My house would likely look clean if it was less cluttered. Even if my floor has not been vacuumed in a little too long, or there is a little dust on the cabinets and light fixtures; if there are not a bunch of stacks of clutter and random stuff sitting all over the place, I can take a breath and think. “This is not that bad.”
Additionally, it is a lot easier to clean. A no brainer, right?
Have you recognized a theme for this week of March MAIDness?
Yesterday we talked about clutter fixtures. Today is about their close cousin clutter zones.
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What are clutter zones?
Just as with clutter fixtures, I know I cannot be the only one who has clutter zones in my home. But for purposes of clarity again, let’s define a clutter zones.
clutter zone – noun. an area of one’s home in which clutter breeds clutter; the close relative of clutter fixtures.
Everybody has them, even the neat freaks out there. The reason everybody has them is because we, as a society collect WAY too much stuff. We are constantly adding to our already vast collection of stuff. At least once a week, we go to the grocery store to add to our collection of food. We go to the mailbox – to bring in more paper for our paper collection. We take perfectly good flowers out of the ground and bring them indoors – to eventually add to our trash collection. Clothes, shoes, jewelry, and purses are purchased to add to our apparel collection. Books, magazines, and movies (most of which we will likely only use once) are stored in shelves and called an entertainment collection.
The Problem with Clutter Zones
But it is not the collections that are necessarily the problem. If they are organized and managed well, they can be quite clean. Depending on the collection. they bring us joy or carry meaning.
The problem is we like to carry quite a bit of our stuff around with us, Depending on the day and the mood, we aren’t happy with it being in the same place all the time. So we take it for walks and leave it in a new place, The new place we leave our stuff is likely a clutter zone.
Your clutter zone could be the place where you enter your home and put all the things you collected during the day: the receipts, keys, cell phones, change, mail, small grocery items, cups, hair clips, scarves.
Another clutter zone could be your bathroom counter. As you get ready for the morning, are you diligent to put each and every item back in its place? More than likely, this is a place where various hygiene items hang out during the day and generally create clutter.
Are you beginning to get visions of your clutter zone in your home?
Dealing with Clutter Zones in our Home
In our home, we have a few clutter zones, but the one that gets the most love is our kitchen counter. I don’t even want to share with you how much junk is on that counter right now. We use the counter/island for a lot of things throughout the day, so it gets a lot of use. The evidence of our use is often strewn all over.
It is a true clutter zone because it generates more clutter. You know the phrase “create clutter” I used a little bit earlier. It is not a misnomer. Clutter creates clutter. We see a stack of papers, we add to it. We see dirty dishes, we add to them instead of washing them. We see a bunch of stuff lying around and we add to it, thinking we will get to it all…later.
So, what would our homes look like if we controlled the clutter chaos and zipped through the clutter zones, clearing away all the unnecessary? Probably a lot more calming, a lot more breathable.
Ok, but how?
Here’s what I do in my home to clear the clutter zones.
Identify the problem
Like clutter fixtures, clutter zones can often be disguised. So first I open my eyes and make sure I notice what needs to be cleaned. Also, I think about my day, my routine when I come into my home. I consider our after dinner routines, our before bed routines. I ask myself, “Are the places you frequent where clutter gathers?”
Do a very quick clean-up
The items in my clutter zone typically have a real home and it is not the kitchen counter. To perform my very quick clean-up, I go through my clutter zone, putting items where they belong. I return them to their proper collections. This cuts through most of the clutter in a particular zone.
As to timing – you know I love a 15 minute timer. I have discovered that quick decluttering can be done in a much shorter amount of time. I can sometimes do it in the amount of time it takes for a cup of coffee to brew. Other times, I throw a load of laundry into the washing machine and clean up a clutter zone until the song rings out.
Doing quick sessions of decluttering throughout the week in the dangerous clutter zones can make such a huge difference in our home! Check out this old post of our crazy cluttered laundry room (those pictures are embarrassing!) before and after.
Create homes for the homeless
Every once in a while, I will bring something new into my home. Since it is so new, it doesn’t have a spot yet. That item(s) is likely to be placed in a clutter zone. In this case, the solution is to identify a place for my item. And then I put it in its place. Novel, I know.
Note: Sometimes these new items do not need to sleep at my house! I find it best to make this determination before the item ever comes into my house. However, I do not live alone. These other beings in our home often bring in all manner of items!
Think of a solution to the clutter problem
As I have shared often on this blog, I spend a LOT of time thinking about the solutions to our household problems. Those thoughts have resulted in this blog you are reading right now.
Problem-solving is literally what I do all day. So, as I look at the chaos of clutter zones around my home, my brain goes to work.
The solution may be:
- a conversation with the little beings in my home – about routines, about tidiness, about saying good-bye to too much
- new designations of homes for every day items
- the construction of lockers for each member of the family to house their “stuff” (shoes, lunchboxes, jackets, keys, sunglasses, etc.) – we did this recently!
- putting a temporary (or permanent) stop buying more stuff until I use the stuff I have
I put ample thought into how to control the stuff in my home. It makes me more mindful of the things I bring home from the store, the processes for putting stuff away, and the ways I can streamline my routines.
Make it Routine
This series is about routines, right? So these steps are done a regular basis. Once a day, twice a week – I choose something routine.
I have long since given up on the idea of my clutter zone remaining clutter free forever. The steps in this article are a routine. It is the nature of our lives to have stuff to put away. But it is how we manage the stuff we have that makes us feel less stressed, more clean. Staying on top of the clutter problem is how I prevent clutter fixtures from forming.
Years ago, I did a series on this blog about creating homemaking habits. I worked through a book by Dana K. White. That book is life-changing – seriously. I highly recommend Dana’s books – How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind and Decluttering at the Speed of Life – to help you set new habits and create new routines for your home. Both of those books are available on Scribd. The Decluttering one is available on audio, too!