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Why Clutter Hotspots Occur & How to Control Them

You have hotspots of clutter throughout your house, and it is beginning to really annoy you. There are three common clutter hotspots in most people’s homes: the laundry, kitchen and office desk.

If you are like many people, the first thing you will do is to go out and buy some more containers to hold or sort all the stuff. Perhaps you get out one of your organizing books and decide your first step is to sort and purge. Maybe you call in an organizer with the hopes that they will make it all go away for you.

Since you want to get these clutter hotspots under control, start with asking yourself some questions.

  1. What changed to make this bother me now?
  2. Why did this clutter accumulate?
  3. What behaviors do I need to change to make it go away and not reappear?

Let’s look at the three most common areas that accumulate annoying clutter starting with the laundry.

Laundry:

laundry clutter hotspot

Here’s the problem:

  • The laundry seems to be taking over the house.
  • It is left in the laundry room, in the living room, on the dining room table, and in the bedrooms.
  • The clean and dirty clothes are all mixed up together.
  • It’s hard to find certain items you want to wear.

How it becomes a clutter hotspot:

  • This happened over time.
  • When it is time to do laundry, it is all gathered up and is brought to the laundry room.
  • The piles are sorted and the first load is put into wash.
  • When it is done, the first load is put in the dryer and the next load is started.
  • After the dryer cycle ends, some items need more time and are put back in the dryer.
  • Dry clothes are put into stacks or in laundry baskets.
  • Sometimes you take the clean clothes to the living room or the dining table to sort and fold.
  • Sometimes you take the clothes to the bedrooms.
  • But often time runs out and rarely do you put the clothes away.
  • Often the drawers and closets are already full, and it takes time to reshuffle the clothes to make room for the clean clothes.
  • It is overwhelming for one person to keep up with all the dirty laundry weekly.

The clutter hotspot solution:

You need to complete the laundry cycle.

  • It is not practical to have only one day per week to do laundry, if you have a ton of it.
  • Develop a schedule so that each load that is put into wash will also have time to dry and put away.
  • Only bring to the laundry the dirty clothes that will get washed, dried, and put away during the scheduled time.
  • Leave the rest in the dirty clothes hampers.
  • Schedule time to clear out the closets and drawers of all items that are taking up space and not being worn.
  • If you don’t have room to put away clean clothes you either have too many clothes or not enough designated space.
  • This must be resolved if you intend to put away your clean clothes.

Delegate laundry chores.

Even young children can put away clean clothes if there is a good system in place. Older children can learn to do their own laundry.  Spouses/partners can contribute as well.

Kitchen:

The problem:

  • The counters are so full you have to move things to do food prep.
  • The kitchen staples are accumulating on the counters.
  • it is hard to find the items necessary to cook a meal.
  • It’s hard to keep the area clean with all the clutter.

Why is it hard to put the food and staples away?

  • Maybe there is more supplies than space and areas in the pantry or cupboards are hard to reach.
  • Some areas may be deep and difficult to get to.
  • By the time shopping is finished there is not enough time to put things away, so they are left out “just for now”.

The clutter hotspot solution:

  • Look at your food storage areas.
  • Take time to purge all expired items or that you do not plan to use soon.
  • Organize your remaining foods according to categories – canned vegetables, soups, pastas, etc.
  • If there are mobility problems designate shelves that are easy to reach for the most used items.
  • Use baskets or bins to contain like items.
  • Especially if shelves are deep, it is easier to pull out a container to see what you have than dig around in the dark recesses of the pantry.
  • Consider buying less each shopping trip. Buy only what you need for the week.
  • If you are tired after your shopping trip, go ahead, and unbag the groceries onto your counter but schedule a time to come back and put items away.

Office Desk:

The clutter hotspot problem:

Papers, papers, papers everywhere! Not to mention the odd coffee cup, food container, charging wires, etc. It’s distracting and makes it hard to concentrate.

  • Papers accumulate over time.
  • Important papers are lost in the shuffle.
  • You pay bills late sometimes.
  • They are left out on the desk because if you put them away, you forget about them.
  • Working late leaves no time to clean up in the evenings.

