I have been in the organizing business since 2005! Over the years, I have seen many situations and causes for household clutter. I have come to recognize that there are common items that cause problems in most of our homes. Below I will share my top 10 household clutter items and some ideas on how to combat them.
Top 10 Household Clutter:
Monthly Subscriptions and Auto-Refill Items
School and Kids’ Activities Paper
Entryway clutter is a huge problem because it is in your face and your space the second you come into your home. It can disrupt the physical flow of your home and well as the energy in your home. It’s just bad feng shui.
Many of us live in homes built long before the American lifestyle developed to where we are now. The entryway was built to accommodate less things and a less complicated lifestyle. In addition, we tend to enter our homes from the back door, which is near the garage. Many homes do not accommodate this flow and therefore, don’t have a coat closet near the back. When you couple that with our consumer-driven mentality, you have a large problem.
How to tackle the entryway clutter:
Set a limit on how many pairs of shoes each family member can store by the entryway. I know this sounds impossible but it’s not. New habits will need to be formed to make this happen. If you are over your limit, that person needs to take shoes to their bedroom. The reality is that there is no way most houses can store 25 pairs of shoes x 4 people at the entryway. (And my numbers are conservative!)
Rotate items seasonally
Sports equipment may need to live in a bedroom, or at the bare minimum, will need to be rotated seasonally
Open up boxes received from online orders daily and distribute the items where they belong. Keep a box cutter or scissors at the entryway to facilitate the process
Number 2 on the list of the top 10 household clutter items is a big one! We are blessed with prosperity in America and we can also be cursed by this. In my area, many families are doing well financially and the kids are blessed with lots of toys. This quickly becomes a problem for the parents because the toys are everywhere. It can also create distracted kids because their eyes are jumping all over the place searching the toy avalanche. Oftentimes, the kids only play with a few things, likely what is new, easily accessible, or on top of the heap. Parents are frustrated because the kids don’t pick up after themselves but most of the kids wouldn’t have any idea how to “clean up” the heap!
How to tackle the toys:
Purge regularly using birthdays and holidays as prompts
Use the one-in/one-out rule
Rotate toys to keep interest high
Have the kids help with the decisions on what can be donated to children who have few toys
Create accessibility with containers that the kids can manage on their own
Label all containers. For pre-readers, use pictures
Remove items that you want to keep as memories. Those should not be stored in prime real estate like the family room
Laundry seems simple but most of my clients struggle with all or part of the laundry cycle. Commit to a full laundry cycle. Tell yourself you will wash, dry, fold, and put away every load you start. And you will do the complete cycle within the day you start the wash. Once you get behind in laundry or any life chore, it becomes harder and harder to initiate the catching-up process.
Additionally, ask yourself if you NEED to use a new bath towel daily, for example. I am surprised at how many people think it is required to change out towels daily or almost daily. I can understand changing out the hand towel that gets used by many little hands daily but maybe not bath towels. If you’re washing things that don’t need to be washed yet, you are creating your own laundry hell.
If you are already too far in the hole with laundry, I have two suggestions: First, declare laundry bankruptcy. This means you will allow yourself a one-time opportunity to take it to the laundromat to have them wash and fold it for you. My clients are so thankful for permission to do this and most had not even thought of the option. Second, if you have a bin of unmatched socks, declare bankruptcy here too. Toss them out and start fresh! Make your life easier by buying a quantity of socks for each family member that are all the same colors and brands so you don’t have to hunt down that one matching sock. Have each person have a different brand or color so your two teen boys can tell whose socks are whose! You’ll save yourself time because this makes folding laundry much faster!
An ever-growing item in the top 10 household clutter list is electronics. Electronic devices become out-of-date very quickly! Consequently, we are regularly purchasing the latest model. In our haste and excitement, we toss aside the old and start using the new one. What happens next is there is a build-up of dead electronics, charging cords, and accessories stuffed away in drawers and closets. By now, nobody knows what goes with what or if they got all of their data off of the old device. And if you have 4-5 people in your household who all have a phone and computer, it multiplies like Gizmo Gremlin in the night.
