Daily routines help decluttering

Daily Routines and Clutter Hot Spots

Are you ready to get your home organized in 2013? One of the best ways to start is with some simple, daily routines. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when we look around our homes, taking in all we have to do! There are growing piles of paper in the kitchen, crazy amounts of laundry to be washed, dried and folded, too many miscellaneous boxes of junk to sort through, daily meals to prepare, dirty dishes crowding the sink, overdue bills to pay, and a mounting fear of the possible avalanche in our front closets. Not to mention, many of us are working to earn a living and don’t have enough hours in the day to keep up on housework.

Sometimes it can feel like we end the day with just as much mess and clutter as we had when we began! That can be discouraging if we really want to make progress! I don’t know about you, but feeling overwhelmed makes me want to hide under a blanket with a bowl of ice cream. And while that might make me feel better in the short term, it won’t solve any of my problems in the long run.

So how can we break the cycle of disorganization and chaos and start to get our homes and daily lives in order in the new year?

The answer is simple: commit to taking specific action, one step at a time.

When I feel overwhelmed, I have to isolate every task, separating each one into a few manageable steps that I can tackle in a day or a week. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the impossibility of what I want to accomplish—and likely giving up before I even start—this helps me feel empowered to create tangible goals that I can manage right away. Even one feeling of accomplishment energizes me to accomplish more!

Many years ago, I established a few daily routines that help me feel in control of my day and capable of keeping my home in order, one step at a time. It is still a life-long endeavor to keep my house organized, but discovering the power of daily routines changed my perspective and gave me more confidence.

Every day, I keep up with four basic, daily routines. You can read more about them at The Inspired Room. These routines don’t solve all my clutter problems, obviously, but they do keep my home from spiraling too far out of control. They are simple and feasible, and they give me the satisfaction of being on track with my day!

The best part about committing to a month of daily routines is that doing those routines will soon become a habit. And once they are a habit, the day-to-day upkeep of a house will be much more practical. Big sigh of relief! Now we are getting somewhere!

Once we have our daily routines, we can identify specific goals for organizing and decluttering our homes. This is how we can realistically tackle the most problematic areas of our homes!

To simplify this step, I like to identify a home’s clutter hot spots. I tend to have four or five spaces in my home that always seem to get out of control. (I think we all do!) You can check out the new clutter heat map tool at “The Decluttered Home” to see where clutter tends to accumulate and to find tips for dealing with those areas!

Conquer clutter hot spots Before I add those problem spaces to my daily routines, I like to start with a clean slate. A tidy room inspires and motivates me, so I set aside a couple of days to tackle the key hot spots one at a time. This is not the time to declutter the entire house; this is an opportunity to deal with a few of the key hot spots. Perhaps I’ll choose to tackle my desk, my bathroom counter and maybe my closet floor! I don’t overthink it or try to color code my entire closet or clean out every single drawer in my desk or repaint the whole room. I just focus on decluttering the closet floor or the desktop or the counter.

Once those key areas are clean and free of clutter, the whole room looks better! Now I’m more motivated to keep it that way. I can add those specific clutter hot spots to my daily routine to make sure they stay orderly. So if my closet floor starts to pile up again, I deal with it right away before it gets out of control! Again, I’ve created a manageable task I can handle in a day or throughout the week. Another big sigh of relief!

Establishing manageable daily routines and dealing regularly with clutter hot spots will help get your year of decluttering and organizing off to a great start! You’ll feel more empowered by your accomplishments and energized to continue with of your home.

Let’s get going! Let me know what routines you decide to establish and where your clutter hot spots are!

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  • http://www.ordinaryinspirations.blogspot.com Traci Michele

    Thanks for the great advice!

