Even though we’re mid-way into summer, I’m looking forward to the end of it because I can’t wait to do a seasonal purge. If you’ve been following this series, you will know by now that I’m a compulsive declutterer. But if you haven’t, go read my articles on why you should start decluttering now and how to go about it. Today’s seven tips on staying clutter-free involves systemizing your life and developing new habits. Most of them require time to adapt but once they’ve been practiced, staying clutter-free will become second nature and you won’t question it. Trust me, it’s completely worth it. Let’s get into it.

1. Set a limit and stick to it
Evaluate the state of your life right now and set a limit that works for you. Clutter gives me anxiety so I stick to a strict limit of no more than approximately three suitcases worth of stuff (furniture not included). Setting a limit is important because it helps you stay focused on keeping your belongings at a minimum. I recommend you tell other people, especially those you live with, so they can hold you accountable.

2. Systemize your life
In part 2, I discussed the importance of compartmentalizing. Assuming you’ve done so, take it a step further by creating a system that makes it difficult to acquire more stuff and designing the physical space to reflect that. Look at where you place things. Analyze your day-to-day behavior. Build a system that flows and allows you to effortlessly maintain your belongings. Each item should have its own place. If one system doesn’t work, try another. Keep iterating until you get one that works.

3. Take care of things on the spot
Wash the pots, pans and dishes as you cook. Go through the mail immediately and discard anything unnecessary. The point of taking care of things on the spot is so you avoid a pile of work later. The higher the pile, the less likelier you are to tackle it. Some people beg to differ and say they prefer to deal with it at once. But, let’s be real. You know the feeling when you look at a pile and pretend like it’s not there so you don’t have to deal with it. Don’t make that mistake.

4. Scan paperwork and destroy the hard copies
It’s fascinating how much technology has evolved because now we can get by with little to no physical paperwork. Obviously you should keep hard copies of important documents such as your birth certificate, diplomas and health care proxies. However, most other things can be scanned and saved electronically. There is no need to keep originals of 99% of paperwork. Throw away hard copies and shred them, if needed.

5. Resist shopping as much as you can
Resist the temptation to shop. Eliminate impulse purchases completely. If you think you need something, try to innovate with what you have first. If you’re just dying to spend money, buy experiences instead. Take a road trip. Enroll in a class. Go for a fancy dinner. Do things with your time such as attending events and working out that leave practically no room for shopping. You’ll love doing everything else and shopping won’t even come to mind.

6. Shop with strict guidelines
Even though I told you to resist shopping, it’ll becomes inevitable. In fact, some items can actually add benefit in terms of helping you stay clutter-free. Before making new purchases, do research and see what others are saying in regards to quality. Only buy things that fit into your current life, not your dream life. If you’re trying to make lifestyle changes to integrate a product, stop and put it back. Don’t buy it.

7. Purge often
Everyone needs to be purging often. Take advantage of time you spend between seasons to put away what you don’t need by also getting rid of clutter. Go through everything you have and “weigh” each item’s purpose. If they’re not purposeful, then do the obvious. You’ll realize you don’t actually need all the things you claim you do. Purging is cathartic and mentally therapeutic so you’ll learn to associate with this activity in a positive way.

Since I’ve been doing this for about four years, decluttering is pretty much second nature to me. know we’re all adults here but if it helps, pretend as though you’re going to pack everything and move somewhere distant. If this thought gives me anxiety, then I have too much stuff. As silly as it sounds, this mentality keeps me grounded and aware of what I own. Once you incorporate these tips into your life, they’ll become second nature in no time. Being clutter-free is truly a beautiful thing.