Anyone who has owned a home for more than a few years knows how quickly clutter can accumulate. Often, it sneaks up on you until suddenly, one day, you’re hit with the reality that you’ve run out of room for all the STUFF. You may wonder how you let things get the way they have and may even feel a little bit guilty for what appears to be an undisciplined loss of control.
First and foremost, it’s critical to understand that you are not alone. Every home owner is confronted with this problem, on one scale or another, at some point in life. The more family members and others you have living in your space, the more likely and quickly this problem is to develop. So let yourself off the hook and resolve this new year that you’re going to take back control over your space and your stuff, starting with a clutter audit.
The clutter audit is comparable to a tax audit, but instead of looking for omissions and missing receipts, you’re going to be looking at places where clutter tends to accumulate in your home and why.
How to Conduct a Clutter Audit in Your Home
1) Identify clutter “hot spots.” A hot spot is a place where clutter consistently piles up around your house. They’re easy to identify because no matter how many times you’ve cleared clutter from these places in the past, with time the clutter reappears, again and again. In many homes hot spots consist of desk tops, shelves, the corners of a room, the top of the piano or even the inside of a drawer (just because it’s hidden away doesn’t mean it’s put away). Take some time (15 minutes is usually sufficient) to identify these spots, and we suggest that you even write them down on a list (or make a list in your smart phone). Writing them down makes them tangible and real and, therefore, more likely to be dealt with.
2) Figure out why clutter accumulates in hot spots. Now, evaluate those hot spots. Why is it that the right hand side of your desk seems to become piled with papers, bills, kid’s homework, etc.? Why are your family members throwing all their mittens and scarves on the floor of the closet? Why do all your kids’ toys end up under the bed?
The most likely culprit in 95% of clutter hot spots has to do with a lack of a proper “home” for the items that comprise the clutter. When you designate a dedicated “home” for each and every type of item in your home, you decrease the amount of accumulated clutter.
It’s also important to remember that clutter piles up in spots that are related to the type of clutter that’s accumulated. There’s a reason why you don’t stack bills and homework on the bathroom shelf…. it’s simply more convenient to pile it on the desk where you pay your bills and your kids do their homework. Designating a spot (one that’s close by) for these items is the first step toward reducing clutter. Educating your family members is the second step. This will likely mean that gentle reminders will be in order for several weeks or even months for everyone to put things where they belong. You might fear you’re starting to sound like a broken record, but eventually your household members will get it, and soon your need to remind them to put things away will become less frequent.
3) Scale back. Part of the reason that clutter accumulates is because you just plain have too much stuff. Most home owners could live comfortably with only half of their current possessions. So take some time to decide whether you really need all of the things you have. If you don’t, get rid of them.
4) Prevent unneeded items from coming into your home. Just because it’s on sale for 75% off doesn’t mean you really need it. And just because someone offers you a free promotional mug doesn’t mean you have to take it. Stop letting unneeded items into the house to begin with and you’ll prevent future clutter from ever occurring.
5) Conduct periodic follow-up audits. Go over your home every three months or so and determine how effective your efforts at preventing clutter have been. Is your strategy working? Are there more improvements to be made? Are family members buying into the effort and doing their part? This process will help to ensure ongoing success and compliance.
Perhaps you need to create some better “homes” for your stuff in your home. Adding shelving, cubbies, cupboards, baskets, containers, etc. can be very helpful in your quest to be clutter-free. Consider a professional closet makeover or home office renovation, like the ones Tailored Living can provide. In-home estimates are always free. You might be surprised how organized we can help you become.