Fight back! Turn the tables on clutter

Clutter can be a wily and cunning opponent. Sometimes, it just seems to appear as if out of nowhere. It sneaks up behind you and overpowers you with a bit of help from long work hours, too many projects, a busy travel schedule, and a lack of sleep. But, you can turn the tables on clutter and fight your way out of its grip. By gaining a good understanding of all its nuances, you’ll have a better chance of thwarting its attempt at getting control of all your living spaces.

As you probably already know, you will need to craft and execute a plan of attack. In fact, each room in your home may need its own plan. Since the layout and furniture is likely different in each area, clutter can build up in different ways. So, be observant. Look out for how pockets of clutter materialize. Does it happen at night when you’re feeling most tired? Or, perhaps in the morning when you’re not feeling as prepared as you’d like to be? As you notice the particular ways that clutter collects, stage a counterattack. Think of specific steps you can take to stop it from infiltrating your space. For example, you might keep an “out” box for things that need to be mailed, returned, or donated. Or, you can simply use a basket to collect the stuff you bring home from work. Once you find a strategy that works, keep it in your arsenal and use it often. And, if you live with others, encourage them to do the same.

Now, keep in mind that clutter doesn’t only build up, but it can also hide from you. Somehow it knows that you’ll probably forget that bag of mail that you stashed in the closet when you had company over or the linens you threw inside the closet. It can also hide in plain sight, like under furniture, inside storage chests, and under piles of paper on your desk. Your plan for each room should include a reminder to look in places that may not be so obvious.

In a final stealth move, clutter can lurk in a place that’s perhaps closest to you — your mind. Old arguments, hurt feelings, past mistakes, and fears about the future can take up residence in your thoughts. When these negative thoughts congregate in your head, they make it difficult to follow through on your clutter-busting plans and, more importantly, hamper your ability to just feel happy. Flush them out and replace them with positive thoughts and ideas. But, be cautious. Even seemingly harmless things — like that great business idea or interesting project you’re working on — can take over during times that they need to be quiet (like when you’re on vacation or hanging out with friends). Give them attention when it’s time to focus on work and be sure to put them away when it’s time to relax, to have fun — to just be.

Arm yourself with the right tools so you can turn the tables on clutter, and you’ll soon find yourself reveling in the victory of hard-fought battle.

7 Comments for “Fight back! Turn the tables on clutter”

  1. posted by danielle on

    Great post! I especially like that last paragraph…I’ve been letting the mental clutter bring me down lately. Time to spring clean!!

  2. posted by JC on

    Love treating each room on its own. This summer we are converting our downstairs into an apartment for my DM to move into this fall, which means we will not be selling our house in a few years, as orgininally planned. So, I’ve been evaluating the spaces and making plans for finishing up what we didn’t get done- because I know what hasn’t worked for the last 9 years. Mostly it’s a matter of basic storage. Even after purging items we don’t need/want, we still have rooms with no closets or shelving at all that will be so much better when the spaces are set up to be fully functional (ie. cupboards and shelves in the laundry) and there is a place to put things we do use and want to keep.

  3. posted by Renee on

    I… well, my children have been cleaning up their rooms, getting rid of old toys, small clothes, papers, trash, finally! This is my biggest stealth clutterers, my children. I really appreciate these posts, but they do sound like the poor soul is living alone; I’m great by myself. How do you train children to hate clutter?

  4. Avatar of DebLee

    posted by DebLee on

    @Renee: Hi and great question. When I was a teacher, I found that focusing on routines kept things uncluttered and orderly. I explained to my kids (as often as needed) the reason behind specific routines (e.g., you’ll be able to find your favorite books quickly and easily when you put them back on the bookshelf) and gave them ample opportunities to practice those routines. It took a bit of patience, but it worked.

    Everyone sees things differently. What looks cluttered to me, might not to someone else. My solution was to focus on reinforcing habits that created order, and this encouraged positive outcomes. Focusing on the clutter did the opposite. Did I mention that this requires a lot of patience?

  5. posted by Her from there on

    Taking a photo is a great way to see things that you dont actually see. There’s nothing worse than uploading a pic and seeing all the junk behind or around the subject that you just didnt notice before. Cameras dont lie : )

  6. posted by Jules on

    @Renee: I totally feel for you. I know my mom had a hard time trying to get me to handle my own clutter as a kid. I had a zillion collections of random crap and I had sentimental attachment to every item I owned. Looking back now we all can laugh because I eventually grew out of that and now I never have a hard time getting rid of anything. Good luck with your kids but just remember that even if they seem like they are destined for pack-ratdom, it might just be a phase.

  7. posted by SMARTBOX on

    These are some great tips for decluttering–everywhere. Having a place for everything helps to keep piles of magazines, mail, and other junk from accumulating.

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