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As Professional Organizers, we talk often with our clients about how getting organized is a lot like losing weight, since they both require a program of prevention, reduction, and maintenance. Preventing clutter from being created is the first step toward reducing your organizational “weight gain.” Here are a few tips to help you cut those clutter calories:

Control your “clutter cravings.”
People often seem to have an appetite for purchasing certain things, but just like food cravings, you really can overcome your urge to collect. Get comfortable with the concept of “enough.” Avoid the places that encourage your particular collecting behavior, and if you must go, have a targeted approach to something you’ve planned ahead to buy. You may even need to bring a friend to “talk you down.” Here are some examples of places that are the clutter-calorie equivalent of going to Krispy Kreme:

  • Garage sales
  • Flea markets
  • Souvenir shops
  • Discount stores
  • Used bookstores
  • Shoe stores

Deal with things as they come.
Mail, dishes, and laundry are continuous sources of clutter. You can probably think of a few more examples of “continuous clutter” yourself. These processes are not going to stop, and accepting that is the first step in dealing with the problem. To battle clutter, you must have systems and routines for dealing with it, usually on a daily basis.

Stop extra postal mail, unsolicited phone calls, and junk e-mails.
Junk communications are clutter too, and they cost you time and energy. Do not provide your personal contact information without asking yourself if it’s really necessary, and always be clear on the privacy policies of the company that is receiving this information. When telemarketers call, have a response ready to end the call quickly, and always make sure you ask to be removed from their list.

Plan before you buy.
People create a lot of clutter by simply buying the wrong thing and not returning it. Take measurements, bring color swatches, and know sizes and quantities before you go out. Also, make a list of exactly what you need before you shop. Planning your purchases will help you save money, too!

Think before you buy.
When you are about to buy something impulsively, ask yourself these crucial purchasing questions:

  • Who can I borrow this from or share this with?
  • What do I already have that is like this item?
  • Where will I store this item?
  • When will I have time to use it and maintain it?
  • Why do I need this item?

Don’t always accept freebies.
What a nifty glow-in-the-dark golf visor! But after the novelty wears off, what is going to happen to it? Don’t take home everything you are offered from a party, a trade show or a conference, and don’t bring home hotel soaps, samples, or other things you won’t use.

Ask for the gifts you want.
It doesn’t always come up, but if it does, be ready to tell people some great gift ideas for you. Otherwise you risk getting things you don’t want and won’t use, which means clutter! Try MyRegistry.com to make a universal wish list for yourself for every occasion.

Like dieters always say, “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips.” Preventing the clutter from entering your home in the first place means that you’ll have less of it to “work off” later!

Lorie Marrero is a Professional Organizer and creator of The Clutter Diet, an innovative, affordable online program for home organization. Lorie’s site helps members lose “Clutter-Pounds” from their home by providing online access to her team of organizers. Lorie writes something useful, funny, interesting, and/or insanely practical every few days or so in the Clutter Diet Blog. She lives in Austin, TX, where her company has provided hands-on organizing services to clients since 2000.

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