Do Your Things Have a Home?
Obviously, your stuff is in your home, but does it have an actual place where it belongs? If you pick up some random object from your tabletop right now, can you specifically say where it goes? If you can’t, it might mean it’s clutter.
Unless it’s a decorative object, it most likely doesn’t belong on the table.
If it’s worth keeping, it needs a home.
That’s what a lot of clutter turns out to be: things that don’t have a home.
It happens all the time. You see something cute in the store, buy it, and bring it home.
But did you think about where you were going to put it? Or did you just buy it because you liked it?
It’s OK. I’ve done the same thing a thousand times.
What is Your Stuff Worth?
Think about what your home is worth.
A lot, right?
Now think about the things in it.
Most of them are probably no where near the value of your home.
Some things have sentimental value, like photos, and they’re worth keeping even if you can’t assign a dollar amount to them.
And some things are necessary, like dishes, and towels, and clothes.
But there are so many other things in your home.
Look around you. Are all of the things you keep in your home worth the space they are taking up?
And more importantly, do they have a home? Is there someplace that they belong, where they can be put away? Or are they just needless clutter?
We have a silly little plastic dog, about an inch and a half high. Our previous dog, Casey, dug it up in the yard when we moved here. Our son Andy took it from her so she wouldn’t swallow it, and put it on top of the thermostat.
It’s still there. A reminder of a dog who’s long since passed. A dog we loved. And so that little plastic dog has value to us, and it has a home. On top of the thermostat.
So Much Clutter
You always hear talk about clutter, and decluttering.
And it’s not about the people on those hoarding shows.
It’s people just like us.
We go shopping and we see something we like and we bring it home.
But do we know where it will go when we get home? Does it have a place?
At our house, we have a weakness for a few things.
For all of us, it’s tea and books.
And for me, it’s planners, notebooks, journals, and colored pens and markers.
We own one small bookcase that has long been filled, so there are books everywhere.
And the tea has outgrown the pantry and is taking up space on the counter.
My desk is covered in notebooks of all kinds, and canisters of pens and markers.
They all need a home. (I bought an organizing case to store all of my pens and markers in. Actually I have several pencil cases, but this is like a small plastic suit case. OK, so now my pens have a home; but where does the case holding them belong?)
You Can’t Organize Clutter
When things don’t have a home, they become clutter.
And you can’t organize clutter. The best you can do is make neat piles.
But it’s still clutter.
You can throw it in a drawer or a closet, so it’s out of sight, but it’s still clutter.
The only real solution is to go through it, decide what you want to keep, and what you can either donate or throw away, and then do it.
You’ve Got to Live by the Rules
There’s the in and out rule: if you bring something into the house, something else goes out. Like replacing a worn out chair with a new one. The old one gets tossed.
That’s easy to do with chairs, maybe because they’re so big. But it’s not so easy when we’re talking about smaller things.
Or you can choose the if it’s not beautiful or useful rule, but that one can get you into trouble. Useful is good, but too many beautiful things and you’re looking at clutter again.
On the other hand, useful can get you into trouble as well.
I have a tendency to buy a certain brand of spaghetti sauce because I like their jars. They have measurements on the side, so you can use it like a measuring cup.
I have a bunch of them in my cupboard, empty, waiting to be used. And to be fair, I do use them to store things, like rice. But I never use them to measure anything, because I just don’t measure stuff when I cook.
My favorite one is the home for everything and everything in it’s place rule. (Clearly I’m not following it at the moment.)
So How Do You Get From Here to There?
Some people – those who follow the in and out rule most likely – can keep up with their stuff so that clutter never really becomes a problem.
Those people are probably not reading this article.
For the rest of us, a regular decluttering session is a good plan to follow.
It would be cool if we could declutter once, and then just keep up with it from there, but that’s just not the way we work.
We are who we are, and that’s OK.
So maybe every 3 months or so – as the seasons change – we could get into the habit of doing a decluttering of the house. After the initial one, it might not be so bad.
Or, once a week as we’re doing our deep cleaning, we could choose an area and declutter it. Or we could try the shoebox method.
We all know what our weaknesses are (and now you know mine, too). Just a little extra attention every month or so could go a long way in helping keep things under control.
If you’d like some extra tips on clutter and getting rid of it, don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and get your free copy of The OH Decluttering System!