When I was in the waiting room at the dentist office the other day, I noticed that most of the female/home-type magazines all had some type of “Clutter Control” articles. Naturally, I picked up a few to see if any had new advice to offer. Why am I always disappointed? The advice was sound, but nothing particularly new or helpful. The suggestions that were novel seemed not-to-promising. Now it’s not that I think I can do any better—I am sure that their pictures and writing styles will run circles around mine—but I am going to give some of my own “Clutter Buster” advice. This is just some advice that has helped me with this continuous battle of kids, spouses, pets, and all their stuff. When I follow these simple steps, I also avoid being too much like the Martha in the Bible. If we have stuff all over the house and constantly feel like we have to hustle about picking it up, that can certainly lead to an “anxious and worried about many things” kind of life for which Jesus corrected Martha.
1)Clean it out. Get down to the bare minimum in the first place. The absolute best way to cut clutter is to get as much stuff out of your house that you can and keep it out! I’ve written about cleaning out before, and I will write about it again. It’s the kind of thing that we have to keep on doing. Stuff just magically grows and multiplies in our homes. I am spending the summer “cleaning out” again! My biggest accomplishment was our family/game room. We even painted and got new carpet. With everything out of the room, it was easy to evaluate every single piece of furniture, decoration, game, etc. that went back into the room to determine if we really needed it.
2)Don’t ever stop cleaning out. Ok, that was nothing new, but we all seem to need that extra encouragement to keep on cleaning out. Always! This is so important that it is getting its own number. Most of us can always get rid of something. Have a basket or large bag somewhere easily accessible that is your designated spot for giveaways.
3)Designate Clutter Officers for different rooms of your house. You don’t have to be the Clutter Police all by yourself. In our home, my zone is the kitchen. My husband’s is the living room which is right off of his study. My 18 year old has the newly cleaned family/game room. My 15 year old has the dinning room. And my 12 year old has the hallway and mudroom. In theory, each child is suppose to keep his area picked up and clutter free—How it usually works is this: I am the chief of police, and I often remind my officers that their zone needs to be checked.
4)The clutter police can’t do their job if they don’t know where the out of place stuff belongs. Everything, absolutely everything, must have a place. Clutter happens for 2 reasons: one is that we don’t know where something belongs and secondly, we are too lazy to put something in its proper place. If the kids’ backpacks are all over the kitchen counter (my zone!) I need to ask myself where do the backpacks belong? and is it reasonable for my children to put them there? Here is how I answer that question: The children’s backpacks belong at their desks. Yes, I know it is hard for them to take them upstairs to their rooms when they get home, but eventually they do need to get up to their desks, so why not now? They do not ever need to go any place except right upstairs to their desks. This saves such a mess in the kitchen if they never land there in the first place.
5)As a last resort, use a basket. I think people can get carried away with baskets and bins in every room, but under certain circumstances, a nice basket can be a quick fix for a messy, cluttered room. In my case, I have a crawling baby who leaves trails of baby toys everywhere. Since we like having her with us no matter what room we are in (who wouldn’t—she is adorable!) we have baskets of baby toys scattered throughout the house. You may have some circumstances where baskets might work for you, too
6)Aim to have clear surfaces. I know I always say this, but it is so true. Clear surfaces are easier to keep clear. Stuff is not as easily attracted to it. Also when your police are doing their jobs, they can easily notice that stray clutter if a surface is suppose to be clear.
7)Not only do you need to simplify your home, but you also need to simplify your life. If your life is anything like mine, you know that things get out of hand when we have those really busy days. Lots of stuff gets left out, drawers get dumped, and things are just dropped on the floor as we scramble about trying to accomplish everything on our schedules. If we have one avoidable day a week like this, that is probably fine, but when this happens day after day with no respite, our homes (and lives) will seem like total chaos. Trust me, busy lives are not worth it. When we live this hurried pace, clutter is bound to happen, but this cause of clutter is only a small symptom of deeper problems that result when we are constantly on the run. To be more like Mary requires a life that has time to sit and be still. Remember that Martha was “busy and anxious about many things.”