Stop Clutter at the Door

February 26, 2024

Mindy Godding and other pros recently weighed in with the HuffPost on what not to bring into your home. It’s a good question to ask ourselves. After all, the cycle of disorganization starts at acquiring–clutter can’t collect if we don’t keep the items in the first place! We’ve put together our own list, identifying the biggest clutter offenders that should never cross your threshold. Managing clutter takes up valuable time and space in your life. So cut it off at the roots: stop clutter at the door!

Food & Kitchen

Extra Disposable Utensils and Straws

The bane of junk drawers and pantries! We know it’s tempting to hold onto leftovers from takeout and drive-thrus “just in case.” But the truth is, they’ll spend most of their time in your home taking up space. If they’re only useful on rare occasions and still contribute to clutter in busy areas, they’re just not worth the valuable real estate!

That being said, we know it’s hard not to feel guilty about throwing out single-use plastic. The answer isn’t to hold onto the utensils, though: the answer is to turn them down! When you order or go out for food, specify that you won’t be needing any disposable utensils in your order. That way, you can cut down on waste and save your kitchen drawers at the same time. And if you do need the disposable utensils for eating on the go, chuck or recycle them as soon as you’re done.

Extra Sauce Packets

This is another quick-food item that builds up faster than most families can use it. If you’ve got a shelf or compartment in the fridge that’s completely full of months or years worth of messy packets, you know exactly what we’re talking about!

The answer here is the same as with other food disposables: just say no! Purchasing common-use sauces (soy, barbecue, etc.) at the grocery store and keeping them on hand will massively cut down on clutter. When you do order food, opt out of the disposable packets unless you know you will eat the sauce with that specific meal!

Take-Out Menus

We may be dating ourselves with this one, but trust us: these antiquated pieces of paper are still kicking around in plenty of households! If you and your family are in the habit of holding onto menus, it can be hard to make the shift. It’s important to remember that almost all businesses now have their menus available online. There’s no need to save the paper for each time you order!

If you’re keeping the paper menus for archive purposes (remembering specific or lesser-used locations, phone numbers, etc.), you can centralize that information for yourself. Instead of having a messy pile of crumpled sheets in a cabinet or junk drawer, keep an address book in the same spot to record all the information you’d want to save. You can even go digital instead: start a shared Google Doc, use the Contacts or Notes apps on your phone, etc. Each time you have a new paper menu you want to hold onto, keep it just long enough to transfer the information to the address book or your digital archive. Then throw the paper out!

Office & Paper

Free Stationary

We’re all guilty of accumulating pens, pencils, notepads, calendars and so much more from the most random sources. Businesses love to promote themselves by cluttering up our homes! 

This is another class of item that sneaks into our lives whispering, “Just in case.” Of course, an extra pen in the car or a spare notepad from a hotel is fine. But if you know your household tends to accumulate entire jars and drawers of mismatched office supplies, it’s probably better to pump the brakes on bringing in any more.

For those looking to pare down on their already-present stock of extra promotional supplies, here are a few things you can do:

  • Check each pen/marker and throw out the dry ones. If you still have a substantial amount after that, select up to five of the nicest, sturdiest ones and toss the rest. Trust us, it’s no great loss!
  • Keep only one spare calendar for the current year. Get rid of any you still have from previous years, no matter how cute or pretty the pictures are!
  • Do a survey of your notepads. Two or three is usually manageable for the standard office or junk drawer. If you have any more than that, go ahead and throw out any notepads that have fewer than 25% of their pages left.

Junk Mail

Are you in the habit of letting unsorted mail accumulate on counters and tables? Starting a good paper routine is its own beast, but one quick way to cut down on the volume is to get rid of the obvious junk. Our secret weapon keeps it from turning into clutter 100% of the time: don’t even bring it into the house. Flip through the mail as you walk from your box to your door, pull out the obvious junk and chuck it right in your outdoor trash. If the walk to your outdoor wastebins is too laborious or you only have indoor trashcans, have the junk sorted out and toss it in the first trashcan you pass.

Receipts

Some of us have grand aspirations to look back through all of our retail receipts for bookkeeping purposes. Others are in the habit of letting paper receipts from restaurants or grocery stores accumulate in our car or wallet. It can be a thoughtless habit with seriously annoying consequences.

The reality is, most of those pesky scraps of paper don’t belong in your life. Next time you’re making a purchase, ask for an email or text receipt instead. If the business only has paper and you’d like to keep track of the purchase, keep the receipt just long enough to record the basic information (you can use your phone, a small notebook, etc.) before discarding it. It will be so much easier to double-check your credit card charges when you’re looking at just one log instead of digging through a pile of paper!

That being said, we won’t pretend there aren’t very important receipts that break our general “say no” rule. Here are a few of the noteworthy exceptions and how to deal with them:

  • Car/House Work and Repairs:
    • Staple the receipt to the relevant documentation and keep both in your personal files. As a general rule, you’ll want to save information regarding major home additions as long as you own the property. More minor work and repairs should stay in your records for three years. Documentation regarding any car repairs or maintenance can be kept on file to increase later resale value.
  • Medical Expenses:
    • These also belong in your personal files. For ease of reference, it’s a good idea to keep receipts filed with their corresponding EOBs. You should keep both for up to three years, with the exception of treatment for any ongoing health issues–any documentation should be saved until the issue is resolved.
  • Large or Gift Purchases:
    • If you’re saving a receipt for a potential return, you only need to keep it for the length of the return period. Be sure to clear these kinds of receipts out periodically as you do paperwork, or set a reminder in your phone or calendar for when return periods expire. Receipts that apply to warranty items can be kept with the warranty documentation.

We’re curious: what builds up in your home? Do you have your own no-fly list of items you do your best to avoid? Let us know over at our Abundance Declutter Group on Facebook!