Beyond the Bin: House feeling cluttered? Declare a 'more-atorium!'

It’s January! The holidays are behind us, and winter has settled in for a while. We’re all spending most of our time indoors, like it or not.

Does being inside your house make you happy? Or is it a source of vague (or not so vague) frustration due to a surfeit of stuff?

Take charge, and make a New Year’s resolution to clear out some of your excess belongings. You’re not alone: Whether it’s called decluttering, downsizing, purging or just tidying up, the very idea can strike terror into the hearts of all but the most devoted neatniks.

So start with a gradual approach. Maybe you can’t make your existing clutter disappear as quickly as you’d like, but you can at least keep it from getting worse.

How? By limiting the new things you bring into your house. Declare a moratorium on “more.” Take a break from nonessential shopping. Practice saying “no” to new stuff, at least through the end of the month.

Think about it a minute: Where does your stuff come from?

Do you shop just for fun? Are you the type that can’t resist a good deal, even if you don’t need it? Are your weekend errands derailed by yard sales and curbside “free” signs? Do you pick up a free pen every time you go to the bank? Is your junk mail spiraling out of control? How many boxes arrive on your doorstep each week? Do you have clothing with tags still attached, or items you’ve purchased but never opened?

No wonder your house feels cluttered! Becoming more aware of what comes into your home, and how it does so, is the first step in decluttering.

Once a new possession makes its way into your house, it becomes yours to manage. This includes cleaning, maintenance and storage for as long as you own it. When it’s no longer wanted or needed, you’ll also be responsible for disposing of it. Think twice whenever you shop or scavenge: Is this item really worth owning?

Impulse purchases are designed to be hard to resist. Many are poorly made, and were destined for the landfill the day they were manufactured. Learn to recognize them for what they are, and you’ll beat those clever marketing folks at their own game.

Some things, like daily mail, sneak inside all by themselves. Stacks of unread correspondence and publications are big contributors to clutter. Recycling is good, but take it a step further and eliminate unnecessary mail at its source.

Cancel unwanted subscriptions and catalogs. Consider switching to digital editions of your daily newspapers. You can also cut your junk mail way down by signing up online with a mail opt-out service like DMA Choice (dmachoice.thedma.org). Their fee of $2 per address for a 10-year opt-out period is money well spent.

Be mindful and observe what comes into your house, by intention or not. Get your other family members on board, too. Catch your clutter before it has a chance to happen. The benefits are undeniable: Fewer possessions mean less money and energy spent, less stress managing your stuff, and less environmental impact when it’s time to let things go. And less clutter, too.

It’s true: Less really is more! 

Save the date: Repair Café, Saturday, Jan. 25, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Newburyport Community/Senior Center, 331 High St. Bring a broken item from home to be fixed for free. Details: www.repaircafenbpt.org.

For additional information on all aspects of recycling in Newburyport: www.cityofnewburyport.com (click on “Recycling, Energy & Sustainability Department”) or call the recycling office at 978-499-0413.

Nancy Roeder is a member of the Toward Zero Waste Newburyport Committee. Her family’s household trash averages less than two pounds a week.

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