Before I had my babies, I must have gone to at least a dozen baby showers. Every time I browsed the registry to choose a gift, I remember being surprised at how much gear they were asking for.

I understand the crib, but she also wants a bassinet, and a Pack N Play, and a portable mini-crib?

At the time, I figured I didn’t understand because I hadn’t had babies yet. But as the months and years passed, it seemed almost every one of my new-mommy friends was complaining that her house was over-run by baby gear.

Yes, each piece was more convenient for specific situations at specific baby stages, but stuffing the house with so much gear turned out to be overwhelmingly inconvenient.

So, when I found out I was pregnant with our first child, I wanted to draw wisdom from my friends’ experiences and avoid over-registering. Obviously, I would register for the basics: a crib, a car seat, a stroller, etc.

But after that, the decisions grew less clear. I’m sure I don’t need bouncy seat and a Bumbo seat and a sit-me-up, and that curved pillow thing, but I’m sure I need one, right?

One mom friend swore the Bumbo seat was a life saver but that the bouncy seat was a waste of money, and the next mom said the opposite.

How on earth could I know ahead of time what would work for me when I hadn’t even had the baby yet?

The only way to prevent my home from being over-run by baby gear was to find a way to draw a clear line between the items that really would make my mommy life easier, and extra stuff that would just get in the way.

That is how I came up with the Rule of Three.

This strategy can be used for any category of stuff. Whether it’s clothes, kitchen gadgets, or bathroom accessories, the only way to prevent future clutter is to be able to tell the difference between wise purchases and impulses buys.

THE RULE OF THREE: Wait until you have three valid moments of desire before buying something.

Here’s an example … I was standing at the kitchen counter, with my baby daughter strapped to me in her carrier, and I thought to myself, “It would be nice to have something she can recline in that would sit on the counter, so I could see her while I’m working in the kitchen.

A bouncy seat would be nice.” That was one moment of sincere desire. In that moment, if I had a bouncy seat, I would have used it and appreciated it. But, was that just a fluke? A one-time, odd-ball moment? Not sure yet … so I waited.

The very next day, I had a similar moment of desire, and two days later I had another. Clearly, this would be a wise purchase. I used that bouncy seat almost every day with both of my babies. Best $30 I ever spent.

Another time my husband and I were at a restaurant that had run out of high chairs, so I had to hold my daughter in my lap. I saw another family using a travel high chair that hooked onto the table, and I thought to myself, “Well, that would have been convenient.”

But I’m glad I waited, because that was the only moment of desire I ever had. If I had rushed onto Amazon and bought one out of frustration, it would have sat around unused, and I’d feel guilty decluttering something I never should have bought.

That’s what the Rule of Three does – it slows us down and makes us think.

When rush to buy things, we become swayed by every suggestion, sale, advertisement, and impulse. By contrast, there is something about waiting that gives us power. We take control of our shopping choices saying, “I will decide what I really need, and I will only buy it when I am confident in the purchase.”

Following the Rule of Three builds that shopping confidence.

This is the third time this year I’ve wanted to wear this dress, but couldn’t because I don’t have the right shoes. So yes, I feel good about buying those heels.

This is the third time in a month I’ve been annoyed that making pancakes for the whole family takes too long, so I feel good about buying that pancake griddle. We might choose to wait for it to go on sale, but we’re not buying it because it’s on sale.

The Rule of Three doesn’t mean you deny yourself what you really need, it simply strengthens your patience so you can determine what you really need.

The best thing about the Rule of Three is that when something is not a wise purchase, you simply forget about it. I had to search my mind for the travel high chair example. Since I never had a second moment of desire, I truly forgot all about it.

So, the next time you have the desire to buy something, force yourself to wait. Wait for that second and third moment of desire. Wait for the confidence. The best way to declutter your home is to avoid the clutter in the first place!

More Posts in the Home on Purpose Series

How to Win the Battle Over a Home Full of Stuff