by Susan McCarthy
Tired of reorganizing spaces in your home that you’ve already decluttered? Stop wasting your time by planning to prevent messes before they form.
If you’ve decluttered part or all your home, you probably felt frustrated when you realized the clutter was creeping back. The cleared dining table is once again covered in mail, catalogs, and craft projects. And instead of folding or hanging your clean clothing, it’s in a pile on the chair in the corner of your bedroom. Should you be resigned to being hopelessly disorganized? No way!
One thing that can affect the amount of clutter in your home? The number of times you set something down and think, "I'll take care of this later."
You can stop the habit of making a mess by setting up your home so it’s easier to stay organized and then by practicing the habits that encourage you to put things away instead of leaving piles of stuff throughout your home.
Modify Your Home So It Helps You to Stay Organize
Look around your home to areas that become messy and question why that happens. Maybe you don’t put away the clean laundry because you have too much clothing in your closet and nothing else fits in there. Decluttering the things that you don’t wear will give you the space you need. If there are piles of mail throughout your home, set up a box or basket near the front door where you can collect the mail in one place until you have the time to sort through it.
Change tasks that aren’t getting done. Maybe you think you should fold your clothing even though you dislike that task; give yourself permission to hang your clothing if that means things get put away.
Avoid Making a Mess in the First Place
Improve upon one specific task. After you’ve identified areas where messes collect and questioned why this disorder occur, make it a point to change one of your actions so it prevents a mess from forming. For example, if you don’t hang up your coat and put away your purse when you arrive home, focus on doing that successfully and then move onto another action.
Set a goal to stop making a mess. Maybe your goal is to have nothing but a centerpiece on the dining table when you aren’t eating a meal or actively engaged in an activity. Being clear about what the goal is means that you’ll catch a mess that’s just starting to form, and you’ll correct the situation.
Set a deadline. For example, decide that you’ll hang up your clothing within an hour of pulling them from the dryer or that you’ll clean all projects off the dining table by 8 p.m.
Pin for Later
Create an if…then… plan. Maybe you decide that if you buy a book, then you’ll donate one that’s currently on your shelves or if you’re working on a craft project, then you’ll return everything to the appropriate drawer, bin, or tote at the end of your session, even if you plan on returning to your project the next day. Write down your If…Then… plan, apparently, it’s likelier that you’ll follow through when you write it down.
Decide on the least you have to do. You know that there will be crazy days when you aren’t motivated. What’s the least you can do to feel that you’re maintain a semblance of organization? Maybe you hang up your coat on those days when the mail doesn’t get sorted and the dirty dishes get left in the sink.
Cheer on each small success. When you hang up your coat, acknowledge it with a “good job,” at least until it becomes a habit. Give yourself a high-five when you clear the kitchen counter after dinner. Instead of feeling as if all these little tasks are draining your energy, you’ll reinvest in your motivation.
Prevent Disorder from Returning
These actions can help you control the impulse to set something down and think, “I’ll take care of it later.”
If your goal is to stay organized, then you want to stop making a mess. Look around your home for areas where disorder returns over and again and figure out how you can adjust the area or the task so it will be easier to put things away.
Focus on one specific task or area at a time – identify your goal for how you want an area to look and decide when you’ll tidy the area. Also, keep your motivation high by cheering on your actions (I know, it feels silly, but it works) and creating a “least I have to do plan” for those days when life is crazier than usual.
It’s easier for you to be successful when you take on specific tasks instead of focusing on the vaguer idea of staying organized.
Other Helpful Resources
1) Learn How to Organize Once and for All
2) Organizing Clutter Isn’t the Same as Decluttering
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