Today’s modern apartments beg for the sleek minimalist look of uncluttered counters and surfaces. Unfortunately, busy lifestyles make it all too easy to fall into a clutter trap where papers pile up and little-used items struggle to find a permanent storage home.
Tackling clutter isn’t a one-time chore; it’s more of a lifestyle change, like exercising regularly. And just as with starting an exercise routine, getting clutter-free starts small and builds on little successes. So how do you get to a clutter-less lifestyle? These five tips will help get you there.
Establish Clutter-Free Zones
Your first step is to choose one surface in your home to completely de-clutter, whether it’s a coffee table, a kitchen counter or even your nightstand. Remove everything except the items you want to see thereâ€”a vase of flowers or neatly stacked books, for example. This surface has just received its “penicillin shot”; you can never let clutter accumulate on that surface again. Clutter can pile up all around it, but that surface is inoculated.
Over time, your goal is to “inject” every cluttered surface in your house. Whether you tackle one surface a day or one a week, you’ll be able to gradually tame your clutter and be encouraged by each island of tidiness in your home.
Work on Wheels
To control paperwork clutter like daily mail, bills and bill-paying supplies, receipts, and take-home work, purchase a wheeled cart for an office on wheels. Furnish it with an inbox, where all incoming papers go to be sorted, a small hanging file to organize them, a compartmentalized container for envelopes, pens, stamps and office supplies, a catch-all basket for things like power cords and jump drives, and a small wastebasket. Wheel it out when your inbox overflows or you have bills to pay or paperwork to doâ€”and park it out of sight when it’s not in use. Then you can work while you watch TV or enjoy coffee on the deck.
Do a Clothing Cleanse
Most desirable apartments, like the ones in Lyon CommunitiesÂ in Long Beach, CA, have spacious master bedroom closetsâ€”which unfortunately become magnets for clutter and unworn clothes. Try Oprah Winfrey’s trick for cutting out closet clutter: Hang all your clothes with the hangers facing the wrong way. Every time you wear something and put it back in your closet, put the hanger in the correct way. After six months, anything on a reverse-facing hanger is probably something you can easily donate or throw away.
Sort Out Shoes and Shelves
Try Oprah’s trick with shoes, tooâ€”just face all your shoes toward the wall and then reverse them once you’ve worn them and put them away again. A variation of this also works with any boxes of stored stuff on your closet shelves. Write the date on the front of your boxes; if you remove them from the shelf, face the date-side towards the wall when you put it back. Anything you haven’t used in six months is most likely clutter and needs to go.
Everyone has a junk drawerâ€”or two or three. In principle, a junk drawer isn’t a bad thing: It’s a catchall for small things like bandages and medicine bottles or coupons and clipped recipes. It’s also a breeding ground for clutter. Turn your junk drawers into organized oases that help control clutter.
Designate one or two drawers in your frequently used rooms for storage of small items.
Group like items together. For example, one drawer could hold batteries for all the devices in the house, one could hold candles and matches, and another might hold hot sauce, soy sauce and all your favorite take-out menus.
Line your drawers and purchase dividers to organize and separate the contents.
Once a month, go through your drawers and toss any broken, obsolete or expired items.
Keep in mind, it’s impossible to be truly clutter-free; an active life comes with a certain amount of “stuff.” The trick is to establish small, well-defined “clutter preserves” where your clutter is free to roam, and gradually inoculate the rest of your home from clutter infestations.