How to win the battle against clutter
Clutter happens. It’s a fact of life, especially when we’re tired, rushing around, and have way too many things on our minds. But that doesn’t mean we should resign ourselves to having a cluttered home. The key to getting things under control is tackling clutter hot spots every day so the mess doesn’t become overwhelming. This is definitely one of the organising tips you’ll wish you knew (and abided by) all along.
The good news is that decluttering every day isn’t hard and doesn’t take much time. In fact, these 12 tiny tasks take just a moment and make a big difference. Keep in mind: This isn’t about taking on major chores; it’s about consistently taking care of the little things that pile up. Here’s what professional organisers do to keep their stuff from taking over their lives.
The clothes pile
Don’t consider the laundry finished until all the clothes are put away. This is something that Janine Adams, a certified professional organiser, always tells her clients and reminds herself. Whether the clothes have been stranded in the basket after a laundry cycle or tossed in a pile after a last-minute outfit change, they need to be dealt with before you turn in for the night. Otherwise, you’ll leave them there for way too long and end up with a bunch of wrinkled items. Having trouble putting everything away? Adams says that’s a sign it’s probably time to let some of them go.
Hanging up clothes will be a much faster task when you don’t have to untangle empty hangers. Instead of leaving them in your closet, keep them organised on a nearby hanger organiser. This will also motivate you to get to the task at hand, since the hangers are right there, just waiting to be used.
While you’re at it, find out 9 genius ways to organise your closet.
Keep your refrigerator clutter-free by using up leftovers before they go bad. Professional organiser Ellen Delap suggests writing out a weekly meal plan that incorporates your leftovers. For example, if you roast chicken on a Monday, plan to use whatever you didn’t eat in a pasta dish on Tuesday. Her pro tip is to keep leftover food front and centre on a dedicated shelf so it’s not forgotten about.
Shoes by the door
The first thing you want to do when you get home is kick off your shoes. The problem is, so does everyone else, and then suddenly you have an enormous, messy pile cluttering your entryway. That’s why certified professional organiser Kathy Vines, author of Clever Girl’s Guide to Living with Less, suggests designating a special place for everyone’s shoes – ideally, a separate basket for each person in your household. Since a bunch of baskets can form their own sort of clutter, a bench with a built-in spot for baskets is a good option. (If you have a larger family, you can opt for a storage tower that provides additional basket space.) But wait! You’re not done just yet. Vine says you should also give each basket a once-over every day to return extra pairs to the closet. Trust us: With one pair of go-to shoes waiting by the door when you’re in a rush, you’ll be glad to have this system in place.
Clutter tends to accumulate when you don’t take care of it right away because you simply get used to it. Don’t make that mistake in your car. Instead, suggests Vines, once you get to your destination, park your car and take any rubbish with you as soon as you exit. Get into the habit and it won’t feel like a chore; it’ll just be something you do without thinking. “It’s a lot easier to keep your car maintained and clean if you’re regularly getting rid of the trash,” Vines says.
To that end, it’s a good idea to keep a small, makeshift rubbish bin, like an empty wipes’ container, right next to you. A clever cup holder attached to the centre console can provide a spot for that, as well as for an actual cup, your phone, hand sanitiser and anything else you want to keep close by.
The simplest way to manage your mail is to deal with every piece of it as soon as you can. DeLap’s daily five-minute triage prevents unsightly clutter and ensures you don’t miss something important. Designate a “command centre” for your paperwork with a shredder, recycling bag, and a way to categorise mail. She suggests an accordion file for paperwork you need with labels like “to-do,” “to pay,” and “to file.”
Vines has a specific spot to store things she uses every day, like her keys, sunglasses and earbuds. Upon returning home, she places the items right where they belong. “It can be so easy with running around and disrupted routines to lose sight of our most critical items,” she explains. A lidless basket hung from on the wall will do the trick, and if there are multiple people in the house, it’s a good idea to give each of them their own basket. Make sure the baskets don’t become untidy by taking a moment every day to straighten them up, discarding old receipts and anything else that doesn’t belong in there.
The floor of your main entryway and nearby chairs can quickly become a dumping ground for coats and bags. DeLap’s solution is to hang a series of decorative or peel-and-stick hooks (for the appropriate weight) to hold coats and bags near the door you use most often. This will go a long way toward keeping the passageway clear. Just make sure to keep the number of coats and bags down to one per person by going over the area once a day. That way you won’t overload the hooks and accidentally make that area an eyesore.
The kitchen benchtop
To avoid cluttering up your sink and benchtop, put your dirty dishes right into the dishwasher. This is Adams’ daily routine, which she swears by: Run the dishwasher every night, and empty it every morning. That way, the dishwasher is always available for dirty dishes; plus, no more guessing about whether the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty or clean!
The daily to-do list
A lengthy to-do list may feel productive when you write it out, but it can soon feel overwhelming and that can lead you to ignore it. A simplified to-do list, on the other hand, can keep you on track. DeLap consults her calendar and writes out her list based on priorities for the day. This short, focused list gives her clear direction. Whether you use a paper calendar or a digital version, get in the habit of checking it daily. And if you use a paper one, DeLap suggests keeping it in the same spot so you always know where to find it.
Stuff that’s in the wrong spot
Vines has a clever solution for items that belong in another room but never quite make it there. She employs “halfway” spots throughout her house, like a stair basket for “goes up” or “goes down” and a box to gather items that need to leave a room and be returned to their rightful home. “At the end of every day, I make sure the stuff gets where it was going,” she explains. She also likes to fill an “errand bag” with all the things that need to leave the house, like library books, store returns and items to mail. Running errands? Grab the bag on the way out the door.
“I like to start the day with a clean desktop so it’s easy to jump right into work,” says Adams. That’s why she clears off her desktop at the end of each workday. By making this a daily habit, you’ll have only one day’s worth of stuff to put away. Plus, if you have a spot for everything, it should take you only a couple of minutes to tidy up. If you find it difficult to do so, it’s time to reassess your storage options and find more convenient storage solutions. To ensure that you always have some clear work space, try putting down a desk blotter. Then promise yourself you won’t leave anything on the blotter at the end of the day.
Yes, digital clutter counts as clutter, and you’ll feel so much more on top of things with a streamlined inbox. To avoid being overwhelmed by messages, Adams spends a few minutes every day replying to and deleting email. “With a small amount of effort, you can keep your inbox lean and make sure that important emails don’t fall through the cracks,” she says. Her best idea that you’ll definitely want to steal? Create rules or filters, so that certain emails (like newsletter subscriptions) go directly to a folder and bypass your inbox altogether.
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