  • Melissa McIntyre

    Great Advice Melissa! I think you and I are soo much alike, right down to our names! I saw a post over on your blog that implied you are “vertically challenged” as well. I’m barely 5’2″!! :-)

    • http://theinspiredroom.net Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      :-)

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  • Ida Cundy

    I need help badly! I’m 94 yrs. old with the maladies that go with it. I live in an apartment (one room) over my son’s garage. I am still capable of doing my own food shopping and my own cooking. It’s the clutter that has become completely out of hand — in my kitchen area and my two closets. The advice I need is whether to attack one area at a time, completely, like kitchen sink, or one of the closets, etc, or do a little bit of all the areas every day. I do hope you can help. And thank you so much!

    • Barbara Fann

      Woo-hoo, Ida!!

      I just HAVE to say hello to you!

      I am 64 and I share the same woes…but no doubt MUCH worse than what you are dealing with! I am a procrastinator. Having trained myself over the years to be supremely indifferent to wanting things tidy, I guess I’m just stubbornly resistant to becoming “organized” because I’m a housework hater!

      I can step over the most horrible messes and keep going, but …I know on some level I am STRESSED because the thought of having someone “drop by” makes me really antsy so I know I feel embarrassed by my sloth…sigh.
      I am gearing up to start following my (very organized) sister’s advice and start doing 15 minutes—somewhere!– at a time and then stopping to do something rewarding to myself.
      Then 15 MORE minutes….until my goal is accomplished.
      The irony is, I ran my own cleaning service for 8 years and I was really focused and detail oriented when it came to cleaning and de-cluttering OTHER people’s houses…lol.

      But my hat’s off to you!
      I have an entire house fitting the description you gave:
      “the clutter has become completely out of hand”
      arghh….

      But I SO admire your independence, and being ONLINE even You obviously are staying in tune with the times!

      But at 94 you are WELL entitled to hijack a younger member of your family to HELP you! Beg, borrow, bribe or steal their youthful energy—you DESERVE it!

      You’ve inspired me!
      I’ll be thinking of you and emulating your DESIRE to organize as I FORCE my LAZY self to get moving!

      Kindest regards!

      Barbara

      • http://theinspiredroom.net Melissa @ The Inspired Room

        Great advice Barbara! I love the 15 minute at a time idea and the reward afterward!! :-)

      • Lindsay Perez

        Oh Barbara, I think I’m your twin sister. I’m 63, and have EXACTLY the same issues. I love your comment “I can step over the most horrible messes…” I really had to laugh at that. It’s so me. I have a 3 floor home, and more “stuff” than any 3 families combined, and I live alone. I so need some ideas. Not only do I procrastinate, I can’t bear to throw things away. I just know I’ll “need” them the moment I do. HELP, I’m being swallowed alive by my “stuff”!

        • Mazy

          Miss Lindsay,
          I try thinking about two things when “clearing out” and letting a few things go… When I am ready to get started and get rid of something or lots of things, I try not to worry that I might need it someday, I remember that what I really need is space to breath and live life. So by decluttering, I am getting something much more valueable than what I am getting rid of.
          The other thought that I use to try to stay on track is to estimate te value of my home, divide that by the square footage, and decide how much of the house can’t be used the way it should because it is too full or if I let it get too full. So a $100,000 house that half the house is too cluttered for guests to use the guest room, cars to use the garage, etc, has $50,000 of its value wasted by excess stuff. In our area, 10×20 storage units rent for $100 a month. Oh,but I would never want to have to pay for a storage unit, oh yeah, I am paying much, much more than that by having parts of my house unusable! These two things help me stay on track, based on how my brain works!

    • http://theinspiredroom.net Melissa @ The Inspired Room

      Hi Ida! So glad you wrote in!

      I think what I would do is get a few paper file boxes and start going around the apartment every day filling boxes with things you don’t need. Ask your son to pick up the boxes as you fill them and keep what he wants or drop the contents off at the Goodwill (and bring you back the boxes to refill!).

      In a small apartment you really don’t have enough room for a lot of excess and that is probably why the clutter gets out of hand. Filling a few boxes every day will make a big difference.

      Start by deciding what you really need in the kitchen or closet and ruthlessly get rid of the rest. For instance, you probably only need a few coffee cups and plates. If you have too many dishes, things will get piled up all over the kitchen. Simplify your daily routines so you just have what you need and nothing extra.

