A clean desk. A shiny kitchen counter. A floor without a single shoe to trip over.
As humans, our brains love organization and functionality. We operate on shortcuts; the easier to mentally process, the better. Our brains don’t, however, love chaos. Especially when it comes to the spaces we spend a lot of time in. So why is it so hard to maintain order and functionality in our own homes?
Streaming services like Netflix have caught onto our craving for functional design. One recent release, Hack My Home, riffs on a reality we’ve come to know all too well-- our homes have to do and be more than ever, and we all have limited space to accomplish that.
“Hacking” our space is a cultural phenomenon, and it’s hardly a mystery why. With work-from-home culture at an all time high, it has never been more important to maintain order in your home environment. And if you’re raising kids, the convenience of order can quickly compound into a matter of sanity. Whether you’re living in a mansion or a studio apartment, functionality is key to maximizing quality of life.
Order and function don’t require a design overhaul- they require a mindset and habits. Unfortunately, many of us have mindsets and habits that interfere with function and order within our environment.
Here are three common mindset traps and dysfunctional habits that could be blocking the organization in your home (and in your life)- and how to overcome them:
Minimalism, as an aesthetic choice, is beautiful. It’s airy, light, and clean. However, it isn’t inherently functional. And if you’ve ever designed a room with Pinterest dreams in mind, only to pull your hair out over where to put everything…. yeah. You probably already know.
Pinterest is not reality, but if you even want to come close, you need to get real with yourself about the space you’re wasting. No need to throw your minimalist dreams out the window, but there are plenty of creative solutions to maximize the space you have (without sacrificing your precious countertop real estate).
One solution that has become highly popular is multifunctional furniture. Coffee tables, couches, and even art pieces can double as unlikely storage space. While this option can be more expensive than other solutions, the long-term convenience without sacrificing design is a major draw.
If a storage-friendly couch isn’t in your immediate budget, you can still be creative with the space you do have. “Dead space,” such as the space under your bed, can instantly become a storage solution for items you want readily accessible but don’t need to use regularly (such as seasonal clothing, suitcases, etc.).
Another easy functionality fix for the minimalist-at-heart: hidden shelving. By installing shelves or organizers on the inside doors of your existing storage space (pantries, closets, cabinets, and the like), you can stay organized without reinventing the wheel.
Yes, Type B personalities…. this one's for you. You might have a designated chair in your room being eaten alive by unfolded laundry. And you might also have a pile (or five, or ten) of “pending” papers on every surface, even though you’ve definitely forgotten what you were supposed to do with those. If you have kids, it’s safe to say you’ve stepped on a Lego in the past week.
Clutter can feel like an insurmountable enemy to organization and functionality, but if this is the trap your home falls into, not all hope is lost. There are easy ways to start wrangling the chaos, without losing your entire weekend.
Just like clutter doesn’t happen overnight, lasting solutions aren’t quick fixes; they’re improved systems. One example of this might be keeping all of your “organized chaos” to one small spot (a drawer, for instance). This “junk drawer” should be reserved for odds and ends that do not have a spot of their own-- and everything should have a spot of its own! If possible, store your items near the places you use them most (e.g., pens and pencils near your desk). This reduces the temptation to leave items out of place.
The insidious paper piles are next to go. Digitize your documents whenever possible; by moving them to the digital space, you free up room in your physical space. Once you have that digital copy, toss or shred the paper. You’ll be shocked by the difference in your home by making this one simple switch.
Finally, get in the habit of never leaving a room empty-handed. If you pick up clutter throughout the natural flow of your day, it never gets the chance to build up. By scooping up your child’s stuffed animal from the floor on the way to their room, or grabbing that empty mug from your nightstand on the way to the kitchen, you can make a tidy home your new normal.
If your closet is half full of items you wear, half full of clothes in all different sizes and styles “just in case” you fit in it again someday or find the perfect occasion to wear it…. it’s time to make some edits.
You might be holding onto some guilt about wastefulness, or you might just be super sentimental. Either way, some items in your home are not meant to be forever, and treating them like permanent fixtures will kill functionality. If there are things you’ve outgrown (literally or figuratively), it’s time to move on.
Of course, this is easier said than done-- that’s where organizational systems come into play. Maintain two ongoing bins labeled “Trash” and “Donation,” and sort items accordingly as you come across them. Having these bins readily available allows you to remove items from your living space, improving both flow and function.
“Editing” your belongings doesn’t have to be a huge project, either. While it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the thought of purging your possessions en masse, an occasional toss-out is much more manageable. This might look like getting rid of clothing that doesn’t fit well, or throwing out expired food from your pantry on a regular basis.
Ultimately, by simply recognizing your mindset and habits, you can begin to improve the organization and functionality in your home and bring ease into your everyday life. When our minds aren’t overwhelmed by chaos in our environment, we have more mental bandwidth for the things that really matter. And any habit that brings peace is a habit worth keeping!