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The One To Zen Organizing Blog

Breathe in Calm, Breathe out Clutter

  • Writer's pictureJill Katz

One to Zen Strategies To Improve Your Shopping Habits So You Can Stay Organized


Over the years, I have seen clutter as a result of bad shopping habits. I wouldn’t necessarily call those clients compulsive shoppers. But, nevertheless, their spaces are filled with items they don’t really need. Interestingly enough, I have also run into the occasional client who has the opposite problem. Their tendency is to resist buying items that they truly need. And those non purchases also culminate in clutter (think books in piles on the floor because there are no bookshelves in the home.

So I decided to compose a “One to Zen” list of strategies to aid the over-shopper, the under-shopper, and everyone in between. Here we go:


For Overbuyers:

1. Only buy things that you intend to use right away.

Let the store do its job and store items for you until you need it. For example, if you plan on redoing your bathroom in a couple of years, don’t purchase a faucet this year– even if it’s on sale.

Are you an overbuyer when it comes to clothes? Read this article from the Atlantic about what happens to old clothes.

2. If you have a new hobby, don’t buy “all the things'' right away.

Instead, limit the number of items you purchase per month for that hobby. For example, if you are suddenly into yoga, buy a yoga mat in June and save the yoga blocks forJuly. If you are sticking with the hobby then you have earned the new purchase. Which leads me to my next strategy…

3. If you have accumulated items from a hobby that doesn't excite you anymore, give those items away.

Clear that clutter!

4. Buy only 1 item instead of multiples.

There are two exceptions to this rule:

You can buy multiples of an item that you have proven to use up within 3 months (ex. Toilet Paper, soap, toothpaste, food items you eat a lot).

You can buy multiples of a clothing item in the same or different colors if you have a proven record of wearing the same items to reduce decision making.

Otherwise, you might be well-intentioned but your multiples strategy will backfire into clutter. Trust me, I have seen the fallout!

5. If you are shopping online, leave your item in the shopping cart for 24 hours before purchasing.

The next day, ask yourself again, do I really need this?

6. Use these mantras to help you prevent overbuying:

“I can always buy it later” ,

“I will keep items out of the landfill”

I need to use items I already have before bringing more items into my home”

7. Do not buy something until you know where you will store it

I’m talking to anyone who has a Ninja, A Waffle Maker and an Insta-Pot!

For Under-buyers

8. Recognize certain issues that keep coming up as cues that give you a “license to buy.”

No home for your books? - License to buy a bookshelf

Keep running out of sunscreen? - License to buy a 3-pack instead of a single container the next time you go to the store

Frustrated by using a folding table for your home office? - License to buy a desk

9. Limit your decision making.

Many under-buyers out there are overwhelmed by all the choices so they run and hide instead of moving forward with their purchase. I suggest choosing a few parameters as a tool to make a decision. For example, when choosing a coffee table, you might use material, amount of storage, and size as your 3 parameters. Then find 3 choices that fit those parameters. Finally, choose 1 of the 3 choices and pull the trigger. I know you can do it!

For all kinds of shoppers:

ZEN: The ultimate strategy : Choose an area in your house to receive your purchases.

Your Amazon box arrives and you open it up only to discover that you need to return the item. Or you need to read the instructions for the item. Or you need to assemble the item. Not all purchases can be put away immediately. So where do you put it? That’s why you need a receiving area. This could be a hall closet, a guest room, or a bedroom closet. Just make sure to schedule the next necessary step for integrating your purchase into your home so it isn’t lost and forgotten until your Professional Organizer comes and discovers it under a pile of clutter.

In Conclusion

Are you an over-buyer or an under-buyer? Take this quick question quiz from Gretchen Rubin and find out! Then share in the comments.

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