When I was little, my grandmother used to say “A stitch in time saves nine”…and I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about at the time. It took me about 15 years or so to figure it out. Anyway, you don’t hear that one too often these days but it is surprisingly true. If you take the time to fix something now, you can usually save time, energy, money, and stress spent on a bigger fix later.
A related turn of phrase is “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Please tell me I’m not aging myself by sharing these! Regardless, prevention gets a lot of lip service but is arguably one of the last things we look at as human beings. We usually wait until after the disaster happens to dream up ways to prevent it in the future.
As suspected, prevention when it comes to clutter is not as commonly talked about (or pinned as much) as uncluttering or creating new storage and systems. Prevention really can be credited as the majority of the cure for clutter and disorganization. And, if you really want to be successful in living more organized, prevention is something you should look at first.
I talked about prevention as one of the four foundational organizing strategies here. And, I still feel strongly that you need to do work in all four of the foundational strategies (Prevent, Create, Reduce, Maintain) in order to live a more organized life. But, whether you are beginning your organizing journey or starting fresh with a reset, the best one to start with is the ‘Prevent’ strategy.
Most of us have been led to believe that the best way to start is by creating new systems and storage solutions. Pinterest says so, so it must be true, right? It’s actually much more effective to move this ‘Create’ phase much further down the timeline.
But it can be challenging to put off organizing projects for many reasons. Did you know many of us crave the dopamine release of buying new things? In addition, the anticipated reward of a wonderfully organized space can be too tempting to resist.
If you find yourself starting (or re-starting) your organizing journey, here are some things you can do to lighten the load:
- Minimize or eliminate bulk shopping. If you have a system of shopping that works for you and you are consuming much of what you buy, by all means don’t quit doing something that is working. However, be honest and eliminate the “great deal” purchases on things you and your family don’t consume on a regular basis.
- Stop shopping for sport. Stay away from your usual jaunts and distract yourself with another activity. Try going for a walk, meet up with a friend for coffee or a cocktail (though that may lead to retail therapy if you have too many), or take the kids on an educational outing. Better yet, you can replace this acquisition habit with a clearing habit by shopping your house for 10 things to let go of.
- Buy only what you need. This means shopping with a list, especially when you go places where you frequently end up leaving with more than you went in to buy. Target, anyone? Target and Sam’s Club are definitly my achilles heel. With a family of three, I don’t frequent Sam’s Club anyway but I find it super-challenging to get through the checkout aisle in Target without at least one, but usually more, additional cute/great/steaming-hot-deals. So, I’ve actually cut back on my visits to the store and order what I need online.
- Break the Garage Sale/Thrifting/Craigslist habit…at least temporarily. This is one I can say with the most certainty is adding to your clutter problem.
- Say “No, Thank you” to freebies and hand-me-downs. This also applies to raffles, giveaways, and freebies online and in-person. Freebies are not free! It’s either junk to clutter up your home , you are volunteering to have someone send the junk (unwanted solicitations) to your home, or they will be clamoring for your time and attention, which is already at a minimum.
- Resist taking home brochures and handouts. Instead of taking it home now so you can look through it later, take a moment to scan the paper to see if there is anything you need. Most often you can find the same information on a website. Enter it into your smartphone a la Evernote or Drafts or carry a single notebook with you for collecting information. Also, if it’s something you might need in the future, you can usually just Google it. After all, will you be able to find that brochure in the piles three months from now? Will you bother looking at all? Or will you just Google it?
- Unsubscribe from retail newsletters, especially flash sales. Most companies are skilled creating a sense of urgency when there isn’t any. If you need a specific item, you can always go directly to the website and search. While this may not be true for flash sale sites, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they aren’t selling anything you urgently NEED. If you are serious about simplifying, you know what to do!
Do you have any to add? I’d love to hear from you!
Ciao for now!