Over the past 30 years, the typical American home has become larger and far more cluttered! We acquire more “stuff” faster than we increase our ability to buy more space. It’s no surprise that self-storage is one of the leading growth industries in the country.
Having all this excess stuff requires more time for maintaining our living spaces and keeping things in order. It also means that many of us are drowning in clutter, wondering where we put things, or moving things from place to place in an effort to manage the mess.
GENERAL HOUSEHOLD TIPS
#1 – Hide a cluttered bookshelf with a spring-loaded curtain rod and a set of curtains.
#2 – Use filing cabinets for a TV stand.
#3 – Use clear plastic shoeboxes to store odds and ends when not on display.
#4 – Organize your house by task so that the things most relevant to each job are where they’re used.
#5 – Figure out where things normally get dropped and assign them an appropriate place close to that point.
#6 – Label it! Labeling is not just for file folders; help family members remember where things belong – kitchen shelves, storage containers, bookshelves, coat racks.
#7 – Designate a “launchpad”, where coats, jackets, shoes, backpacks, purses, keys, and everything else you need to find easily next time you leave the house stays.
#8 – Set up a “bucket” for each person at your “launchpad” (a milk crate, basket, or an actual bucket).
#9 – Use a 4-tier “stadium rack” for spices, so you can see them easily without taking up too much space.
#10 – Set up “clutter bags” in every room. A reusable shopping bag in every room can collect the stuff from elsewhere around the house so someone can return it to its place.
#11 – Store trash bags inside the trash can, under the current liner. Whoever takes the trash out can replace e a fresh bag right away.
#12 – Set up a shared online calendar between you and your partner, and allow access to your close family, child-care providers, and anyone else who might need to know where you are or what events are coming.
#13 – Use behind-the-door shoe holders for storage of craft supplies, cleaning products, tools, and office materials.
#14 – Take care of dishes immediately after meals.
#15 – Run the dishwasher frequently enough to avoid running out of needed items. Large households often never get to that mythical state where the clean dishes are put away, the dirty ones are in the dishwasher, and nothing is stacked up in the sink.
#16 – Take pictures of sentimental objects before giving them away or throwing them out. If you won’t ever wear it again, just keep the memories.
#17 – Set up a library/rental box. Store your library books and rented videos in a box near where you’ll use them, and keep your library cards and video rental cards there as well.
#18 – Color-code your family. Assign a color to everyone in the house, and buy everything for them in that color: towels, toothbrushes, cups, water bottles, lunch boxes, slippers, whatever.
#19 – Keep your “go bag” in the car – sports equipment or the stuff for family outings (aside from food) can be stored in the trunk, freeing up space in the house.
#20 – Use an accordion organizer to sort kids’ project paper. Sort by color and/or type of paper.
#21 – Use bed risers to increase the space under your bed.
#22 – Use drawers, not counters, for storing bathroom stuff. Or keep all your toiletries in one easy-to-move box or basket on the counter.
#23 – Use a corkboard and pushpins to hang jewelry, keeping everything visible but out of the way.
#24 – Use a travel jewelry organizer that goes over a hangar.
#25 – Keep a basket by the stairs and add out-of-place items to it. Take it with you when you go up or down.
#26 – Fill a box with stuff you’re unsure of and store it for a year. Put the date on the outside. Get rid of anything you don’t use for an entire year; you don’t need it.
#27 – Put a whiteboard in your garage where you’ll see it when coming or going. Put to-do lists, reminders, and other important information on it.
#28 – Find creative uses for containers. For example, ice cube trays are great for storing all sorts of tiny objects — any they stack easily.
#29 – Keep a rack near the door for keys. Make sure they’re not visible from the front door/window.
#30 – Pull bookshelves out slightly to hide cords for gadgets in the back.
BILLS + BUSINESS
#1 – Set up a scanner and a shredder next to each other. Incoming mail that needs to be saved goes into the scanner and then (unless you need it for your records) straight into the shredder.
#2 – Sort mail as it comes in. Trash it, file it, respond to it, or take action on it — don’t let it build up.
#3 – Go paperless. Scan all your important paperwork and store it on your computer. File only the papers you absolutely need in hard copies.
#4 – Set up your bills to be due all on the same day. Most utilities will let you shift your payment date.
#5 – Use chip clips to hold related papers together.
#6 – Put all your work on your desk and “do as you clean”. When you’re done, the desk is clean.
#7 – Auto-pay everything.
#8 – Scan business cards as you get them.
#9 – Make a nice box for receipts and put new receipts in it every night when you get home. Sort receipts on a regular basis, to avoid overflow and another source of clutter.
#10 – Convert a closet into an office. With a little creativity, even a tiny closet can be transformed into a functional space; close the door to hide the mess.
HABITS + ATTITUDES
#1 – Learn to travel light. You won’t have as much to carry, and you won’t have as big a bag to store in your house when you’re not traveling.
#2 – Close the circle. This takes discipline; if you can build the habit of always seeing every act through to its logical end, it will prevent a lot of clutter. In practical terms, this means that every time you use something, you follow through until that thing is back where it started from: eat a bowl of cereal, wash the bowl, dry it, and put it back on the shelf. Our lives tend to be a lot of little “incompletions” that lead to clutter; if you can break that habit and see things all the way through, you’ll find a lot more improves than just your clutter situation.
#3 – Clean one room or area a day. This is less daunting than cleaning the whole house and creates a clear goal.
#4 – Find the clutter “focal point” of each room and keep it clean. In the bedroom, make the bed and keep it clear; in the kitchen, don’t store anything in the sink. If these focal points are clean, the room will seem less cluttered.
#5 – Give it away. Make a habit of taking regular trips to Goodwill or another donation center to give away excess stuff.
#6 – One in, one out. Make a habit of throwing out, selling, or giving away something for every new thing you bring into the house. For example, when you buy a new pair of shoes, get rid of your least favorite. Variation: One in, TWO Out!
#7 – Use “deep storage” wisely. Pack up things that you’re not going to use and store them.
#8 – Don’t shop “recreationally”. Go shopping for the things you need, not to kill time or “just to look”.
#9 – Never put anything on top of anything smaller than it is. For example, never put a newspaper on top of a small book or your keys. You’ll lose less stuff that way.
#10 – Don’t make piles. Ever.
The Good Reads