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We’ve all been there. It’s the night before a big family holiday that you’re hosting and you’re yelling at the kids to pick up their socks, shoving a load of laundry in the washer, swapping out the cheap towels for the nicer ones, and on the verge of a breakdown thinking about everything else that needs to get done. When did it come to this? Will it ever get better?

You’re certainly not alone in feeling overwhelmed and defeated when it comes to having a picture-perfect home. Blame it on the unrealistic standards paraded around in magazines and on TV, or perhaps that one friend who always has an immaculately clean house, but at the end of the day, the mess is still the same. This leads to guilt, which only makes the cycle worse. Clutter isn’t just unpleasant to look at, it can actually have a negative impact on your mental health.

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In fact, Psychology Today published an article on why messy homes stress us out so much. There are some excellent points made on the list, but one that resonated with me is guilt. “Clutter creates feelings of guilt (I should be more organized) and embarrassment.” Clutter also tires our brains out since they have to work in overdrive to focus on any one thing.

The good news is, it’s not a hopeless situation. It may feel insurmountable in the moment, but there are small steps you can take every day to lessen the stress and get back on track. Let’s take a look at a few daily habits you can build to clean up your home and keep it that way!

Purge

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The first step is to get rid of all the unnecessary junk we tend to keep for no reason at all. The first big purge of items may take a while to sort through, but after that, it’s easy to set a reminder each month to simplify and sort through some of the things you’ve accumulated in the last few weeks.

Why is this so important? So often when we organize, we end up shuffling stuff from one room to the next or one junk drawer to another. Or, we think we need more space, more organization tubs, a new bookshelf, etc. More often than not, however, we don’t need more space, we need less stuff. Plus, the fewer things you have, the easier it is to stay organized!

Clean As You Go

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This is one of the easiest ways to keep your house looking nice and tidy. It’s no big secret, it just takes a bit of intention and practice. Instead of waiting until the end of the day to round up all the dishes and wash them, pick up plates and cups as you see them and load them in the dishwasher. Fold laundry as soon as it comes out of the dryer instead of waiting for three loads worth of clothes to pile up in the basket. If you see something out of place, fix it! If you notice dust on a shelf, clean it!

The psychology behind this method is that we can all do small things in the moment. It takes almost no effort to take a dirty glass to the kitchen or to wipe off a dusty shelf. But when we save all of those little things for the end of the day or the weekend, it feels overwhelming and things often get overlooked.

Create “Drop Zones”

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While the “Clean as you go” method is wonderful, it isn’t always practical. If you’ve just come home with a screaming child or an armful of groceries, you’re not exactly in a position to put your shoes away or run your to-go mug to the kitchen. That’s where drop zones come in. The method is simply to have a basket in two or three places around your home for these miscellaneous things we can’t put away at the moment. Usually, people have them in the entryway, living room, or basement. You can drop hats, gloves, dishes (if they aren’t too dirty), toys, socks, etc., in the baskets and then put everything away at the end of the day. This keeps the expected and unavoidable chaos at least a little more organized!

Make Your Bed Every Day

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It may seem strange and trivial, but making your bed daily is about so much more than, well, actually making your bed. There have been several surveys and studies done on people who take time to make their bed every day versus those who don’t. One study claimed that “71 percent of bed-makers consider themselves happy; while 62 percent of non-bed-makers admit to being unhappy. Bed-makers are also more likely to like their jobs, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well-rested, whereas non-bed-makers hate their jobs, rent apartments, avoid the gym, and wake up tired.” How crazy is that?!

Make a “Done” List

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We’re all probably familiar with “to-do” lists, but what about “done” lists? It may seem like another silly, trivial thing, but again, there’s some psychology behind this simple addition to your routine. A “done” list is exactly what it sounds like – a list of daily accomplishments and wins.

Why take time out of your already busy day to write another list? As this LifeHack article puts it, “Any accomplishment, no matter how small, activates the reward circuitry of our brains. When this pathway is opened some key chemicals are released that give us a feeling of achievement and pride. In particular, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released which energizes us and gives us a feel-good aura. This chemical enables us not only to get that sweet feeling of reward but also motivates us to take action and repeat what we did to trigger its release in the first place.“

I hope you found a few organization tips that help you feel more in control of your clutter!

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