When I was a kid, I was sort of an organization freak. What I mean by that, is that two of my favorite things to do were to clean out and organize my desk and dresser drawers so that they were perfect inside. I did this both at home and at school. Now, I wasn’t always this neat and organized in every aspect of my life. Sometimes I left clothes on my bedroom floor or toys out of place. But in general, I enjoyed organizing. Even my locker in high school never had trash in it and always had perfectly organized books and notebooks.
Then as I got older, something changed. I have no idea what it was, but I suddenly started to get less organized and less neat. Cleaning and organizing became less of a priority and more of a stressor in my life than something I enjoyed.
When I became a mom it seemed to get worse and worse. I mean, my house is pretty clean, but clutter seems to keep finding its way into every aspect of my world. My daughter’s toys used to take over the house. Now she’s older, but her tendency is to be really messy too, so even though the toys are mostly gone, the clutter isn’t. And this really has a negative effect on me. It stifles my creativity and makes me cranky.
Experts say that clutter causes stress. It creates an environment of disorganization and lowers your quality of life. However, it can be challenging to get control over clutter. So, I’ve been working hard to get back some control and keep the clutter to a minimum while also teaching my daughter to do it too. And what I’ve found is that when I’m happy in my living space, the creative juices flow much more freely. Here are a few techniques I’ve come up with.
THE CATCHALL TECHNIQUE
This is actually a surprisingly easy approach to taming clutter. Depending on the size of your home and family choose a container that you can keep in your main living space. At the end of each day spend five minutes running through the house. Everything that is out of place gets dropped into the catchall container.
Then you have a choice. You can spend five to ten minutes putting things where they belong. You can alternatively call your family and hold each person responsible for putting their items back where they belong. Itís simple, inexpensive and effective. (And eventually, your family members may get tired of the routine and start actually putting their things away.)
PLAY THE TOSS TEN GAME
Choose any room in your home. Look around and grab ten things you can throw away. Limit it to ten, don’t go over, and make sure you throw away ten items. (Note, if you want to donate them that’s okay too.) Play this game every day in one room in your home until you’ve paired down to items that you cherish and have room for.
HIDE THE CLUTTER
When I was living in a tiny apartment, this saved me from looking like a hoarder. I didn’t have that much stuff, but I had almost no closet space. So, I bought furniture that doubles as storage. For example, coffee and end tables in a living room can double as chests or contain drawers for storage. A chest can double as a bench in an entryway and store outdoor wear and gear. I got lots of pretty baskets and containers and put them on bookshelves to hide small items but keep them accessible.
Don’t buy anything until you’ve cleaned out your entire home. It will either ensure you clean out the clutter quickly or you will stop shopping and adding more to the problem. You might be surprised how easy it is to stop shopping and how much money you save.
CREATE NEW HABITS
Create one new habit a week. For example, this week create the new habit of always putting your phone on the charger or in the phone caddy each day. Next week create the habit of going through your bills and sorting mail at the end of every day, or week. Create the habit of throwing away one, or donating, item in your closet each day.
What I’ve found is that clearing out the clutter won’t magically happen. Unfortunately, you cannot wave a magic wand and have your entire home magazine ready. However, you can make major changes in your environment today that will help you tame the problem, reduce your stress, and enable you to focus on the fun of being creative.