Our kitchen counter tops are a constant challenge for us. We always have clutter on our counter tops and bar area. It seems like the clutter accumulates and then reproduces on its own. It’s like we have self-aware clutter that desires to take over that space.
We made some progress last week in beating that counter-top clutter monster.
Mail has always been a problem for us. This is especially true when the ownership of any particular piece of mail is in question. I mean you think that would be easy to identify since mail is typically addressed to someone. But ownership does often come into question. For instance, a medical receipt, notice, or bill with Dreams name on it is actually mine because I am responsible for processing those things. Likewise, bills are always mine because one of my household responsibilities is paying bills. A magazine on the other hand may be community property as we both read them.
Here is our plan for eliminating mail based clutter
Junk mail is disposed of as it enters the door (or before.) One of the nice things about living in an apartment complex (or at least in the one we are in) is that we have a garbage can by the mail boxes. I can immediately dump all junk mail in the trash can before it ever enters our home.
Bills are paid immediately and then thrown in the trash. As soon as I walk in the door with a bill, I sit down at the computer, log into my online banking and pay it. When we were living paycheck to paycheck in our house this would have been impossible, but now that we have a comfortable cushion from living below our means we are able to pay bills as soon as they arrive. After paid, the bill is ripped up and thrown in the trash.
Opt out and unsubscribe from as much as possible. Steve Pavlina has a great post on reducing mail to almost nothing. We used the opt out on DMAChoice.org to cut back on direct marketing junk mail and we used optoutprescreen.com to stop the credit card offers. We also used the unsubscribe website or phone number on any of the other junk mail that we found in our mailbox. Most advertising junk mail will have instructions in small print somewhere telling you how to opt out.
Cancel the print magazines. We find that most print magazines are thinly veiled attempts to force our thinking into consumerism. Do you feel like you need a new sports car? I don’t… until I read a copy of Motor Trend or Car and Driver. Do you feel like you need the latest gadget? I don’t… until I read a copy of Consumer Reports. Magazines drove my desire to consume, so I eliminated them all. Consumer Reports was the last to go, as they had supposedly useful information. But we found that Amazon (or other website) user ratings were just as useful as the Consumer Reports info, and often times user reviews were actually better than those of the professionals.
Everything else. There are other random things that occasional come in the mail. Things like appointment reminders, holiday and occasion cards, and whatever else. These have to be processed in whatever manner is required so that they don’t end up on the counter.
We also tend to get items on the counter that aren’t mail based. Here is our plan for those items.
File or toss school papers as soon as they come out of the backpack. Most stuff that comes home from school in our daughter’s backpack is destined for the trash. Completed school work gets looked at and then tossed. Upcoming homework is set on the table to be completed during the week. (She’s in Kindergarten, so assignments are weekly.) Announcements are added to the calendar and then tossed.
Art work is looked at, appreciated, and then tossed or filed. Our daughter, Faith, loves to draw and color. Luckily we’ve instilled in her that the joy is in the creation of the art, and not necessarily in the preservation of it. After she draws or colors, most of those items will end up in the trash. If she creates something especially good, we’ll file it away in a memory drawer.
Items from pockets NEVER go on the counter. I have a habit of pulling receipts from my pocket and putting them on the counter. The same is true for theme park maps, brochures, or whatever else I happen to pick up. I have made a great effort to change this habit and instead place these items in the trash. If it’s a receipt I need to keep, like for a high dollar item or something I might return, I place it in our file for receipts. I also started keeping my keys, wallet, and phone in a drawer instead of on the counter.
Chargers are put away when not in use. This one has only met with some success. I put my phone charger in a drawer when I’m not using it. Dream’s phone charger and our camera charger tend to stay on the counter, but we did wrap up the cords neatly to help it look a little better.
Dishes are washed daily. We don’t use a dishwasher. We gave up on that a couple of years ago. The dishwashers we’ve experienced just don’t clean very well and often end up damaging the dishes. Dishes also tend to sit in the dishwasher instead of getting put away. Hand-washing does a much better job, doesn’t damage the dishes, and really doesn’t take much longer. Also, we found ourselves pre-rinsing most dishes, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to just go ahead and wash them. We really want to get to the point where we each wash our own dishes right after dinner and share the cleaning of cookware. Then after washing, dry them and put them away. This would keep the counter top perpetually free of dishes.
That’s our plan. For the most part we’ve been sticking to it for the past couple of weeks. Stopping the flow of junk mail helped a lot. We are still working on the dish washing, and occasionally stray papers end up on the counter, but I feel like we are making good progress.
How about you. Do you have any tips on keeping counter tops clutter free?