Everyone wants a movie-set living room. It seldom ends up that way, though. After all, a living room is for living in! There are always projects in progress, odds and ends that we forgot about, and if you have children… toys. Toys everywhere.
However, you don’t have to choose between having a beautiful house, and being able to actually use it. By incorporating a few good daily habits, coupled with a few proactive solutions that will enable long-term organization, you can have the house of your dreams, where each room is shown off to advantage… most of the time, anyway.
Troubleshoot Problem Spots
We all have a few places in the house where clutter gathers. The ultimate example is the kitchen junk drawer, full of pens, paper clips, and old batteries. You might also have a corner of the living room where people always tend to kick off their shoes and leave their bags. There are two reasons these places exist: (1) there’s just not a “right” spot for the items that fill that space, or (2) the high-traffic nature of the area doesn’t allow for people to actually put things where they belong.
For example, track the progress of your kid coming home. They charge in the door, drop their stuff, and proceed to the kitchen for a snack. There’s no way they’re keeping their stuff with them long enough to make it to the room. So make a place available closer to where the traffic happens. Make designated spaces for dead batteries, in-progress projects, and dropped shoes.
Create Temporary Options
Most of us just don’t have the time to constantly evaluate where something goes before we move on to the next thing. Sometimes the best thing you can do is create temporary solutions. For example, have a basket where you can toss the children’s toys at the end of each play period, without putting them all in exactly their proper places. This can minimize the time and stress spent cleaning each day, especially if your kids plan to pull those toys out again in a few hours.
Another thing you might try is a “later” clothes basket. If you have an item of clothing that you’ve worn, but probably doesn’t need to be cleaned yet, skip the fuss of folding and stowing it. This basket can be the lifesaver that keeps you from having piles of laundry always sitting on your bedroom divan.
Fight to Defend your Counters and Tables
We usually lose the battle against clutter when things gather on countertops and tabletops. One or two things might initially actually belong there – like the blender in the kitchen. Or the second lamp on your table that you mean to get a new bulb for. Or the stack of 30 National Geographic magazines on your coffee table. Pretty soon, you can’t distinguish the useful item from the mess. Lay claim to your flat spaces and learn to love them. Keep them clear and resolve to clear them all the way every time you clean. Put that blender in a cupboard. Get rid of the magazines. If you want to keep one or two, put it in a drawer. Toss the old lamp.
Have a “Maybe” Box
Sometimes we want to eliminate a bunch of clutter, but we’re just not ready to throw the actual items away yet. Put it in a box instead. Put a date on the box and in six months, come back to it. If you haven’t used anything in that box in 6 months, it’s probably time to let it go. Either donate it or dispose.
I’ve also seen people use this method by putting a bunch of clothes in a trash bag and leaving it in the garage for a year. If you can think of a specific item of clothing that you want from that bag, you can retrieve it. But after a year, whatever is still in the bag gets tossed. If you didn’t miss it in a year, you won’t miss it in two either.