Whether you’re a total slob or have a presentation worthy home, chances are there is some area of clutter struggle, usually in the form of a junk drawer or clutter hotspots.
You declutter like a maniac but these clutter hotspots still emerge…like roaches.
The problem is your approach. You can’t treat this type of clutter like general random house clutter.
For one thing, the types of clutter in these clutter hotspots are typically not just ‘junk’.
Take the entry table that gets everything dumped on it as soon as people walk in the door. The types of clutter being dumped on this are things like backpacks, jackets, papers, mail, and other daily things that we carry.
If you declutter then, sure, you’ll clear the table temporarily; sort the papers; hang the coats up in the closet for the only time that week.
But you’re not exactly going to be removing these items from your home. People still need their jackets and, like it or not, the bills will still need to be viewed and paid.
So, it seems like an impossible situation that you eventually just have to give into.
You just need to understand this type of beast before you can dominate it.
Our minds are categorizing machines that work in patterns
You probably knew this already but, I promise, it’s pertinent. It’s why habits are so important and why organization is so visually appealing. It’s also why we have such strong psychological effects from clutter.
This means a few things for your clutter hotspots.
For one, it means that clutter attracts clutter. Since patterns are so easy for our brains to comprehend, if you see one zone of clutter, you’ll automatically feel compelled to place new clutter in that same spot.
Without even thinking about it!
It also means that if you don’t have a category location, the remaining item will be segregated into their own category. Miscellaneous things get grouped together.
We don’t want miscellaneous.
One area that tends to scream “clutter hotspot” is the closet. You can use this free checklist to get started with decluttering the closets in your home:
Another consideration is a concept that gamers call “min-maxing”.
In the gamer world that means making the fewest number of moves to achieve the maximum result.
Gamers will sometimes make spreadsheets to mathematically calculate which strategies will result in the highest point accumulation in the end.
It’s nerdy. But it works.
Well, our brains work very similarly in that they automatically try to strategize the least amount of effort required to get the desired outcome.
Sometimes our brains are naturally good at this…and sometimes we have to Jedi mind trick our brains into being more efficient.
Simply put, if setting all of your junk on the table seems to be the shortest distance to the desired result of not holding a bunch of heavy junk…then the impulse will remain.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t fight the impulse or train your brain to form new habits, but it will definitely take some awareness.
However, if you want to slide right past the hard work of forming intentional new habits you can make your own min-maxing strategies.
Cures for the clutter hotspots
These strategies are built around making an alternative easier than the clutter hotspot and/or to work with the categories and patterns functionality of our brain.
Are you interested in taking your decluttering to the next level? Here’s a totally free guide to the first 5 steps to minimalism:
One way to do this is to make the clutter hotspot itself less easy. The very best way to accomplish this is by repurposing the hotspot.
An example of this could be to make the entry table a station of some sort (coffee, tea, mail, etc.). Having a pretty and functional station will definitely hinder your desire to place things in this spot.
It isn’t as easy to throw your jacket on top of a coffee pot or stationary supplies. Then you have to worry about breaking stuff and picking objects off when they fall.
It just doesn’t feel easy.
Now, this is my favorite method of altering clutter hotspots by far. Because if that available, purposeless spot is still front and center…well, it will always be a target.
However, another way to make an alternative easier than the hotspot itself is to create an even more convenient home for specific types of clutter.
This done by rehoming the clutter items.
For example, if you place a coat rack right at the door – and within sight – then it actually takes less energy to place jackets and bags on the coat rack than the entry table.
This hits the min-max pain point.
PLUS, if you see other jackets and bags in the same location, it also hits the categorization pain point as well. It’s a 2 for!
Again, our brains automatically want to add things to their appropriate category (unless we have trained it to do otherwise in certain situations).
Rehoming also hits the issue of miscellaneous items being unintentionally categorized together.
Take a look at the types of clutter you’re collecting in these hotspots. If you have a large number of one item, then you should consider creating a purposeful ‘home spot’ for that item.
For example, I have a single pen jar in the house. If anyone needs a pen, they know where to go. This keeps pens from being added to that miscellaneous junk spot.
I also have a battery bag for all of the batteries in the house. Back when I was evaluating my own clutter hotspots, pens and batteries were a common item.
There will inevitably be some miscellaneous items left over. There are a couple of ways that you can handle that. One is to just get a little organizer for the tiny things that are remaining and store it in a bin. (That’s what I do).
Or you could expand on another category to absorb some of the miscellaneous items. So, if you have a lot of miscellaneous screws, buttons, and furniture extras, you could put those in your tools bin.
So, to recap, the two reasons we have trouble with the clutter hotspots and junk drawers is that our mind categorizes them as miscellaneous and follows previous clutter. And we tend to min-max – or take the path of least resistance.
Discover areas of your life where minimalism could really help you simplify with this free guide:
Be sure to share your thoughts below in the comments.