Clutter is bad. It has the word “untidy” as part of its definition. Somehow, the sound of it evokes a mental imagery of hens clucking away. Clutter is also subjective. Your prized iron man collection could be clutter in your partner’s eyes. 

Clutter can creep into your life without you even realising it. That thing you buy on impulse but never use. That figurine collection you were so into but not anymore. The pile of clothes you’ll never wear again. 

"Clutter is nothing more than postponed decisions."

-Barbara Hemphill

It can be really therapeutic to properly declutter your homes the Marie Kondo way. But if there wasn’t clutter in the first place, there wouldn’t be a need to de-clutter. Here are three easy mindful habits that can help prevent the build up of clutter.

1. Can I not buy this?

Impulse-buying is probably one of the main culprits for building up clutter. We come across something cute and we buy it. We see something that we think is really clever – we buy it. We see something our friend has –  we buy it. But do we really need the item? How often have we bought something because it was interesting, only for it to be forgotten a few days later? Novelty items are one of the biggest banes for consumers.

Even if you needed something, there are many ways to obtain utility without ownership. Here’s a quick guide on how to not buy things even if you need them. Hint: Borrow, rent, make. 

2. Thanks but no.

We love freebies. Goodies bags and branded merchandise are the hallmarks of events and promotional campaigns. Because people rarely say no to free things. Yet, how many of these items are tucked away and forgotten the minute we get home? Do we really need a sixth tote bag? It probably has an irrelevant logo or slogan printed on anyway. Indeed, brands and companies should reassess the effectiveness of giving out marketing merchandise. But as individuals, we can do our part by simply refusing them. 

3. Invest in functionality

Of course, part of what makes a home our home is knowing that people and things will always be there. And there are things that make up our staple – furniture, regularly used household items, etc. We can’t expect to pop over to our neighbour’s for an espresso every morning. (Unless coffee is just an excuse.)  

Invest in good, quality items that are also multifunctional. For example, crockery that is also microwave and oven safe, so there wouldn’t be multiple sets of them. Tables that are extendable, so there isn’t a need to own a second table for hosting bigger groups. Duvets that regulate temperatures so there is no need for a different set for summer versus winter. Sofa beds for hosting guests.

Upcycling can be a way to repurpose things, giving them a new lease of life. If unutilised items could be made into useful ones, it is a win-win to reduce waste and avoid purchasing. However, we should first be mindful to optimise our consumption and avoid having items that could be unutilised. And it starts with a few simple reminders to ourselves before we take something home. 

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