Everyone who enters my life knows that I am all about neatness, organization, and routines. I do not like messes. I can tell when someone has been at my desk at work or in my bedroom at home because, inevitably, something has been left out of place. I like to have my spaces clear and neat.
All of my spaces are easier to keep clutter-free than they could be because I'm not married, I don't have any kids, and I work in a cubicle. I like to think that I'm establishing family rules for my family of one (plus my two roommates) and my open-roof office!
Here are 5 rules I live by to eliminate clutter around my home and office:
- Dirty dishes go straight into the dishwasher. They need to go there eventually, right? So plop them in right after you finish using them. Then, when you fill it up, all you need to do is add detergent and start the cycle. It's amazing how discouraging (and gross!) a mountain of dirty dishes can seem. My roommates and I follow this rule, and when someone uses a dish that can't go in immediately because the machine is running, we stick it in the sink. After the dishwasher gets emptied, all the dirty ones go straight in. Nothing makes a kitchen seem dirty faster than a full sink.
- Dirty clothes go straight into the hamper. Here's my "dirty little secret": I re-wear clothes. If I only wear a t-shirt around the house for a few hours between work and bedtime, I will wear it again on another stay-at-home evening. I re-fold it (quickly and not as neatly as fresh laundry) and lay it on top of my hamper. Everything else goes into that hamper as soon as I take it off. Clothes only go on the floor when you are on the floor.
- Everyone gets an inbox, even at home. I am a practitioner of GTD, the productivity methodology made famous by David Allen over 15 years ago in his book, Getting Things Done. One of the keys to GTD is reducing your inboxes. You will only clutter up your spaces by keeping bits of paper everywhere: Post-Its on your computer screen, receipts crumpled up in your purse or wallet, piles of paper all over your desk, and a mound of snail mail by the door. Do yourself a favor and get a physical inbox or letter tray. You can even get pretty ones: one of my inboxes is striped! Every piece of paper that comes into your life needs to go in that tray, and once a week, you need to deal with all of it. My roommates and I have "invisible inboxes." We make 3 piles on the first horizontal space after the front door (a.k.a. our landing strip). When we see something in our invisible inbox, we know we need to pick it up and do something with it. Nothing ever stays there for long.
- Make your bed. I hate crawling into an unmade bed. It just doesn't feel right. So I make my bed every day. Currently, I do that when I come home from work. Sometimes, when the day has been extra crazy, I make my bed just before pajamas and tooth-brushing! The fastest way to make a room look messy is to leave the bed unmade, so the fastest way to clean your room is to make the bed.
- Clean up before you clear out. If I took it into my car, I take it out of my car. End of story. Before I leave work for the day, I make sure to reach "inbox zero" (another GTD task, also popularized by Merlin Mann). Nothing is left waiting to be scanned and processed. Files go back in the file room. Nothing is in my destop in-tray, office mailbox, or email inbox. (Okay, occasionally it's not nothing, but I get there at least once a day.) Then, when I arrive the next day, I'm ready to roll immediately. I also keep my bedroom and household clutter contained and the kitchen surfaces as clear as possible. Almost nothing makes me feel more peaceful than lots of empty space. Mental space counts, too.
I have plenty of other personal rules, including those that don't deal with clutter. No one likes having stuff everywhere, though, so these rules help me maintain serenity. How do you manage clutter?
Lindsay Wilcox loves Jesus, grammar, and Harry Potter (usually in that order). She wants you to live joyfully. Read more at her blog, Lindsay Loves.