Maintaining clutter-free zones

23 April 2008
To follow up on Bel's excellent post yesterday on organising yourself, I thought I'd write today about clutter-free zones. How depressing is it to walk into your home and see old mail, books, keys, toys and magazines all over the place. When all that clutter is near the front or back door it's worse because it is usually added to as the days go by and soon you have a real mess.

It’s important to provide homes or places for all the things that come into your home on a regular basis. Just as you have a home for your preserves, soap and clothes, you also need to provide a suitable place for your mail, newspapers, magazines, mobile phones, backpacks, purses, business cards, keys, flyers, school newsletters and reminders. A lot of these things tend to be dumped near the front door, or in the kitchen, but there is a better way. Give each of these items, plus any others that you have in your life, a practical home. For instance, newspapers might be placed on the coffee table for a day and then in a box for recycling, install a key rack or place a tray for keys near the front door and make sure all keys are left there. Hats, umbrellas, backpacks and purses can be hung on racks near the door everyone uses.

If your phone is not in your bag or being recharged, make sure it is in its own place. The same goes for keys, if they're not on a key rack, make sure you always put them in the same spot when you come home. I put my keys in a small bowl near the front door. I also put my name tag from work there and I know, without fail, when I go back to work or go out, my keys and tag are in that bowl. It is very unsimple (I know that's not a word) to go searching for lost keys, a phone or a purse. Searching for anything lost in your home is a complete waste of time. Establish stations - like bowls, folders and racks - for the various things you travel with and get into the habit of using those places every time you come home.

Mail is another big problem. Set up a files or folders to hold newsletters, flyers, letters from school and all those things you can't deal with when you receive them but are important to read when you have time. Have another folder for bills to be paid and go through the folder every week to make sure you pay your bills on time. We've cut down on this type of bill paying because we have internet banking now but I know many who do have bills sent in the mail and post cheques for payment. When you set up your folders, give them a permanent place so that when you want to look through your folders, they're easily accessible.

Get the children in the habit of leaving their school bags or backpacks near the door they come in, or in their bedroom. It's never too early to start your children on the road to an organised life. Give them their own space for their things - a hook for their backpack, coats and hat, near the front door and encourage them everyday to use that space. It's difficult at first, but they'll get the idea of it, then it will become a habit that will fall into place everyday for them.

It's really frustrating when you need something you can't find. If you work out what you need to have a special space for - be that keys, phones, bags, or whatever - and provide a container, hooks or a rack to hold those things that might be lost, you'll eliminate the frustration and stress of searching, and you'll save time. It's just a little thing but if you're constantly losing what you need, it will be a big change in your life and another small step towards your simple life.


  1. Hi Rhonda,

    I've come over here from ALS where I've been hanging out for a few months now. Just wondering why you don't go there anymore? I love reading through your tutorials and other posts, and the constant reminders on how to live simply.

  2. More excellent advice, thank you Rhonda. Its taken me a lot of years to learn that things get lost if they don't have a proper 'home' and that being organised makes life so much simpler :)

  3. A friend of my mother's decided when they were renovating their house to put a pin board in the laundry. She had realised that she needed bills stuck up where she would see them (a folder was too out of sight and out of mind) but didn't like having them on the fridge (because who wants all their visitors checking your power usage). So she pinned them up above the washing machine. With four kids she spent plenty of time in the laundry and always noticed them.

    I tend to put bills on top of the television and pay them later that evening, then file them. Otherwise we never come back to them. The top of the television is about the only place the toddler can't reach.

  4. Good advice. I'm getting much better at finding a home for our "stuff" and then using it. I still struggle a little with the paper that comes home from school and kinder though. At the moment it tends to sit on the end of the bench...more thinking required for a solution there.

  5. I'm so glad you posted about this subject! Finding a place where everyone will cooperate with the system has been our challenge. But you're so right...the time lost looking for things over and over again (and the loss of good humor that results, in addition to the loss of morale of the clutter factor)is really unnecessary. This continues to be our biggest challenge, above all other things...maintaining good habits of organization...and cooperating together to keep them going. We're slowly getting better! We've adopted the phrase "don't do the same thing twice" to remind us of this whenever we begin slacking off

  6. I put bills on top of the computer tower. I'm using the computer all the time so it's easy for me to see. Once the next month's bill comes in then I file away the old month's bill into my filing cabinet.

