With seven people in my house, controlling clutter is a constant struggle. No matter how many boxes I haul to the local thrift store, it feels like we always have an overabundance of items spilling out of cabinets, closets and shelves.
The key to having a decluttered house, I’ve discovered, is not getting rid of what we have. Instead, it’s stopping the constant flow of items coming in through the front door.
While anything has the potential to become clutter, think twice about buying the following items, which can quickly overrun your home.
1. Single-use appliances
Rice cookers, panini presses and yogurt makers all seem like perfect purchases to help you eat healthier at home. However, unless you’re cooking these foods on a daily or weekly basis, skip the single-use appliances. Chances are you already have some other pot or pan in your kitchen that does the same job without cluttering up your cupboards.
For more help decluttering your kitchen, check out “7 Small Appliances You Don’t Need — and What to Use Instead.”
2. Unitasker gadgets
Unitasker gadgets are just as bad as single-use appliances except they don’t take up as much space. Here, we’re talking about things like egg slicers, hamburger molds, apple corers and others we cite in “16 Products You Absolutely Do Not Need.”
Most of these items get used only a couple of times before the novelty wears off and they are relegated to a dark corner of a kitchen drawer because a plain ol’ knife or your hands will do.
I’ve never met a library book sale I didn’t like, and everyone who walks into my living room can tell. While I think reading is an essential part of life, it’s hard to have a clutter-free house when books are everywhere.
Stacks and shelves of books can make a home look cozy, but if you’re going for the minimalist aesthetic, get your books from the library instead or switch to e-books.
4. Toys with many parts
I’m all for getting kids the toys they want and will use, but don’t introduce them to the world of Legos unless they’ve expressed an interest. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for years of trying to corral a multitude of tiny pieces.
When shopping for toys, simpler is always better if you’re concerned about clutter. For instance, if your child wants a doll, look for a basic cloth one rather than, say, a Barbie that comes with endless accessory options.
5. Holiday and seasonal decor
Decorating for the holidays can be fun, but then you need to store everything away for the rest of the year. You can remove some of the clutter from your life by eliminating seasonal decor purchases altogether.
If you can’t bear the thought of that, limit yourself to decorating for a specific holiday that you especially love. Another option would be to stick to tablecloths, placemats and decorative flags that can be folded and stored in a small space.
6. Holiday-specific gift wrap
For a clutter-free house, you should also banish rolls of wrapping paper for every occasion. Instead, pick one paper that will work for everything. For instance, Money Talks News managing editor Karla Bowsher buys only silver paper. It’s festive enough for Christmas but also works for everything from birthdays to bridal showers.
7. Wall decor
We don’t often think of walls as being a source of clutter, but if you fill them with signs, artwork and photos, your rooms will feel cramped rather than airy. Be choosy about what to display and think twice before buying one more affirmation sign that encourages you to “Live Laugh Love.”
8. Formalwear or special occasion clothing
While you might need a dress for your favorite relative’s wedding this summer, you don’t have to buy it. To keep a decluttered house, consider renting formalwear or special occasion clothing.
Services like Rent the Runway and Poshare let you rent designer dresses, and tuxedo and suit rentals are offered by many menswear stores. Renting not only reduces the clutter in your home but can save you money, too.
9. Trendy clothing and shoes
It’s not just formalwear that can clutter up your closet. Many times, we buy the latest fashions but quickly abandon those pieces when they go out of style or we decide they aren’t for us.
Stick to buying classic pieces you know you’ll feel comfortable wearing. If you want a relatively clutter-free way to incorporate trendy clothes into your wardrobe, try a rental service like Nuuly or Gwynnie Bee.
10. Subscription boxes
I discovered the world of subscription boxes about two years ago and was instantly hooked. Receive a box full of specially curated items in the mail every month? Sign me up. Since then, I have tried everything from Ipsy for makeup to Causebox (now Alltrue) for lifestyle items and Norlii for specialty goods from Scandinavia.
Along the way, I’ve received some lovely things, but my house has also become filled with clutter I did not need or want. If you’re trying to pare down your possessions, skip the subscription boxes and buy individual items you want.
11. Specialty beauty products
Beauty products can quickly overrun your bathroom. Rather than buying different lotions, creams and serums for every part of your body, look for versatile, multi-use products.
Similarly, a tried-and-true basic make-up routine can help you avoid drawers filled with bright shades that you’ll wear once before abandoning.
12. Multiple sheet sets
Depending on where you live, it can make sense to have cotton sheets in the summer and a flannel set for the winter. Beyond that, reconsider buying duplicate sets of sheets, which can quickly clutter closets.
Dedicated minimalists can get by with one set of sheets — simply wash them immediately after stripping your bed in the morning and they will be ready to go back on the mattress by evening.
13. Souvenir mugs and magnets
Mugs and magnets can seem like the perfect vacation souvenirs. After all, they are relatively small, and these items have a practical purpose. However, a refrigerator covered with magnets will look cluttered, and it won’t take long for mugs to start filling your cupboards if you bring one home from every trip.
For a decluttered house, consider returning from vacation with your memories, a few photos and nothing more.
14. Decorative pillows
A couch or bed piled high with throw pillows can look inviting, but where will all those pillows go when it’s time to sit down or go to sleep? Yup. They’re going to end up on the floor. If you have kids, don’t be surprised if they end up all over the house during the day, too.
This is the ultimate aspirational purchase for me personally. I buy notebooks, cards and stationery sets and dream wistfully about sitting down to write long letters or journal my deep thoughts while contemplating the rising sun on a summer morning.
Of course, that never happens, and all the paper products simply overflow on my desk and cause guilt every time I see them. Unless you are already a committed user of stationery products, this might be one purchase to skip.
16. Outdoor recreation items
We’re talking here about tents, skis, snowboards, fishing poles, beach umbrellas and other items that maybe get used once or twice a year. In many cases, you could probably rent what you need rather than buying bulky equipment that needs to be stored year-round.
If you do decide to buy, make sure it’s an item that you’ll use enough to justify giving it a permanent spot in your home.
17. Organizational bins and baskets
In an ironic twist, the organizational bins and baskets you buy to contain your clutter could actually make your house look untidy. Unless they can be tucked away out of sight, they can create visual clutter in the home. Plus, they can quickly become overloaded and look disorganized.
Rather than buying containers for your clutter, consider getting rid of the clutter itself.
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