The solution:

  • Schedule daily or at least weekly maintenance time to clear the desk.
  • Set up a desktop filing system for reoccurring paperwork – bills, events, contacts, pending, to read, etc.
  • Put all projects (writing a report, paying bills, or planning an event) away in a labeled file or project box each time you stop working on them.
  • Even if the project is not finished, it is altogether in one place and ready to pull out again the next time.
  • Organize a file drawer or crate for files you keep but don’t access often.
  • Have a designated place for chargers or earbuds.

 

When attacking clutter hotspots, it is important to know your “whys”. Clutter hotspots will reoccur if you just do a quick clear out without realizing why this area originally got cluttered. Once you know the root of the problem, then you can set in motion a plan to remove the clutter and keep the area clear.

 

If you like these ideas and would like more or if you just want some help or accountability in working your organizational plan or projects join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space For You virtual clutter support group.

 

Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.

 

 

 

 

15 Comments

  • Seana Turner says:

    I love your point about completing the cycle of putting things away. In all three of these examples, we can stuck when we go to put something away and – for whatever reason – this is difficult to do. There is no place to file the papers, the clothing drawers are stuffed, the kitchen cabinets and pantry are crowded and hard to reach.

    I often talk with clients about not wasting time organizing what we need to be shedding. Freeing up space would help with all of these.

    I also really like the structure of this post. You are so clear about why the situation is happening, and then giving specific actions on how to address it!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Seana. I love the point you make when talking to your clients about getting rid of things when the space is so full that there is no place to put anything.

    • Thanks, Seana.
      When working with clients, especially in their office, I often leave a copy a diagram from the chapter of The Rhythm of Organizing from the book It’s Hard to Make a Difference When You Can’t Find Your Keys by Marilyn Paul. The four parts of the circle are: 1. Ready for action 2. Take action 3. Natural disorder 4. Restore order by engaging habits or systems. The circle must be completed in order to be ready to take action again.

  • Paper is a big issue for many of my clients and my organizing group participants. Thanks for sharing these tips to combat these cluttered hotspots. I will be sharing this post with them.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Paper is an issue for many of Jonda’s and my clients also. Thank you for sharing these tips with your clients, Sabrina.

    • Thanks, Sabrina. Paper is a big issue with many of our clients as well. And when it is not dealt with on a regular basis it easily becomes overwhelming.
      Thanks for sharing.

  • It’s a great first step to ask why clutter is accumulating. That gives excellent clues for how to make some habit changes. So much of what you describe involves full circle thinking. Everything we do is of a cyclical nature. And until the cycle is complete we have the potential to invite clutters. But when we think of doing laundry for example, as having different stages, we can approach the process in a full way. The final step being the folded, clean laundry being put away.

    • Diane Quintana says:

      Thank you, Linda. I like to tell my clients to think of chores as a loop. You want to complete (or close) the loop to finish the chore. Only doing part of the task leaves the loop open.

    • Thanks, Linda. So many of our clients sabotage their efforts by not completing the loops. It pains me to see them stop just one step short of finishing.
      They gather laundry, wash laundry, dry laundry and then don’t get it put away. Sigh!

  • Lucy Kelly says:

    Oh, those hot spots! You nailed it – so many of us have certain places where clutter accumulates. Great solutions and I echo the other comments about closing the loop – when the loop’s too hard to close, finding the sticking point is crucial. I’ve found it’s almost always because there’s too much stuff :-).

  • Julie Bestry says:

    “Completing the cycle” is so essential. Either you do laundry when you have time to wash/dry/put-away or you don’t start; either you eat when you have time to clean up from your meal or…well, there’s no or. You don’t get to do anything until you’ve cleaned up after cooking/eating! Of course, it’s harder for people to see a cycle in the office/desk area, but it’s in there. Recognizing why it all happens is, as you illustrate, the key to circumventing it happening in the future.

    And I love that you make the point that spouses/partners can “contribute” (rather than “help”) because if they’re part of the problem (do they wear clothes? do they eat?) then they’re part of the solution!

    • Diane Quintana says:

      So true, Julie! Thank you for chiming in!

    • I am all about having everyone contribute in the maintenance plan. Even my 3 year old grandson has tasks that he preforms and he enjoys doing them! It makes him feel grown up and part of the family. Of course, his dad, my son, is a good example 🙂
      And since the NAPO conference I am much more careful about using the word “contribute” rather than “help”.