How do you maintain your home so that it doesn't fill up with clutter and mess?
There are 3 simple rules to follow or integrate into your life that can make a really big difference in the level of clutter and messes you have in your home.
Number 1: Micro-routines (how to deal with your clutter before it gets out of hand)
We all have natural routines anyway. A lot of us personally rebel against the idea of a routine (I include myself in this category). We feel like it's stale or that we're going to get bored with it really easily.
But the fact is, is that we actually already have routines. In fact, we do the same things every day! We're creatures of habit and we do the same things throughout our days and our lives.
I know sometimes we think we'll overhaul our life because we read some great article like this or saw something on Pinterest that makes us think that we are doing it all wrong and if only we had routines (you know, vacuuming on Thursday and tacos on Tuesdays) we'd be in great shape. (Spoiler alert: I'll never say that.)
We try it for a while, going to great lengths to create our own brand new set of routines only to feel like we have messed up, yet again, when we inevitably stop this whole new way of doing things before the ink is even dry on our calendars.
Been there, done that.
Instead of this personality-transplant idea, I want to encourage you to sort of tweak some of your behaviors (you know, the ones you are doing anyway) so that you are - picking up after yourself, discarding things, making decisions about items in addition to what you are already doing. If you deal with your clutter before it gets out of hand you will be miles ahead of the game.
Tweak the behaviors you are already doing to make organizing and decluttering A LOT easier to do.
I want you to do this in a really easy way, because it doesn't have to be this laborious, all weekend sort of activity.
What do I mean? Here's a couple of examples:
Instead of just dropping everything when you walk in from the outside world (and adding to the clutter), go ahead and take the time to take your shoes off by the door, hang up your coat, purse and keys (do you have a landing strip aka a home for these things?). Don't deal with all the packages that have come in. (Remember we're changing micro routines here. Hang up the stuff on your landing strip and when that becomes a habit you can also deal with the rest of your stuff as you get more consistent with putting stuff away.) Those get dropped on the kitchen counter and you can deal with them later, maybe while the water is boiling for the pasta that you're cooking that evening. (You're standing in the kitchen anyway, might as well take advantage of that little micro pocket of time!)
Or when you are watching tv in the evening, use those commercial breaks to put away the shoes that everyone has kicked off in the living room and get the kids to hang up their backpacks and coats. Or during that last 5 minutes of your show, fold up the blankets and fluff up the pillows in your living room. Tiny stuff, but you will smile the next time you see them in the morning!
Having those little micro routines are very beneficial, because they are already tied into something that you're doing, and you're not revamping your entire life, you're just changing a couple of key things where things were otherwise getting pretty messy on the regular.
(Hello dining room table and area right around the couch. I'm looking at you.)
Number 2: Always, always have things leaving your house.
This one is SO key. Things should always be leaving your house. Every. Single. Day. It might be trash, recycling, donations or stuff that just doesn't belong in your home.
Have a basket or bag that lives in one spot of your home and let everyone know that THIS is the the spot to put things that need to go away.
Have you outgrown your shoes? Don't leave them in your closet, dump them in the basket.
Found some overdue library books under child #2's bed? Put them in the basket.
Need to return the blanket you bought but don't like after all? Put it in the basket.
Go through this basket every few days and put the action items on your to do list. (This step is KEY.)
Making this a HABIT will revolutionize your home.
Number 3: Be vigilant about the things that are coming into your house.
Decrease your mail load by making some phone calls to get off of catalog lists. Or going onto a website and saying, "I don't also want a paper bill. I'm paying for this electronically." Do this enough times and you will see a significant decrease in paper coming into your home. (Need tips on how to deal with papers? Read this and this and this.)
This one is tricky for some people but if someone offers to give you something that you know that you actually don't want, it's perfectly acceptable to say, "No thank you." It really is. And for some of those things that come into your house, and you know that you're only going to want part of it.
Go ahead and deal with it quickly, so it doesn't settle into your home.
Sort through it, and keep the 10% of it that you really do want to keep, (because you're going to love it and use it, and it's going to serve your current life) and go ahead and release the rest.
If you do these three little tweaks (and I'd suggest picking one and doing it for a few weeks and then add on another for maximum results) you will see a big shift in how much clutter you have in your home!