Too often, we think of de-cluttering our homes as a ruthless triage of ridding ourselves of any and everything that does not have an immediate use. During such a purge, we might actually cast off things we like or even cherish, all in the interest of minimalist living, a lifestyle which has recently gotten a huge amount of play in books and blogs. But this scorched earth approach is not necessary. We find, on the contrary, that de-cluttering requires not so much a violent jettisoning of stuff, as a simple re-calibration of a few of our daily (bad) habits. What almost all bad habits have in common is procrastination--delaying till some unspecified future date a task which, if done immediately, will render our living space surprisingly free of clutter.

Here are 7 simple habits which, if we attend to them daily, will transform our homes:

  1. The One Touch Rule!

Use efficiency consultant Ann Gomez’s One Touch rule – as soon as you get it, act on it, delegate it, or throw it away. This rule applies to more than mail and other paper; it applies to any household task which we are tempted to leave half-finished.

  1. Open your mail as soon as it arrives.

Too often we pile mail on a table, or stuff it untidily in a drawer, creating a mess to be dealt with ‘later’. First of all, throw out all junk mail: flyers, promotions, menus. Next, open the envelopes addressed to you which you need to answer in some way. Many of us delay even opening our mail because of foreboding about bills. This goes to an issue deeper than that of clutter, namely debt and denial! The more promptly we deal with an unpaid bill, even by calling the creditor to inform them of a delay in payment, the sooner we are on our way out of debt.

If a piece of mail can’t be handled immediately, our advice is not to “file” it in a manila folder or such. While visually a de-cluttering move, filing often becomes a pretext for further procrastination in dealing with a difficult underlying issue: out of sight, out of mind.

  1. Wash dishes immediately after meals!

Of course we all know that food becomes dried and sticky once we have left the dishes for ‘later’. Unwashed dishes in a sink are a demoralizing sight. The mere minutes you spend washing up the dishes right after eating gives an instant look of cleanliness and order to your kitchen.

       4. Make your bed each morning.

There is a sound reason that, in the military, the way a soldier makes his or her bed is inspected and assessed. A neat and tidy bed is seen as a sign of deeper, positive character traits: self-esteem, regard for others sharing the barracks, pride in the larger enterprise and discipline of the military. Obviously, your home is not a barracks, but we would do well, in this one aspect, to emulate its rules. Your bed is the centerpiece of your bedroom; and if you live in a studio apartment, it is likely the center of your entire home, a centrifuge for the order or mess of other areas of your living space.

  1. Keep kitchen counters--and all tabletop surfaces--free of stuff.


Make storage a priority, using cupboards and drawers for kitchen and pantry stuff. Clean counter- and tabletops exude calm, cleanliness and order.

  1. A place for everything and everything in its place.

Create customary places for kitchen implements, office supplies, tools and all other things you use in the course of a day or week. Return items to their special niche nightly.

  1. Weed and prune your belongings regularly.

This does not mean an all out purge. Just be mindful of when, for example,  your closet or drawers get overstuffed with clothes or linens, or your bathroom cabinet overfilled with toiletries and medicines.

All the above tips are common-sense suggestions that help dramatically with the incremental accumulation of clutter or mess. But remember the linchpin of them all: own less, and clutter will take care of itself!


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