You won’t believe how easy this one simple thing is. It will stop clutter build-up forever.
As you can imagine, I follow a lot of decluttering and home organising Facebook groups from around the world. I’m fascinated by people’s clutter problems and how they deal with it. I love to see success stories and how the communities rally around a person in need and give supportive and practical advice.
Recently, I read a post from a woman who had problems with her kitchen bench getting cluttered. She was doing a massive declutter again and again! It was truly a mountain of stuff and it was making her crazy.
She and her family (three kids and her husband) had busy lives. Day care, school, after school activities, work, sports – you name it, they were on the go.
The poor old kitchen bench was the centre of the home. It was the holding bay for so much stuff! I’ve seen a lot of things on Kitchen-Bench-Holding-Bays:
- Bits of broken toys
- Hair things
- Junk mail
- School stuff
- Thing they had to remember
- Lunch boxes, water bottles
- Open boxes of stale cereal
- Clothes that need mending
- Seed packets
- Supermarket collectibles
- Broken plastic necklaces
- Dead batteries
- A bike helmet
- A sprouting potato that was going to be planted last weekend to see what would happen but no-one ever did
Kitchen benches can be a bit like a giant, temporary junk drawer!
So here’s the Incredibly Simple, Easy Way To Stop Clutter-Build up on the kitchen bench (or anywhere else.)
Stop putting stuff on it.
Did you just roll your eyes? Snort? Say to yourself, if it was that easy…. But wait there’s more!
First decide what DOES belong on the bench (or that other flat spaces that are making you crazy.) Every home is different. If you brush your kids hair in the kitchen, you need hair stuff there. You forget to take vitamins so they need to be there too. You get the picture. It’s what YOU want and need to be kept there. Then there’s All The Other Stuff.
The Forcefield Game
So you have something in your hand. You’re in a mad rush, no time, don’t care! Before You Dump – Pretend there’s a forcefield protecting your bench. A bubble of energy that repels all non-essential things. A glowing globe of light that will only accept Things That Mum Says Are OK.
Just imagine it… That bike helmet gets shoved in the general direction of that lovely, flat, beautifully decluttered surface by a distracted kid rushing off to do something kid-related. But… no! It never makes it! It slides right off! Imagine their face! (Yes I know, it’s pretend and they’d probably just leave it on the floor anyway, but I’m getting to that.)
Do I hear you say Pfffffttttt! That’s dumb Liz! No-one in my family is going to play this silly game. Just try it. The Forcefield Game is very visual, most kids and partners get the concept. You’ll have to remind them, of course. If you spot the About-To-Dump activity – bellow “FORCEFIELD!”
But you and I know there’s more to the Forcefield Game than meets the eye. There’s a Big Secret.
Where is it all going to go?
This is the Big Secret of the Forcefield Game…
Making Smart Spots for things. There’s a reason why things end up being dumped on the kitchen bench (or hallway, or where ever makes you feel like setting fire to it is a viable option.) It’s because no-one knows where else to put it.
If you are REALLY determined to avoid the whole thing going right back to a clutter nightmare after all your decluttering work, try this:
Make a home hub – A place for important things that have to be remembered like school events, a calendar, a place to keep incoming important mail, the phone chargers, keys, that kind of thing. It needs to be super easy to get to on your path through the house.
Mud room/Hooks for bags – You don’t need a whole room but if you have the space convert it into a practical mud room/entryway with lots of big hooks, baskets and cubbies. This is the place where everyone hangs their bags, plonks their bike helmets, book bags, sports gear, handbags, coats…
A box for lost or broken toys – Though most families have WAY too many toys anyway and a broken bit is a good excuse to get rid of something.
A big rubbish bin and a big recycling bin – Right by the kitchen bench. If you can’t avoid junk mail this is where it goes. Lunch boxes can be emptied straight into the bin. And so can anything else…
Assign Smart Spots – Things-someone-is-going-fix go into the Things That Need Fixing Spot, where ever that seems smartest. It might be a basket on a shelf in the laundry, in the garage or on Dad’s gaming desk. Away from the kitchen bench.
Then there’s this…
How important is it to you that this space (which ever space you’re thinking of) STAY clutter-free?
Important enough that you will change your habits? Important enough that you will make the time to adjust your behaviours, to show your family that you mean it. So they can see how you’d like it done? And ask your family to help by changing their habits too?
If you catch yourself about to pop a random little thing onto a surface (which is just the beginning of an even bigger pile of random little things) you can choose to stop and think about where YOU would prefer it to go.
Make it easy. Maybe you really do need a Random Things basket on your kitchen bench. It’ll get full, but if that’s what you’ve decided is a Smart Spot for you and your family, it’s perfect. (Just remember to empty it now and again or it will overflow.)
And you know what? If you find that it’s not working for you, you can change it. You can try something else. Nothing is set in stone. You can organise your home in whatever way suits your lifestyle.
Liz The Tidy Lady
PS: There is another Incredibly Easy Way To Stop Clutter-Build-Up – Stop bringing stuff into your home. But that’s another blog post.