The Problem : Clutter, Disorder and Dirt

The Problem: Clutter, Disorder and Dirt

How do you really feel about the state of the house? Here’s a quick test: imagine that the doorbell rings. Is there panic in the pit of your stomach at the possibility of unexpected guests—or a bill collector? You’re not alone. For many, clutter, disorganization, and dirt interfere with the day-to-day business of life at home.

Taking aim on clutter is a great first step to more sustainable living. Tackle domestic chaos and live a greener life with these tips:

Bag the bags. Stow reusable shopping bags on a hook near the car keys. They’ll be easy to grab on your way out the door—and will stop plastic supermarket sacks from invading your organized home.

Junk the junk mail. Removing your address from direct mail databases and calling catalog companies with stop requests takes time up-front, but saves the household—and Mother Earth!—from being buried in unwanted paper.

Set free the surplus. Recycling or repurposing unneeded appliances, clothing, tools, and craft supplies not only clears storage space, but also gives these items
a new and useful life.

Waste packaging waste. Smart menu planning means less reliance on single-serve or convenience food items—and a corresponding reduction in needless food packaging. Build a pantry and buy in bulk to keep packaging waste to a minimum.

Sound far-fetched? Not for the nearly 40 percent of us who find it difficult to maintain a clean and organized home. In 2015, the Soap and Detergent Association in the US surveyed women’s attitudes about cleaning. Of the respondents, 21 percent, termed “Strugglers,” spent the most time cleaning, yet felt the most discouraged about the state of their homes. Another group, the “Dirt Dodgers,” who made up 18 percent of the results, cleaned only when absolutely necessary—and found it difficult to keep their homes neat and organized.

Impossible standards

Add them together and you get us: the four out of ten people who are challenged by our lives at home. For all our numbers, we may as well be invisible. Modern media pummels us with misleading standards of perfection.

Even in real life, we seldom see the truth about our neighbors’ clutter and chaos. At a friend’s holiday open house, we admire the beautiful home, but don’t realize that it was achieved only by tossing dirty clothes, surface clutter, and stacks of newspapers into a padlocked bathroom.

Perfect pitch: the haves and have-nots

Take heart: you are not lazy, crazy, or stupid. You just need to learn the skills necessary to create a clean and organized home. Think of innate organizing ability as a kind of musical pitch. Some people have very little—they’re the “tin ears” of the musical world. Others have perfect pitch: an inborn and accurate sense of which note is which and the relationships between them. The rest of us struggle at scales in-between.

In the same way, some folks naturally have an orderly relationship with their stuff. They keep things tidy without thinking, and they breeze through domestic life without turning a hair. They have the home management equivalent of perfect pitch hard-wired into their brains.

The rest of us have to work at learning organizational skills. But, just as we conquered musical scales and intervals, we can master planning and scheduling, cleaning, and clutter control. And, like a well-rehearsed recital piece, our organizing abilities strengthen and become part of us as we use them.

“Most of us are not born with organizing skills. They are something we must learn.”

Children’s toys are one of the prime spawning grounds for clutter and disorder. Learning the necessary skills can help even the organizationally challenged to keep the problem under control.

Doing what doesn’t come naturally

Problems arise when the two camps try to communicate. Tell someone who’s been gifted with a big slug of organizational ability about your new menu plan, and you’re apt to get a puzzled, “Huh? Doesn’t everyone do that?” On the other hand, it’s not always possible to benefit from the experience of a naturally organized person. For them, it comes easily, so they short-cut directions, assuming that the rest of us can follow.

Naturally organized people write way too many books about home organization. It’s easy for them, so it should be easy for the reader, right?

Wrong. It takes one to know one—and to teach one.

Alison Malone is a blogger and advocate for the rental lifestyle. Her website is Home Rental. She writes on issues around the body and mind.

Editorial Team
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