Even the most seasoned minimalists will end up overwhelmed with more clutter if they don’t regularly keep on top of what comes in and what goes out of the home. Left unchecked, it’s easy to become complacent and end up back where you started.
Below, I’ve listed some of the clutter culprits which you should be especially vigilant of.
These get everywhere because they often get bought in packs. Unless you work at a school or in an office, don’t buy pens in packs because you’ll never get around to using the rest before they dry up and they will make your drawers messy.
Pens are also numerous in gift shops and are the next most common keepsake along with keyrings. Don’t be afraid to discard old pens, and if there’s one you love, see if you can buy refills instead of retiring it to a drawer.
People are suckers for brand new, fresh notebooks or journals – myself included. I have so many journals from the past that are half-filled because I got fed up and wanted a new one. The same thing happens with notebooks, but people keep the old ones ‘just in case’, and before long there is a pile of half-full notebooks.
If you use physical notebooks, avoid buying them in packs unless you work at a company or school.
You can also consider using apps and take notes electronically, but this option isn’t for everyone. I’m a pen and paper person myself as the notes stick in my mind easier and I get more creative.
Recently, I recycled piles of these after discovering boxes full in the attic, some with names of people I no longer knew.
Cards multiply very fast because we appreciate the words that people write inside them, or people pass away and we can’t bear to throw away their handwriting.
When it comes to cards, there’s nothing wrong with keeping a select few (I keep some beautiful and thoughtful ones in a photo album), but be sure to recycle the ones that just say ‘to’ and ‘from’, or from people you no longer recognise. You can also take photos of old cards and do away with the physical copy.
I once kept a hoard of old invitations in my bedroom drawer. They were so pretty and I was so honoured to have been invited to events that I kept them as a reminder. Ultimately, however, all I was keeping was junk and they got in the way.
A great event will stick in your memory so there’s no reason to keep an invite. But if there’s one you simply can’t get rid of, you could always place it into a photo album or a memory box.
There’s no reason at all to keep newspapers unless there’s something valuable to you inside it. Even then, you should cut such a thing out rather than keep the whole thing. Nowadays, the same information is available online so it’s highly unlikely you’ll miss out by recycling.
Magazines cost more money than a newspaper, are eye-catching, and over-spilling with information. It’s no wonder that we find it so hard to throw away old magazines in case there is something great inside that we’ll never be able to read again.
But do you really ever go back and read that old information? I doubt it.
That being said, you can cut out the stuff that really interests you and recycle the rest. If it’s a collectable series, however, you can buy magazine binders which will make them beautifully presentable and read like a giant book. I took the latter option for my ‘Writers’ Forum’ collection.
Unless you’re genuinely interested in an advert or service, trash it as soon as it enters your home. Be fast and ruthless.
These end up yellowing in drawers and wallets until they become invisible. Bin old receipts, and better yet, if a shop offers you a digital receipt, opt for that, instead.
Out of a sense of security we keep old paperwork and old bills, but more often than not, we don’t need them and they pile up into a miniature towers. It’s so simple today to scan and digitise anything you’re unsure of, or even to go paperless with companies.So ditch any old paperwork unless it’s very important.
These get bought as gifts and holiday souvenirs more than anything else. But they’re so common as gifts we can end up with a whole haul.
Just a few weeks ago, I was travelling with a mass of about six keyrings on my house key, yet didn’t even notice until my husband stopped me before leaving for work and asked “Emma, why on Earth are you carrying such a heavy mass of keyrings for one bloody key?”. I didn’t know, either. Somehow, they had become invisible to me.
Once I realised the absurdity of it, I chose two favourites and used one to identify my house key, and another to give my bag some character. I donated the rest.
Eventually, cables end up making a mini jungle. In today’s tech heavy world we own so many devices and all the cables and spares that come with them. Sometimes, we think we lose cables so end up buying even more, only to find the old one but keeping them ‘just in case’.
Years of this will not only make specific cables or parts hard to find, but you will end up with ancient, mysterious ones which are no longer relevant to anything you own.
As a gamer and a previous gadget addict, I have been to cable hell and back, once discarding of about three large carrier bags of unknown cables and ten USB leads. I’d say it’s fine to keep one spare, but any more than that and you’ll be lost in the cable jungle before you know it.
Batteries end up all over the house or breeding in the ‘junk drawer’, especially if you have kids. Old batteries can explode or leak battery acid if they aren’t stored correctly, and can eventually drain of their power. Not to mention, they are extremely hazardous for small children.
Only keep the batteries you need and don’t bother holding on to any mystery batteries that don’t seem to fit into any device you own.
Old half-full bottles of shampoo, freebies, Lynx gift sets and other toiletries will take over your bathroom if you don’t throw the old stuff away. If you have unused gifts, consider either using them before you buy more of a similar product, regifting or donating them.
Seasons come and go, and with them, coughs, colds and other ailments. One thing I’ve noticed with medicine cabinets is that nobody tends to throw old medicine away, keeping them ‘just in case’. Yet more medicine gets stockpiled every month or so until we are prepared for an apocalypse.
So, whenever you acquire new medication, discard of any old ones – it’s not healthy to have old medicine anyway, and they can also lose effectiveness over time.
Like with medicine, new makeup gets added but the old tends to stay in the back of the drawer. Always throw away old makeup because it’s the perfect hangout for bacteria.
People buy new mugs yet still hold on to scratched or chipped mugs ‘just in case’. People also like to prepare for huge tea parties that never happen, so every cup is a keeper.
Cups and mugs enter the home as gifts at various times of the year, as holiday souvenirs and as classy new kitchenware, and over time they fill every cupboard and end up stacked haphazardly.
Only keep the mugs you use and never keep scratched or chipped mugs because bacteria will thrive in them.
These are another thing which enter the home as gifts, souvenirs and new kitchenware. I’ve seen families of three and four with enough glasses to host a party of a hundred, yet only a handful of them are ever used. Consider donating or recycling unused glassware.
I’m sure I will have missed a category or two out, but as long as you keep an eye on most of the stuff mentioned above, you will have a fighting chance to keep your home calm and clutter-free.
Next week, watch out for ‘living with another person’s clutter’.