      Same with clothing, pick out your favorite clothes and get rid of the rest. Go closet by closet, drawer by drawer, area by area and keep filling those boxes until your closets and kitchen feels manageable again.

      Good luck and I applaud you for wanting to get organized (and for being online seeking advice!)! You are inspiring!

      Melissa

    • bill

      Ms. Cundy my hats off to you, they don’t make um like you any more..I’ll have to agree with
      Barbara I’d recruit some young energy and maybe 15 minutes while they are there…to keep an eye on them..my daughter helped me a couple weeks ago and i had to check behind her after she left..each bag..but i really appreciated it.. good luck.. :)

  • Sandy

    I sooo need help. I have read articles, even books on de-cluttering, but my house is still an embarrassing junk pile. Even though Ida’s space is small and I am dealing with a large house, full basement, and garage, maybe I can apply your tips to Ida and get started. Thanks !

  • http://Facebook Sara

    Keep what you truly Love, get rid of things not used in three years. Keep the things that give you enjoyment and things that are worth passing down (photo’s) Sometimes I think people keep things because to replace is expensive,and times might get worse. I do feel people are too concerned about appearances . Your home should be your haven of rest refreshment to regroup. It should have what you and your love ones like.

  • Anne

    I like the thought but the article is a little ambiguous. I have always used the “3 square feet” theory when I feel overwhelmed and it has worked well for me but now that I am retired and have more time on my hands, I’m more easily distracted for some reason. I guess I was hoping for fresh ideas.
    Thank you for the article, though. I know it will be helpful to someone a little less scatterbrained than me.

    • bill

      Ha that sounds more my speed,an practical.thx

  • clara

    I see I have some friends here whom I have not met. I am 69, semi-retired, work part time as a hospice nurse.
    I have always had disdain for cleaning, but it is not getting easier as I age.
    I live alone, and many tasks are difficult, such as climbing up to change a light bulb, if there is a fixture on it.
    My dryer is broken, my vacuum cleaner is dead, so I have dirty, and clean, laundry, scattered about.
    In addition to my distaste for cleaning, I have been a pet rescuer, and through the years have acquired 3 dogs and 10 cats. Re-homing them is not an option. They are my kids, and will be with me always.
    I had a housefire several years ago, and some of the storage boxes still are piled in my bedroom, and are buried under my clothes, which I never hang up.
    When I sweep up the kitchen floor, I look at the dried spills, and go to the other room.
    I know if I am ever motivated, to toss or donate what I don’t use, to keep special treasures, and to file mail as it arrives.
    But I get so overwhelmed, it is hard to get started.
    I am also fatigued a lot from my work, even though I love the work I do.
    I appreciate knowing there are others who live similarly, but I bet my house is worse than yours :-)

    • Mary Gray Rust

      Clara, we have so much in common. I’m 78 and all the problems you describe are mine too. I replied elsewhere about sharing the decluttering with a friend who has the same problem, alternating between her home and mine.
      But I lost her to cancer and it’s been harder and harder to do alone since then. I find it easier with music playing and also working in 15-minute segments, with a 15-minute break after each one. It also helps to schedule these tasks when you’re the most energetic if you can. I work almost full-time too, so I do as much as I can early in the morning before getting ready for work. Making a list of 15-minute jobs helps, as does making a list of things you can do while sitting after dinner, maybe even while watching TV. Folding clothes, clearing the dining room table, organizing a cluttered purse, etc. And if you have a grandchild who’s old enough to help, that’s also a good thing. My 12-year old great-granddaughter is exceptionally well-organized and efficient and I pay her to help me when she’s willing and able. I hope these ideas are helpful. You may already know some or all of them. The fatigue is something I’m trying to minimize with 5000 mcg of Vitamin B-12 every day. It really helps.

