Ask the Experts

Q: How Do I Maintain My De-Cluttering Gains?

“We live in an acquisitive society,” according to Susan Pinsky. Luckily, we can keep clutter at bay by asking for perishable gifts and experiences instead of things.

Reviewed on May 13, 2019

Q: “I get rid of clutter when I am up to it. I feel great after the kitchen clutter has been dealt with. I can find things, and I breathe easier, not feeling hemmed in by my ADHD. I am proud of myself, but slowly over the months, I lose that feeling, as clutter begins to accumulate again. How do I maintain the gains I make during those bursts of clutter busting?”


A: The good news is that de-cluttering in bursts is an excellent way of attacking this problem. Spend a day de-cluttering the kitchen, then rest on your laurels for months or even years. The bad news, as you’ve found, is that de-cluttering projects aren’t permanent. You will always, in every room of the house, have to schedule regular de-cluttering days.

We live in an acquisitive society. As long as things are coming in, we will have to set aside time to choose things that can go out. But — more good news — we can stretch the time between those projects from months to years. Next time you de-clutter, don’t purge until there is barely enough space, then purge until there is empty space. Your cabinets should be roomy, with maybe even an empty shelf or two. When you acquire something new, it won’t immediately create stress.

Stick to your shopping list. If you acquire only the items for which you have identified a need, your storage will not fill so quickly. This means no impulse purchases, living without a supposedly “necessary item,” and asking family members to give you perishables (flowers and fruit baskets) and experiences (dinner out, concert tickets) instead of things to keep. Finally, please continue to feel proud of yourself. You are doing great!

Susan C. Pinsky is a professional organizer specializing in ADHD. The mother of a child with ADHD, Susan lectures frequently on organizational issues on TV, on the radio, and in print. She is the author of Organizing Solutions for People with ADHD and The Fast and Furious 5 Step Organizing Solution.

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