things organized. Remind yourself that it takes less time to put something where it belongs than to hunt around for it later.
  • Set rules that enforce tidiness -- For example: Clean up a mess before leaving the room. For every new toy you buy, an older one must go (apply that one to adults as well as kid).
  • Use a shopping list -- Know what you need to buy before you go shopping. You'll not only reduce food waste, but you may get useful insights into your eating habits and expenses.
  • Schedule regular cleanings -- You might do a certain room on a certain day, or the entire home on one day, but clean as often as needed.
  • Practice mindful consumption -- When tempted by a new coat or magazine subscription or gourmet goat cheese, ask whether you really need or want it. How badly? What other item will you give up? Resist the urge at least once. If it lingers, then the buy might be worthwhile.
  • Cut down on mail -- Sign up for automatic bill payment, if offered, for utilities and cable service. Registering with the Direct Marketing Association gives you more control over which mass mailings you receive.
  • Find new uses for older items -- Some people call this "repurposing." Old mugs are reborn as pencil holders and pots for growing herbs. Cereal boxes, cut diagonally just off center, become file holders.
  • Take advantage of recycling programs -- If recycling isn't included in your community waste management service, take plastic, metals, glass, cardboard -- whatever material is accepted -- to a recycling center.
  • Donate or sell usable items -- Consignment shops let you turn some unwanted goods into pocket money. Social service groups take donations of clothing, furniture and other items.

As you can see, decluttering your home is an ongoing effort, not a one-time event. Is it worth the time and energy? Read the next section and decide for yourself.