There are thousands of articles and the accompanying research that explain the psychology of clutter and how to declutter. In all my years of working in schools and homes that are bursting with the stuff kids collect I can boil it down to one simple rule that will keep your home uncluttered. I call it THE LAW OF JUST ONE MORE. It works like this:
Everyone has been to a toy aisle or home that looks like a tornado swept through it. No matter how much tidying the store or family does it ends up looking like a disaster in short order. No one seems to have any ownership over keeping the place tidy and everyone feels like someone else will clean it up. “Its not my problem” is the pervasive thinking in this scenario.
The law of just one more relies on our human instinct to not be the first to mess something up. When you see everyone else dumping the shoes in the isle, it’s easy to not bother putting yours away either. Our Costco does a good job of having someone constantly re-folding and tidying up the clothing. It humanizes the experience. I’m going to refold the garment I just looked at because I can see someone else has to fold me for me if I don’t. And I’d look like a jerk if I dumped it all disheveled in front of the employee that has to now fold it for me.
The same thing happens at home. If your kitchen counters are cluttered with toasters and other small appliances, it’s easy to leave a glass or dish there too. It’s just one more. You don’t even notice it in the existing clutter. But you think twice before you’ll leave a dish on a pristine clean counter. You see it. Everyone sees it. So you put it where it belongs. And you look pretty careless leaving it there for someone else to deal with. Get in the habit of showing your kids where stuff belongs. Dishes go in the dishwasher. Don’t let them dump them on the counter. Clothes go in the hamper or back in the closet. Lots of organizers will tell you the key is to touch something once. Don’t put it down to deal with later. Teach your kids to manage clutter daily rather than weekly! Some people swear by Marie Kondo’s book, The life-changing magic of tidying up. If you haven’t read it yet, you can buy it here.
If you want your home to be less cluttered, keep the law of just one more in mind. Get everything off your counter tops daily. Take ten minutes to clear off household surfaces before bed. Make the beds in the morning and pick up the clothes. Staying on top of clutter in small daily steps means you’ll spend way less emotional energy being annoyed at whoever left the mess and more time thanking your kids for putting things where they belong. Need more encouragement? Read another article about the positive effects of reducing visual noise here.
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