4 Tricks to Keeping a Tidy Home

shelvingOur bodies aren’t the only thing that can get flabby. Households get overweight, too. It’s called clutter, and the holiday season is just as likely to put unnecessary stuff into your home as it is girth under your belt. That’s because both problems spring from the same root. Inflow is always easier and more inviting than outflow. In the same way that it’s more fun to eat a piece of Christmas pudding than it is to walk the 8 km required to burn it off, it’s easier to unwrap presents or indulge in Boxing Day buying sprees than find legitimate places to store the resulting purchases. But just as how an extra piece of pie every so often eventually leads to tight clothes and reduced feelings of vigour, even a slight imbalance of inflow over outflow in your household eventually means cluttered rooms, messy garages and that sinking feeling that your stuff is getting ahead of you. Here are four tricks my wife and I use to keep our household of seven people more or less in order, despite natural tendencies to the contrary.

  1. Focus on Generosity: The idea that “this could come in handy someday” springs from a mentality of scarcity and fear that’s rarely justified in most Canadian households. Replace the urge to horde stuff with a sense of generosity towards that stranger out there who could really use the clothes you never wear, the tools you never use, the sound system that never gets turned on, then watch the living space in your home grow. The tyranny of stuff often comes with a sense that you’ve got way more time to use gadgets, gizmos and household stuff than you really do. Be realistic. If come-in-handy-someday hasn’t happened in a year or two, it probably never will. And on the off chance that someday you do need that thing you gave away, buy another one and consider yourself lucky to have avoided tripping over the old one for years.
  2. De-Clutter a Little Each Week: Multiple little jobs are always less daunting than periodic big jobs. That’s the idea behind “reset Saturday”. At our house we take a part of each Saturday to straighten up the house, office and workshop, pruning away excess household baggage as we do. By tackling this job in small, frequent bites, you’ll avoid feelings of dread, guilt and inaction. Do a little each week and a slimmer household happens automatically.
  3. rubbermaid shelvingInstall Shelves: This sounds so simple, yet shelves are key. You’ll never have a neat house without shelves, and lots of them. My favourite wire shelves are Rubbermaid’s Configurations series. They’re fast and easy to put up, strong and easily reconfigured to optimize the shelf spacing for your current collection of stuff. An hour’s time, a level, a drill and a screwdriver are all you need.
  4. Commit to Quality: Inflation-adjusted prices of today’s household gear are substantially lower than they were 10 years ago. And contrary to what many people think, quality is higher. I know because I analyze consumer products for published reviews many times each year. But while less money generally buys better stuff than ever, the opportunity to buy flashy, low-quality household junk has never been more widespread. When you realize that more isn’t necessarily better in terms of tools, furniture and household gear, you’ll realize that quality is better than quantity when it comes to outfitting your home. It’s always easier to buy things than it is to use them well, store them diligently and maintain them properly. Don’t let discounted prices make your forget this.

Canada is a land of plenty, and the holiday season reminds us of this. Pruning your household regularly is the best exercise to keep it in shape.

Posted on December 8th, 2011

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