September 28, 2023
Close The Loop
A very common situation I find happening in my own house and in almost all the houses I work in is that horizontal surfaces attract…everything. For some reason, it’s easy to get things out when you need them but putting things away is less likely to happen. Here is an example of what I mean. My husband and I went for a walk last weekend. We both wore hats to the coffee shop and when we got home, we took the hats off and put them on the bathroom counter (clearly NOT their proper home) and went on about our day. A bit later, I noticed the hats were still on the counter.
What’s The Problem?
If I didn’t take care of the hats at that moment, it would most certainly invite other things to clutter up the counter. It kind of reminds me of that broken window theory that basically says that if a neighborhood has a broken window, it encourages more vandalism because people just assume that no one cares about the area. The concept was coined in this 1982 article. How it relates to this clutter problem is that if you have things laying out that don’t belong there, it gives the idea that it’s ok to leave other things out, too. In this house things don’t get put away so why don’t I just put this sock next to the hat on the bathroom counter? And that’s not a path we want to go down.
A New Way of Thinking
Instead of leaving things in the first spot it lands, I invite you to consider adopting a new thought process. This idea has helped me and has also been well received when I work with people on their own household systems. It is the concept of “closing the loop” and it basically just means doing things from start to finish. Making sure that there aren’t any loose strings. Whatever you want to say, it’s putting things away when you’re done with them instead of leaving it for later (or never).
If you feel like you can’t keep your kitchen counters clear, this might be for you. If you feel like stuff just piles up all over the place or like you have to clean the house before it actually gets cleaned, read on. Because one thing left out of place leads to another. One minute your house is tidy, the next it’s a hot mess. If you look around and see some of the stuff is there because YOU put it there, maybe take a look at your own habits. How can you close the loop on your own stuff to help keep your space tidier?
What does “Closing the Loop” look like?
I’m going to give you a few examples of what I mean.
It’s morning time. The kids get up and get ready. You get yourself ready. Someone brings a hairbrush and deodorant down to the breakfast area. Before you leave, someone takes 20 seconds to return the items to their correct home. Close the loop.
You throw a load of laundry in the washing machine. You put it in the dryer. It comes out of the dryer and it’s sitting in the basket. You can let the baskets pile up in your house or….yup, you know what I’m going to say, fold it AND put it away. And put the empty basket where it lives. Close the loop.
You’re working on a project on your computer and you have downloaded a bunch of files. You finish the project and are tempted to walk away. Instead, you spend 30 seconds deleting or filing the items you downloaded so they don’t create digital clutter on your computer and you can find them easily later on. Close the loop.
You go to the grocery store and stock up. You come home to unpack them and just don’t finish. But now you have stuff all over your counter. If you want your counters to stay clean, consider putting all your groceries away. Close the loop.
It’s dinner time. You get out the pots and pans. You set the table. You make the food and eat. To complete the circle and finish the dinner routine, you also need to clean up and tidy up the kitchen. Dinner is prep, cooking, eating and cleaning up. Start to finish. Close the loop.
Your kids are playing with legos and they become interested in something else. It’s hard to play if the area is covered in legos. No matter their age, the idea of tidying up before moving on to the next thing is not a new concept. This happens in school all the time so kids should also be able to do it at home if they know we expect it from them. Yes, it requires a parent to encourage and participate but the more you do it, the easier it gets for you later down the road. Close the loop.
You’re getting ready for a party. You try on a bunch of stuff in your closet. It all starts on the hanger but after you’re done there is a huge pile of clothing on a chair. Instead of leaving it, decide then to just take a minute to hang things back up and put them away. Close the loop.
It’s family game night. You pull a favorite out of the cabinet and spend an hour having fun. When game time is over, don’t just walk away. Instead, clean up the game AND return it to its regular home. Wipe off the table if you were eating snacks and move on to the next thing. Take it out. Put it away. Close the loop.
If you just get in the habit of closing the loop on things instead of leaving them for later, you will have a space that is much easier to enjoy because you are doing things as you go. I guarantee this will give you more peace in your everyday life because you won’t ever have to clean up a mess that’s been a week in the making. Just make it a habit to close the loop as much as you can and things will start running smoothly.
You’re the Role Model
Of course, all of this is easier if you can also get other people on board. When I say “you,” I’m really hoping that it’s you AND the other people using your space. If they get something out, encourage them to put it away. The little people are learning from the big people so act accordingly. I know that’s easier said than done. In the meantime, just work on what YOU can do. If you find yourself in a messy situation, close the loop. If you see something out of place, point it out and ask someone to take care of it. Soon enough, everyone in the space will recognize that it feels good to have peaceful surroundings and they will be motivated to do their part to keep it that way. And if it’s too hard to put things away, again I say, you might have too much stuff. It’s really hard to keep a home clutter-free when every cabinet and closet is stuffed to the brim. Something to consider.
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