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How to Handle Other People’s Messes

There’s nothing more frustrating than walking into a room and seeing someone else’s mess in what used to be a clean space. Take a deep breath. Before you give into frustration and lose your cool, there are some steps you can take to de-clutter your home… even when that includes dealing with other people’s messes.

Address Your Own Clutter

It’s easy to become frustrated with other people’s clutter because you’re more likely to notice theirs than your own. However, it’s important you tackle your clutter before you bring up the issue of de-cluttering to anyone else. “When you start with yourself, you will be standing on solid ground when you ask other people to jump on the clutter-busting bandwagon later on,” says Aby Garvey from Simplify 101. “Furthermore, you start the process of showing your family what is now expected in your home.”

Show off the progress you’ve made, then wait to see if others get excited about the changes. “When you de-clutter a room, the energy in that room shifts… and others will feel it, too, even if they weren’t involved in the de-cluttering process,” Garvey writes. In many cases, that energy is enough to prompt people to jump on board and start de-cluttering their own stuff.

Get Others Involved

Have a gentle conversation if the other people in your house don’t start controlling their clutter voluntarily. According to Garvey, the conversation should be clear and concise. “Share what you want and review the benefits you’ve experienced as a result of your organizing journey. Tell them how much more energized, yet calm and peaceful, you feel now,” she writes. “Share with them how confident you feel when someone goes into one of your organized areas, and tell them how much more time you have now because you no longer search through stacks and piles for your things. In short, explain how worthwhile your de-cluttering efforts have been for you.”

The people in your house will be more likely to participate if they are involved in the process. Ask opinions, listen to each response, and then work together to make a plan that meets the needs of everyone.

Other People's Messes Pic 2

Create a Plan

Clutter happens because you have more stuff than storage space. Therefore, the first step to any de-cluttering routine is to give everything a home. “Setting up proper storage and organization systems will help you keep on top of your cleaning and help spotlight when you’ve just got too much stuff!“ writes Elaine Song on the Style at Home website.

Everyone in the house should go through his/her belongings and decide what to keep, what to throw away, and what to donate. Then, you make sure each “keep” item has a space where it belongs. It may be necessary to sort through a pile several times in one setting to get it down to a manageable size. Items you want to keep, but don’t have the space to store in the house, can be kept in a storage unit.

And remember, this is a process you’ll need to repeat at least twice a year to maintain organization. Sort through your belongings right after Christmas and sometime during the summer to determine what you need to purge and what needs a better storage solution.

The secret weapon to maintaining organization in a space is to establish a clutter preserve. This is essential if you live with other people. “There’s no such thing as clutter-free living. Even the tidiest among us still tosses clothing on floors from time to time,” says Cynthia Townley Ewer of Houseworks. “Accept reality by establishing dedicated clutter preserves. Like wildlife preserves, these are limited areas where clutter may live freely, so long as it stays within boundaries.”

There are several options available to create your own clutter preserve. For example, in the bedroom, you can decide that clothing doesn’t have to be put away immediately, but must be confined to a specific chair in the meantime. In the kitchen, dedicate one drawer (often nicknamed the “junk drawer”) for random items like medicine bottles, receipts, recipes and coupons. Put out a bucket for catalogs and magazines. Finally, a large wicker basket is a great place to store kids’ papers or artwork until you file them away.

The process of becoming organized is just that: a process. It starts with you, and successfully ends with everyone in the household pitching in to help out. With a good routine that everyone agrees on, and access to a self storage unit, you’ll have the kind of house that’s neat and organized… just like you’ve always dreamed of.



[1] Aby Garvey, “What to Do About Other People’s Clutter,” Simplify 101, http://www.simplify101.com/clutter-control/other-peoples-clutter/

[4] Elaine Song, Organizing ideas for every room in your house, Style at Home, http://www.styleathome.com/organizing/organizing-ideas/organizing-ideas-for-every-room-in-your-house/a/35513

[5] Cynthia Townley Ewer (Houseworks), Dealing With Other People’s Clutter, HGTV,

http://www.hgtv.com/homekeeping/dealing-with-other-peoples-clutter/page-2.html

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