Unlocking the Secret to a Clutter-Free, Low-Waste Home News flash: you don't need to do everything perfectly.

By Abby K. Cannon, JD, RD, CDN

Much of the “prepping for baby” content tells you what to get when you have a baby. Everyone has her own opinion on what’s a “must-have,” and it’s super tempting to get it all. Content is created to convince you that if someone else’s kid loved this toy, sleep sack, or book, your kid will also.

Spoiler alert: all babies, kids, and parents are different and different items work for all of us. There’s no way to anticipate everything our kids or we’ll need or like. So, if you automatically say “yes” to everyone else’s must-haves, you will end up with a clutter-filled home and no idea what to do with everything. (Here’s another spoiler alert: one study found that women who perceived their homes as cluttered had higher cortisol levels, the stress hormone!).

If you aim to have a minimalist home, an eco-friendly/sustainable home, or, at the very least, a not-super-cluttered home, it’s time to learn to be picky about what comes into your home. In other words, adopt this boundary and “just say no” to as many extras as possible.

Commit now as an expecting parent to not over-buy and start with the least amount possible. The less stuff you have, the more you value that stuff, and the harder it is to bring more things in. Conversely, the more you have, the easier it is to keep purchasing because you need help remembering what you have, and then you’ll find yourself drowning in stuff! And, when we’re drowning in stuff and overwhelmed, we’re tempted to clean out and throw everything away because there’s too much to deal with. That’s one reason so much ends up in landfill.

Commit to saying no; you’ll be more peaceful and help save the planet. Here are a few tips for saying “no”:

Make a list of what you need and what you want. 

Allow yourself to get what you need, but wait for the “wants.” Continue to add to the “want” list when you decide to make an impulse purchase. When you continue to revisit the “want” list, you’ll likely find that you’re over many of the items. Your clutter-free home and mind will thank you.

Ask to borrow from a friend. 

If you need clarification on a need or a want, find someone who has it and ask to borrow it. Parents who have fallen into the buying-too-much trap will happily lend you (or even give you) the item. Once you try it out yourself, you can decide if you need it or can go without it.

Take time periodically to revisit what you have and decide whether it remains a “need.”

It’s important to say no to things coming into our homes and say no to things staying in our homes. We want to make space for new needs, and by continuously evaluating what you use and don’t use, you will only get stuck with a bit of stuff. (My husband and I do this every two months, which feels so good!).

One more thing to note:

When our goal is to live a lower waste life, meaning that we are more conscious about our purchases and the products we use and aim to reduce how much we regularly send to landfill, friends and even acquaintances love to hand off stuff that they don’t know what to do with to us. For the most part, this is amazing! We want perfect clothes, toys, and gear to go to another happy home instead of a landfill! But do we always need it to come into our homes? It’s harder to “just say no” to free items. The “zero price effect” is a studied psychological phenomenon describing how something free makes it more enticing and almost irresistible. I fall for this way too often. But, in taking my advice, I take my need and want lists seriously, and I use free items as trials. I set a trial period if I say “yes” to the item. If we don’t use it or have determined that we don’t need it, we find another happy home.

Here’s to saying no to everything and yes to a clutter-free home, mind, and planet.

Abby K. Cannon is an attorney turned dietitian who lives a very eco-friendly lifestyle. She created Abby’s Food Court to make a healthy, low-waste life approachable, doable, and FUN. Mama to two boys, Abby is passionate about helping you upgrade your health (and life) with hacks that are low-impact on your lifestyle and high-impact on the planet!