When my husband was thinking about asking me to marry him, he did what anything analytical person would do (I think…) – he weighed the pros and cons. As he tells it, the “pros list” was long, profound and deep. The “cons list” had one thing listed in it “she’s messy.” Ouch!
A Princeton study found that an amassing of “stuff” (clutter, messes and waste) stands in opposition to our power to focus and efficiently complete tasks. This seems to obvious, right? When my kitchen counter is full of stuff, it is hard for me to be effective in that space and be present in the moment (“don’t think of the mess in the kitchen, don’t worry about putting all that stuff away right now… just enjoy your moment with the kids…”). Clearing the clutter out of our lives and controlling the chaos within our environment as much as possible helps us stay more present and also allows us to be more productive.
Instead of living a life ‘cleaning up’ and ‘doing this around the house’ – I want to spend more time with my kids enjoying happy moment, while being present. My productive moments – I want them to be the most efficient and effective they can be. For these reasons, I find myself more committed than I once was to an organized and clutter-free environment. Even with two kids, a job and a crazy busy calendar/to-do list (I get it! I get it!) – it is possible!
Here are five major keys to success:
Live within your four walls
When my husband and I lived in San Francisco, we resided in a one-bedroom, tiny, first floor condo. Most things seemed to fit okay within the confines of our little square. We had some bigger stuff (like skis, holiday decorations, etc.) in a small storage unit but otherwise, we had places for most things. However, when we finally bought a house, it was as if the stuff we had expanded and multiplied in questionable ways. It was like taking the air out of one of those vacuum bags and watching the items inside grow. Had we had all this stuff before or did we seem to accumulate more and more in a short period of time? An important lesson here is to consider the size of your space and let that rule how much stuff you have, not vise versa. Even though we got a bigger place, our house wasn’t (isn’t) that big though in that moment, with the perspective we came with – it felt huge. It was easy to fill-up and overfill the spaces! But, that wasn’t helpful to our lives at all. The truth is obvious, the fewer items you own, the easier it is to keep messes, clutter and waste to a minimum.
We try to live as paper-free as possible, archiving documents with our phones or scanner and shredding things that are out-of-date and no longer needed ASAP. We recycle, shred or scan mail as soon as it arrives. The only thing I have a hard time getting rid of are hand-written cards, which now go into a special, designated place. Don’t be afraid to deep diver into your paper collection and purge!
Give Everything a Home
The easiest way to make your home feel put together is having a place where everything belongs. Of course, this can be super difficult. I struggle with it every day – it is hard to have a place for everything when you have a small place without enough closets or cabinets! But, trying to find a way to organize (or purge) the things you have is key to successfully managing your clutter. Even if that is your junk drawer. For us, our kitchen counter typically collects items (mail, schoolwork) during the day, at the end of the day, I make it routine to put everything back where it goes. I despise coming down in the morning to counter or table full of ‘stuff’. Try your best to store things where you use them to create efficiency.
Use a Junk Drawer
Honestly, every house needs a junk drawer – a place for little rubber bands, a chapstick, loose pens and that random key you haven’t figured out what it opens but are too afraid to throw away. Take a page from Marie Kondo and have small containers of different shapes and sizes in your junk drawer to keep the ‘junk’ organized and easy to see/find.
Purge, Baby, Purge
Stuff has a way of accumulating right under our noses. Toys from birthdays and holidays, new clothing (and old stuff you never wear anymore but keep anyway), papers from a meeting, class or event, photos you printed but haven’t sorted, birthday cards you haven’t sent – I get it. The important thing is that you make time to go through the stuff on a quite regular basis and purge – recycle, throw it out, finish the project, give it to a friend or donate it. Lay out time in your daily or monthly schedule to just get rid of stuff. Typically I try to purge the “daily” at the end of each day.