Do you need a “fix” for the clutter in your home? If you’re like me, you operate much better when there is order. However, most of us are constantly combatting clutter
The shift from order to chaos seems to take place in the blink of an eye. Whereas the shift from chaos to order tends to be a slow, tedious, uphill battle. How can we make the transition from messy to orderly more easily?
Keep reading, and I’ll share my five fixes for clutter.
As you explore these different methods, you will find lots of similarities. In reality, decluttering involves only two steps. First, you must get rid of the clutter. Second, you must create a plan to maintain the order you’ve created.
Then why five fixes?
Simple. Doing old things in new ways can motivate us to get started and to be more productive. I have used all of these fixes with success. Sometimes, I use a combination of two or more fixes. However, the true key to success is in maintenance. More about that later.
So, what are these Five Fixes for Clutter?
- Ten Minute Bites
- Corner to Corner
- Clear, Sort, Put Away
- Clean As You Go
When my house gets out of control, I find it helpful to focus on one room at a time. While I try to keep all the rooms livable, my room of choice is the one that gets the most attention. Granted, this approach may take the longest in terms of getting the whole house in a “picture perfect” state. However, if you have a busy schedule – or lack motivation – this method might just be the way to get from chaos to order.
So, how do I do it?
First, I choose one room to tackle for the week. If I’m feeling ambitious, I begin with the messiest room in the house. This way, the biggest challenge is behind me and the remaining rooms seem to whip into shape more quickly.
However, if I’m really overwhelmed and lack motivation, I begin with the least cluttered room. This way, I can see progress being made. This often motivates me to keep moving forward to tackle the more challenging rooms.
After choosing a room, I divide it into zones. A zone includes the floor space and any furnishings or décor items in that space. For instance, there are five zones in my bedroom:
- The “bed wall” (bed and nightstands)
- The dresser
- The desks
- The sitting area
- The cedar chest at the foot of the bed
Often, it only takes a few minutes to restore order to a zone. However, some areas, like my desk😊, can take a bit longer.
In the case of my bedroom, it usually takes five days to completely restore order. Of course, I might choose to conquer two or more zones in one day if I get really motivated, and have the time.
Maintenance is the key to success with this method. Every time you walk past a completed zone, take a quick look around and pick up anything that is out of place.
While it may take several weeks to work through every room in your home, you’ll be amazed at how the house seems to “keep” itself as you get into the habit of straightening as you go.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS METHOD:
Once I’ve finished with the day’s zone, I’m free to pursue other things. Although the room is not totally in order, I know it’s coming. Because this method only requires a small amount of effort each day, by the end of the week it almost feels as if the room cleans itself!
Choose one zone in one room of your house. Now work like crazy to get that zone spotless as quickly as possible. Keep going if you have the time and motivation to do more. If not, plan to tackle another zone tomorrow. Don’t forget to maintain the progress you’ve made! Take before and after pictures of your work. If you’re like me, seeing the transformation keeps me motivated to move forward.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time!
Sometimes tackling the clutter in your house can be just as daunting as eating the proverbial elephant. However, the road to success is the same: Do it one bite at a time.
Do you like to-do lists? I do! I get so much more accomplished when I set some guidelines. When attempting to devour clutter, it helps to go room-by-room and list all the tasks that need to be done in each room. Make sure each task is “bite-sized” so that it can be accomplished in the time available.
A bite is a segment of time. The demands on your time will determine the size of the bite. You may be able to bite off an hour’s worth of clutter, or you might only be able to take ten-minute nibbles at a time. Whether you spend ten minutes a day – or ten minutes several times a day, you’ll be amazed at what you can get accomplished if you’re consistent.
Don’t forget to maintain the progress you’ve made. Nothing is more discouraging than allowing a clutter-free area to become cluttered once again.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS METHOD:
When I break the tasks into bite-sized chunks of time, it creates stopping points. On the other hand, when I attempt to clear out all the clutter at one time, I get overwhelmed. Then, I tend to put off the task until I have more time. Since the goal is one bite at a time, I can easily work on clearing the clutter – even when I have a limited amount of time.
Take a few minutes to make a list of bite-sized homemaking tasks that need your attention. Set your timer for ten minutes and see how many bites you can take out of your mountain of clutter. Make it your goal to maintain the order you’ve accomplished. I find it helpful to take several ten-minute bites a day.
Have you ever walked into a room that was so messy you had no idea where to begin? When this happens, overwhelm can immobilize us.
When this happens to me, I put myself in the corner (any corner) and turn my back on the clutter in the rest of the room. I note what needs be done straight in front of me while standing in the corner. Ignoring the rest of the room, I work diligently to get my little corner as spotless as possible.
When there’s nothing left to be done in that corner, I take a step to the right (or left). Still, with my back to the room, I decide what needs to be done in that space, and I get to work.
I continue in this fashion until I reach the next corner. I then repeat the process until I reach the corner where I started. Finally, I turn around and deal with the middle of the room.
Maybe you don’t have time to tackle a whole room at once. If this is the case, just set up stopping points along the way. Possibly work from one corner to the next and save the rest for later. Just be sure to maintain what’s already been done, and you’ll soon find that you’ve cleared the clutter and can relax with a job well done.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS METHOD:
I like the practice of focusing on one small area at a time. It’s so easy to get distracted by the clutter surrounding me. By ignoring the rest of the room, I can concentrate on the task at hand, knowing that I’ll get to the rest another time.
Pick a corner in your messiest room. Get to work getting just that corner cleaned up. Don’t worry about the rest of the room – or the rest of the house. Your goal is to get that one corner in order. Now, step back and notice what a difference just one little corner can make. Set a time each day to continue making progress around the room. Of course, if you find yourself really motivated, feel free to keep working from corner to corner until it’s all done.