How to combat dead electronics:
Consider passing down an older device to a younger child, if the younger child is ready for the electronic. Keep all of the accessories with the device
Donate what is usable NOW. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to donate them because they will be obsolete
Put devices and accessories in a Ziplock bag and label it. This way the proper accessories are with the electronic item
Store relevant, but extra, charging cords in a labeled Ziplock bag. Store these bags together so anyone can find an extra cord when they need one
Recycle everything that you cannot use or donate. It is illegal to put electronics into the regular garbage stream because of heavy metals contained in them. Try Best Buy and Costco for recycling programs or check your local county for recycling events
The American love of a good deal and bulk shopping has created pantry disasters in our homes. Unfortunately, there is a cost for storing all of our bulk purchases: space, time maintaining, money wasted on expired food and supplies, and money purchasing more storage.
If you lived in Europe, you wouldn’t be able to shop like this because you might not have a car and you definitely wouldn’t have anywhere to put your bulk purchases in your apartment. Europeans shop nearly daily for food. This allows them to eat fresher food and decide daily what sounds like a good meal to make for dinner. I like the idea of not having to decide on meals a week at a time so I can grocery shop once a week!
How to manage food and supplies:
Use containers as the limit for how much you need of any given item. If the container is full, you don’t buy any
Use the FIFO method to reduce wasted food
Purge the fridge of food past its prime before you shop
Plan your meals before you shop
Always shop with a list
Use storage solutions that allow you to easily see what you have
Periodically, decide that you will eat out of the freezer and pantry for a week as a way to reduce the volume
The build-up of monthly subscription boxes and auto-refill items is a new phenomenon in my client’s homes, especially with clients under 40 years old. Marketers have done a great job of building up the excitement for a monthly goodie box of this, that, or the other thing. And online merchants are happy to auto-refill your supply of anything for you and you don’t have to do a thing! Uh oh! If you see the boxes piling up, that is a clear indicator that you don’t need the things inside the box. The excitement has faded and the backlog builds and it is challenging to get yourself to remember to go online to adjust your settings or cancel.
How to combat the backup of monthly boxes:
If you really need to utilize these services or still love that monthly goodie box, commit to opening up the box the day it arrives and distributing it in your home, then recycle the box. Keep a box cutter or scissors by the front door to facilitate the process
Adjust your frequency settings if you see a build-up starting
Consider ending the auto-ship items altogether and save yourself money and time! Ask yourself if it is really necessary. As my mom used to say, “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”
We have good intentions about being crafty, making gifts, and enjoying crafting with our kids. Often our eyes are bigger than our schedules allow so we end up with an abundance of craft supplies.
How to overcome too many craft supplies:
Sort the crafts, containerize, and label them so you know what you already have. This should help reduce repurchasing
Get creative by generating some ideas of what you can make with your existing supply
Pick one or two hobbies that you want to focus on and donate the rest to charity or a school art teacher
If there are some incomplete (or never started) projects you still want to finish, give yourself a deadline. If the deadline passes and you have not made any progress, donate the supplies
There are always piles of paper in my clients’ homes, even in the digital age we are living in now. But the paper coming in does seem to be less! Most of it piles up because of indecision. Ask yourself: Do I need the paper? Can I get it electronically? Do I need to act on it or simply read and toss or file it?
We’ve moved to more and more digital communication and that has reduced physical paper. Now we have a digital inbox that is often 10,000 emails strong! Think about it. If you had a physical inbox, would you keep 10,000 pieces of paper in it? Absolutely not!
There are things you can do to combat the digital clutter:
Treat emails like paper: RAFT, set up folders just like you would for paper, and store emails that you might need to reference later
Turn emails into tasks or actions (In Outlook and GMail you can easily attach an email to a task and give it a due date)
Turn them into calendar appointments where appropriate
Delete them from your inbox! Or archive them if you are worried you’ll need it later
Declare e-mail bankruptcy. Pick a date about one month in the past and delete or archive everything in your inbox. This can springboard a fresh start
Unsubscribe from sales and informational newsletters that you don’t look at
The less you have in your inbox, the easier it will be for you to find important emails and take action on ones that require it
Grade school children come home with a lot of paper, even if they are using computers at school. If you have several kids, this influx can be overwhelming!
Beat back the paper this way:
Empty backpacks right after school
Place artwork, projects, homework, tests, and papers in a box, one box per child. (Feel free to ditch any you’re not attached to right away.) At the end of each semester, have your kids pick their favorites to keep
Archive your favorite papers in an out-of-the-way location. Create a box for each child, label it, and note what school year or age they were
Take photos of large and 3-dimensional projects
Each night, review school notes and transfer them to a calendar, a task list or sign and return them to the backpack