4 Tricks to Keeping a Tidy Home & Workshop

Our bodies aren’t the only thing that can get flabby. Households, workshops and yards can get overweight, too. In fact, most that I see are carrying at least a few too many pounds, so to speak. It’s called clutter. And just like with eating, “inflow” is always easier and more inviting than outflow.

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In the same way that it’s more fun to eat a piece of blueberry pie than it is to walk the 8 km required to burn all the calories from that pie, decluttering does not come naturally. And 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 have used to keep our household of seven people more or less in order, despite natural tendencies to the contrary.

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 modern 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 five years or so, 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.

Giving stuff away is the first and easiest step to decluttering your life. If you haven’t used something for a couple of years, consider giving it to someone who could use it.

De-Clutter a Little Each Week: Multiple little jobs are always much less daunting than periodic big jobs. That’s the idea behind “reset Saturday”. Here 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.

These are the wire shelves that my daughter, Katherine, installed in her sewing room. With five kids living in an 1800 square foot house, organization is key.

Install Shelves: This sounds so simple, yet shelves are key but installed nearly enough. 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.

These shelves are part of Rubbermaid’s Configuration system. This is the best wire shelving system I’ve ever used.

Commit to Quality: Inflation-adjusted prices of today’s household gear are substantially lower than they were 35 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 as well. When you realize that more isn’t necessarily better in terms of tools, furniture and household gear, you’ll also 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 you forget this.

Pruning your household regularly is the best exercise to keep it in shape. Just do a little each week, and clutter will cease to be a problem.

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– Steve Maxwell