How is your New Year’s resolution to reduce household clutter coming along now that we’re seven weeks into 2013?
For those of you still struggling, or those who’ve given up already, take a deep breath and know that it is possible to meet this goal. You don’t need a whole weekend, or even an entire day. What you do need is an understanding of what makes up household clutter, a plan for addressing it, and the self-discipline to do something a few minutes each day.
Really, that’s all there is to it.
What is Household Clutter?
Simply put, household clutter is anything sitting where you don’t want it to remain permanently. The laundry on your stairs. The hair clip in your underwear drawer. The stack of magazines next to your sofa. The bowl from the popcorn you ate in front of the TV last night. You probably have places where you’d rather all these things go. In the case of the things just mentioned, that would be the dresser, bathroom drawer, recycling bin and dishwasher, respectively. From there, it’s pretty obvious that if you want to cut or reduce household clutter, you first have to decide where each thing belongs.
It’s that last bit that trips up most people. They look around their home and see so many things out-of-place that they can’t possibly imagine doing anything about any of it. But the solution to dealing with household clutter is much like that adage about how to eat an elephant: you do it one bite at a time.
Rather than look over an entire home, or even one room (i.e., the elephant), focus on one small area. What’s bothering you the most? What will give you the greatest sense of accomplishment with the very least amount of effort? For me, that’s my kitchen island: a big flying-V thing where my family loves to dump anything in their hands when they walk in the door. As it happens, I need to use that kitchen island every time I cook a meal, so I am constantly battling its clutter. And once I’ve done so, I usually find myself moving on to other spots like the kitchen desk (where the things my family brought in should have gone in the first place), the coffee table, the stairs, etc.
How To Do Something About Household Clutter
Start with one surface and look at everything that’s on it. Then work methodically:
1. Toss the trash. This is often the bulk of clutter on horizontal surfaces in the kitchen and family room. Get it out of the way and suddenly the elephant task doesn’t seem nearly as huge.
2. Put away things that belong nearby. Many times, the things on a surface belong in the same room, but someone was too lazy to actually put them away. On my kitchen island that usually means someone’s dirty drinking glass (which should go in the dishwasher), and the day’s mail (which should get processed immediately). Take care of what belongs in the same room where you’re working, and your elephant… I mean, mess… will get smaller quickly.
3. Gather things that go to the same place. If several items go to another room (like the stack of comic books and sweatshirt my son left on the kitchen island this morning), take them there in one trip. This will keep you from running all over the house returning one item at a time.
4. If something doesn’t have a permanent place, maybe it doesn’t deserve one. By now, you’ll have a mostly clean surface. What’s still there? On my kitchen island, the remnants included some coupons I’d clipped a month or so ago and a brochure for a history course on DVD that I’d thought about taking. We’ve gone to the store several times without using those coupons, and I don’t have an extra hour every night to sit watching a DVD. Once I acknowledged both facts, it was obvious that stuff had no business staying on my counter.
5. If you absolutely must keep something, find it a permanent spot. Sometimes we get new stuff. Sometimes that stuff doesn’t have a dedicated spot yet. That slick expandable folder on my counter where I’ve kept my husband’s medical bills does not belong on my counter, but I really hadn’t found it a permanent spot yet. Rather than continuing to shuffle it from left to right, I took the two minutes to tuck it into the cupboard over my kitchen desk. Now when the days’ massive stack of medical bills and insurance statements arrive, it’s handy enough to grab and no longer household clutter.
Deal With Household Clutter for 10 Minutes, Twice a Day
If you have time to update your Facebook and Twitter status, you have time to do something about clutter. If you aren’t using that time to do something about clutter, then you don’t really want to. What you want to do is whine about your household clutter. It may sound snarky, but that’s the truth.
Set a timer in the morning, and again at night. Use the time you’re waiting for the coffee pot to brew, the shower water to get hot, the oven timer to go off, the school bus to arrive… either take time, or make time. But do something. Once you’ve pretty much got one room (and its closets and drawers) in order, go on to the next and the next until you’ve made it through every room in the house. Sure, it may take until December 31, but if you stick with it you will ditch the clutter and will be able to ring in the next year with an all-new Resolution.
And for those of you who finish tackling your household clutter early, consider using that time to do chores that take one minute or less so next year’s Resolution can be something fun!