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One day last week, when I rolled out of bed at a ridiculously early hour (because I like starting my morning routine while my family and most of the sane world are still asleep), I walked into the kitchen and immediately got a knot in my stomach.
The same thing had happened the day before…and a couple days before that, too.
A pattern began to develop where I was starting my days with dread. The house that was supposed to feel quiet and peaceful was feeling oppressive and chaotic. It wasn’t fun.
After a few days of feeling an uneasiness until halfway through the morning, I realized what was causing the overwhelming sense of frustration at the beginning of each day: The dishwasher.
Now, I have a perfectly nice dishwasher, and I’m very thankful for it. But I don’t like to unload it. It’s a task that I tend to put off until I don’t have any choice but to get the job done.
And while the dishwasher sits full of clean dishes, the kitchen counter gets piled up with dirty ones. Sometimes, it gets completely covered with dirty dishes that fill the sink and every flat surface within reach.
Then, I feel a knot in my stomach when I walk into the kitchen at the ridiculous hour I mentioned above.
The Truth About Clutter
It’s a fact that fighting the clutter in your home can seem like an impossible task. It is downright overwhelming to even think about facing it all.
It’s also a fact that sometimes we’re so fixated on the seemingly insurmountable “stuff” – the sports equipment all over the garage, the sewing supplies covering the dining room table, the random pans and dishes crammed into the kitchen cabinets – that we totally overlook the basic clutter that is hiding right in front of us and is the source of the most frustration in our everyday lives.
Much of the clutter that is causing that knot in the pit of your stomach could be easily avoided and quickly eliminated on a daily basis by simply changing your mindset and following some basic routines. It’s true!
Instead of focusing on all those problems you can’t seem to overcome, there are several very basic and fairly easy things you (and I) can do to win some pretty significant battles in the war against clutter every single day. And these things are so easy that you can simply build them into your regular routines without having to block out a bunch of extra time in your already-busy day (and one of them may even SAVE you time!).
4 Easy Ways to Fight Clutter
1. Unload the dishwasher and put away the clean dishes.
I don’t know why I hate to unload the dishwasher. It’s not like it’s a hard or dirty job. For some reason it’s just annoying. Unfortunately, a dishwasher that’s full of clean dishes usually means a counter full of dirty dishes.
And while you might not think of messy plates and used cups as “clutter,” pay attention to how you feel the next time you walk into a kitchen that’s piled with last night’s dinner dishes.
Do you feel anxious? Overwhelmed? Have a knot in your stomach?
Yep, it’s clutter!
Decide the best time of day for you to unload your dishwasher and then make sure you always run it in time for it to be clean when you’re ready to put it all away.
Do you like to unload the dishwasher in the morning so it’s ready for the day’s dirty dishes? Then be sure to turn it on the night before.
Would you prefer to unload it while you’re in the kitchen making dinner? Then turn it on before you leave for work in the morning or as soon as you’re finished feeding the kiddos their lunch.
Figure out what works best for you, plan it into your routine, and stick to your schedule. Run the dishwasher at your appointed time whether it’s completely full or not so it’s always ready to unload and reload with the dirty dishes before they pile up and turn into visual clutter.
2. Put away clean laundry.
Laundry. It never ends. Never. Never ever.
When we leave the unfolded laundry piled up in baskets or on the furniture, we can’t even pretend that we’ve reached the end of it. And even if it’s folded in baskets or stacked neatly on the stairs, it’s still a pile of something that’s out of place.
That’s sort of the definition of “clutter,” isn’t it?
Do yourself a favor: Fold and put away the laundry every single day. Or make someone else fold it and put it away.
Amazingly, when the laundry is folded and put away every day, it’s a very small and relatively quick job to tackle. So just get it done before it piles up and takes on a life of its own.
3. Deal with the mail.
Mail is my nemesis.
Of course, so are the dishes and laundry, but the mail is my biggest enemy of them all.
Admittedly, I can procrastinate dealing with mail like a pro. I’m a professional procrastinator. But if I were to set a timer and see how quickly I could deal with it each day, it would be shocking (and slightly embarrassing that I let it pile up so often).
Whenever you bring the mail into the house, deal with it right then and there. If there’s something you need to show to your husband or that requires more time, be sure to take care of it as soon as possible.
Each day when you bring in the mail, commit to either take care of it, file it, or trash it before you’re ready to collect the mail the following day. Regardless of what comes into your box, most likely it can all be dealt with in less than five minutes. For real.
4. Buy things only when you’re ready to use them.
This one is more about thinking than it is about doing. As a matter of fact, it’s sort of about NOT doing.
Take a quick walk through your house and look for things you’ve spent money on but have never used. Check the expiration date on all those boxes of unopened cereal and unused cans of pumpkin from last year’s post-holiday sales. See if you have anything that is sitting in a shopping bag, has the tags still attached, or hasn’t been taken out of the box.
Do you have any books you bought but have never read? Honestly, I love buying books. Love it. And when I click them into my cart, I have every intention of reading them.
But then I don’t. So they sit. And become clutter. One reason I like ebooks so much right now is that they don’t take up space or collect dust, and I don’t have to buy them until the moment I’m ready to read them.
That’s the kind of mentality we should adopt about most of our purchases. If we wait to buy something until we’re ready to actually use it, we could probably eliminate a whole lot of the accumulated clutter in the house.
And if you’re afraid you’ll spend more money by not snatching up a good deal or stocking up on sale items ahead of time, just think of all the money you’ve wasted on those deals you took advantage of and then never put the products to good use.
Look in your pantry and count how many cans and boxes you purchased months ago but still haven’t used. Take a good look – a hard look – at the extra packages of socks, the countless boxes of tissues, the clearance pants you’re hoping to shrink into. Look at all of it and decide to think long and hard before you “stock up” or buy a “good deal” and bring more stuff into your house.
And this isn’t about feeling guilty for past mistakes. Don’t go there. Just decide that today is a new day and you aren’t going to buy things until you’re ready to use them. Then decide the same thing tomorrow. And the day after that, too.
From Overwhelmed to Over It
Are you tired of being overwhelmed things you have the power to control? Decide right now that you’re over it. And then do something about it.
Figure out when you want to unload your dishwasher each day. Start a load of laundry in the washer and keep it going until it’s folded and hidden away in your closets and drawers. Take care of the mail and refuse to let it pile up and become a problem. Bravely face the things you spent money on that you weren’t yet ready to use, and then use it as motivation to think before you buy more “stuff.”
You can make simple changes to eliminate the clutter that gets in your way every single day! You can do it!