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Having a Designated “Home” for Items Is the Only Way to Truly Declutter

A tidy home office with a beautiful view of a bay out the windows.
Artazum/Shutterstock

It’s so often repeated it’s pretty much an organization cliche at this point, but for good reason. If you don’t have a home for items, they’re doomed to pile up around you.

Many people struggle with keeping their homes tidy and organized. The one universal constant even in the face of extensive physical space (or lack thereof), the number of objects, and other variables, is whether or not the items have somewhere to go when they aren’t in use.

It doesn’t matter, for example, if you have a palatial kitchen the size of a three-bedroom apartment or a tiny kitchen in a studio apartment. The minute you have one more pan or pot than you have designated storage for is the minute you suddenly have clutter in your kitchen you can’t put away.

This simple principle applies to every area of your home. The problem is not having lots of books, lots of hobbies, or lots of odds and ends. The problem is not planning for (or outright lacking) a place for those things to go when they are not in use.

So, to tackle the clutter in your home, ask yourself the following questions to determine if an object really has a “home” space in your house or apartment:

  • Do I have room to store this item?
  • Can I store it near where I use it?
  • If I can’t, is it worth putting in deep storage?
  • Will I ever take it out of deep storage and use it?

Let’s return to the kitchen example, and look at two different items to highlight how the questions work to guide items towards a home (or out the door): a cast iron pan and an electric turkey roaster.

Let’s say you have one more cast iron pan than you can comfortably store in your kitchen cabinets. The answer to the question “Do I have room to store this item in my kitchen?” is no—unless of course, you eject some other item to make room. Is it worth putting in deep storage and will you use it? Realistically, probably not. Unless it’s your great grandmother’s and you want to keep it for a future bigger kitchen or some such thing, it’s probably best to give it to a friend or donate it. Shoving a cast iron pan in the basement or the attic is a great way to forget about it for years and never use it.

An organized kitchen drawer with tidy pots and pans.
Margoe Edwards/Shutterstock

On the other hand, an electric turkey roaster is a seldom-used but still useful kitchen item. The answer to “Do I have room to store this item in my kitchen?” is most likely no. Turkey roasters are large and even if you did have the room it doesn’t make much sense to store it in the high-value real estate of your kitchen when you’re going to use it maybe two to three times a year.

Despite not wanting to chew up precious cabinet space though, the answer to “Is it worth putting in deep storage?” and “Will I ever take it out of deep storage and use it?” is yes. An electric roaster is invaluable during the holidays because it frees up your oven for other tasks like baking pies and side dishes. It’s fine to make the “home” of your turkey roaster an out of the way shelf in your basement or wrapped in a dust cover out in the garage.

The bottom line, though, is if something doesn’t have a home base to get parked in when not in use, then the fate of that thing is to be perpetually sitting on your kitchen counter, bathroom counter, or dining room table. Without a home to end up in, objects are destined to drift aimlessly about your house as you move them from place to place.

So, the next time you’re frustrated with clutter in your home push through the frustration and just ask yourself where the object’s home is. Either it’s a useful or loved thing that deserves a home or it’s not—and if it’s not then the only thing you have to worry about is how to donate, recycle, or dispose of it.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »

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