There is this misconception that only messy people need to hire a professional organizer. Most of my clients are working professionals and excel at managing people, companies, and a busy home life. Think of me as an efficiency expert. You’re home is running well but you need someone to come in and maximize it’s potential. Removing clutter is only part of what I do. I also help my clients identify what habits are creating more chaos (and stress) and work with them to eliminate those things. Here are eight common clutter-creating items I don’t buy or bring in to my home.

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1. Subscription Boxes

The idea of having a company hand pick and deliver something to your door sounds like peak efficiency. Especially in an era where everyone is overbooked and limited on time. Don’t have time to go shopping for this season’s latest wardrobe? No problem. We’ll send one for your kids too – they don’t fit the clothes from last year anyway.  You haven’t had a chance to go grocery shopping in 2 weeks? We pack a meal and a simple recipe to follow in one box! Nowadays there seems to be a subscription box for just about everything- clothes, toiletries, books, kids’ crafts, bath bombs, coffee, meals- the list is endless.

Subscription boxes are marketed as a way to simplify and streamline everyday life but in truth they just add to your already overwhelming long to-do list.  It’s more stuff you have to unpack, sort, process, and use.  The boxes quickly stack up and eventually you’re in this cycle of trying to remember to use the 20 kids’ crafts stored in your closet and forgetting to cancel the subscription every time a new one arrives. It’s like paying a company to deliver clutter, trash and stress every month (or week) to your home.  I have helped many of my clients return, donate, and throw away clothes, crafts, food, and countless other items from these services.  The best way to make sure you don’t let them go to waste is to not let them in your home.

2. K-Cups

I have a particularly strong loathing for these things as a professional organizer and the inventor agrees with me. It’s bad enough they are hella’ bad for the environment but it doesn’t stop there.  K-cups are built in clutter and mess- storing them, disposing of them, cleaning the machine.  It is too much work for crap mediocre coffee.  I get it. It can be hard to pass up the convenience of one-minute brew. And even if you don’t own one, chances are your work kitchen or break room has one sitting on a counter.

So what do you do if you can’t switch to drip coffee? You can replace the plastic devils cups with a reusable K-Cup pod for the price of one box. It can take a few tries to get the right measurement of ground coffee but it beats the murky cup of Keurig water you’ve been drinking. And if you REALLY can’t give up that pod-life at least switch to a machine that recycles their pods and uses foil over plastic. We love our Nespresso maker and only use our drip coffee maker for large parties (yes, I own both).

3. Bottled Water

I bring a bag of supplies to every appointment as a professional organizer.  It contains a lot of useful items but the most important one is my reusable bottle of water.  I can’t think of anything good to say about disposable bottled water.  We all know they are bad for the environment and most brands are just glorified tap water. The real reason I don’t buy them has less to do with being ecofriendly and more to do with eliminating things that create unnecessary mess. The convenience of grabbing another bottle often means the one you are drinking doesn’t get finished.  You set it down on a counter, nightstand, or leave it in the cup holder of your car. And every time you throw away a half empty bottle you curse remind yourself of how much water you’re actually not drinking.

Reusable water bottles save me a ton of money and just about every airport, park, and gym have a fountain specifically for water bottle refills. It makes it much easier to finish drinking when I only have one I’m using that day. My favorite water bottle is plastic but I’ve had it for more than 7 years. I have these stainless steel ones for my kids because they are the most durable.  These collapsible water bottles are great for keeping in your bag or car. I’m not saying I don’t still leave it on the counter or in the cup holder of my car. I’m just saying I’d rather spend five minute looking for the same dang bottle than five minutes throwing ten half-full ones in the garbage. 

4. Clothes That are Less Than Perfect

So many of my clients have closets full of clothes that still have tags on them. We’ve all done it. You see something online or in the stores and it looks amaze-balls on the model.  When you try it on in the store or at home it doesn’t look as good on you. You love the item so you keep it hoping you can adjust it with a belt or the right pants when you wear it. Then you put it on to wear it and it still looks off.  Eventually you don’t get around to returning it so it hangs in your closet or gets donated. 

I used to be one of those people that could wear a paper bag and it looked like couture. Two kids and a decade plus later, I have to find clothes that work with my body.  I refuse to keep stuff that doesn’t make me look 26 fit properly no matter how much I love the item on a hanger (or other people).  I know what brands, cuts, and sizes work well with my mom bod and I stick to them. Bottom line, don’t buy it if you don’t want to wear it every day of the week.

5. Plastic Grocery Bags

I love a good container and shopping bags are no exception.  Plastic bags have zero structure which means your groceries end up smashed or all over the back of your car. Plastic bags don’t get recycled and most of the time they just end up shoved in some closet or cupboard creating more clutter in your home. You may want to justify getting them by using them for things around your house like wet clothes or gross garbage. I use a garbage bag or large Ziploc on those rare occasion that I may need a plastic bag. Most stores offer a paper alternative and keep a handful of sturdy reusable bags in my trunk as a backup.

6. Promotional Swag

My husband is the KING of free T-shirts, cups, koozies, and anything you can get with some random logo on it. And it’s tempting as a small business owner to hand out notepads or letter openers with my logo on it.  But honestly, when was the last time you riffled through your cabinet or junk drawer when you needed a recommendation for a business? Companies give this stuff away in the hopes the consumer will come to them for their next purchase. The problem is most of the swag is stuff you already own (a better version of) or stuff you’ll never really use. I take a photo of a business card from companies I’m interested in and leave the junk behind. The only exception to this rule is food – not even I can pass that up!

7. Single Serving Items

This goes along with the K-Cups, water bottles, and paper products. Individual, disposable products cost more per serving and ultimately mean more packaging and more items you have to organize.  It’s may seem like the extra money and packaging is worth it for the time you will save with grab-and-go items. The reality is most items that are individually packaged tend to be junk food. Stocking your pantry with them only encourages you to choose junk over a healthy option.  I buy large containers of things like cheese, yogurt, and chips and pack them in reusable containers for lunches.  It takes me about 30 extra seconds to put together four lunches each day. It saves me about 20 minutes when unpacking groceries every week.

8. Disposable Plates and Utensils

It is pretty common that I have at least one neighbor kid at my house for a meal. Sometimes my two kids turn into six or more. I hate the idea of grazing so I make them sit down at the table to eat just about everything.  It seems convenient to whip out the paper plates but I’ve yet to find a paper plate that can hold a candle to the real deal.  My kids (and their friends) are responsible for cleaning up after their meals and even the sturdiest disposable plate tends to break or get dropped when carried by tiny hands. The heavy weight of a real plate forces them to slow down and use both hands.

Disposable plates are the worst to keep organized and have a way of migrating to odd places in your home. Some of my clients love to entertain and a random Saturday afternoon can turn into a full house of multiple families. Keeping a stock of paper plates seems like smart planning but they end up in this vicious cycle of buying to be prepared and then not using them.  Use the money you spend on paper to invest in a good stock of real dishes.  We have a set for our family to use and an extra set of 25 (yep, 25) for those random regular extra guests.