“Sorry the place is such a mess!” As friends and family gather in the coming months, we’re all likely to hear (or say!) this phrase at least once. After all, preparing for guests invites its own special kind of stress. No matter how carefully we clean and spruce, a few blemishes always manage to linger. The biggest offenders in every home are hot spots: zones that act as magnets for clutter despite our best efforts to keep them clear. If areas like this make your holiday preparation efforts feel fruitless, never fear! We’ve laid out 5 simple steps to conquer your clutter hot spots.
Step 1: Tame the Current Chaos
No fun, but it has to be done. Identify the spots in your home where clutter tends to accumulate. Kitchen tables, counters and surfaces near entryways are just a few of the usual suspects. Go through your hot spots one by one and sort the contents by putting like with like (all mail together, all office supplies together, all electronics together, etc.).
Now is the time to finally send each item where it was meant to go before it got stuck in the hot spot. It’s common to stumble at this step if you have no other place to keep the item: sometimes, the hot spot is just where some things need to be. Loose cords always end up at charging stations. Mail piles up on the kitchen table because that’s where you always open it. If this is the case for any of your hot spots, set the items aside and don’t sweat it. Steps 2 thru 5 are all about turning your hot spots into well-tamed drop zones for your household.
Step 2: Identify the Type of Clutter
Once you’ve gone through all your hot spots, review what you found. Identify what kinds of items each spot seems to attract. Do shoes and sports supplies pile up in the mudroom? Is a particular coffee table always laden with abandoned reading material? Some clutter hot spots gather just about everything, others have one or two primary categories.
As you evaluate, consider why these particular items tend to end up in your hot spots. Are they staying where they’re used, like the charging station and kitchen table examples in Step 1 (a “functional” hot spot)? Or is the spot more all-purpose, a convenient place for items to land with the idea that they’ll “eventually” be put away (a “random” hot spot)? This distinction is just as important as the type of clutter. It will affect what kind of systems you implement in Step 3 to take control of the space.
Step 3: Take Control of the Space
This is where all of your hard work and careful observations pay off. Now that you know what makes each hot spot tick, brainstorm adjustments you can make to stop the clutter before it starts. Remember: the key to organizing isn’t always to change habits–in fact, it’s much easier to work with them.
“Functional” Hot Spots
Use containment solutions to “catch” and divide items that would otherwise create messy piles. Trays for mail and paper, baskets or cubbies for shoes and sports equipment, bowls or hooks for keys and accessories, the list goes on. Some types of clutter, like paperwork, may need a workstation in their hot spot to make things functional. If the spot is near an entryway or dominated by quick-grab items, it would probably work best as a launch pad: a drop zone for items that come into and go out of the home (such as coats, accessories and paperwork).
“Random” Hot Spots
Containment is always the key, even if you’re dealing with random clutter that doesn’t belong in the space. Just take the same rule (contain the mess, give items a home) and apply it to your “random” hot spots.
- Does a particular countertop turn into a mess every day? Add an attractive bowl or basket to the spot to hold clutter as it gathers. Assign yourself a time frame that determines how often the container needs to be emptied (once a day, once a week). Of course, the tricky part is sticking to your plan. If you struggle with scheduled maintenance, you can use the container itself as a benchmark: once it can’t hold anything else, it has to be emptied.
- Do books or craft supplies always pile up on coffee tables in your lounge areas? Give them a home that is nearby and easy to access. A divider or basket by your favorite chair, a storage ottoman, a small set of drawers…take the chance to get creative!
Hint: You may already have these storage solutions in place. If they’re filled to capacity with items you haven’t touched in ages, it’s time to repeat Step 1 to win back that valuable real estate!
Step 4: Assemble Your Team
Unless you are a one-person household, you’re probably not the only one contributing to the clutter. All of your brilliant new systems will mean nothing if family and housemates aren’t on the same page. So bring them in as allies! Make sure to walk them through what you’ve done. Explain the reasoning behind your systems so that your housemates can become active participants and contribute their own adjustments. Get your kids amped by assigning them their own spaces and responsibilities.
If someone else often uses the spaces you’re working in, it’s ideal to include them back in Step 3. Instead of presenting new rules to your living partner, bring them into the process. This ensures that the systems you put in place will make sense for everyone. After all, a solution that works against a person’s preferences and habits has no chance of being maintained.
Step 5: Maintain!
Organizing isn’t just a project; it’s a process. Much like cleaning, it’s a task we have to perform almost constantly, from small daily touch-ups to larger weekly or monthly deep-dives. If done right, adjusting your hot spots to predict and work with your clutter makes the maintenance process much more intuitive. The key is to seize the opportunity your overhaul gave you and still put in the work. Don’t let your shiny new areas go to seed!
Of course, knowing what you have to do doesn’t make it easy. Slip-ups are just as common and natural as successes, so be sure to cut yourself some slack! Our Abundance Declutter Group is always open for those seeking extra support. Check out our previous articles about beating procrastination and setting goals if you’re looking for extra tips to stay on track.