Happy 2022! We all start the New Year with promises to get healthier and live more simply. Keeping your home clutter-free is an important part of a healthier lifestyle: Clutter causes cortisol—our stress hormone—to rise, and navigating cluttered spaces can become limiting.
As my New Year’s gift to you, here’s one simple, healthy habit you can practice every day to take control over your life, reclaim calm and keep your home clutter-free.
Become the Gatekeeper
The month of January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings, transitions and doorways. A decorative figure on Roman gates, Janus’s two faces watch over what comes in and goes out of the home. This year, summon your inner Janus by practicing the simple but important habit of setting limits. You are the gatekeeper of your home. You get to decide what comes into it. Here are some places to start:
1. Avoid Overbuying
Anyone with a Costco card knows how easy it is to buy 200 rolls of toilet paper at once! The pandemic has only ratcheted up our fear that we won’t have enough. But that’s what overbuying is: fear. Buy what you need for now, or for this week—and that’s it. You’ll save time, space and money. And you’ll breathe easier when you’re not letting your fear take up space you could better use for living your life.
2. Say No to Free Samples
Flossing your teeth daily is a good habit. Taking four extra toothbrushes and seven sample-size toothpastes when you already have a drawer-full at home isn’t. The same goes for little bottles of shampoo, cosmetics samples and plastic packets of soy sauce and ketchup.
Although I love helping my clients clear out clutter in their kitchens and drawers, I’m even happier to help you prevent clutter from building up in the first place. So, think twice before you take giveaways, goodie bags and samples. All those “freebies” have a cost—to your space, your mental health and to the environment.
You’re not giving up something valuable when you say no thank you to things you don’t need; you’re giving yourself the gift of calm.
3. Sort the Mail
Adopting a new habit takes daily practice, and a simple way to become the gatekeeper of your home is the daily mail. If you’re like most people, you probably toss it on a table and let it pile up. Instead, take five minutes a day to restrict what comes through your front door:
Recycle the junk. As soon as junk mail comes in, toss it in the bin. To prevent junk from coming to your house in the first place, register with:
Opt Out for insurance and credit card offers
DMA Choice for direct mail ($2 to be removed for 10 years)
ValPak to be removed from the ValPak coupon mailer
Keep a basket, inbox or set of hanging file folders for important incoming mail. Set up an inbox for every member of your household.
Manage magazines. Periodical subscriptions—especially weeklies—can quickly pile up. Create a stack or pile for your favorite magazines, and get rid of the oldest two issues before you put the newest one at the top of the pile. Make sure to cancel subscriptions for magazines you never read.
Mail is just one example of the things that tend to pile up at the doorway to your house. For more ideas, read my blog post on managing clutter in your entryway.
4. One in - One Out
We’re not trying to keep everything out of our homes—just to be thoughtful about it. When you decide that something special has earned its place, keep the balance by getting rid of two things you’re ready to let go of. By constantly weeding your belongings, you’ll make sure that the things you own don’t own you. And you’ll create a peaceful space to enjoy what you have.
It’s empowering to set boundaries around the space that is most sacred to you. But you can’t do it alone. If you share your home with housemates or family members, it’s important to get everyone involved. Kids love being given responsibilities—and spouses and housemates can also be trained to adopt new habits. Remind them that you’re all on the same team—and that having a peaceful, clutter-free home with space to enjoy your lives is a goal everyone can get behind.