Reducing clutter is one of the best things you can do for your home, and for your sanity. For many of us, it’s also one of the most difficult things to do. Too often we think of reducing clutter as a project, something we need to schedule an entire afternoon (or even a weekend) to do. So we put it off because we’re so busy we just can’t imagine finding the chunk of time we think reducing clutter requires.
The result? Our homes get even more chaotic, our closets and cupboards and drawers get crammed full of more stuff, and it feels like we’ll never be clutter-free. Worse yet, we feel like failures, and every messy surface, every pile of junk seems to confirm this. Home stops feeling like a refuge and more like a personal accusation.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
By changing how you think about reducing clutter, and performing a few quick daily tasks, you can free yourself from disorder and get the clutter-free, comfortable home you’ve been dreaming about.
Change Your Mindset
Have you ever dieted? I have, more often than I like to admit. If you’ve ever tried shedding a few pounds you know it wasn’t an overnight process; it was a series of choices you made one at a time, day after day until you reached your goal. Then, having reached your goal weight, you had to continue making conscious choices — though not as many, or as rigidly as before. Reducing clutter happens the same way.
Maybe you’re one of the lucky few who’ve never had to lose weight. Perhaps, instead, you’ve trained for a 5k run, written a research paper, planned a birthday party or wedding, or created a homeschooling curriculum. Whatever the big task, you achieved your goal because you broke it into smaller steps and made a deliberate decision to work toward your goal every day.
That’s the mindset you need to get rid of the clutter in your home! See, far too often we think of reducing clutter as a one-time event, but you didn’t lose weight (or train for that 5k, write your research paper, or completely plan your wedding all in the course of one long afternoon or weekend. You did it a little at a time, methodically, and that’s how you need to work at reducing clutter, too.
Reducing Clutter: 5 Things To Do Every Day
When you begin thinking of reducing clutter as a process, rather than an event, every step you take toward your goal is empowering.
Those piles on the dining table, the stairs, and the kitchen counter no longer feel like failures because you know you’re already taking action and that you will get to them in time. You no longer run the risk of burning out because you sacrificed your entire weekend and there’s still so much to do. Plus, you no longer feel like your things own you because you are getting them under control every single day.
1. Make Your Bed
I know it doesn’t seem like making the bed does anything to reduce clutter, but bear with me. When your bed is unmade, your entire bedroom looks like a mess. Sure, you might close the door so you don’t have to see it all day, but when you go to bed at night, you’ll be confronted with a disheveled bedroom that reinforces the fear you can’t get your home under control.
I’ve written before about how making your bed can change your life, and that’s particularly true when you’re determined to reduce clutter throughout your home. Starting your day by spending two or three minutes making your bed affirms your commitment to establishing order throughout your home. Don’t skip it.
2. Put Your Toiletries Away
A cluttered bathroom counter attracts grime and looks horrible. Instead of leaving your hairbrush and styling tools, makeup, toothbrush, etc., laying out where everyone has to look at them, put them away as soon as you’ve finished getting yourself ready for the day.
Think that takes too much time? Then consider using a “day basket” to hold everything you need to prepare in the morning. Rather than having to tuck things in different drawers you can quickly pop them back into the basket and stash it under the sink. Voila, clutter-free counter.
Over time this will become such a habit that you’ll find yourself putting things away elsewhere, too. Like the oven mitts after you’re done cooking, the cat food after you’ve fed Fluffy, or that coat you usually leave on the back of a chair will get hung up in the coat closet instead.
3. Empty The Kitchen Sink
You will never, ever have a clutter-free kitchen if your kitchen sink is constantly full of dirty dishes. Why? Because the next time someone uses a glass or a plate, they’re going to set it on the kitchen counter since there’s nowhere else for it to go.
That glass or plate will get joined by more dishes, perhaps even food wrappers or other trash, and soon the mess will spread to other counters, too. Meanwhile, you’ve got nowhere to wash fruits and vegetables, fill a pot or drain pasta.
If family members seem to leave clutter for you to deal with, starting your morning with an empty sink delivers the message that your kitchen is not their dumping ground. No one feels wrong or apologizes when they add one more thing to a pile, but they do when they’re the first to make a mess. (Bonus points: use this homemade daily sink spray to disinfect, deodorize, and shine your sink in mere seconds.)
4. Process Paperwork
Dishes aren’t the only things that seem to multiply on kitchen counters — so does paperwork. The mail, newspapers and store circulars, notes from your kids’ school, it all adds up and can make an otherwise clean kitchen look like a mess.
Make processing paperwork a daily habit and you’ll be taking a huge step to reducing clutter, but first you need to make this an easy thing to do. Keep a shredder near your kitchen trashcan so you can quickly dispose of sensitive paperwork, then process your paperwork as soon as you bring it into the house.
Need a few days before you pay bills or return a signed permission slip? Use a decorative tray on your counter as an outbox only, and deal with all incoming paperwork as soon as it arrives.
5. Pick One Painful Spot Daily
In my book, 30 Days to a Clean and Organized House, I walk people through deep-cleaning and reducing clutter in every room, closet, and cupboard over the course of a month. That plan works for many people (which is why readers have called it “Life changing!”), but others find such a structured, step-by-step approach too restrictive. If you prefer working independently, then start reducing clutter by picking one painful spot to deal with each day.
By “spot” I mean just that: a counter, a cupboard, a drawer and not an entire room or floor of your home. Make a 15-minute appointment on your calendar with yourself daily then use that time to address whatever spot is bothering you the most that day.
Perhaps you’re tired of hunting around for lids to match your food storage containers. Use your 15 minutes to pair all of them up, discard any without mates, wipe the shelf or drawer where you keep them and put them away neatly. Maybe it’s the junk on the coffee table that’s driving you crazy? Use your 15 minutes to sort the trash and pick out what belongs elsewhere. Wipe the table top, arrange things that belong there neatly, toss the trash, and put the rest away.
Repeat that daily in 15-minute bursts and you’ll make huge strides reducing clutter throughout your home.
Remember To Pause And Appreciate Your Place
Make a point to notice what’s looking right in your home, what you’ve accomplished and what looks nice even without your help. I like to do this following my nightly kitchen cleanup routine as the last thing I do before heading to bed. Even if the rest of my family hasn’t noticed what I’ve accomplished, taking a moment myself to appreciate it motivates me to keep going.
Seriously, this is important! When you’ve been living in chaos for a long time it’s so easy to lose sight of the progress you’ve made. You sit on the sofa or walk into a room and all you see is how much there’s still to deal with, not the clutter-free coffee table, the clean sink, the way you’ve paired up all of your socks and tidied your sock drawer. When you climb in bed your mind starts racing with all of the places left to work on, the messes and piles you’ve not purged yet.
If you’ve truly changed your mindset about dealing with clutter, you won’t give in to that anxiety. Oh, it might still pop into your head, but you can combat it by reminding yourself of the things you’ve accomplished in those 15-minute appointments with yourself. You’ll know, too, that whatever cluttered area your mind is focusing on is the very spot you should pick to deal with the next day.
With the confidence of someone who is finally taking methodical steps toward reducing clutter, you can nod off and enjoy sweet dreams of the organized home you’re making for your family one day at a time.
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