Is maintaining a neater, more organized home part of your New Year’s resolutions? Then try changing a few home habits to help keep clutter at bay. I’ve found there are a dozen simple habits that can help you keep your home tidy. In this story, we’ll look at the first six.
Since new practices take time to stick, I recommend you try one new habit each month. That way, you can get in a good rhythm before adding a new one. Feel free to tackle any one of these habits first as the order that you do them in is up to you. By the end of the year, you’ll have a whole new decluttered way of life!
1. Last year: You stacked your magazines for reading later.
This year: Recycle publications you haven’t read after two weeks. If you’ve kept a magazine for that long and haven’t cracked it, there’s a good chance you won’t get to it before the next issue arrives. You can recycle these magazines without guilt, keeping in mind that you won’t get more of “your money’s worth,” as the catchphrase goes, by cluttering up your valuable space with stacks of unread magazines.
2. Last year: You kept papers and receipts in your wallet or purse until it was ready to burst.
This year: Empty your wallet and purse of receipts, business cards, extra tissues daily. And while you’re at it, form a habit of checking your pockets when you remove that item of clothing. If you don’t want to lose important papers among the grocery receipts, this is a good habit to adopt. Simply recycle, shred or file, as appropriate.
3. Last year: You tossed mail on the table and let it pile up for days.
This year: Sort through mail as soon as it enters your home. Even if you’ve switched most of your documents to paperless, marketing materials such as store mailers, local real estate flyers and supermarket circulars still seem to make their way into our physical mailboxes. To stay ahead of a pileup, sort on the same day that you bring mail into your house. Deal with these items right away: Recycle, shred, file or scan.
4. Last year: You kept unwanted toiletries until they were clearly past their prime.
This year: Multitask while you are brushing your teeth and take a quick assessment of your toiletries drawer. Discard any items that have expired or that you realistically will never use again. If you don’t love that lipstick color, chances are you won’t suddenly change your mind. It serves no purpose for you to hang on to it — even if it was expensive.
5. Last year: You kept gifts that you didn’t need and wouldn’t use out of guilt.
This year: Donate, exchange, return or sell gifts that you don’t love or need. My sister-in-law is a great example of following this habit, and she has done so with gifts I’ve given her that missed the mark. Though I usually put a lot of thought into picking gifts, sometimes I just don’t get it right. When she decides not to keep my gift, I’m not offended. She knows I am well-meaning, and in turn, I wouldn’t want her to keep something she doesn’t like. Plus, because she’s honest with me, I know her better and have become more spot-on with my gift giving. Actually, that’s a good reason to be honest: If you feign love of a gift when you actually don’t love it, you may receive more of the same in the future!
Gifts that don’t come with a gift receipt may still be accepted by retailers in exchange for store credit, though frequently for the current price, which may be lower than what the gift giver paid for it. Clothing, toys and household goods can be donated to nonprofits or sold at a local consignment store.
6. Last year: You earmarked unwanted items for family and friends, assuming they would want your things.
This year: Send photos first and ask if they actually want or need those items. It’s not uncommon to declutter and want to pass on your beloved items to family and friends. But consider why you are doing this. Is it because you think they will really love it, or because it is worth a lot and you would feel less guilty giving it away if someone you know could enjoy it? Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, notes that giving your items to friends and family may be your way of avoiding those feelings of guilt and could even be burdensome for the receiver. So ask first.
If they do want your item, be sure it is picked up within a reasonable amount of time; otherwise, your decluttering effort is defeated. I’ve had friends say they want my items, only to forget about them for a couple of months, indicating to me that they really didn’t love them in the first place. Then I know that I can go ahead and donate or sell it.