Cost of Living

10 Ways To Eliminate Clutter

Over the years, I’ve moved 19 times. 11 of which were over the last decade in New York City. Apparently, I’m unable to settle since I sold my childhood home… while my Mom was traveling in Germany… but that’s another story, Love you Mom!

That many moves makes you really, really good at two things.

  1. Packing, moving and unpacking. We’re talking boxes itemized, nothing lost or broken, all unpacking done, all boxes gone day one, kind of good. Perhaps more importantly, moving also made me good at…
  2. Not acquiring Junk

When you move frequently, you start looking at your things and realizing, the things you own, in fact, own you. Things cost money, I know DUH! I’m not just talking the money you plunk down in the first place. You have to find a place to put them “we need a bigger closet” sound familiar. You have to pay to clean, repair and replace it. Pay for boxes to pack it up and movers to move, store or haul away said stuff.

The more you have, the more it costs. That all means, stuff actually gets more expensive, not cheaper the longer you have it. Just something to think about the next time you’re trying the cheeky “if I use this everyday for the next two years…” line on yourself when eyeing that great new handbag.

Here’s the chicken-and-the-egg bit. I’m not sure if it was all the moving that kept me from acquiring Junk, or the lack of Junk that facilitated all the moving. What I do know, for sure, saying no to stuff, means saying no to debt. Being debt-free and being junk-free go hand in hand. Pretty nice freedoms to have right!

Preamble and philosophy aside, Alison Stewarts segment on the CBS Morning show about her new book Junk: Digging Through America’s Love Affair With Stuff was one I’m glad I caught. It’s now a book on my list… from the library that is! My Husband and I borrow and only collect e-reads now.

In honor of my Mother, who I helped thin out her closet just this last weekend and of the insightful segment on this mornings news, I’m sharing my:

10 Tricks To Eliminate Clutter

  1. Give Yourself a Treat: It might be downright pavlovian but if you can trick your brain into associating getting rid of Junk with pleasure, it’s going to help. Don’t worry, if your treat is food, tip number 2 is going to negate any caloric effects.
  2. Get Moving: Ok, we’ve already established I’m a roamer and move entirely too much. Yet the advice is sound. You might not move homes or apartments, but if you physically move everything out of a closet, try it on, clean it up, check for repairs, by the time you have to start moving everything back in, being physically tired weighs into that decision. You start to prioritize your physical self, over the stuff and it helps. Yes, it’s a trick, so is tip 3.
  3. Take a Picture, It Lasts Longer! A slam in the 80’s now seems like good advise. If you’re having a hard time letting something go, replace the item in your hands, with your phone and take a photo. Realign your memory and your physical connection from Stuff to Picture of Stuff will make it a lot easier to say bye!
  4. Fall Donation Party: Speaking of old school, Salvation Army makes it easy to schedule a pickup appointment online. Schedule a time and make a party of it with friends. Crack open a bottle of wine after the last stuffs out to toast your efforts. Just make sure you stay home because…
  5. NEVER Drink and Shop: New York guys and gals will understand this best. If brunch goes from social drinking, to social shopping, you’re in trouble. Even if credit cards came with warnings like “drinking may lead to buying” it would do about as much good as the warning on the side of a bottle of beer does. Nothing.
  6. Ask Better Questions: Instead of asking yourself “Do I really need this, or just want it” ask yourself “which do I want more, this thing or the ability to someday say “I QUIT!” If you’re asking yourself about want vs need, the question doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. If what you REALLY want is to have enough in savings to make sure you can walk out of a job, a bad relationship or just a bad deal, then it’s a lot easier to put that thing, back on the shelf.
  7. Buy That Kid a Coke! Next time you’re grabbing lunch or coffee get something for the person behind you. Don’t tell them, just ask the cashier to do it for you. You’re going to get a secret rush and guess what, generosity comes without guilt. Replacing one impulse with another is an old school trick. You get that high-from-your-buy without acquiring stuff.
  8. One In, One Out Rule:  Find your local second hand store and open an account, start recycling that wardrobe and accessory closet. If shopping is a hobby, you’ll do pretty well. It will not only help you make space, it will help you pay for the new item or even better, help you start saving.
  9. Shop-less Habit: If you’re a shopper, pick one month (in the not to distant future) and commit to not buying ANYTHING, just for that month. Use up all the beauty products, samplers, pantry items, cleaning products, every type of consumable item in your house. It takes 30 days to form a new habit and in 30 days, you just might have a more impulse control.
  10. Put Down the Fashion Magazine: I used to love them, heck I used to work for them, but the truth is, marketing is aimed to trigger that “I’ve gotta have it” feeling. It makes you feel inadequate, what you have now is clearly not hip, cool, trendy enough and it causes you to buy, buy, buy when you don’t even want to.


  1. Very noch article with interesting ideas, we especially like the point of giving yourself a treat and the 30 day non shopping challenge. For one thing it is important to make sure our brain understand that buying is not required for happiness. But all day long we are told so by ads. So we have to be very diligent in proving our brain that we are wrong. For another thing we shall not overwhelm ourselves. Saying to yourself I will never shop again won’t work. But 30 days is not that long and scary. Minimalism can best be achieved through baby steps


    1. So glad this rings true for you Fabian. For 30 days a challenge can seem like fun and as silly as it seems a great is your own reinforcement. Where “never again” seems like depriving yourself, punishing yourself instead of allowing yourself to be open to the process of making changes. Personally it was a process but one that I grew from and found more focus and freedom through. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!


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