CLEAR, SORT, PUT AWAY
Are you a procrastinator when it comes to clearing out clutter? Does the thought of hours or clearing out overwhelm you? What if you could declutter an entire room in 30 minutes or less? It’s possible!
So often, we get bogged down in trying to decide what to do with all the “stuff” that’s accumulated in our homes. We may have good intentions, but we soon get distracted by the never-ending decisions of what to keep, what to store, or what to throw away.
I’ve found it helpful to divide the process into two steps, or phases. In the first phase, you will remove all the clutter from the room. The focus will not be on what to do with the clutter, but on getting the clutter out of the room. During the second phase, you will deal with the clutter.
Want to give it a try? Here’s how:
- Gather 2-3 large boxes or totes. (More if you have lots of clutter!)
- Working your way around the room, clear all surfaces by dumping everything into the boxes or totes. Don’t worry about sorting the mess. The goal is to get the room decluttered. You’ll deal with the boxes later.
- Once you’ve finished with the surfaces, it’s time to clear the floor.
- When all the clutter is in boxes, move the boxes into another room and forget about them (for now).
- Next, you can dust, sweep, vacuum, etc. Whatever it takes to get the room into tip-top shape.
- Now, stand back and admire your work!
At this point, there are three options. You can stop for the day and come back to do Phase Two later. You can take a well-earned break and then get back to work. Or you can plow ahead and get it all done at one time.
Let’s get on to Phase Two!
- Find a comfy chair, put on your favorite music, a movie, or an audiobook, and get ready to bring order to your chaos! I like to do this in a different room so that my decluttered room stays that way.
- Sort through the boxes of clutter you’ve gathered. Your method of sorting will depend on the items collected.
- Keepers – things you or your family use on a regular basis. You may need to have a pile for each family member or for each room in the house.
- Storage – things you don’t want to get rid of but don’t need constant access to.
- Give away – things you no longer want or need.
- Once you’ve sorted everything, put all of the “keepers” where they belong. The storage boxes can go into the attic, shed, closet, or whatever space you use for storage. Give your “giveaways” to someone who can use them or donate the items to your favorite charity.
Finally, be sure to maintain the order. Make a habit of clearing clutter before it overtakes the room. It’s much easier to spot something out of place in a clean room than it is in a messy room.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS METHOD:
Quick results! In no time at all, I get to see the fruits of my labor. After phase two, I enjoy the satisfaction of seeing that everything is put away in its proper place.
Choose one room or, if you’re really overwhelmed, a small, cluttered space. I often use this method to clean my desk or my sewing table when they really get out of hand. Then work through both phases. Be careful not to give in to the temptation to shove the clutter into another space. One of the keys to this method is to have a place for everything and put everything in its place.
CLEAN AS YOU GO
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I’m sure Benjamin Franklin was not thinking about the challenges of homemaking when he coined this phrase, but it definitely applies. With all the demands on our time, it is so easy to let things go, thinking we’ll get to them tomorrow. However, this most often leads to clutter and chaos in the home.
How about you? When you walk through a room in your home, do you look for things that are out of place, or do you simply disregard them or promise yourself that you’ll get to them later? What would happen if everyone in the home picked up and put away any out-of-place items they came across?
Our homes would always be orderly, and we would have time to pursue the relationships and interests that are important to us.
“She looketh well to the ways of her household,
and eateth not the bread of idleness.” ~ Prov 31:27
I believe, for the proficient homemaker, cleaning as you go is an integral part of “looking well to the ways of her household.” So, how can we apply this principle?
First, we must get into the habit of “looking.” How often do you walk through a room and simply ignore the glass on the table, the sock on the floor, or the junk mail on the desk? We get so focused on the task at hand that we simply don’t see the clutter as it begins to pile up.
“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do,
do it with thy might.” ~ Ecclesiastes 9:10
Next, we need to act. After all, how long would it take to pick up the glass and set it in the sink or to grab the sock and toss it into the laundry hamper or quickly flip through the mail, either filing it in its proper place or tossing it in the wastebasket? It’s amazing how little one-minute jobs can quickly add up to an orderly home.
Finally, we need to train our children to be looking as well. Just imagine how quickly a room would whip into shape – and stay that way – if everyone in the family would get into the habit of picking up anything that they find out of place. It’s easy to keep your home in order with everyone on board.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THIS METHOD:
When everyone gets into the habit of cleaning as you go, clutter disappears.
Every time you walk through a different room in your home, grab at least one thing that is out of place and put it in its correct place. Often the issue is not lack of time – or even lack of motivation. Many times, clutter simply goes unnoticed until it gets out of control. When we train ourselves (and our children) to look for, and put away, out-of-place items as we go through the day, it’s amazing how the house seems to keep itself.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
Hopefully, you’ve found at least one “fix” to help you clear the clutter in your home. Whether you work through zones, take ten-minute bites, clean from corner to corner, clear, sort, and put away, or clean as you go:
Nothing is more discouraging than allowing a clutter-free area to become cluttered once again. So, how do we maintain order?
- Be attentive – make a habit of noticing whether things are in place or out of place
- Be diligent – resist the temptation to leave it till later
- Be proactive – take action BEFORE clutter takes hold
A few more helps:
- Take before and after pictures.
- Reward yourself (either after each short session – or when the job is complete – or both)
- Get your kids on board. Make it a game.
Now that I’ve shared my five fixes for clutter, which sounds most doable to you?
- Ten Minute Bites?
- Corner to Corner?
- Clear, Sort, Put Away?
- Clean As You Go?
Let me know in the comments below. Also, I’d love to hear if you try one of these fixes. If you tried more than one, let me know which was your favorite, and why?
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