Every Wednesday is Tip Day on Rubin’s blog, and so today I bring you a list of how I kissed clutter goodbye. She’s written about the subject, too, but here are my own thoughts:
My closet: In a former life, I would spend a weekend or so a year culling through the maze that was my closet. I’d spend hours trying on clothes that I no longer wanted or didn’t fit to give away, organizing accessories, etc. And while I think you need to do this first, after you get your closet in good shape, here is how I maintain it: if I buy a new anything that goes into my closet, something old must leave. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now, and I no longer have to set aside a weekend to organize my closet. The one item in, one item out rule keeps my closet clutter in maintenance mode.
My important home papers: When I moved into my first home, I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of paperwork. You have all the mortgage information, the business card from the movers, paint samples, receipts for the fridge, etc. I bought a binder and put all the paperwork about my house in it; now any time I need any information about my house, it is stored in one place. I didn’t spend time making it fancy, but important receipts and notes to myself about my house are organized and easy to find.
What? Isn’t your house binder decorated with your state flag?
My serious collection of running shoes: Even if you aren’t a runner, chances are you have several pairs of shoes or a whole set of something you use for a particular activity. While my dress shoes and flip flops have a place in my closet, I didn’t want my running shoes (which are sometimes very dirty from trail running) in my nice closet. Instead, I have a storage bin for them in my garage. As soon as I come in from a run, my shoes go in the bin and never actually step foot in my house. This not only keeps my shoes from cluttering the walkways in my house, it also keeps my house cleaner.
My portable post office: I don’t send much regular mail these days, but when I do, I like having everything I need to send the letter in one place. In the past, I’d write a letter and it would take days for me to round up a stamp, a return address, etc., before I could get it into the mail. Now I have all my stamps, envelopes, and return address stickers in a small folder. This folder easily fits in my car or my purse so I don’t have to be at home to take care of my mail.
My car: I don’t live out of my car, but if I go several days without clearing the clutter that makes its way there, I feel as if this is the case. Car clutter can include: cups I use on my morning commute, breakfast bar wrappers also from said commute, a change of clothes I might need after a long run, papers from work, grocery shopping bags, etc.
I still struggle with this clutter because I have a big car, and I’m in it a lot during the week. However, I subscribe to the BJ Fogg method of tiny habits: in order to change your behavior, add the new behavior you want to perform to an already existing behavior that you do. For example, if you want to floss your teeth more (and who doesn’t?), you tell yourself you will floss one or two of your teeth after you brush them. Then, slowly over time, you build up to flossing all of your teeth. The habit was easier to form because you placed it after the trigger, the behavior you have already mastered, brushing your teeth. Now, what does this have to do with my car? Well, I realized I wasn’t cleaning it out until it accumulated lots of clutter. I needed a trigger. Now, when I pull my car into my garage, something that requires no real effort on my part, I take a couple of minutes and clear the clutter from my car. Because I always pull my car into my garage when I’m in for the night, this gives me a chance to clear the clutter frequently. The less you have to clear at once, the easier it is.
Timebox Cleaning: I like my house to be clean, but when I’m cleaning, I find myself easily distracted. To stay focused, I set a timer. If I only have twenty minutes to scrub a room, well, then I get a move on. Setting a timer not only keeps me focused, knowing I only have a set amount of time to do the chore keeps me from feeling overwhelmed when I’m faced with cleaning my whole house.
How about you? What tips do you have for eliminating clutter?