  • Eileen

    Thanks for all of the good information. Think I’ll try the 15 minute approach. I’m 63, work full-time, often need to go into the office on Saturdays, work some evenings doing child care to bring in some “extra” that we need. So that leaves Sundays to do it all. My husband is disabled; he tries, usually does too much in one attempt and then is laid up for 2-3 days. Okay. 15 minutes @ a time. I want to declutter and have gotten rid of some stuff, there’s just so much more to attack!

  • Eileen

    Just wanted to add that DISTRACTION is a big problem for me, too. Also, opening a container, let’s say, of photos and getting lost in looking at them. Or going to clean a bookcase and ending up sitting down and looking through a book. Yikes! Any ideas?

    • Julie

      Some of us need a timer to keep us from trying to do it all at once and some of us need a timer to motivate us to keep going until the time is up. Whichever you need, try bite size intervals, like 15 minutes, and some kind of reward when time’s up (maybe 15 minutes of looking through those pics or reading that book) Good luck

  • Momo

    I am trying to get rid of things after a move to a smaller place. Am dealing with whether to save things like toys/clothes/linens/furniture/dishes. Things that I took good care of through the years, am not currently using, but which my children could use in their own homes or for their children. They are now in their mid 20s, and live in apartments, so they “don’t have the room” now. I really don’t want to get rid of the stuff, only to have them have to buy it in a few years. Yet hanging on to it is cluttering up my space. I am trying to get them to tell me whether they can ever envision themselves using these things in the future, but they say it is hard to imagine what their lives will be like in a few years – whether they will have a place for a wing chair, or use for a stand mixer, or tablecloths. Any ideas?

  • Barbara

    Momo, one solution would be to rent a storage unit (or two) for the things your children will need in a few years. Perhaps the children could even pay for the rent on the unit/s, which would make them think more about what to keep. In my experience, furniture and clothes quickly look out-dated and younger people are especially sensitive to that. Perhaps each might pick out a piece of furniture for you to keep. Linens, dishes and toys are used for longer and might well be appreciated in a few years.

  • Bridget

    I lost my 1400 square foot home and had to move into a 900 foot square home. I moved in with my partner. At first the change to a smaller home wasn’t too difficult, although I really missed my beautiful new home. Then my daughter moved back home after completing college. Suddenly the entire house has become filled up with her things. She works full time and is pursuing her graduate degree, which leaves little time for cleaning. I used to clean other people’s home, so I don’t mind housecleaning. But the mess has become so overwhelming, I’ve just given up trying. The 15 minutes at a time sounds like a great suggestion which I am going to try. Wish me luck!

  • Mary Gray Rust

    One thing a friend and I did that helped us both was schedule a time to have a decluttering session together at each other’s home. We picked one task each time and worked together till it was finished. It was a chance to get it done while chatting, having a cup of green tea and exchanging suggestions about how best to deal with the clutter. Since we had the same problem, we weren’t embarrassed by it. It’s a great way to solve the problem and have a good time doing it.

