My current emphasis: how to make good habits and break bad ones (really)

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Clutter: One big tip – don’t “treat” yourself – plus eleven quick tips for keeping your home uncluttered.

SundaeEvery Wednesday is Tip Day.
This Wednesday: One big tip – don’t “treat” yourself – plus eleven quick tips for keeping your home uncluttered.

When you’re feeling blue or overwhelmed, it’s tempting to try to pick yourself up by indulging in a “treat.” Unfortunately, a guilty pleasure is often just that – an ice-cream sundae, a cigarette, an extra glass of wine, an expensive splurge, and other treats give a short-term boost, but then just deepen your blues as guilt and remorse set in.

I realized that one of my personal “treats” is the decision not to pick up after myself. Instead of trying to tidy as I go, as I usually do, I let small tasks mount up. “I can’t possibly be expected to do something like that,” I tell myself. “I’m too busy/too frazzled/too upset/too rushed. I deserve a break.”

The problem is that, in the end, the mess makes me feel worse. Maybe I enjoy a tiny buzz from flinging my coat onto the hall floor, but the disorder just makes my bad mood deepen. (Plus it’s not nice for anyone else, either.) On the other hand, serene, orderly surroundings make me feel better. Outer order brings inner calm.

Now, instead of “treating” myself to a mess, I make a special effort to keep things tidy when I’m feeling low.

Here are my tips for quick, easy steps to keep your surroundings uncluttered. Practically all of them are simple enough to be followed even when you’re feeling extremely overwhelmed:

1. Make your bed.

2. Put your dirty clothes in the hamper.

3. Hang up your towel.

4. Keep magazines out of sight (people disagree with me on this one, but I find it impossible to keep stacks of magazines from looking messy).

5. Shut all drawers, cabinet doors, and closet doors as you go.

6. Pick up the mail, immediately sort it, throw away junk mail, and put real mail in the proper place (I have drawer for bills and a file for invitations).

7. Put dirty disher in the dishwasher, or failing that, the sink.

8. Deal with the recycling. It differs a lot from place to place, but you know what you’re supposed to do.

9. Put books away in the proper place: back on the shelf, in the library-return pile, or in the donation pile. Speaking of that…

10. Keep a bag of things you want to give away. As soon as you decide you don’t want or need something anymore, put it in the bag. Every so often, drop off the bags at a thrift store.

11. Hang up your coat. My epiphany: I never hung up my coat – why? – because I didn’t like dealing with hangers. Eureka! I decided to start using a hook. Problem solved.

“Treating” myself to overlooking these steps feels illicit and fun for a moment (yes, I realize how boring my life must be if throwing my coat on the floor feels illicit), but in the end, I just end up feeling worse. If I follow these de-cluttering steps, even if I don’t do anything else to keep my apartment in order, the chaos stays at an acceptable level.

What have I missed? Are there other quick steps to take to keep your home uncluttered?

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I get a bick kick out of Dumb Little Man, and never fail to find very useful and interesting material there – very engagingly presented.

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