2 Household Rules for How To Avoid Clutter

I’ve mentioned before how I’m more focused on keeping a tidy house than I am a clean house. Cleaning is certainly important, but to me a tidy, organized, and clutter free home is one to boast about. I have a series of quick and easy daily chores that I follow every day that help keep our house pseudo clean (and my mind sane). In addition to easy daily chores, our household also has two rules that we abide by and I swear these are the keys to how to avoid clutter.

The Staircase Rule

My husband and I make a great team. We have different priorities when it comes to our daily lives, but at the end of the day we’re working towards the same meta goals, and we complement each other’s skills (and cares) well. Given our differences, there aren’t that many “rules” that we share as a couple. Instead, it seems in our years of marriage we’ve adopted the “you do you and I’ll support it” approach instead.

But one rule that we create together years ago, that has stuck like Gorilla glue is the staircase rule. I’m pretty sure we came up with the idea on our own, but if I in fact read this in a book or heard it on a podcast, I apologize in advance for not giving credit where credit is due.

The staircase rule is simple: if somebody leaves something at the foot of the stairs (or on the first landing), you do not walk past it without picking it up and bringing it upstairs with you. Does this mean I’m often carrying up my husband’s baseball hats and random discarded clothing? Yes. And does he carry up the small stacks of clothing I’ve folded and left on the first step? Yup, he sure does.

I know what you’re probably thinking: a staircase isn’t that hard to climb, why don’t you just bring items up the 13 steps in the first place?

Well, the answer is simply because without the staircase rule, things just don’t get put away where they’re supposed to live in a timely manner. No one wants to interrupt what they’re doing to trek upstairs and put away one shopping bag. But, if I know I’m going up in a few hours for nap time, or that my husband will be walking upstairs come bedtime, it’s motivation enough to drop items that belong upstairs at the foot of the stairs. Then, things move upstairs throughout the day and you’d be surprised folks. A lot more shit gets back to where it belongs with this rule in place.

The One Minute Rule

The second household rule for how to avoid clutter is Gretchen Rubin’s one minute rule. Gretchen has talked about the one minute rule a lot, in her books, on her blog, on podcasts etc. I don’t remember the first time I heard her describe the rule, but man did it speak to me! I’ve always been one to feel a sense of relief after ridding my to do list of all the little stuff, so I wasn’t all that surprised to realize how well the one minute rule works for me.

My husband on the other hand hates this rule.

The one minute rule says “I must do any task that can be finished in one minute.” Gretchin gives examples of: hang up a coat, read a letter and toss it, fill in a form, answer an email, note down a citation, listen to a voice mail, put a dish in the dishwasher, replenish the diaper supply by the changing table, put the magazines away… and so on.

The trick with the one minute rule is being reasonable and setting limits. Obviously, if you have 200 things that could all be completed in less than a minute, it’s probably not reasonable to force yourself to do them all before getting out the door in the morning. It’s not about completing every possible to do, right now.

Instead, at its core, it’s about saying “yes, right now” to tasks as they cross your plate, or when they’re top of mind. If you’re looking at a bill that needs to be filed, don’t say “oh I’ll do that later tonight.” You’re standing in front of the bill! You’re looking at it right now! You’re thinking about needing to file the bill! File the bill. Right now. Before you walk away.

Like how these rules are sounding? If you’re looking for quick and easy ways to avoid clutter in your house, you may also like this blog post by my personal spiritual master, Gretchen Rubin: 10 Tips to Beat Clutter…in Less Than 5 Minutes.

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