Seven habits and routines that will help you become a more effective unclutterer

Over the last few days, several of our posts have focused on resolutions and ways to achieve the goals you have for 2013. To help you through the process, you may want to arm yourself with additional skills, like what you might find in a book like The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Though it was published in 1989, it remains a bestseller today because the advice is solid. We thought you might want an uncluttering-specific tool, so in this Covey style, we have created seven habits and routines to become a more effective unclutterer.

  1. Have easy-to-follow uncluttering rituals. Complex routines that have more than three steps can be difficult to keep up with, so create simple routines that are easy for you manage. It’s also important to create a system that works with your current lifestyle. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error to find the right type of activities (like getting up 30 minutes earlier to unclutter, keeping a donation box inside your closet) that are not only easy to follow, but also produce the results you’re desiring.
  2. Engage in uncluttering activities regularly. Maintaining a clutter-free environment is an ongoing process that needs regular attention. Otherwise, clutter can build up and quickly take over your space. Add regular uncluttering days to your calendar for a specified time frame (30 minutes each weekday, 60 minutes each weekend day).
  3. Use the right strategies and tools for you. Rather that use a strategy that’s popular at the moment, use techniques that suit your personality. For example, you will need to capture your tasks so that you remember to get them done. If you prefer paper, write your task list in a notebook, but if you’d prefer a digital option, use an app, like Due or Remember the Milk.
  4. Keep frequently used items accessible. If the items you use often are not easily accessible, putting them back will be a hassle, which means you’ll be less likely to put them away when you’re finished using them. Put those items that you reach for frequently on shelves that you can reach easily and at eye level.
  5. Put things away rather than putting them down. Unclutterers tend to put things where they belong after each use. Doing this reduces the chance of having clutter pile up, and you’ll always be able to find what you’re looking for without having to search for hours on end.
  6. Have a “home” for everything. It will be much easier to put your things away when there is a space already designated for them to be kept. Items that don’t have a home will always be unnecessarily out and about. Instead, have a place for the items you use in the room that you tend to use them (magazines in a basket in the living room, office supplies in the home office closet).
  7. Refrain from making whimsical purchases. Purchases made without much forethought have a greater chance of hanging about your home or office. When you think about the types of purchases you’ll make beforehand, that’s also an opportunity to figure out the proper place to store them. Keep in mind that the fewer things you have, the less you have to maintain and store.

7 Comments for “Seven habits and routines that will help you become a more effective unclutterer”

  1. posted by Jon on

    Thank you for another great and encouraging post! I have started re-reading your book to look for ways to fine-tune what my wife and I are trying to do around our house. One of the things we have been working on for ourselves and with our older child is #5 in your list – putting things away instead of putting them down. In our case we were making piles of things that would be put away when the time was right. Funny enough, the time was never right :) So now we try to put things in their place instead of wasting time/energy putting things in piles. I always look forward to your great posts in my Google Reader feed.

  2. posted by Dede on

    LOVED this post because it is so personal. #5-#6-#7 are the changes that have had the biggest impact on my life. (1-4 I’m still working on)

    #5-I spent years putting things in another room without actually putting them away because I thought it was easier, when in reality I was just putting it away twice. I’m not perfect at this, but I am trying to only put things away once.

    #6-When we lined up 4 black storage shelves along a wall in the family room, I thought it was going to be a bit much. But suddenly there is a place for so many things that used to wander around the house! It has made a huge difference to my sanity. Plus I can easily access things that used to take me a day to find. Like cookbooks. And photos that need organizing.

    #7-One of the hardest habits to break, especially for my pack-rat gene. We are trying to live as much cash-only as possible, and if I don’t have the cash (and a place to put it) I don’t buy it. I’m finding that attitude can be more liberating than having lots of “things”. And it is saving me tons of money at the garden center!

  3. posted by Mary Kathryn on

    Great tips! Your tip #2 (doing half an hour of housework a day) is one of my 12 habits that I hope to cultivate this year. Doing the rest of your tips on a regular basis is a great way to manage this.

  4. posted by Veronica on

    #2 is what I’m working on. I’ve resolved to clean or organize for at least 10 minutes each day and I’ve been surprised with how much I can get done in such a little amount of time. As much as I despise and put off cleaning my kitchen floor, it turns out it only takes me 5 minutes to get it done. Knowing that motivaes me to do it more often.

  5. posted by Her from there on

    Haha – LOVING No 7. My husband has wanted a pool table for years. I kept asking him where it would go but he just wanted that table. I finally managed to find him a folding one so it could be put away after use. It arrived this week and the first thing hubby said is “Wow, it takes up so much space. Where are we going to put it and where on earth are we going to keep it when its folded?”. The answer to the storage question is ‘against the wall in the garage’. I had already thought it through before I bought it but amusing that he had never considered it.

  6. posted by janet on

    Love this. My mom could have written this list! I heard all my life, “If you put things back where they go, you’ll save time and know where to find it later.” and “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

    Great reminders. I might have to memorize them to keep me at it all through the year.

  7. posted by Brittany on

    These are all such good tips! I have been house-sitting for the past month and will be here for another three weeks or so, but I know when I return home I need to start decluttering again! Thank you for posting this and motivation me!

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