These Are the Tidying Methods Experts Swear By
Did you recently declutter only to find mess is building up again already? Here’s how to keep up the good work
Professional advice from: Lesley Spellman of The Clutter Fairy and The Declutter Hub; Caroline Caron Dhaouadi of Homefulness; Johanna Valeur of Your Space in Mind
Lesley Spellman highlights the importance of a baseline daily routine for keeping on top of mess. “Decide on the daily tasks that are non-negotiable in your house,” she advises, giving examples such as making your bed straight away, putting on a load of laundry before breakfast, doing the dishes after each meal, and clearing your work surface before sitting at your desk.
“Share these with other members of your household and stick to them,” she says.
It’s probably the last thing the messy among us want to accept, but putting things away swiftly after use is the single best way to keep your home tidy.
“Once I’ve worked with a client on a decluttering project and found a system that works for them, I always remind them of my number one tip to keep a space neat: tidy as you go, put things back where they belong – simple things such as putting back your hairdryer in the drawer as soon as you are done with it,” Johanna Valeur says. “Don’t let stuff build up. Be consistent and 10 minutes a day should be enough.”
Caroline Caron Dhaouadi agrees. “Tidying should not be a task, it should just be part of your regular, day-to-day routine: you use something, you put it back where it belongs once you’ve done with it,” she says.
“I’ve personally always done this, even with my kids: they learned from a very young age that once you’ve finished playing with a toy, you put it back before playing with something else,” she continues. “This avoids mess and clutter build-up, and no one has to dedicate a certain amount of time to ‘tidying up’, since it’s done without even noticing it.”
“The best way to ensure you stick to healthy tidying habits is to organise your house so all flat spaces are clear of clutter,” Caroline says. “It’s so satisfying to the mind that, once you do it, you’ll want to stick to it.”
She gives the example of kitchen worktops. “Do you have a blender you haven’t used for ages? Sell it or put it in a cupboard if you really want to keep it,” she says. “Then move on to paperwork: clear off all the papers and other junk you’ve been throwing onto the [worktop]. You can put them into containers to tackle, but clearing off is the crucial first step. Visualise your clutter-free [worktop] and enjoy that feeling of satisfaction.”
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“Have a designated spot in your home where you can keep things you find that you want to donate [to charity],” Lesley says. “It saves things from ending up in piles all over the house and makes it easy to declutter as you go.”
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One of the barriers to successful tidying can be not completing the task because there are so many stray items in front of you, each belonging in a different room – or, perhaps, not even having a designated home.
Caroline’s tips for deeper tidying can equally be applied to lighter clear-ups, helping you to keep on top of things. She advises always using the same method. “Empty everything; group by category; get rid of all the things you haven’t used for years or items that come in double, triple or more, then organise what you keep where it belongs.
“Have a ‘clutter box’ for all those things you’re not sure about,” she says. “If you’re not sure about keeping an item, leave it in the box. You’ll come back to it later.
“This box is also useful for all the things that are obviously not in the right place – decluttering your kitchen and discovering a few DIY items that should go in a toolbox, for example,” she continues. “Don’t put them back in the kitchen – leave them in the clutter box. Once you’ve finished decluttering, get back to that box and apply the same method again: empty, group by category, decide whether to keep, organise where it belongs.”
Johanna suggests collecting stray items from around the house into one container. “I like the idea of a box, basket or tray,” she agrees. “Then invite everyone to have a ‘fishing time’, where they come to pick up their belongings from the tray and put them away, almost like a dinner-time routine.”
In her own house, Johanna says she leaves things that need to go back in her children’s bedrooms on the stairs, so they can see them and collect them on their way up. “It doesn’t always work, but I keep at it. It’s all about learning simple habits that you’ll use without even thinking about them,” she says.
“When you reorganise the drawer you’ve been decluttering, just add a little ‘design-centric’ touch,” says Caroline, who describes what she does as interior design for drawers and cupboards.
She gives the example of organising things by size or colour. “You can also do this with books, papers, clothes, shoes… This very easy trick will make your drawer or cupboard look good – and a good-looking space is so satisfying to the eye and mind that your organisation will be there to stay. You’ll want to keep it that way and to organise even more drawers.”
“Designate a time you want your home to be at its tidiest,” Lesley says, advising on her ‘Reset’ technique for shifting your mindset for good. “If you are a stay-at-home parent, this may be after school drop-off and after bath-time. If you go to work, it might be before you leave the house and after dinner. If you have a busy household, the chances are you’ll need at least two resets a day.
“By ‘resetting’ your house consistently, you don’t give yourself a backlog of jobs to do over the weekend. Ten minutes can be all it takes if you focus on often,” she says.
Johanna echoes this idea. “On a daily basis, tidy up every evening before bedtime,” she says. “Have a look for things that have been left on the side: a finished cup of tea, elastic bands used earlier, a pile of admin documents you’ve read, or the clothes you took off and have left on a chair. It doesn’t take long and will make you feel relaxed before bed and ready for a fresh start the next day.”
Again, a ‘clutter box’ can be employed. “All those things you find on your daily reset that belong elsewhere in the house can be gathered together [in a basket] and you can do just one trip to redistribute rather than several trips up and down stairs,” Lesley says. “It will save you time and energy looking for lost things. A hallway or bottom stair is the perfect spot for your basket.”
“Be intentional about what comes into your home,” Lesley advises. “If you’re going to buy something new, decide in advance what needs to go to make space for it.”
Caroline agrees that frequent new things can create mess if not dealt with efficiently. “Items coming into your home for the first time require some thought,” she says. “Things such as incoming post, groceries, or newly bought items need to be organised as soon as they get inside your house. Find a dedicated spot for them and organise them right away.”
Grouping items thematically is key, Johanna says. “I have one drawer for my socks and a different one for my underwear. I also use drawer dividers for my accessories – nothing fancy, just so I can separate my belts, scarves and gloves and put them in their ‘accessories family’.
“I do the same in the kitchen, with one shelf for tins, one for the baking stuff…” she says. “As long as those ‘families’ make sense to you, you’ll know where to find them and put things away. Make it simple for yourself.”
More: 10 Pro Tips to Maximise Your Kitchen Storage.
Finally, Johanna advises thinking of the bigger picture. “Clutter and mess are unhealthy habits. I find myself much more relaxed when I know I’ve done things and don’t have to think about them again – such as paying a bill,” she says.
“Teach your kids to be responsible for their things, too,” she adds. “Explain to them that clutter and mess have consequences on mental health and anxiety levels. If someone can’t find their sports bag on a morning when there’s PE [on the timetable], they’ll start the day in ‘panic mode’, which has a knock-on effect on the rest of the day.
“Clutter can be tackled,” she says. “It will make you rethink your way of consuming and help you enjoy your space and relax.”
How do you keep your home tidy? Share your tips in the Comments.