More than 15 ways to handle recurrent clutter

There are three areas in my home that are on a recurrent cycle of being cluttered and cause me stress: the kitchen, the family room, and the dirty clothes hamper in the bedroom.

I have taken many steps to try to get my laundry problem under control, but I continue to wrestle with it. The kitchen is a similar stress aggravated by the fact that my husband and I eat three meals a day at home. Then, there is the family room where things come in and never leave.

These three areas have one thing in common: they have a constant supply of input. Every night I deposit clothes into the hamper. Every day I sit and knit or read or watch TV or whatever I’m doing to relax in my family room. Every meal I dirty pots, pans, plates, utensils, and cups, and every week I bring in more food to repeat the cycle.

I’ve been working diligently recently to keep these areas clutter free in my own home, and can share a few tips and advice. I hope that you find at least one or more helpful.


  • If you haven’t already read it, start by going to my previous post on dealing with laundry clutter. Following these tips have made my laundry situation bearable.
  • Additionally, I recommend making your laundry room as welcoming, cheerful, and serene as possible. A laundry room that is pleasant to be in makes doing the laundry much less of an annoyance. A dark, dreary basement with bare concrete walls isn’t inviting. Spruce up your space so that being in it is a reward, not a punishment.

Family Room

  • Institute a “no food” rule for your family room. No food outside the kitchen or dining room is a good general house rule, too.
  • Assess the amount of furniture in your family room. Do you really need four end tables and two coffee tables? I find that the more tables I have in a room, the more stuff I set on the tables.
  • Every time a person leaves the room, have them put something away. If everything is properly in its place, celebrate.
  • Have a vacuum cleaner/broom easily accessible to the room. I find that I need to vacuum the carpet in this room twice as often as in the rest of the house. Having the ability to use it with very little effort is essential.
  • Have a place for everything in the room: a knitting basket with a lid, a storage system for your video games, a chest for children’s toys, a bin for piano music, a CD and DVD solution, etc.


  • My first suggestion for the kitchen is to get your hands on Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook. The kitchen section in the book is really good and I learned a great deal from reading it. I reference it a handful of times a month.
  • Put dirty dishes straight into the dishwasher. No plates or cups should ever sit dirty on the counter.
  • Own dishwasher-safe stainless steel cookware and other kitchen items. If you have to wash it by hand it is likely to sit cluttered on the counter.
  • Avoid unitasker appliances and utensils. Based on your cooking style, a few may creep into your home, but it’s best to try to keep these numbers small.
  • Monitor what small appliances and entertaining dishes you use, and get rid of those you don’t. I’ve used our reader-suggested dot system for my monitoring with great success.
  • If you must store small appliances on your counter, only have out those you use often. My toaster, coffee pot, vacuum sealer, and mixer sit out all the time. I use all of these daily or almost daily.
  • Organize your kitchen so that what you use is stored next to where it is used. It’s a bit of a no-brainer, but things like pots and pans should be next to the stove and leftover storage containers next to the refrigerator.
  • If you’re like me, don’t use a bread box. I put bread in there, forget about it, and then discover it weeks later all moldy. I currently store aluminum foil, wax paper, ziplock bags, and such in my bread box instead. I set my bread on top of the bread box.

Please feel welcome to add suggestions in the comments section. There are so many effective strategies out there that I couldn’t possibly name them all in this post. So, let us know what works for you!


This post was originally published in July 2007.

9 Comments for “More than 15 ways to handle recurrent clutter”

  1. posted by Joe on

    Put your bread in the fridge. It will last a lot longer in there.

  2. posted by Carmen on

    I bought one of these and have found it great to keep my laundry under control. I just unhook a bag and off I go to the washer, all the clothes are already pre-sorted. It’s made a big difference in taming my laundry clutter.

  3. posted by Amy D on

    I get dinner started and then unload and start reloading the dishwasher with any dishes that have accumulated during the day. Then I can just put in the dinner dishes and the counters are clean.

    Also, if I’m watching TV, I use commercial breaks to do stuff like dishes, laundry, dusting, etc. It breaks up the monotony of chores, and it makes me get up from the couch every ten minutes or so.

  4. posted by liz on

    The thing that changed my life, laundry-wise, was getting the large-capacity, front-loading washing machine. I have vast quantities of laundry to do, due to the athletic pursuits of my husband and two teenage boys. I can have a pile of laundry as high as the light switch and it’s done in two loads.

  5. posted by Cliff on

    The thing that changed MY life about laundry was utterly outsourcing it! I use the following two tricks: 1. for office attire, I recycle certain items and always wear a cotton underlayer (t-shirt and boxers), getting two (non-consecutive) days’ wear out of most items by mix-and-re-matching combinations; 2. everything else is cotton and goes to the “chinese laundry” (and expression some use, to mean, a wash-dry-fold service).

    At first it seemed expensive. Then I worked out how much money in quarters I was dumping into the laundromat machines. At three wash loads (colors on cold, whites and linens on hot, delicates on gentle) x $1.75 to $2.50, plus about ten dry loads (ten minutes per .25, three dry-periods per wash load, etc.) I was spending about $15 a week at the laundromat. But at a dollar a pound, generally a drop-off laundry service costs me about $18 a week. The $3 difference often disappears depending on whether the office clothes made for a heavy dry-cleaning load that week or not. Add it all up, I was basically “paying myself” about .75 an HOUR to do the laundry work, losing roughly 2 hours a week.

    Outsourcing laundry … and never paying a Maytag repairman again … smartest thing I ever did for my household. I don’t even SORT the laundry, I just dump the bag at the laundry lady. She does things good enough. Plus, her industrial washers have hotter water, better detergent, etc., than I could get in any coin-op machine.

  6. posted by Eric on

    Two things that changed my life in terms of kitchen clutter were (1) moving into an apartment in which the kitchen is not a separate room, but rather a wall and L-shaped counter along one wall of my living room, and (2) said kitchen having a dishwasher. Back when my kitchen was a separate room, it was easy to ignore all the crap piling up (including dirty dishes in the sink). Now that kitchen mess is part of the room in which I spend all my time, I am much more assiduous about keeping it under control as I go. (One exception is a collection of glasses that must be handwashed– they sit around on the counter waiting to be washed much longer than they should.)

  7. posted by Andrea on

    My new place has no dishwasher. So the dirty dishes pile up. I deal with it by having a dirty dish “home”. My dirty dishes live in a 15″ area of counter. When they overflow their space, they must be washed. This allows me space where I can cook without being crowded by dirty dishes. And it allows my husband (who could care less about mess and clutter, and who is our official Washer of Dishes) to do the dishes on his own schedule.

  8. posted by Jess M on

    What is the “dot system”? The link does not work and I couldn’t find the post in the archives.

  9. posted by MJ Ray on

    Bread in the fridge?!? Look, if you hate bread that much, stop eating it rather than torturing it. 😉 Bread is kept neat in a bread bin.

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