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Thoughtful shopping habits fight disorganization, clutter

Shirley McMarlin
| Monday, January 21, 2019 1:30 a.m
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Buying in bulk can lead to clutter if your home’s storage space is limited.

No matter the topic of my articles, readers will invariably comment, “Just tell people to buy less stuff.”

And although I couldn’t agree more that consumption contributes to clutter and disorganization, I’m also aware that telling someone to just stop shopping is not a realistic solution.

A dietitian advises clients on how to lose weight and how to keep the weight off by making lifestyle changes. Similarly, I can help people purge their belongings in an effort to organize their homes, but they will be back in the same spot months later if they don’t fundamentally change their behavior in terms of what comes into their homes.

The habits around what we buy are complex, and the line between what we need and what we want is blurry. Real progress in terms of decluttering and organization requires changing our mind-sets and rethinking what we value.

Yes, Marie Kondo’s popular book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” now a Netflix series, has prompted a discussion about which possessions are valuable and which ones we can part with because they don’t “spark joy.” But I would argue it’s even more important to make those decisions on the front end — when you’re online or in a store — so that everything surrounding you is something you need, use and enjoy.

Here are some strategies:

Understand urges

Many people have one or two categories of items they’re inclined to overbuy. For some it is clothing or books, for some it’s food, and for others it may be office supplies.

Be cognizant of what is motivating you to buy those items and consider forgoing a purchase from time to time. Or, at the very least, for every one item you bring into your house, remove one item from the same category. Success breeds success. Once you feel more in control of your buying habits for one category, that can extend to other areas.

Ban bulk-buying

Buying in bulk is a trend that seems here to stay, though I’ve never understood why it’s necessary to buy so much of one product at one time. I realize you can save a bit of money and time, but it’s important to consider the stress of fitting everything into your home, trying to use products before they expire and then disposing of what you inevitably don’t use.

Fight impulses

It’s so easy to buy so many items in so many places — hats and gloves at the grocery store, food and paper products at the convenience store, office supplies and stationery at the bookstore — that people pile up purchases that fall into the impulse or “just-in-case” category.

Those types of decisions tend to paralyze people, and the objects end up as clutter. This type of behavior, multiplied over dozens and dozens of purchases, not only clutters your house, it causes stress.

Get creative

Instead of immediately buying everything you need or want, consider whether there is another way you could obtain it. Perhaps you could check out a book from the library, or borrow a power washer that you’ll only use once or twice a year from a neighbor.

If you get creative, you can save money and won’t be saddled with so much stuff. Challenge yourself to think differently.


Nicole Anzia is a freelance writer
and owner of Neatnik.


Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Shirley at 724-836-5750, smcmarlin@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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