I love decluttering and organising – and lucky me, that’s what I do for a living! – but I appreciate that, for many, it’s an overwhelming chore. Here are four habits you need to cultivate if you want to limit the time you spend to keep your home organised.
COMPLETE ANY PROCESS YOU START
Have you noticed how it feels like an extra task when you need to go back to a task to finish it? So whenever you can, just spend the few extra steps and time needed to bring that task to completion.
Return things where they belong immediately after you use them – the board game in the board games cabinet when the game is over instead of leaving it on the table, your shoes in the shoe cabinet when you return home instead of leaving them on the floor, the unneeded mail into the waste basket instead of leaving it on a pile on your desk etc. It obviously requires that everything in your home has a dedicated home. And it helps if that home is as close as possible as to where the item is being used.
For any new item you bring into your home, get rid of the carrier bag, remove the tag and find it a home as soon as you come back home. Otherwise you’re very likely to forget about it if you leave it in its carrier bag. Or to put it away when you want to wear it because you can’t find a pair of scissors to remove the tag.
Of course, sometimes it can be a lot of hassle to put things away immediately, especially if you stay in a multi-storey apartment or house. Instead of leaving things in a random place, place a basket at the bottom of the stairs and one at the top for things that belong to the other floor so that you don’t end up going up and down all the time to put things away.
MAKE DECISIONS ON THE SPOT
Things tend to accumulate very quickly and regular decluttering is needed if you want to keep your home organised in the long run. Consider decluttering toys before or after Christmas, or before or after a birthday, and schoolwork, at the end of the school year for example.
But you can significantly reduce the amount of time you spend on these decluttering sessions if you learn to make decisions on the spot. Put immediately aside things you know you don’t need, that you won’t be using again or that you don’t love anymore e.g. that dress that doesn’t make you feel good, that toy that is broken or that your child has outgrown, that food that has expired etc. instead of putting it back in your cupboards. Throw right away what is not in a good condition and can’t be fixed, and have a box or bag in a closet for things you can give away or sell. When the box or bag is full, take action.
Practise the “One In / One Out” rule. You buy new jeans, you chuck or donate an old pair. Filing a phone bill? Take the oldest out and throw it away. This means you keep the same amount at all times.
LIMIT THE IN-FLOW
No matter how disciplined you are at putting things away and purging, it will be difficult to keep your home organised with minimum efforts if you keep bringing new things into your home.
Buy only what you need. Have a list of things you need to buy and try to stick to your list. When you’re tempted to buy something that wasn’t on your list, ask yourself whether you really need it. If you can, walk away and give yourself some time to think about it.
Resist the urge to buy when you can rent or borrow. Cancel subscriptions for newspapers or magazines that you never read. Ask for experience gifts instead of physical gifts. Encourage family members or friends to contribute towards one gift instead of buying one each.
Avoid freebies. That includes buy one get one free items, unless you’re a regular user of the item and that you can use it by its expiry date if any. But also free gifts that come with a subscription or membership, party favours, giveaway with company logos such as T-shirts, caps, backpacks etc. unless again you know what you’re going to do with them.
It might not work all the time, but every little contribution will help you keep your home organised.
DON’T GO IN IT ALONE
I know it’s not always easy to get the rest of your family members to help you keep your home organised. If they haven’t been involved in the organising process, it’s important you take the time to teach them where the things they use belong so they can put them in their proper home. Instead of blaming them for the mess, try to focus on the benefits you’re expecting – less time spent on tidying and more time for the family for example.
Be patient. It takes time for changes to sink in. Tell your spouse, children or domestic helper that if they aren’t sure where to put things away, they should ask you instead of putting them in a random place.
Even children as young as 3 years old can put their toys back by themselves. After all, that’s what is expected of them at school. And they do it, maybe because they don’t dare to challenge their teachers, but also because they’ve been taught where everything belongs and to put things away before playing with something else.
Of course, there’ll always be times when you’ll need to dedicate specific time to decluttering and organising, in particular when you experience a big life change such as parenthood, moving, establishing a home office etc. But I’m quite confident that if you have proper systems that take your needs and habits into consideration – and you’re welcome to contact me if you feel you don’t –and you follow the tips above, you’ll considerably reduce the time you spend to keep your home organised and have more time for the important things in your life.