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The Top 10 Most Common Sources of Clutter

The Top 10 Most Common Sources of Clutter in Homes


West Elm Lacquer Wood Tray

West Elm Lacquer Wood Tray

Photo / West Elm

These are the top 10 most common sources of clutter in your home. You're not a hoarder if you have a lot of clutter (very few people qualify as true 'hoarders') says Chief Organizing Officer, Ginny Snook Scott, for California Closets. You might hold onto clutter because...

Here are some of the most common sources of clutter and how to handle each one.

1. "Bargains" you couldn't pass up but never use
"But it's free" is never a good reason to bring something into your home.

Solution: Resist the temptation to buy something because it's a good deal. If you're not going to use it, it's not really a deal at all. Continues reading about bargain clutter.

2. Magazines over 3 months old
I love having paper around and have been known to let copies of the New Yorker, Allure and US Weeklies pile up in my home. But at a certain point, if you haven't found time to read it, you're not going to.

Solution: Snook Scott recommends you recycle magazines and catalogs at the 3 month mark.


3. Empty Jars and plastic containers
Miss-matched Tupperware, Chinese take out containers, and doggie bags that are missing a top or bottom can be thrown out or recycled right away.

Solution: Keep an orphaned top or bottom for a week. If the match doesn't show up, recycle.

4. Old handbags and shoes
Closets really are such tiny spaces so it's important to only keep clothing, shoes and accessories that you really, really love and wear.

Solution: Put them in a storage bin in your basement or attic. If you haven't touched them in 6 months, time to donate.


5. Free-gift and impulse-buy cosmetics
You know the "gift with purchase" bags full of lip sticks and blushes? Once again, if you're not going to use it, it's best to just not allow it into your home at all.

Solution: Keep those for a month and if you haven't used them in that time, recycle, donate or swap with a friend for something you will use.

6. Clothing that doesn't fit or is out of fashion
I've written extensively about the downfall of clothes you haven't worn in a while that is either out of fashion, doesn't fit or you don't love. Don't give up closet space to clothing you are not wearing.


7. Orphan socks
I have no idea where these socks end up. Behind the dryer? In your gym bag? No one really knows, not even organization experts like Snook Scott.

Solution: Snook Scott recommends placing a small box, basket or bin in your laundry area. Throw the orphan socks in and if the match doesn't show up within a week, throw the orphans out. (Harsh sounding, I know. I think you can also keep them to polish furniture and in that case, store them with your cleaning supplies)

8. Old medicines, ointments, and toiletries
According to Snook Scott, people hang onto these mainly because they're not sure when to throw them out.


1. Toss them once they hit their expiration date. If there's no expiration date, throw them out once there is a change in smell, color or substance.
2. For toiletries, Snook Scott recommends dedicating a small space in a guest bathroom or linen closet with travel sized toiletries you've brought home from hotels for your guests to use while visiting.


9. Promotional T-shirts and Trinkets
This is the kind of junk you think, "I really don't even have time to find a storage space for this" so they quickly become clutter.

Solution: Don't even allow these to cross the threshold of your home. If you receive one for participating in a charity event, try to let the organizers know ahead of time you don't need the t-shirt. This way they save money and you have less clutter.

10. Wire dry-cleaner hangers
Wire hangers and the plastic bags dry cleaning is returned to you in are both terrible for your clothes: the hangers stretch the shoulders at odd angles, and the plastic traps the dry cleaning chemicals so the work even longer, slowly but surely degrading the fabric.

Solution: Snook Scoot recommends you bring your own hangers to the dry cleaner and request no plastic. That way when you get home you can place them right back into your closet with no re-arranging.


Next, read about strategies to Get Rid of Clutter for Good.

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