Clutter shows up in many forms and in many places in our homes. From the mail that always seems to find its way onto the end of your kitchen counter or desk, to the jewelry that goes from our bodies straight to the bathroom counter or nightstand but never the jewelry box.
Clutter seems on the surface to “just happen.” But the truth is, most of the time clutter comes from us and stems from laziness.
Sorry, I wasn’t trying to step on your toes there, but this is true for me and I’m sure it’s true for you too. The thing is, we’re all so busy and when we walk in the house and go from room to room we find it hard to take the extra steps to put things where they actually go. Like placing the mail in the shredder or mail sorter instead of just laying it on the counter.
My kids are prone to dropping their lunch boxes and backpacks on the couch nearest the front door for some reason. And shoes… oh, the shoes. Don’t get me started!
Clutter, in most cases, isn’t an intentional act of laziness but a habit we don’t even think about. In fact, that’s what a habit is – an action we take automatically that we don’t consciously think about. Habits are enormously powerful and super hard to break.
But the good news is, we can create NEW habits! And when those new habits are contrary to those old, bad habits – the new habits will win if we work at it long enough.
WHERE TO START FIRST WITH CLUTTER
The first thing to do is identify your main areas of clutter in your home. All households will have their own clutter hot-spots because we all have unique behavior patterns.
Some popular clutter hot-spots are mail areas, laundry room items, bathroom counters, desks, and the kid’s play areas.
Choose one hot-spot that’s giving you the biggest headache and focus on that area this month only. I know that seems like a lot of time for one area, but you’d be surprised how many bad habits from several people can be contributing to the clutter problem in this one area!
We want to have enough time to identify those bad habits and form new homemaking habits without having too many new habits being formed at the same time and derailing your progress.
CLUTTERED VERSES CLEAN
I want to take a second to talk about the difference between cluttered and clean before we move on in the process. Clutter is the presence of stuff piled up in a specific location that isn’t it’s designated home.
When a place is littered with clutter it looks bad, but it’s also not clean. Why? Because that area can’t be wiped down and sanitized if there’s tons of stuff on top. Or maybe it is because you take the time to lift up the clutter to clean underneath. Hmmm.
I simply want to make the distinction here that de-cluttering isn’t necessarily cleaning. In my personal definition, cleaning is the act of removing dirt, grime, crumbs, or germs from the surface areas in our homes.
When there’s a lot of clutter throughout the home, cleaning is hindered and slowed down. We find ourselves wiping and vacuuming round clutter spots and those areas aren’t fully clean.
Or you are taking the ridiculous amount of time it takes to clear the clutter before you clean and you feel totally wiped out after you clean instead of moving from room to room actually doing one thing – cleaning. Imagine that!
HOW TO BUST THE CLUTTER HABIT
Ok, now back to our biggest hot-spot area. I want you to take out a scratch sheet of paper, or that random envelope from your cluttered mail area and write down all the behaviors and habits that are contributing to why that area stays cluttered instead of clean.
Really take time here… I’ll wait. Just sippin’ my tea.
When you get a few habits down, write down better habits that would ensure the clutter doesn’t happen in the future.
But please KEEP IT SIMPLE. Complicated systems and habits will be MUCH harder to create and maintain. Simplicity is the key here.
You can even create simple reminders to help you stay on track while you’re still in the new habit formation stage. For example, you could create a simple sign that says, “Clutter Doesn’t Belong Here!” Simply tape it to the hot-spot area for a couple weeks to give you a visual cue and help you break that habit for you and everyone in your home.
Once you’ve identified your new habits, sit down with everyone in your home and let them know this area isn’t off limits for clutter and share with them the new habit.
And the final piece of the behavior habit is making sure everything has a designated home. Depending on what it is, this home could be a multi-section laundry hamper for easy separating and storing your laundry. A mail organizer or container to store your mail and other papers and keep them off your counters. And an organized drawer (do not create a junk drawer please!), or any other organizing container you can think of.
When creating your new home, please keep simplicity in mind with the new location, accessibility, and type of container. If it’s too hard or too many steps involved, your body will slowly start to revert back in defiance to the old way.
And let me just add that the trash can is also an acceptable home for some items. The is VERY true in the case of mail clutter. If you get flyers in the mail… take them straight to the trash or shredder. Never let them touch a single surface in your home!
CLUTTER SOLUTIONS FOR COMMON CLUTTER PROBLEMS
Here are a few ideas for some common clutter problems that many families have.
- Have a designated donate box in your laundry room or area. When your child says something doesn’t fit, wash it and fold it into the donate box. When the donate box is full, make a simple stop to your local donation drop off. I use empty diaper boxes and just take the whole box to the donation center!
- Purchase a small, yet powerful shredder and place it nearby your mail storage sorter. Any mail that you don’t need to keep or toss, can go right in the shredder. So satisfying!
- Don’t waste your time and money buying tons of small appliances that only do one thing like waffle makers. They take up a lot of space on your countertops or in your cabinets. Choose appliances that do multiple things instead like a Vitamix (my favorite small appliance! This one is mine. ). An Instant Pot is also another must-have small appliance! And I also can’t live without my amazing air fryer for making a batch of nuggets and fries in just a couple minutes!
- Buy an open, yet pretty jewelry or makeup organizer. Having ones that you have to open lots of little compartments causes the habit of simply leaving them on the counters. The one below is very similar to the organizer I use. It hangs right in my closet so I can see all my accessories with my clothes!
- Have a heavy duty hanging system by your front door to hang backpacks, purses, and gym bags. Even though they may be in plain sight, it’s looking better to have them hanging then laying around.
Those are just a few tips to get you started on killing the clutter bug in your home. Just don’t forget to start working on your second biggest clutter hot-spot next month and so on!