Lost your keys again? That frustrating hunt for everyday essentials will be a thing of the past with Peter Walsh’s handy advice…

As a child, I remember my grandmother saying that in any tidy home you should have a place for everything and everything should have a place. The more time goes on, the more I’m thinking that Gran was right! If you’re struggling with clutter, especially that tough-to control area on the kitchen benchtop or that clutter magnet you call a dining table, I can help you out. Almost every home has an area that I call the ‘dumping zone’. You know what I’m talking about – that spot where the mail lands, where the car keys get thrown, and where (somewhere) that prescription that you know you have to get filled is hiding. It’s the catch-all zone, the ‘I’ll get to it later’ place. No matter how you sugar-coat it, it’s a clutter disaster.

1.  Think about a place for everything

Consider this: what would you do if you found a fork lying anywhere in your home, say under the couch or in the bathtub? It’s an odd question but there’s a surprising answer. Without a second’s thought, you would know exactly where that fork belonged. And you’d have no trouble returning it to the cutlery drawer in your kitchen. As with the fork, it should be the same with every item in your home. Remember, there’s a place for everything and everything should sit in its place. It may sound simplistic but if an item doesn’t have a specific place in your home, it’s no surprise that it was left wherever you last dropped it.

2. Keep it logical

Take something like your car keys. It’s time to decide where they will live from now on. In my home, there’s a small bowl on the kitchen bench for my wallet, keys and sunglasses. It’s a simple solution that means I never lose my keys or wallet. For you, it could just as easily be a hook right by your garage door or a tray next to your phone charger. Oh wait, you don’t have a dedicated place where your phone is charged every night? Let’s tackle that right now as well. You’ll never lose your phone again if you know that you always leave and charge it in the same spot.

3.  Sort out your categories

And find a home for each type. Having a home for like items can take some work (and maybe some labels) but it’s worth the effort. Some of the most common types of things that I’ve found strewn in homes that really belong in one place and need to be dealt with include keys, mail, phones and phone chargers, homework and school notes, umbrellas, coats and scarves, backpacks, purses and briefcases, and sports gear. If you want to eliminate the dumping zone then each of these requires its own dedicated space – a shelf in the cupboard by the door you use most frequently, a sturdy set of hooks in the garage, and/or a box at the entry. I’ve seen houses go from cluttered disasters to sparkling oases of calm with the addition of a great mail tray. Laugh all you want but it’s true! Establishing one place for the mail to be dealt with will start you on a path of keeping your entire home well organised. Don’t have a tray with you right now while you’re reading this article? That’s fine. Grab a shoebox or a clean bin and make it the temporary one starting now. Where you start conquering your clutter depends on you but I guarantee that having a specific home for groups of like items will be a huge first step to eliminating your ‘dumping zone’ and winning the clutter battle in your home.

If you only have 10 minutes!

Tackle just one major pile of stuff. Sort it into categories and choose one of those categories to put away now. Grab an empty box or bin and make it the home of one category’s worth of bits and pieces. Deal with the rest of the stuff before you go to bed tonight – just be sure you stock up on boxes and bins beforehand!

Go to peterwalshdesign.com to learn more about his books, videos and TV appearances.

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