Have you ever wondered how all that clutter in your house ever got there? If you live with clutter, but don’t know how it appeared, the chances are that you have a few habits which exist under the radar of your consciousness which mean that it builds up imperceptibly until you’re tripping over the stuff… Here are 10 top tips to stem the tide. Use a couple of them regularly, and your clutter will slowly retreat. Use all of them, and it just won’t stand a chance.
1. Make sure that everything you buy is really needed and has a definite use. It’s really easy to get seduced into buying something without any idea where and when you’ll need it. Maybe the object just appealed to you or offered you some sort of ‘solution’ whether it was ‘perfect skin’ or ‘instant interior chic’. Do a quick mental check before you get to the till (or click ‘confirm’ on that website checkout page) and ask yourself if you’re really likely to use it regularly? If you’re not, then at least try to delay the moment of purchase. You might find that your desire for it subsides, and then you’ll have stopped yourself spending more than you need and cluttering your space with something you don’t want, all in one fell swoop.
2. Decide where the best place for a new object is before you bring it through the door. Maybe you’ve bought your perfect object and can’t wait to get it home. Before you get there, try visualising where you’ll be using it. Then, mentally scan that room for the nearest place to store or display it. You want to be able to pick it up and use it without having to think too hard or search for it. That will make you far more likely to get good use out of it and incorporate it into your routine quickly.
3. When you’ve finished admiring your purchases, put them where they belong or will be used.Visualising where you need to store something so that it can be used easily isn’t much use if you don’t actually put it there when you get home. Get the item out, get rid of the packaging and admire as much as you want to, but don’t forget to put it down in the place where it most needs to be for you to actually get the use you intended out of it.
4. At least 3 times a day, when you see something that’s not in the most convenient place for you to use it, relocate it to that place.If your house seems impossibly chaotic, and you can never find anything, this simple habit will help you to make it more user friendly every day without too much effort. The likelihood is that it feels chaotic because when you want to do a task, such as sewing on a button, the materials you need to use are never to hand. Deciding where you need an object and leaving it there for next time is a good way to be good to yourself. Doing this with three items every day will make your space easier and easier to use and will really help you in a time crunch, as pretty soon everything you need to get your morning or dinner routine done will be in place, making the whole thing seem simpler and quicker.
5.Throw out, donate or recycle 3 objects every day that you no longer want, need or use. If you don’t have time to do a big clear out, or fear making the wrong decisions about what to let go of and what to keep then this is a ‘softly softly’ approach. By tackling just three items, you can take your time over deciding what you no longer need, and get a little practice in every day. And dropping a couple of items into the charity shop if you need to, on the way to get groceries, means it doesn’t become a huge event. Little by little you’ll find your space getting clearer and clearer. But no cheating now…. packaging and food don’t count.
6. Try to group all the objects you’ll need for a particular task together so that your house is filled with handy ‘mini workstations’ for all your common tasks. Too often people think tidy means putting things away ‘in alphabetical order’ or placing them ‘neatly and logically’. Actually, the way to make your home feel supportive of you is to place things as they need to be arranged in order to get the task you’re getting on with done. So why put all the stationery together in the kitchen if your children use the dining room table for homework, and you tend to write little notes and birthday cards on your desk in your bedroom? That may be ‘tidy’ but it doesn’t help anyone and the stationery will tend to gravitate to where it’s used. It’s better in a case like that to put notepaper, your favourite pen and cards in your desk and a bigger array of pens, rulers and felt tips in a drawer in the dining room. Put things where you will need and use them, however illogical it looks. That way, you’ll find everything you need for your routine tasks just waiting for you when you come to do them. Try creating a new mini workstation around a single small task every day.
7. Every time you use an object, put it back in the correct place immediately. This is the cornerstone of being well organised, and if you’ve started creating mini workstations it will be starting to feel more natural. Yes, it’s the advice that our mothers gave us, but it really does work. If you train your children to do the same, you’re going to save an awful lot of time in ‘tidying up’ years over your lifetime! Moreover, if your children see you putting things away correctly at the end of every task, the chances are that they will too because they’ll have learned how to do it from you.
8. Allow yourself to ‘let go’ of things which used to suit you but no longer do. It’s so tempting to hang onto useful things ‘just in case’ especially if the items concerned were expensive and you felt just a little bit indulgent buying them in the first place. When you outgrow them, and move onto another ‘look’ (in the case of ornaments or clothes) or hobby it can feel virtuous to keep them in case they’re needed again. But realistically, they’re not needed and they are just taking up very valuable living space in your house. Acknowledging that your tastes and needs have changed (just as they naturally do with every major stage of your life) can really free you up both mentally and physically as you clear your space. If the item was a ‘mistake’, forgive yourself and move on. That way you can get rid of it and not have to be reminded that you made a mistake every time you run across it in your house.
9. Leave yourself enough time to put things away at the end of a task. If you’re someone who is perennially late, you’ll find clearing as you go impossible to do, because getting behind means you constantly have to cut every corner you can, in order to save time. If you never manage to make your bed in the morning before you dash off for work, or you leave a messy breakfast counter behind, then try to budget for a couple of minutes it’s going to take you to clear up as you go, in the time you allow for the task. Budgeting like that with every task will actually save you time in the long run, as you don’t have to ‘pick up the threads’ of where you left off. If you can allow even a couple of minutes more, life will seem so much more peaceful as well as being tidier.
10. Get used to luxuriating in and enjoying the clear space. One of the biggest ways to pat yourself on the back for keeping things orderly and easy to use is to give yourself five seconds every so often, to enjoy seeing the clear space in your home. It doesn’t have to look tidy or minimalist if you don’t want it to, but having a bit of usable space on your desk or dining table or kitchen counter makes getting on with whatever you’re doing so much easier than having to clear a space before you can start. Take a deep breath, enjoy it and don’t forget to feel pleased with yourself for keeping it that way.