A Pro Organizer’s Top 3 Tips for Curbing Impulse Buys and Keeping Clutter at Bay

published Mar 14, 2022
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It seems like every time I go to Target to buy groceries, I end up spending way more money than I intended. Only milk, eggs, bread, and LaCroix were on my list, but somehow, I always come home with a pine-scented candle or a fake succulent. For a hot second, these impulse buys feel exciting and even necessary — and some of them are. But often, within a few weeks, I realize I wasted money on something that will end up in a box in my basement. What gives? 

Professional organizer Leslie Hatch Gail recently posted an eye-opening tip on her TikTok about how to curb impulse buys like these — so I decided to ask her about her best ideas for preventing impulse buys and preventing future clutter when you’re at the store. Here’s what she had to say.

1. Take the item to a different part of the store.

Here’s the thing: You’re bound to fall in love with the special display of colorful, yummy-smelling candles (or cute succulent plants, or whatever item is stylishly displayed). That’s because they’ve been set up to have exactly that effect on you.

But what if you took that candle or cactus and brought it to another part of the store? “People don’t think of these things outside of the marketing display, standing on a shelf by themselves,” says Gail. She suggests doing just that — setting it on a shelf all by itself — and asking yourself: Do you still want it, apart from all the other shiny, pretty things?

If the dopamine rush has died down by the time you reach the dog food aisle, that’s a good sign you should circle back to the home decor section and put it back. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. Picture it in your home.

If you’re still on the fence about a potential purchase, Gail suggests trying to picture the item in your home, adding joy or functionality to a specific space. For example: Say you’re enchanted by a set of pretty gold weights in the fitness section. Where would you put them? Is weight-lifting part of your routine, or do you envision yourself walking by those weights every day, feeling guilty you spent money on them or annoyed they’re taking up space on your floor? If it’s the latter, don’t buy it. 

3. Delay the gratification.

Here’s another technique Gail suggests: Take a picture of the thing you want to buy — and then see how you feel tomorrow (or the day after). If you don’t feel the same urge or even remember it in a day or two, you probably don’t actually want it. “It can help to put up a speed bump before you purchase,” Gail says.

You might still end up with more than you planned for every now and then, but the key is to make a habit of slowing down before you buy. In the long run, your intentionality will help you save a few pennies — and save you some time spent decluttering a few weeks, months, or years down the road. 

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: A Pro Organizer’s 3 Tips for Curbing Impulse Buys and Keeping Clutter at Bay