Clutter is just a fact of life. Stuff piles up, messes are made, and dealing with it all becomes one of many things on your to-do list. Easy enough to manage when life is calm and work is steady, but when things get hectic, it's more and more tempting to let things slide and deal with them later. And eventually, all that procrastinating can turn into what feels like an impossible cleaning challenge.
But, of course, that's not the case. Any mess, no matter how big, can and will get cleaned up. And, the best way to regain control is by focusing on and changing your behavior, one bad habit at a time. So, read on, and for any behaviors that you know you are guilty of, make an early resolution to start breaking them now — you'll be surprised how quickly your space will turn around.
Tossing random items in a "junk drawer"
Having a place for all your miscellaneous stuff? Great. Shoving all that miscellaneous stuff in a drawer until you can't even open it anymore? Not so much. It's okay to have a junk drawer, just make sure you're strategic about it—keep loose items like buttons and screws in small plastic bags or boxes and label things so you can easily tell what they are. Most importantly, make sure you don't over-stuff things into it, or all your hard work will go to waste.
Not cleaning up while you're cooking
The line between cooking and making a mess is a thin one, but any messes you might make during meal prep are much easier to clean up if you just take them on right away. Spills and splashes can dry and stain if you don't clean them right away, meaning they'll be harder to clean up later—and if you put cleaning off until after you're done, you might feel less motivated to do it. Make it a rule that you clean up while you cook (but of course, give yourself a pass for dishes that require serious concentration).
Not treating stains and spots right away
Getting set-in stains out is much more difficult than removing stains as a spill happens—so if you have a tendency to let them sit and deal with them later, definitely make it a point to break that habit now. Make it easier by keeping a stain removal spray or any other household stain removal products you might need in an accessible place, and try to train yourself to make cleaning it up right away your instinct. Your rugs and your laundry will thank you.
Not sorting your mail as it comes in
Mail is a small daily mess that can become a massive clutter problem quickly. When you check your mail, don't just drop it on the coffee table or counter and leave it there—collecting paper and envelopes like that guarantees two things: your home will look cluttered, and you're almost guaranteed to lose sight of important documents. Make it a rule that when mail comes in, you sort through it right away—shredding whatever you don't want, and storing important papers in a safe place.
Hoarding stacks of magazines you never read
Magazine subscriptions, much like the rest of your mail, can accumulate faster than you realize. Keeping a small stack on your coffee table or on your desk is fine and can add a little personality to your home, but if you find yourself holding on to every issue of a magazine you've received for the last 3 years, you might want to think about recycling them or giving them away to get the bulk out of your home. In the future, make it a habit to get rid of old issues as new issues come in.
Putting off laundry until your last pair of socks
Laundry isn't exactly the most fun chore, so it tends to be one of those things people put off until they absolutely can't put it off anymore (I'm definitely guilty of this, and it's a tough habit to break). Don't wait until you're down to your last pair of socks—that you're definitely re-wearing—to put your clothes in the wash. Instead, instate a new rule: once you have one load's worth of laundry, tackle it. It'll be a lot more manageable than your past bulk laundry loads, and you'll never run out of clean clothes again.
Throwing clothes and accessories on a chair
Does the chair in your bedroom pull double duty as clothing storage? It's easy to come home, get changed and drape your clothes on a chair to deal with later, but if you let it pile up you'll have a whole new decluttering challenge to take on later. Break the habit by making a rule that you have to put things back in your closet or dresser before you can take new things out, or if that doesn't feel doable, make your new rule that nothing is allowed to stay on the chair overnight.
Re-edited from a post originally published 11.28.2016 - TW