Clearly, a lot of people have a habit of putting their keys down somewhere near the door, if you are lucky you’ll even have a key hook somewhere near the exit, in order to ensure you’ll be able to find them easily and not lock yourself out!
When it comes to other common items, the situation is slightly different, of course. I believe that many, if not most, people won’t have a regular place to put down their wallet or train pass, and agendas are being used so often that they don’t seem to need a fixed spot. You can probably see where things are getting challenging in that respect… especially if your home is full of things that don’t have a fixed spot either. Maybe your regular items have a hard time standing out because they just get lost in the mass of other ones that you don’t need to find right then.
How to deal with this?
The easiest way is to make headway is to find fixed places for every item you own and use regularly. It makes sense to have a fixed spot for everything, but let’s face it: you’re unlikely to shift your decorations, wall coverings, furniture or books on the shelves around all the time, and we can limit this to the stuff that moves regularly, and especially the stuff that leaves the house and comes back often.
Even though you might argue that many of those shifting items will remain in your bag, that is not strictly true: don’t you have more than one bag? Do you keep some items in multiple versions in each bag and shift some others (like your phone or wallet) around between bags? That in itself requires some management as not all items are alike.
Those things that do move will definitely need a home spot that is assigned uniquely to those items. I have mentioned a key hook next to the door and it is a perfect example for a home spot: it combines several qualities: it’s clearly visible, it makes sense as a location, and it is in a place where we already hold the keys in hand when we come in. It’s an easy habit to hang the keys there.
The trick about home spots is to find one for each item that works in a similar way: let each spot make sense, be visible, and stay empty when the item is not there. If you can find one that covers at least some of the above criteria, go with it and stick with it until you find a better one. Home spots that are regularly used to house their items tend to stay available even if they are temporarily empty because the item is in use. It is of utmost importance to make sure the spot remains empty so you can get into the habit of putting down whatever goes there whenever necessary. If you have to vacate the spot every other time you need it, you’ll quickly fall back into a bad rhythm, for sure.
If you are living on your own, this is a purely personal commitment, of course and you can scold yourself if you put something else in the spot. The situation might be entirely different if you live with someone else, or a whole family of people, each of which could – at any given time – put something down in your carefully chosen home spot and spoil the whole setup. This is, as always, a matter of education of these people, and getting them on board with the idea of keeping the clutter at bay.
As you can see: it’s simple at first sight, but seems to be very difficult to get started and maintain, especially if other people are involved and they keep undermining your efforts. Habit (this is where I always leave my mug when I leave home) is a powerful force, as is convenience (oh, there’s a spot I can put my books down ‘for now’). I won’t pretend it’s an easy ride when you start, but the benefits you’ll reap after doing this relentlessly for a month or so will also be great.
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.