Clutter is just a fact of life. Stuff piles up, messes are made, and dealing with it all becomes one of many things on your to-do list. Easy enough to manage when life is calm and work is steady, but when things get hectic, it's more and more tempting to let things slide and deal with them later.
The best way to regain control is by focusing on and changing your behavior, one bad habit at a time. So read on, and for any behaviors that you know you are guilty of, resolve to start breaking them now — you'll be surprised how quickly your space will turn around.
1. Tossing random items in a junk drawer.
Having a place for all your miscellaneous stuff? Great. Shoving all that miscellaneous stuff in a drawer until you can't even open it anymore? Not so much. It's okay to have a junk drawer — just make sure you're strategic about it. Keep loose items like buttons and screws in small plastic bags or boxes and label things so you can easily tell what they are. Most importantly, make sure you don't over-stuff things into it, or all your hard work will go to waste.
2. Not cleaning up as you cook.
The line between cooking and making a mess is a thin one, but any messes you might make during meal prep are much easier to clean up if you just take them on right away. Spills and splashes can dry and stain if you don't clean them right away, meaning they'll be harder to clean up later — and if you put cleaning off until after you're done, you might feel less motivated to do it. Make it a rule that you clean up while you cook (but of course, give yourself a pass for dishes that require serious concentration or soaking).
3. Not treating stains and spots right away.
Getting set-in stains out is much more difficult than removing stains as a spill happens — so if you have a tendency to let them sit and deal with them later, definitely make it a point to break that habit now. Make it easier by keeping a stain-removal spray or any other household stain-removal products you might need in an accessible place, and try to train yourself to make cleaning it up right away your instinct. Your rugs, upholstery, and laundry will thank you.
4. Not sorting your mail as it comes in.
Mail is a small daily mess that can become a massive clutter problem quickly. When you check your mail, don't just drop it on the table or counter and leave it there. Collecting paper and envelopes like that guarantees two things: your home will look cluttered, and you're almost guaranteed to lose sight of important documents. Make it a rule that when mail comes in, you sort through it right away — shredding or recycling whatever you don't want, and storing important papers in a safe place.
5. Hoarding stacks of magazines you never read.
Magazine subscriptions, much like the rest of your mail, can accumulate faster than you realize. Keeping a small stack on your coffee table is fine and can add a little personality to your home, but if you find yourself holding on to every issue of a magazine you've received for the last three years, you might want to think about recycling them or giving them away to get the bulk out of your home. In the future, make it a habit to get rid of old issues as new issues come in.
6. Not changing your dish towel (or sponge) frequently enough.
You use your dish towel to dry dishes, wipe your hands, brush off surfaces, and more. Imagine how dirty it gets each day. And don't even get us started on the grossness of sponges. You have to toss your towel in the laundry and throw away your sponge way more often than you think.
7. Stashing stuff out of sight before company comes over.
If you frantically hide clutter behind closed doors before company comes over, stop! This method of "cleaning" is not helping you and it could make matters worse.
This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Regain Control: 7 Bad Housekeeping Habits to Quit Right Now