When I ask women how they want their home to feel, the number one thing I hear is “calm and peaceful.” Kids or no kids, that’s what most women want to feel at home.
And I get it. I want to feel that way too.
We want to relax and feel at ease in our homes … and yet, many women can’t.
I think it’s because we feel responsible for our homes. I certainly I do. I’m identified with it in a way that my husband isn’t. Yeah, it might be a twisted sexist stereotypical thing. But whatever the reason, when I go into a room that’s a mess, not only do I feel annoyed—I feel it’s my job to do something about it.
The responsibility lies with me.
So I get it when other women say they just want their home to feel calm. They get this wistful look on their faces that makes it seem like what they’re asking for is impossible. What they don’t always say out loud is how exhausted they feel when they look around and see there’s so much more to do.
I get it. I know that feeling well.
I have a secret weapon
In all these years I have found only one surefire way to make a space feel calm and peaceful: clear up the “stuff.”
If you were hoping for tips on painting your rooms soothing colours or creating an altar, sorry. The truth is, those things only help after you’ve cleared out the visual reminders of things still to be done.
Having “stuff” out is stressful. Your mind is constantly alerting you to things that you might be forgetting—and it can get quite a list going in a messy room.
There’s nothing relaxing about that.
Clutter makes people feel unsettled and uncomfortable in their homes
There’s nothing particularly special or mysterious about clutter—it’s just stuff you haven’t yet made a decision about.
It’s certainly not an indictment of your character.
And interestingly, the problem isn’t so much the thing as it is the knowledge that you intend to do something about it … but haven’t yet.
So what’s a girl to do?
Here’s a quick way to get started
1 Clear off a surface
Choose one place where things pile up—and declare it a no-dumping zone.
Clear it off—even if you need to move the stuff somewhere else—and then be rigorous about keeping it clear. It’s like the FlyLady’s sink. You have to start somewhere.
When I was a kid, my dad used to joke that one day he would build a house with no flat surfaces so people couldn’t just put things down and leave them. He never did build that house, but I don’t think it’s such a bad idea.
Most people tend to use tables and counters to “store” things that are on their way somewhere else. So make a conscious effort to keep tables, desks and counters clear of things that you aren’t working on right now. (We’ll get to the floor another day.)
Wherever you are now, you can start by clearing some things from whatever flat surface is near you. Even if you just recycle a few things or put the phone back, like I just did.
2 Put as much as you can out of sight
Put away as much as possible so you don’t have to look at it. Out of sight, out of mind is what we’re aiming for here.
Whether that means it goes in a cabinet, closet, drawer or straight into the recycling bin. Open shelves may look cool in magazines, but remember someone was paid a lot of money to make it not looking junky.
I’m not saying put absolutely everything away and strive to achieve organizing perfection. Ah, no.
I’m saying a few lovely items—no more than five—can give a room personality and warmth. But most people have many more things out than that … and most of them aren’t lovely.
So let putting things “away” become the default action, not something to get around to.
What could you put away … right now? And yes, putting something in the trash or the recycling bin counts.
3 Beware clutter creep
No matter how successfully you clean up at any given moment, the truth is stuff is always coming into our lives. It’s constant—so it’s important to handle things before they become clutter.
Things don’t pile up because we’re lazy, incompetent people—they pile up because we put off making decisions about what to do with them. That’s it, nothing more than that.
So make a conscious effort to stop putting off deciding what to do with something … because there will be more tomorrow.
I know it’s easy to put off clearing up. Life is full of other things to do and other people keep piling it up. I get that it can be discouraging.
But I also know that the road to a calm + peaceful house is paved with creating clear space around you. There’s nothing quite like being able to walk into a clear room and sit down with a book. There’s an instant relief to it, a soothing balm for the spirit. It’s not an impossible dream.
It’s totally worth taking 5 minutes and clearing up. So take a look around you—what could you put away, deal with or throw away from where you are right now?
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
What one area are you declaring a no-dumping zone? I’d love to hear where you’re making a stand for clear space—click here to share. I’d also be delighted to hear any secrets you have for feeling calm + peaceful in your home.
ARE YOU STRUGGLING WITH TOO MUCH CLUTTER?
I have a surprise for you next week.
In the meantime, if you’d like some free advice, I’ve been interviewing women like you—click here to find out more.