Today we’re looking at one of our clutter culprits: Untidiness. Often untidiness comes from skipping the final step/s in a task or activity.
Signs of this clutter culprit in your home…
Tripping over things in the hallway.
Finding unopened bags of new items with receipts still in them.
Having limited space to perform new activities/tasks (e.g. no bench space to prepare dinner due to it being full of dirty dishes).
Let’s take a look at how we can address untidiness by ensuring the final step/s are completed:
If you buy a new item, it’s important to remember that you haven’t completed the task until a) you have decided where the item will be stored, and b) you have put said item away. First, remove the packaging and discard (responsibly of course). Deal with the bag (however the household chooses to do that), and then move it to the next location. This may be its final storage location, or it may be an intermediary location (e.g. if it needs to be washed first then it would go to the laundry). It will be helpful to communicate this location to others so that they know where the item is to live for future.
Returning Home from Activities
If you return from the gym/library/music lesson, then you need to complete the final step by putting away the items from that activity. Unpack the bag, put things in the wash, store the instruments/equipment where they belong, move containers to the kitchen for washing, and put the bag away. Simply dropping the bag at the door on the way in won’t complete the process. It will remain unfinished, and when multiple bags and items build up, untidiness ensues.
Tasks/Activities Within the Home
Clearing away items after a task or activity will most certainly help to curb the clutter! Cooking, preparing meals, making craft, playing games, doing paperwork, all generate a bit of a mess. Part of the task/activity is to clear up at the end. An excellent mindset to work on is to remind yourself to “leave no trace”. Remember that the task is not complete until everything is packed away.
Encourage the people responsible for the items to do the task. Children need training to see the things they are responsible for and to learn to deal with them independently. Young children might just start with one part of the tidying up process, and then gradually add in extra steps until they have a solid and repeatable habit. It can be helpful to encourage children through imagination and play – they can pretend like it’s the scene of a crime and their job is to remove all the evidence, or they can adopt a superhero persona to complete the task e.g. “Show me how Ironman would unpack his schoolbag!” Making it enjoyable will go a long way towards fostering positive attitudes towards tidying up.
Concerned about the quality of the job? Aim for good enough – not perfect! Ask them “If I look at what you did will I think you’ve done a good job?” If they’ve missed a step, you can say “Hey, I noticed you missed something, I think you need to try again” or “Are you really finished that job? Check again”. Get children to take responsibility but ensure you keep it light-hearted.
Store like with like. Items need homes. It’s hard to put away items if you don’t know where they belong. Choose a zone in your home for keeping like with like items. Make sure other household members know where things belong so that everyone can tidy up, rather than it all falling to one person.
Create a family culture where everyone practices looking around and seeing what needs to be done, not just what their sole responsibility is.
Take the time to make sure everyone has the skills, knowledge, and help (if needed) to do the day-to-day things that keep the house tidy and running smoothly.
Reassess Your Time
If you don’t have time to complete the final steps within minutes (or hours if we are being generous) then perhaps you need to review your commitments. It may be time to recover some margin in your life. Allowing buffer zones to transition well from one activity to the next is important in ensuring a trail of clutter isn’t following in your wake.
If you’d like to chat with one of our Professional Organisers, please contact us. We’d love to help you in setting up family processes to deal with the clutter culprits. Still unsure? Check these 11 signs you might need a P.O.