A Tip for Avoiding Piles

Garbage can

Piles. We all have them. They start as innocuous little stacks. They might even appear neat, at first. Good intentions are nearly always behind them. But piles are a slippery slope.

Part of having a place for everything (a mantra I firmly believe in) includes having a place for the discards. Oddly enough, the discards tend to make up a substantial portion of the clutter in people’s lives—they stick around much longer than intended. Luckily, there are some really easy solutions. For example:

Add a trash can. This basic necessity is very often absent from a cluttered room. When helping a client, I often find piles of paper merely waiting to be disposed of in a trash can … in another room. Adding a small trash can to most rooms makes a significant difference in deflecting clutter—especially in the foyer, office, laundry, and mudroom areas. (Recycling this paper would be even better, but let’s take baby steps …)

Relocate the laundry hamper. The most common reason dirty laundry piles up in the wrong place is that the hamper is either inaccessible or inconvenient (or both). Think about where it would be most useful to have your hamper—the location of the pile is usually a good hint—and then put the hamper there if you can.

Designate a bag for donations. I highly recommend always having a Goodwill bag at the ready. It is more likely to be filled and prevents the piles from happening elsewhere.

Put store returns in the car. A small basket in the trunk is great for holding items to be returned. Keep the item in its original bag along with the receipt, if you can.

Set aside clothes for consignment. I keep these items on hangers all together in the back of my closet. I make a trip to the consignment store at the start of each season. With the clothes already cleaned and corralled, it doesn’t feel like a big chore. Also, by separating them, I am not dealing with them every time I open my closet.

Bag children’s outgrown clothing. I have a bag in each child’s closet to hold clothes they outgrow, and I add to it frequently. Then, once a season, I move those clothes to the attic for long-term storage (until we decide whether or not to go for #3!) .

Corral presents for others. Designate one area where gifts are stored until they are given. Might seem a little too Type A, but I can’t tell you how often I unearth gifts meant for others while helping clients clean out. They couldn’t find the original gift so had to purchase another!

All of this comes down to convenience. If something is inconvenient, most people simply won’t do it. By providing these much needed collection points, the ease of putting things in the right place outweighs the temptation to let it pile up.

While these tips might seem fairly obvious, it is just like eating right, exercising daily and going to bed at a decent hour … Advice we hear routinely and yet we still struggle to do it sometimes. So hopefully this gentle reminder will help nudge you in the right direction.

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