We all have it. Perhaps it is spread across the kitchen table, littering the desk in the office, collecting on the dresser in the master bedroom or pilling up on the treadmill that doesn’t quite get as much use as is intended. Everyday clutter seems to constantly build up all around us despite our best efforts to keep it under control. Piles of “things to do later”, coupons, cards, pictures, magazines and newspapers add stress to our lives and make our homes less comfortable to live in – let alone manage.
Most everyday clutter comes from simply not having enough time in the day. The clutter is a result of things that need to be done, but can’t be addressed immediately and things that we would like to do (such as read a magazine or use a coupon for ice cream) but don’t have time to. Managing this clutter starts with understanding its source – time pressure – and attacking it with that in mind. To help with this, House Spouse has three steps to a neater, more organized feeling home:
1. Clean up clothes & dishes daily
Perhaps the biggest culprits in a cluttered home are the things that we use most often – clothes and dinnerware. The good news is that these items are also the easiest to deal with. When taking off clothes, go the extra few steps to either put them in the hamper or hang them back up. It always seems like such a chore to do so, but trust us, it isn’t. Plus, we guarantee you will sleep better knowing that your jeans aren’t in a pile on the floor next to the bed.
Once a day – either late in the evening if you are a night owl, or first thing in the morning if you allow yourself a few extra minutes in your morning routine – make a quick run through the house and pick up all of the dishes, utensils and glassware that have made their way into various areas throughout the previous day. Either put them in the dishwasher or wash them quickly, including any pots and pans. If this is done daily, even with a large family it is a five minute exercise and will make the house (and you) feel fresh, clean and accomplished after each clearing of the dishes.
2. Don’t be afraid to throw things away
It is part of human nature not to throw things away. We are hoarders. We want to keep everything. The electricity bill with the nice little graph showing us how much energy we used this year compared to last, Christmas cards from people we barely know, free driveway newspapers that we are going to get around to reading, need we go on? A big key to living a clutter free life is to learn to throw things away. When opening the mail, review each item and decide if you need to keep it (you actually REALLY need to keep it) for records or to take action and throw away (or shred if necessary) everything else. If the item is for your records, immediately file it (or put it in the to-do box to be introduced with tip 3). If action must be taken, take the appropriate action and throw it away or put it in the to-do box. The point here is that mail is, largely, junk, get used to pitching it – you won’t ever miss anything once it is in the garbage – we promise.
3. Get a to-do box and empty it weekly
To help with items that either need to be filed or acted upon, get a to-do box (a shallow desk box works best so that you can’t overfill it – you know that you will try). Having a centralized location with a small capacity keeps you from making pile after pile of things to save and do. Anything that doesn’t have a place in your home (like a drawer for silverware) and you aren’t yet ready to throw away should go into this box. This includes bills, correspondence requiring a response, magazines, things to file, et cetera. The box, as a rule, is to be emptied at least once a week – no exceptions. During your weekly review of the box, throw away anything that you “haven’t gotten to yet”, like a magazine (if it has been there untouched for a week, you are never going to read it – throw it away) and act on (then throw away or file) everything else. At the end of the review session, unless you took action and must wait to take further action, the box should be completely empty.
Keeping your home clutter free is a constant chore. The good news is that once you have a system for keeping it under control just a few minutes ago will make your home a much more comfortable place to be.