Disney World Has a 30-Step Trash Can Rule That You Can Use to Declutter at Home

published May 26, 2019
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It takes a lot of effort to appear effortless. Disney parks don’t become the “most magical places on earth” without an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes problem-solving.

Along the same lines of using Go Away Green to make unsightly objects disappear into the background and making sure you never have to wait in line for the bathroom, Disney keeps a trash can rule to help minimize littering and ensure that park guests aren’t distracted from castles and sparkles by popcorn containers and Mickey ice cream wrappers blowing in the breeze.

WDW Info explains how the trash can rule takes effect:

“On the Keys to the Kingdom tour they mention that in WDW no trash can will ever be more than 30 steps away from you. It seems that Walt went to other parks when he was designing the park and counted how long a person would hold onto a piece of trash before dropping it on the ground. He came up with 30 steps.”

Credit: Francisco Mendoza/Shutterstock

As a writer who spends a lot of time thinking about how to make home life cleaner and more organized, I was intrigued by this Disney secret and wondered how it could help us when we find ourselves, as we do most of the time, living the simple magic of our daily lives.

For sure, there are items in our daily lives that we simply set down rather than putting away; there’s a time limit or space limit to our commitment to put things in their place and we end up with clutter all over the house.

Here are some ways to stop “littering” at home using the Disney trash can rule:

Identify the Items You Set Down Around the House

What do you routinely set down not in its place? Think of the piles that form around the house. Do you have a clothes chair that holds pants and shirts that aren’t quite dirty enough for the hamper but not quite clean enough to put back in the dresser or closet? What about paper piles? You can also discover the items you don’t put away in their place by considering what you’re always looking for. For me it’s my keys, phone, sunglasses, and purse.

Make Places for Your Things Where You Actually Put Them

Here’s where Disney’s trash can rule comes into play. Ideally, no one would let go of their garbage anywhere but inside a trash can. But in reality, people get lazy and their will to do the right thing expires if the trash can is too far away.

The same goes at home: Ideally, we’d hang our keys on the hooks by the front door. But actually, when we come inside and our hands are full and others are behind us trying to get in the door too, we walk further into the house and the keys end up dumped on a chair or the counter.

Disney doesn’t waste energy and time on anti-littering campaigns that aren’t likely to work anyway. Instead, they strategically put trash cans right at hand so park-goers use them almost subliminally. At home, by paying attention to where your commonly out-of-place things end up and placing an “in its place” solution in that very spot, you’re strategizing the same way.

Use a well-placed decorative bowl to turn misplaced keys into keys that are put away (and keys you can find next time you head out). Add a valet to the bedroom to turn strewn clothes into wardrobe purgatory that’s not clutter-y. And adopt a small recycling container or tray to receive mail and school papers to keep them from cluttering up multiple surfaces.

How would you implement the trash can rule at home?