by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Notice where stuff lands in your home. Is that where it belongs? Do you know where it should go?
Clutter hots spots are small spaces where a variety of items can accumulate, usually because it’s convenient to leave items in this prominent location – your bedside table, the area by the front door, the kitchen counter, a chair in the bedroom, the bathroom vanity, the dining room table.
Clearing a hot spot is much easier than keeping it organized. So, before you declutter the space, you’ll want to do some problem-solving.
Why Does Stuff Get Left in this Spot?
Sort through the items in this space, where did they come from and why do you think they were left here?
Is the space convenient? After carrying the mail into the house, it’s dropped on the table by the door.
Does an item have no proper storage space? Your purse gets dropped on the chair by the front door because you’ve never though about where you could keep it.
Do you think the items will get used if kept here? Every winter I set a tube of hand cream on my nightstand so I can apply the cream when I go to bed. Do I? No. Although this seems like the perfect location to keep hand cream, my actions (or lack thereof) tell me it isn’t.
Keep in mind that you aren’t concerned with decluttering individual items so much as wondering why groups of items gravitate to this location. What behaviors (yours and your family’s) have created this hot spot?
This step is all about problem-solving and is much more difficult than tossing some items in a trash bag. However, figuring out why stuff gets left in this space will help you become organized for the long-term as opposed to until tomorrow.
Identify Your Purpose for the Space
What do you want from this space? How do you want it to get used?
Imagine there was nothing in this space – what would be its ideal use? What needs to be here so people can see how to use this space? If you want people to leave their shoes by the door, a rack or shoe cubby unit can make this action clearer than the random pile of shoes scattered in the foyer.
If you want to avoid piling paper and clothing on the chair in your bedroom, ask yourself – why do you have that chair there? Honestly, did you think it would be a convenient space to temporarily leave paper and clothing? Or did you think you’d sit in your room and read in the evening?
Maybe, like that chair in your bedroom, or the table by the front door, you thought the space would serve a different purpose than it did. Do you want to hold onto that original purpose? And, if so, what do you need to tweak so the clutter doesn’t come back?
Recreate the Space
The variety of items that you found in this hot spot can make it challenging to decide what belongs there. You can determine your purpose for this space in a couple of ways:
Remove All of It – Remove everything from the space by setting it in a box (or a few) and setting the box on the opposite side of the room from where the stuff had accumulated. You can remove items from the box when you go to use them. Only then, you can keep the item in the space. After a week or so you’ll have a clearer idea of what gets used in that space.
By clearing the location (don’t even put a basket there to “catch” items), you’ll remove some of the cues that encouraged items to be left in this spot. Remove the pile of mail from the kitchen counter and this may prompt the question, “where should this go?” when someone walks in with today’s mail.
Subtract as You Go – Decide what you want to keep in the space, eliminate and move what you don’t, and pay attention to what gets used here so you can continue to add or subtract items until the space works the way you want it to.
If you realize something doesn’t belong in your hot spot, then place it in a more appropriate home. Only keep things in this space that meet the purpose you have for the location.
Make the Space Less Convenient
Can you remove (or move) the chair or table where stuff gets piled?
Can you put a houseplant beside the bathroom sink to discourage the accumulation of grooming supplies on the counter?
If you’re making the hot spot less convenient, you’ll also have to decide where you want these items to end up and make that space more convenient.
Remember, hot spots aren’t large. They are small spaces where a variety of items congregate because this is the space where you thought you’d use the item or where you “temporarily” left the item. In most cases, the items here belong someplace else in your home.
Remember, simply decluttering the space without identifying why items get left there or how you thought you would use the space, will leave you with a temporarily cleared space. Doing problem-solving in this small space helps you in the process of becoming organized in other, larger spaces in your home.
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Susan, chief (and only) organized squirrel at A Less Cluttered Life, pursues learning, practicing, and sharing information about the everyday habits that can lead to living a better life.