  • April

    This is so funny, i just had to post a comment. I am a “grown adult”,39, My mother, has always been an immaculate housekeeper.I, on the other hand, have struggled with being organized, and “keeping a clean house”. All of you were brave enough to “tell on yourselves”, so I will join the club. Clara, bless you,you made me laugh out loud when you said you could sweep the floor, look at the dried spills, and walk to the other room.My husband once said he was absolutely “baffled” that I could sweep a floor, and not take 15 more minutes to mop it-it seemed to blow his mind. Eileen, I, too, get distracted; old pictures, once, I decided to try and organize my recipe drawer,( papers, wrappers, boxes, ect. with recipes, thrown in a drawer) and ended up spending an hour reading my grandmothers hand written recipe binder,walking down memory lane.The worst, the absolute worst thing i do, and often, is that alot of times i am an “all or nothing gal”, and will decide to totally clean or organize something, dumping out drawers, pulling every last thing out of every closet, the bathroom, ect..and work on it for hours, and then something always happens-so everything I pulled out, stays in that spot, strewn everywhere, stuck in “halfway organized land”, because I am so close to getting that area spottless and organized, it would be ridiculous to put everything back together and up before i was done, so it all sits there, and as hard as i try to finish it, eventually, it literally gets “thrown” back in that room after my husband gets sick of stepping over it or trying to get by it. Sigh. I have such a patient husband. Glad to know I am not the only one that hears the doorbell ring and freezes in place, or “dives” for the tv remote to “mute” it, praying they didnt hear someone was home. :) There is one thing, and only one thing, i have found out over the years, that does work for me consistently, when it is time to clean up.I pick one of my off days,to start, and grab a TV guide and paper and pencil.From 900am, say untill 500pm, 6-maybe longer if needed,for every hour, I write down what i want to watch and what channel it comes on. I could spend all day watching movies on the Lifetime channel if i wanted . Every commercial, i MAKE myself get up and clean. I start in the kitchen, and whatever I am doing stops when my “show” comes back on. I get to “skip” a commercial when I am eating breakfast or lunch. Sure, when shows or movies first start, there may be 3-4 minutes I have to clean, but you will find yourself thinking “I only have a few minutes to clean and then I can go sit on the couch” so you really go at it, not realizing it, so you can get back to the couch to “relax”. As shows and movies go on, the commercials get longer, but you really dont notice, because you are so focused in those now 5 minute cleaning “breaks” thats all you think about. You dont think about how much you have left, or, think “this isnt going to work, I have too much to clean”-you are focused on getting back to the couch to continue watching your show, that you dont think about the cleaning. You just do it so you can get back to the couch. And i promise you, you will be in shock when you realize, as the day goes on, how much you have gotten done. Before you know it, you might even “clean over” just a minute or two, real quick, during commercial breaks. By the end of the day, it will feel like you have done nothing all day but watch lifetime movies on the couch, and someone cleaned your house. Its great. If you choose, you can fold clothes during your shows, and put them up during the commercials. In the beginning, it will seem like there is no way you will get your entire house done, but, trust me. Just make yourself get up during the commercials, which gets to be easy after the first few times, and you will be shocked what you can get done. :) I am working on doing this 2-3 times a week, only for a couple of TV shows, or a movie, to keep it clean. Well, that’s what works for the way “my brain” thinks. P.S. I would let you guys in my house, ha ha, you all are “special”. You would understand. Good luck to all of you

  • Sarah

    Literally, I love all of you. I too am a person who has never embraced housework/cleaning as a habit and this has also led to shame and fear of anyone seeing my clutter, my inability to battle the overwhelming tasks. It seriously disables me, to the point of why bother, it’s insurmountable and depressing.
    I am in my early 40s, and I also has a house fire and had to downsize from there. But unfortunately I was already this person before the fire. All of you and your comments give me hope.
    And if I only have to deal with minimal disorganization and some cat hair (two cats over 10 years old who both survived the fire), that would be grand.
    Targeted areas, commercial break cleaning, 3 square feet, 15 minutes. I wish I had a friend in similar circumstances or lived near Mary or Clara, or any of you (Lindsay, Ida, Barbara…)

    Bridget, I clean at an alarming pace if it’s for anyone else. Meticulously and fast and without distraction. I think “self-clutter” provides too many memories/distractions/procrastination. And the fear, especially post-fire, of losing even more, sucks.
    And April, I never answer the door. Always freeze and hope for them to disappear. Maybe some day both of us will fearlessly answer every doorbell.
    Love all of you.
    And hope that all of us find peace within our current clutter without shame.

  • Ruth

    I can relate to so much of what you all shared. I get “stuck” when it comes to cleaning as well and although the monthly “surge” of energy is starting to wane at 52 I still try to take advantage of it. I have lived in a variety of places as well. Starting out in a renovated boarding house where I grew up, moving to an small apartment, then to a small house which morphed into a home/food manufacturing plant. That was a challenge especially when it came to raising children and running the business. Talk about confusion! After that moved into a rental home or “holding space”. Now I live in a home with my second spouse and we are planning to downsize into a smaller home in the future. As children of parents that were raised during the Great Depression we talk about how that affects us in what we hold onto. And then we go shopping or watch TV. The great art of distraction which leads to intense moments of “fellowship”. The art of sharing space takes times for each of us. I found it takes time to find comfort in the space around me. Sharing it with someone else, whether mate, pets or children for those of you who still have them at home all makes for a beautiful chaos. And then the doorbell rings. :) Life is an ever changing landscape.

