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.

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This Weekend’s Harvest

Last weekend I had the opportunity to spend time at my parents garden in northern Indiana. There’s nothing quite like being outdoors and eating fresh veggies straight out of the dirt. Not as gross as it sounds.

The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway.

– Michael Pollan

I thought I’d share a few pictures of our harvest and the makings of our garden veggie stew that we cooked over coals near our fire.

While I’m not in the position currently to have my own garden, it’s so nice to have access to one. I know that someday I’ll have a full garden, but it’s city living for us for the next several years!

I do have some background in indoor gardening, so hopefully soon I can set up something (like aquaponics!) even on a small scale to grow some arugula and kale for my husband, rabbit and me.

Do you garden or will you garden?

How to Make an Apartment Feel Like Home

For many of us, apartment living isn’t unusual. In the past 12 months almost exactly, I’ve had 4 different residences. I’m so glad to finally be settled in this very apartment for at least the next 8 months, and hopefully fate allows for me to re-sign and establish my roots, even if only for a little while.

But I’ve become adept at making my living space feel as much like home as possible, so I thought I’d share some tips with those of you in similar situations.

  • Keep it simple. Save things that are important to you (like the bouquet I caught at my friend’s wedding), but don’t overdo the clutter. Carefully sift through your sentimental possessions and only keep the ones that mean the most or serve a strong purpose. My rule: is it useful? Is it beautiful? If it’s neither, I toss it or donate it for someone else to enjoy. This means that I’ve done away with quite a few sentimental possessions, but I’m surprised to say that I don’t miss them.
  • Handmade increases the comfort factor. If you or someone you love creates anything by hand, try incorporating those elements before purchasing anything from a store. While you can get nice, clean prints online and at big box stores, nothing adds personality like a completely unique piece of artwork. If you’re not crafty, try checking out Etsy and supporting some small-time artists. If you’re thrifty, you can find some pretty sweet (and pretty terrible) pieces of art at Goodwill. Last time I was there I saw a portrait of someone’s two young sons for sale. Just don’t be that creepy.
  • Keep it visible. This feeds in to point #1. Try to keep most of your possessions visible and not hidden away in drawers stuffed to the brim with random trinkets (read: junk drawers. I still have way too many of these). This effect is twofold: you become aware of all the junk you really have and can get rid of some, and you also spend much less time seeking out things you need. Keeping things visible and reachable makes it feel less like you’re living out of boxes and more like you and your possessions have an established home.
  • Plants help more than you’d think. Having plants (and even plastic flowers I’ve gathered along the way) helps liven up my apartment. They give me another life form to consider each day. I recommend Wandering Jews, pothos or Aloe plants. I’ve had these three types of plants for years, and have yet to see one wither away under my care.
  • Skip the frozen and boxed meals. These aren’t all that comforting. Putting together a meal yourself, even if you do break out the frozen veggies, is worth the small time invested. Chicken noodle soup, an easy go-to meal, takes 30 minutes to make, travels to work well, and is inexpensive depending on your preferred ingredients. I also find that spending time in my kitchen makes me feel at home and in control. NOTE: this doesn’t mean you can’t cook up a box of macaroni and cheese and sit in your comfy pants on the couch watching Netflix all night consuming the whole thing. Do this sparingly, but do what makes you the most comfortable.

Overall, I’ve learned that keeping a clean apartment helps more than anything. For me, coming home to clutter or timothy hay all over the floor (thanks, bunnies) triggers my stress reaction. My reaction is just to get rid of as much clutter as I can to avoid that reaction.

What do you do to make yourself feel at home in a temporary place?