Managing Clutter Magnet Spaces

Clutter magnet spaces. You know what I’m talking about – the table next to the door, that part of the kitchen counter, your nightstand. The places where clutter sets up camp.

For me and my husband, I’m a bit ashamed to admit, all of the flat surfaces in our apartment are magnet spaces.

It’s not for lack of storage or even an excess of stuff that really causes the clutter buildup. It’s mainly a bad habit that we’re constantly fighting against. Every. Day.

And when the table isn’t clear or there are clothes on the bed, I get distracted and stressed out. When my desk is most cluttered, I even question why I’m talking about minimalism (despite how far I’ve come these past three years). Managing clutter magnet spaces in your home

Why does stuff appear there?

Our routine includes a thorough apartment-cleaning each weekend so that we can have a fresh start to the week.

Everything goes back to its proper place and we breathe easier knowing that everything is where it should be. So why, by the end of the week, is it all out on the table again? A few reasons:

  • Bad habit (not putting stuff away after done using it)
  • Lack of organization (especially when it comes to mail – we don’t have a solid system for it yet)
  • The storage doesn’t make sense (this one is the easiest to say, since it removes some responsibility on my end)

How to avoid magnet spaces in your home

First, a disclaimer – I am not the model for a perfectly clean home. I just naturally put stuff where there’s space for it in plain sight, and I’ll admit that weakness. For proof, this is mostly from today: Magnet Spaces However, I am starting to recognize patterns and realize what I can do to get better about keeping surfaces clean. Because there’s nothing like having a clean table to play board games on or sip coffee at.

  • Remove unnecessary surfaces. If the surface is not necessary and it gathers dust and/or random trinkets, just let it go. This was important to me when we were furniture shopping. I wanted a small desk and even stackable coffee/side tables. I didn’t want a huge bookcase or end table. I chose our rabbit pen because it was open on the top – I didn’t want another surface for my clutter to gather on.
  • Make them less convenient. If you can’t get rid of the table/surface, play some mindgames with yourself by moving it to a less convenient location. Instead of by the opening side of the door, put it on the hinge side so you don’t see it first thing. Trick yourself into thinking it’s not there anymore.
  • Identify what collects there. Is it dishes? Is it keys and sunglasses? Is it work? Identify what collects there and think carefully about how to manage it. Maybe a 15-minute daily dishes-sweep of the house/apartment could take care of the buildup. Maybe it’s as simple as getting a key hook and small basket for your sunglasses.
  • Decorate intentionally. This sometimes works for me, but I think it’s worth mentioning. Make your table or coffee table beautiful with a vase of flowers or a candle. Draw attention to it’s emptiness when it’s clean and make it a beautiful part of your home – the more you feel like it’s a pleasure to look at, the less you’ll want to mess it up. Kind of like a well-made bed.
  • And of course, get rid of what you don’t need. If your stuff doesn’t have a home, there’s no need to go buy storage. Open up those drawers that you haven’t looked into for years and clear them out. Don’t just scoot stuff around either because that’s cheating. Get rid of things you don’t need so that the truly valuable stuff has a proper home.

Don’t be mad when it goes wrong

I know I’ve been preaching this a lot lately, but it’s essential to not get upset when you find shoes on the coffee table and cups on chairs.

If it’s funny, let yourself laugh about it.

Humans are strange beings, and if we let this stuff get under our skin instead of taking a calm moment to deal with it, the habit won’t get any better. Be gentle on yourself and start fresh with each cleaning.

Because sometimes life just gets a little messy.

Also, if anyone has a solution for all the cups that show up in random areas around the house (anyone else have that problem?), I’m all ears.


18 thoughts on “Managing Clutter Magnet Spaces

  1. Our breakfast bar is the biggest collector of misc. junk in our home, largely due to our son. He gets one, ceramic bowl that matches the kitchen to put little things in like gum, keys, small tools, hardware pieces from his projects, earbuds etc. When it gets full, it overflows onto the counter along with magazines, glasses and whatever else he sets there. Asking him to sort it out is too overwhelming for him, so periodically (with warning) I dump everything in a plastic bag and put it in his room. Yes, he has a few plastic bags of stuff in his room! I do remove his glasses, earbuds and car keys, but the rest he can usually live without. Or if he really needs it, he can dig through the plastic bags.

