Is the space in your home being consumed by clutter? It is often when we feel like our homes are finally under control that we see the clutter slowly creep back in. It can be frustrating and defeating. Just like those last ten pounds, it is time to shed the clutter… for good.
1. Get Up Before the Kiddos This may not be ideal for you but, trust me, taking care of a few odds and ends before the kids wake up is a surefire way to stay ahead of the clutter game. I often will get dressed, make my bed, get out vitamins and get my freelance writing work done before the kids start calling my name. If they do wake up early, I set them up in my office with a couple toys so I can tie up any loose ends.
2. Put Your Toiletries Away Don’t leave makeup brushes, hair bows and toothpaste out on the counter. Have a place for them and they will easily find their way back each and every time. Keep makeup in a nice caddy that is big enough to store them all. Put toothbrushes and toothpastes away after every use (which is more sanitary than leaving them on the counter, too!). Utilize medicine cabinets, cabinet drawers and closets to store those everyday beauty supplies.
3. Clean Dishes as You Go I am big fan of the dishwasher. Many like to let their dishes accumulate in the sink but I think that’s a big mistake. Not only does the sink get full and stinky but it makes more work at the end of the night. Who needs that? After each meal, put the dishes you can into the dishwasher and wash the others by hand. Dry them and put them away before the next meal. The only exception I have found to this rule is sippy cups. They seem to always be drying.
4. Tame the Playtime Many parents have the constant struggle of the toy tornado’s that seem to spread throughout the home. Teach children to put away a set of toys before moving onto the next. Also try limiting the amount of toys they have access to. And make pick up easy by utilizing canvas totes, baskets or plastic tubs.
5. Process Your Mail Paper clutter is one of the biggest complaints my clients have. There always seems to be a pile of mail tucked away in every room. Make a habit of processing your incoming mail daily. Recycle what you can, file what needs to be saved, and have a specific place to put those items you need to tend to later. And, if you pay online, throw out those return envelopes right away!
6. Designate a Donate Spot Throughout the day, we often find things that we no longer need but could still be useful to someone else. We have good intentions of dropping it off at our local donation center but days turn to weeks and the “donation pile” keeps growing. Create a specific box to designate for donations. When it gets full, it’s time to make a drop-off run. For tax purposes, take a snapshot of your donations before you take them in.
7. Protect Your Kitchen Counters and Dining Room Table Kitchen counters and the dining room table can both be magnets for backpacks, mail and trinkets that are accumulated throughout the day. Protect those sacred areas with your life! Not only does a clear space make food prep and the actually meal itself more enjoyable, it forces your family to take care of their own items right away. It shouldn’t be your job to constantly be picking up after them.
8. Put Away Your Shoes Our family uses a shoe cubby and a couple plastic shelves to house our shoes. We faithfully return them to their spots each and every time. Why? Because it makes finding them a breeze. It also helps us keep our smaller two-car garage clean and easy to navigate.
9. Empty the Car With two kids still in car seats and another in a booster, I know how tiring it can be to shuffle little ones in and out of the car. The last thing you want to do is make yet another trek out to gather the trash, bags and toys left behind, but the extra effort now will pay dividends in the future. Clutter creep not only happens in the home but also in the car. Empty it after each drive and you will enjoy a cleaner, more enjoyable ride. And hold your older kids accountable, too. I am not schlepping back to the minivan’s third row to grab candy wrappers and school papers and neither should you!
10. Do a Nightly Reset I hate waking up already feeling like I’m behind the eight ball. Tidying the home, setting the coffee and doing a quick clean sweep before I go to bed helps me start the next day on the right foot. This step takes discipline as many of us are just plain tired by the time we’re ready to head to bed but, put in the extra effort, and you will reap the rewards. A nightly reset will help you enjoy a calmer, less stressful morning.
So do I incorporate these ten daily habits into my own life? Absolutely. Am I 100% perfect at doing them every day? No way. The goal for me is to follow this routine most days. Sure you may have times when you leave a soda can in the car or put off the stack of mail for tomorrow after a long weekend away, but stopping the clutter cycle takes dedication, discipline and effort. And the results are so worth it!