Clutter 101: The 3 Golden Rules For A Decluttered Life
I’ve written a lot about being organized and decluttering your life, in fact I did an entire book about it (you can download it for free here). It was one of the first big ‘lifehacks’ that I really worked on and it made such a difference to me. In fact I converted several other people, including my own parents, to the idea of decluttering (it backfired slightly because they tried to throw out all my old stuff that I’d left at their home when I moved out).
Recently I was asked how to maintain that blissful decluttered state. She’d followed this blog, checked out Unclutterer and Zen Habits and read numerous books, and she was now happy with the way her house and workplace was. She was no longer losing entire days trying to tidy up, and her husband wasn’t constantly asking where everything was. Well, most of the time ;)
But decluttering is only half of the challenge. Keeping it that way and staying organized is a whole different matter and she sometimes struggled with it. So, I looked at how I was managing and realized I was doing the same three things each day in order to stay on top of my clutter. It doesn’t require a book full of tricks and tips for this, just three simple rules.
I hope you’ll agree with me about these, but if you have your own set of golden decluttering rules, share them. I’d love to read your thoughts on this.
Do a little every day
Anybody who has let the dishes or the laundry pile up can attest to this one. Definitely doing a little every day is far, far better than trying to do a lot all in one go. You may come home from a hard day in the office, tired and fed up, and of course you’d much rather crash on the sofa than face up to all the clutter that’s gathered the day before, but you’re just making it harder on yourself. Don’t leave things till the weekend!
There are many decluttering chores that won’t ever go away, so don’t worry about constantly having an empty letter tray, having all of your clothes always hung up, having every room clear of dust, etc. It’s a losing battle. Just focus on doing a little every day. All you have to do is clean a few dishes each day, wash and iron a small basket of clothes each day, file away some letters each day… Just stay on top of it!
A space for everything
It’s the oldest known decluttering tip in existence, dating right back to the Romans (well, maybe not), but unlike similar old tales about broken mirrors and walking under ladders, this one is genuinely true!
Everything needs a designated space (different items can share the same space of course, hence the ‘messy drawer’). If not, stuff gets put anywhere and everywhere, often in the easiest place you can find. An important letter will get shoved in a drawer simply because it happens to be next to you when you open the mail, and your drills and screwdrivers will find homes everywhere from the garage to the storage cupboard because that’s where you left them when you last used them.
This problem doubles and triples (I’ve done the maths) if other people are involved because they will make up their own ideas as to where things go. Offices and workplaces are a nightmare for this. Mail gets mixed up with all the other paperwork rather than going in one letter tray. Paper clips end up in a dozen peoples’ drawers rather than in the stationary cupboard. I’m sure we can all provide workplace stories of people not following this rule.
So it’s simple. Follow the oldest advice known to mankind (at least it feels that way). Find a place for everything and put everything in its place.
Clean up as you go
This to me personally, is the number one decluttering golden rule, riding triumphantly above everything else (ignoring the fact it’s actually the last rule I’m covering). I think this rule is so important that it was originally my intention to dedicate this entire post to it. Now that’s special.
This is a simple one really, but it makes the biggest difference. Having spent what feels like a lifetime dealing with people who snack on the sofa and subsequently leave the crisp packet on the floor, or open their mail in the hallway and leave the used envelopes in a pile on the table, it’s also seems to be one of the hardest to do.
It takes a little bit of effort there and then to put your pen away after writing a letter, or hanging your coat away after you come home, but it saves you soooooo much time later, and that’s what makes it valuable. Take an average week and think about all the little items you didn’t put away there and then. Then imagine having to do them all in one go on a Sunday and you’ll realize quite how effective this rule is.