Still More Rules for Uncluttering, Rule 3


Perhaps you’ve seen the classic movie Cheaper by the Dozen. The head of the household in this movie was an efficiency expert. (Remember them? Businesses used to hire them all the time. They still do, but now they call them management engineers or industrial engineers.) This particular efficiency expert devoted his life to the study of such things. He found, for example, that it was considerably faster to button his shirt starting at the top and buttoning downward, compared to starting at the bottom and buttoning upward. This little gem of knowledge in itself may not reduce clutter, but efficiency boils down to a maximum of output with a minimum of input, and it’s a concept that’s crucial to managing clutter.

Efficient storage reduces clutter by making it easier to replace things after each use. If it’s easier, it’s more likely to happen. Efficient storage means that what you need is close to where you use it or where you expect it to be. Move things so they are efficiently placed for use and replacement. For example, if the recycling bins are in the far end of the garage, no one is going to use them. In the kitchen, move the silverware and plates to a drawer and cupboard between the table and the dishwasher. Put the glasses between the sink and the dishwasher. And it’s not carved in stone that you store the vacuum in the upstairs closet. Move it downstairs where it’s more convenient.

Efficient storage also means that things you use most often are stored in the most easily accessible places. In other words, “hot” items go in “hot” places. “Hot” places are easily reachable ones, such as top drawers, eye-level cupboard shelves, and the front sections of shelves. You’ll have your own list of “hot” items, of course, but it will probably include things like measuring spoons and cups, keys, bottles of spray cleaners, the roll of tape, the corkscrew, the good pair of scissors, the dishwashing soap, etc. Resist the temptation to return rarely used items to a “hot” (and therefore convenient) spot. If you’re not alert, the anchovy paste will end up in front of the powdered cleanser. Or the wood bleach will block your access to the furniture polish.

Store all similar things together, such as all the different sizes and shapes of flower vases you own. When you need one, you only have to look in one place. Also, you’ll have no decision to make after you clean a vase about where to put it. The same applies to food inside the cupboards and even inside the fridge. The easier you make it for things to get put back where they belong, the less clutter will appear. You will also have a fighting chance of finding what you’re looking for if it’s where it belongs. And that can be a surprisingly gratifying experience.

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