How to prevent clutter.An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure. And never was it truer than when it comes to clutter.

Clutter, like an excess of pretty much anything, creeps in when one of two things happen - either we buy more things than we get rid of, or we don't take care to organise the things that we do have so that they are all in some sort of easy-to-hand system. Or both.

When it comes to not buying too many things, this can be a hard habit to break. When you are shopping do you buy an item because it is 'a bargain' or because it 'might come in handy'? Better not to do this - a bargain is not a bargain if it simply goes to the back of the wardrobe or cupboard, or joins a collection of similar items waiting to be brought into service at some hard to define date in the future.

Do you buy things because it makes you feel good? Many of us do - it's certainly very common to indulge in a spot of "retail therapy" from time to time. But the problem is that the buzz or lift that we get from making a purchase of some irresistable commodity only lasts a short time, and then we are left with both a feeling of guilt for buying the item, and the problem of what to do with it.

How to stop buying so many things. Stop and think 'do I really need this'? The answer to that question must be delivered with brutal honesty. How many things do any of us really need? If we have one pair of shoes, do we need two? If we have two pairs do we need three? The answer is personal to us all, but if we are honest with ourselves then it will be case that most purchases can be avoided.

Another good idea is to avoid spontanteous purchases entirely. As annoying as it may be, it is usually better to mull it over and, if after a day or two you still are convinced that you need to buy the item in question, go back and do it later.

One idea which you may like to consider adopting, is the 'one-in one-out' rule. This is, never buy an item without FIRST throwing out or recycling a similar item. It sounds so simple, and indeed it is, but if you have already created an empty hanger in your wardrobe by sending an old item of clothing to a charity shop, then you can treat yourself to a replacement with a clear conscience.

Whilst we are on the subject of prevention, I would like to mention a habit which I have seen many times, and this is the practice of buying things to give to charity. It may sound odd, but its not unusual for people to accumulate vast quantities of clothing, gifts, bric-a-brac and so on, all with the very good intention of distributing these items to their chosen charities. However, the reality is the accumulation goes on, but the distribution does not; or at least not at the same rate. The result? a house full of clutter. If you really do want to give items to charity, start with the items that are already in your home, and only look for further things once these have all been successfully donated.

Oh, and don't forget all the money you will be saving by simply buying fewer things. With that saved money you will be able to buy some very handy storage units and boxes to help to keep the things that are really important to you well organised. You might even want to consider having a large glass jar or a special bank account and, whenever you are successful in not buying something you didn't need, putting the saved money into it - it will soon add up.