    I don't do online banking, so sometimes getting to the bank to pay my bills is the hard part. But I'm working at it!

  7. We have to remember not to leave valuables in clear view of would be thieves. This is a sad part of todays world. Rhonda I would think again about where you leave your keys.
    A cleaner home makes you feel so much better.
    Bev C

  8. Hi Rhonda Jean :) This post made me smile, as it brought back a cute memory...

    Just after Jamie and I were married he said, "I never knew that every single thing in the whole entire would had it's very own place!" LOL

    It's been fun and a challenge to merge our thinking on that, especially since I always put things in the "logical" place. Logical to me, that is ;)
    Love, Q

  9. I have a little bookcase in the hall which we use for school bags, swimming bags, lunch boxes and so on, it makes the morning rush to school less fraught as everything is there ready to pick up on the way out of the door.
    Other areas of my home are certainly not organised yet (my sewing room in particular - only myself to blame for that!)but I'm working through things gradually making small changes.
    Thanks for the reminders to keep at it.

  10. I reacted in amazement when I first learned that other people dd this - it was a revelation to me. I haven't found permanent homes for many of my posessions just yet but I am learning.

    BTW, I just love the word 'unsimple' and have stolen it and used it twice already today, including once to my Director at work when expressing frustration at some of our cumbersome work processes. :)

  11. How true, things do need their own home. Just recently we did a some reorganizing tasks in our home and moved a few things to a different place. How stupid I didn't realize it before, but I just had a revelation when I read it somewhere: give stuff a home near to where you use it! All my sewing stuff is now in the living room cabinet near the table, whereas before they were in a closet in the bedroom (where our baby sleeps). I could never get to them at night because it would wake him. I'm so happy with the new spot, I've been sewing every night. I've already finished two dolls this past week!
    Isn't it great when something so simple can really make things better.. :-)
    Christine from the NL

  12. I would love one of those Rhonda, but my OH has degree in untidyness, drives me to drink at times. I have nagged myself silly to try and get him to not leave things where they drop, but it got me nowhere, so I stopped.

    He knows if clothes are not put in the basket they do not get washed, so when the pile gets so big he can't see over it he does put it in the basket (slight exageration there) then he gets a pile of nice clean clothes to put in his drawers. His mother used to go round and pick up his clothes for the wash, and he never changed. I often find little piles of things in different places, he is a hoarder of the daftest things, and I move them......he then has to ask where they are. I am still waiting for him to file the household bills.......if he did it once a week it would not be a chore, but he leaves it until the papers fall out of the cupboard and then it takes him ages and he moans the whole time. I just do not say anything, I save my breath I might live a bit longer!!!!!

  13. Another simple living winner! After we signed the papers to move into our new home in February of last year, Josh and I stopped off at the local hardware store and purchased a key rack. People thought we were crazy. Josh and I HATE to go looking for keys and we knew that with open boxes and wrapping everywhere - keys would be lost.

    An excellent post, Rhonda Jean. I've decided to read your post in the mornings since I incorrectly thanked you for the last post. I felt very silly when I read over it later. I'm often fuzzy in the mornings as well so it will likely happen either way. We'll try the morning posts and see how long I can go without a ton of typos!

    I posted a video of our guineas in the morning. Have you ever heard guinea fowl? I didn't know if you've ever had them before.


  14. I'm seeing that some of our things just aren't in logical places - which would explain why they get left around anywhere! Time for some re-organising I think!

  15. Here's another one to add to the valuable advice: I recently bought very cheaply, hooks that are specially designed to go over the top of a standard door, and so now we have a place for library bags, school bags, dressing gowns and backpacks. Lisa x

  16. Hi ellice, welcome to my blog. Say hello to everyone at ALS for me.

    innercitygarden, the pin board in the laundry, or where ever you work a lot, is a great idea!

    Quinne, I like Jamie's sense of humour.

    french knots, yes, little bookcases and tables are wonderful areas for organising all those school things.

    anita, your comment made me smile.

    Lacy, we have guineas and peacocks in a property in the next street, they often wander around to visit us. They're lovely birds, very busy.

    Hi Lisa : )


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