  • Karen

    I just turned 60 this Jan. and am disabled. I have always had the kind of home you could “eat” off the floors. I live alone and have no help. I feel so depressed as I have a lot of lap over from my son, as he doesn’t have the room for all of his “stuff” and can’t afford a storage locker. I have tried the 15 min. work, and I just can’t seem to get into it. I get so depressed about it, and that’s not helping me! I have 4 Yorkies that stay in the kitchen, and have pads, and I also let them out. They do good with that. It is mostly the bedrooms, and the bathrooms, as I was having them redone, and the guy walked out, so having a lawyer working for me. I am short on money, but getting back what that man took, will take care of the bathrooms! I am hoping when this gets done I will be able to work thru this mess!!! All of your comments have helped me see what can be tried, and I will. I don’t have the money to get help, and my best friend still works. She helps when she can, but we never seem to get very far! Thank you for being here for people to help!

  • Penny

    WOW!! all these sisters I didn’t know I had! I am 70, and am in same situation. I’ve always left cleaning for emergencies, and my brother-in-law is coming from out of country in a month. The house hasn’t been tidy in maybe 10 years, since there was a group meeting bi-weekly here that kept me on my toes. When I clean I get very agitated, dragging and banging the vacuum cleaner around, wanting to swear, throwing out stuff and stuffing the rest somewhere it will not be seen. So my cleaning memories are horrible.

    Now after at least 10 years of utter neglect, I walk over my clothes to get to the master bath, have dishes I have no space for on the kitchen counter, and a pile that keeps forming in the middle of the very small kitchen. Plus the hall is shared with boxes, papers on the boxes, of my husband’s. Do I throw out all the year old bank, medical, etc etc info when my memory isn’t so good?!?! We have paths through our stuff (at least no decaying food lying about, is all the good I can think of), and the paths are becoming balance challenges. Yesterday I was picking up gobs of leaf bits and dust bunnies off the steps which are so cluttered vacuuming would be a real challenge. With a house with 3 horders living in it….

    I like to read, may see if an alarm every 15 minutes would be doable maybe an hour a week, and increase when possible, like exercise. Just can’t seem to make myself start, as the real problem is getting rid of lots, as every storage space is overfilled already.

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  • Vittoria

    I loved reading everyone issues with order and realise that even though I am only 56 and retired from working but not from life, that my idea of thinking forward could be the right thing. I have already done the closest issue to a point (that took me 5 years to get around to do) but it is done now and with the rest of the house I have 3 empty chests (large) set aside for each of my adult children and tagged with their name. My plan of attack now is to go through the house and sort of downsize. As I find things that I really dont use but wish to keep for whatever reason I will wrap and put it into the chest for each of them. Keep a list of inserted items on the inside lid as I go. The list will serve 2 purposes. 1) If I wish to use that item I can find it easily in one of the chests and 2)I can leave a letter/note of what the items meant to me or why it has been handed down. That should fix the silver ware problem left to me from my mother and china from my great gran or even special toys of these that I have kept over the years etc. If the chests get full of all their individual items then I can either buy another 3 or decide and kept going or that is all that will have left to them. Slowly then with the rest of the stuff about I can downsize to what we actually use and need within a home. The big stuff around the house the family when I pass they can work out what they want and I have give them an opportunity not to have to worry too much about the things that didnt have value to me and I have kept for them what was. I dont expect that this will be a 5min or even a day affair to do. But with each dusting or clearing of cupboards I can rethink why do I have you and reallocate it to the chest, back to the shelf or goodwil or trash, over the coming years. My aim is to have it done by the time I am 60. goodluck to all