Conquer Your Clutter!


Conquer Your Clutter!

It’s kind of like working out — you’ll be impressed by what a few minutes a few times a week can eventually build up to.

A really messy desk.Sometimes, life gets in the way — a long string of late work nights, a sick relative that needs your care for a week, or an unexpected guest can leave you neglecting the housework for a while. Suddenly, you look around and realize that your house is way messier than you like it, but the task of setting it straight seems unreasonably large.

The sinking feeling of “Oh, man, I’m gonna be at this for weeks” is one of those moments that can define a person. Are you going to try to power up and plow through the entire thing in a huge burst of awesomeness? Are you going to flounder and give up and get used to the clutter? Or are you going to actually keep working on it for weeks?

Because there’s a simple rule about clutter: if it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. There’s no such thing as ‘stable clutter’. Fortunately, there’s another simple rule about clutter: as long as you clean up everything you use and one more thing, it’s getting better.

Three Easy Ways to Get Started

  • Designate a flat surface as your first ‘clean zone’. Every time you interact with your ‘clean zone’, you absolutely must put everything that ends up in the clean zone away where it belongs. Each day, expand your clean zone by a little bit — one item next to the clean zone gets put away, and that space is added to your clean zone.
  • Every day, put away 5 things that aren’t where they belong. Also, put everything you get out back where it belongs when you’re done with it. You’ll be amazed at how quickly 5 things get put away, and even if your house has literally a thousand things out of place, you’ll be done in 200 days. That’s not even four months. For a truly messy house, that’s a godsend.
  • Create a ‘toss test’ box. Some people just can’t stand to get rid of stuff, either for sentimental reasons or because you never know when you’re going to need that old-school cherry pitting tool you picked up at that tourist trap in Escanaba. If you’re in that crowd, create a ‘toss test’ box, and put all the crap you’re unsure about in there. Mark the date you filled it, and mark your calendar for six months later. Go back and see if you’ve used any of that stuff in the last six months. If you haven’t, ditch it. (Obviously, weather- and holiday-related items need not apply.)


Tackling a messy home isn’t easy — but especially when you’re renting or leasing, you never know when some minor emergency will have the landlord handing you a 48-hour entry notice. Believe me, you’d rather clean up over several weeks than try to power through that entire pile in the 48 hours before the landlord knocks.

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