    • That’s such a great idea. I sometimes do a similar thing in my own home – I’ll take everything off the coffee table and put it in a corner in my bedroom for sorting later. That’s not always a great idea, because I don’t always get to it…but it does help keep highly visible areas nice and clean!

      Isn’t it nice to look over and see a nice clean surface? Thanks for sharing Lisa!

  2. These are all great suggestions – my husband is like you and tends to toss things wherever there’s an open flat surface. It drives me crazy! I like to have a place for everything, and put said things back in said place. So I’ve tried minimizing the amount of open flat areas in the home as well.

    As far as all those extra cups and how they seem to end up everywhere….. we got rid of a lot of our dishware. It’s just the two of us here, and we don’t use our dishwasher, so we only keep 4 of everything in the cabinets. It keeps us on top of the dishes, and it means there are less things that are likely to end up all over the house. Of course, we have more beer glasses than I can count on both hands….

    • I can imagine – I actually thought it was my husband who was messier, then I started working from home…yeah, I’m the messy one. Getting rid of dishware is a good idea. Right now I feel like we have just a few too many cups (I think we have like 9 or 10?) We wait until dishes build up and use our dishwasher, but it would be better to just handwash a few things at a time and skip the dishwasher (at least from a clutter standpoint).

      I used to have a couple dozen coffee mugs…when I lived alone. I just love them! But then I realized how much space they were taking up and how little use I actually got out of them. I still have about 8, but I cherish each one for a different reason.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. I definitely have clutter spaces and drawers and I don’t like clutter! I’ve had to take time to open and empty each and every drawer because I’ve found that it’s the only way to truly assess what lurks in there! Those cube storage bins are another trap for me!

    • They really can “just happen” especially if you’re not aware that they’re beginning to build up. Something I’ve thought a lot about (and may do a post on later) is simplifying where no one can see – so, drawers, tubs, closets, etc. They really are places where clutter goes to live on forever.

  4. Yes! I think the cup-problem is universal, no? Anyway, I do a cup-sweep of the house every night before going to bed so we can start with a clean slate the next day 🙂
    Surface clutter is pretty much under control here, except for a part of the kitchen counter (???) which is a magnet for cellphones, keys, coins, receipts, etc. I had a decorative dish in the hallway especially for these items, yet they ALWAYS end up in the kitchen. So today I moved the dish into the kitchen. Here’s hoping the items will stay IN the dish and no longer roam the kitchen!

    • That’s a great idea – it’s so funny where you can find cups. And the kitchen is such a central part of any home/apartment that I feel clutter naturally gravitates there. Along with all the dishes…Thanks for sharing some tips & for reading!

  5. Kitchen counter for me too! I find I put thing there that need action – bills, lists, things to fix or thing I just don’t know what to do with. So my problem is about getting round to putting that picture on the the wall or making that dentist appointment etc etc. I found my surface clutter problem improved 90% when I de-cluttered my cupboards. Things go away so easily and everything has a home. With teenagers, I regularly sort the clutter (dropped clothes usually!) downstairs into piles which I put on the the stairs – take it up when you go. With small children I used to keep a basket each for them which I dropped little things into..
    My bug bear is shoes. In the middle of the floor. And my son has big feet – Big shoes!
    And he has too many pairs of shoes….

    • Yes, I agree – clutter builds up when it’s a lot of “someday” things. It’s funny how little time these things actually end up taking, but yet we let the clutter bug us for days before taking care of it. Those are some great suggestions!

      I used to have too many shoes, and my first step in cleaning the apartment would always be putting away the shoes. It was always shocking how big of a difference that made.

      Thanks for reading & sharing!

  6. Hi Emily! As a family of 5 we have several different “hot spots”. I’ve declared a couple areas “clutter free zones” and that has surprisingly worked to keep them free of clutter. Of course, if you looked at other areas you would see that our flat surfaces are also clutter magnets. Thanks for a great post.

    • That’s SUCH a great idea! When I clean I like to take everything and put it into one place first so that I can get an immediate sense of relief in the other cluttered areas. Thanks for sharing!

  7. When I read the title I immediately thought of writing “For my husband any horizontal surface is a clutter magnet” and then you wrote the exact words. I hear him say with distain in his voice that I don’t like all kinds of distractions on our counters. He’s right, I don’t. Working on it. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

  8. Pingback: Junk in the Trunk (and the Drawers and Bins) | Minimal Millennial

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