Room by room around the house, clutter can stage a seemingly never-ending battle for space and place. While the principles for clearing clutter and regaining calm remain the same, specific tactics are needed for the distinct types of clutter challenges posed by the rooms in your home.
Private areas, such as bedrooms and bathrooms, may suffer from function overload, expected to do too many jobs in the same space. Public areas are afflicted with "too many generals" issues; in these shared spaces, fighting chaos is a team effort and requires coordination with, and cooperation from, all members of the household.
Clutter, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. A level of clutter that's cozy to one person will seem sterile and bare to someone with a higher tolerance level. Find your tolerance level with this quiz, and shape solutions that are right for you.
1. There are monthly bills to pay. How do you tackle the job?
A. I shove aside the breakfast dishes, dig out the grocery sack holding the bills and write the checks — who cares about a few toast crumbs?
B. I turn on the TV, pull up a lap desk and tear into the envelopes during commercial breaks. Hey, it's good exercise to get up and go hunt for the bills!
C. I stack the bills neatly on the desktop, get out the calculator and arrange the pens in the pen can before I begin.
2. Time for bed. What's your routine?
A. I remove the cat from the pillow, sweep a few crumpled tissues onto the floor and plop down amidst the magazines — it's been a long day!
B. I shake out the sheets (it was a busy morning!), plump the pillow and move a few things to make a spot for my water glass on the bedside table.
C. I turn down the fresh bedding and frown at the wrinkle that developed in the pillowcase during the day. I arrange my water glass, bedtime book, reading glasses and emergency flashlight neatly on the bedside table.
3. Stand on the front porch or entryway to your home. Based on what you see — decorations, shoes and clothing — what season is it?
A. Christmas. Actually, it's Christmas two years ago, if you really want to know, but I think it would be wonderful if every day were Christmas. Also, I see a few Halloween decorations in the corner, over there, next to the swim fins from last week's trip to the lake.
B. Gosh, I've been meaning to take down the sign from John's birthday party last month; think I'll do it right now, thanks for reminding me.
C. Aside from the holiday season, I don't believe in decorating the front door. Even then, I think a simple evergreen wreath makes just the right statement, don't you?
4. First thing in the morning, you enjoy reading the newspapers. What does the table look like afterward?
A. Table? What table? I read the papers catch-as-catch-can ... I think the local section is still in the bathroom, and last I saw, the children had the comics in the family room.
B. OK, I admit it: I just toss them in a pile on top of the table and hope the Newspaper Elves come and put them in the recycling bin.
C. I read the newspapers front to back, and when I'm finished with them, I fold them neatly for the next person. Doesn't everyone?
If you answered mostly A:
Congratulations! You have a high tolerance for daily clutter. You'll get the job done even in disorganized surroundings, but you do admit that life would improve if you didn't spend so much time looking for lost items.
If you answered mostly B:
You're a happy medium. You tolerate some clutter in your life, but you take active steps to keep the clutter level down. Since you become stressed when life gets too chaotic, focus on building daily routines that bring life back to center.
If you answered mostly C:
You have a very low tolerance for visual clutter, and know that life runs most smoothly — and you are happiest — when you keep possessions under control and disorder at bay.