For example: that bowl in the entrance hall where bits and bobs end up and never get taken away, that one drawer in the living room where we put small things that we find all over the place and couldn’t be bothered putting in their rightful place elsewhere – and I’m sure there’s a corresponding drawer in the kitchen and many other rooms in the house, the car’s glove compartment, the list goes on.
But those spots are only one type of hidden space: think about those inaccessible corners, the backs of shelves that are too high to see all the way to the back; you’ll find hidden spaces everywhere you care to look. Let’s have a closer look at those mentioned above:
Inaccessible corners: I’m thinking of the kind of corner between two cupboards that looks perfect to stack wallpaper rolls and rarely used brooms. I’m sure you think that’s all you will find there, but be told: there are more things there that you have forgotten about because they are hidden by the stuff you can actually see. The space not only invites rarely used stuff to be put there, but lots of things simply fall in there, never to be seen again…
High shelves: I recently cleaned up one of those for a customer and found two cell phone chargers, a connector cable for an mp3 player, rubber bands, a door handle, and two CDs. The CDs were a bit of a surprise as the customer had actually purged all CDs some years ago and replaced his collection with online music stores. Clearly this had been there for a long time. My customer was ecstatic about the door handle he had been searching for years.
Bowl in entrance hall: the perfect spot to dump everything small you might find in your pockets when you come home. Small coins, ticket stubs, train cards, membership cards, stamp cards for your favourite coffee shop, bike keys, lipstick, the odd sweet, a packet of chewing gum, etc. While it is useful to clear your pockets when you come home, this collection of junk is no good to anyone. Rubbish should go into the bin right away, valuable items put away where they belong. If anything, keys and travelcards are the only thing that should really go there.
Living room drawer: these tend to contain postcards that have made their way into this space from the dresser, pencils and pens, scissors, bits of scrap paper, newspaper clippings, recipes, spare glasses, letter opener, thumbtacks, paper clips, notebooks, single buttons, etc. Basically, everything you think you might need in the living room at some point, but have no other place to put. So these items end up here and each time you need one of them you’ll find they have migrated inside the drawer to the last spot your look, or they have even moved to a drawer in a different room!
Every kitchen has at least one drawer with lots of things in it that strictly speaking have no place in the kitchen. The contents are pretty similar to the living room drawer, but tend to be a little more oriented towards the practical aspect: scissors, paper, pens, maybe a sharp knife, coasters, stamps, coins, bits of string, a lighter or book of matches (just in case), etc. In fact there is nothing wrong with having a drawer to hold all those items, but the drawer needs to be separated into different containers holding specific things to avoid everything moving around whenever the drawer is opened.
Office drawers are a category all of their own. I have dealt with lots of those in my life as a PA, but the general impression is that an office drawer is a dangerous thing to open and reach in. If memory serves, I can confirm I have found the following things in at least one of them: paperclips, writing tools, hanging files, bills, client notes, socks, lipstick and makeup, ties, hole punchers, unfinished food (my favourite!), cereal bars, gummy bears (no package), panties, spare shirts, birthday cards, condoms (thankfully unused ones), pins from laundered shirts, a single high heeled shoe, used Tupperware, party balloons, … suffice it to say that most of this has no place in a drawer, or – for that matter – in an office.
Glove compartments are a slightly different matter: they not only contain the obvious, like car papers, replacement lamps, even gloves (!), but often serve as a rubbish bin for the current user of the car. I understand the urgency and the multiple use, but if the space is not cleaned regularly – and most likely it is not! – then there will be a rude awakening sometime down the line.
The common thread here is easily detected: we are looking at lots of small-ish stuff that either has no proper place to be kept, is actually rubbish or is only kept because “it might come in handy someday”. None of these are actually good enough reasons to clutter up your drawers. Out of sight, out of mind is not a good premise to live by as you will constantly be confronted with your own clutter. And that is not good for your soul.
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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.