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How To keep open surfaces Clutter-Free

You walk into your home, and the first thing you do is throw the car keys on the dining table, along with your wallet, shopping bags, laptop, and sunglasses. Next, you drink a glass of water and leave it on the table too. The kids come back from school, and drop their lunch boxes on the table before they run to their rooms. Your spouse walks in with a bunch of mail and dumps them on the table, to be sifted at a later time. In just a couple of hours, your dining table looks straight out of a town hit by a tornado! Sounds familiar?

The problem with open surfaces like dining tables, kitchen counters, other table-tops, and floors is that they look inviting and convenient to drop stuff off, in the hope that you will sort them later. Unfortunately, this seldom happens. The result – all flat surfaces get packed with things you don’t know what to do with


In my experience of having organized homes and offices, I have realized that open surfaces are magnets for clutter and those are something that is visually overwhelming. You shut a drawer close and at least you are not thinking about it at that moment ( not that, a cluttered drawer is not an area of concern) but open surfaces are there in plain sight for you and anyone who walks into your home. They need the maximum attention.

So, here are a couple of smart ways to clear the clutter on flat surfaces and prevent them from becoming junk-drop-zones forever.

1) Start with choosing one open surface starting small is always an excellent way to go about decluttering. To clear out flat surfaces, choose one which is closest to your doorway. This could be either the entryway table, the dining table, or the kitchen counters. With just one goal at a given moment, you’re likely to feel less stressed and hurried. Gradually, move to other flat surfaces around your home.

2) Pick up, sort, pile – get a box and start picking up everything off the surface and dropping the items into the box. When we say everything, we mean EVERYTHING. If you’re decluttering your kitchen counter, you may want to remove the appliances as well. Starting the process with a clean slate helps to think clearly and plan the placement of objects. Once all items are off the table, you need to sort them into different piles –

a) things you need or love,

b) things you’re not sure whether you need,

c) stuff that means absolutely nothing.

Discard/donate the last ones instantly. With the second pile, store them in a container with a date six months from now. Open the container after six months to check if you really need any of it; if not, junk them.

3) Find a home for all your stuff – every item must have a home. Spaces get cluttered when things don’t have a home. A container for stationery, a folder for bills, a bin for clothes, a drawer for files, etc. will help break the cluttering pattern and allow for organized living. A great way of finding a home for an item is to ask yourself, where is the first place you gonna look for it if you lose it?

If an item doesn’t have a home yet, create a temporary storage box. Throw in items that you’re yet to find a home for. Put this away, but examine it every couple of weeks to decide whether you still need those items, or if they can be discarded.

4) Follow the pre-set system – it’s likely that most of your important stuff already has homes. Keys, wallets, footwear, books, bills, etc. usually have designated spots that you and your family are familiar with. Form the habit of putting things back into their places as soon as you walk in through the door. And do it consistently. It might take some time before everyone at home is on the same page with putting things where they belong right away; but once the habit sets in, you’ll be grateful for the clean open spaces.

5) Spruce up flat surfaces – a great way to discourage your family from leaving things on flat surfaces is to keep the space decked up. For instance, if your dining table is always cluttered, set the table with a runner, placemats, and tableware, and keep a decorative item like a vase of fresh or faux flowers, a napkin holder, or a cute set of salt and pepper shakers. Coffee tables, low shelves, or chests of drawers can be perked up with an eclectic pile of books, a tray of succulents, scented candles, or miniature ceramic décor pieces. When open surfaces already have pretty stuff on them, it’s likely to deter everyone from piling on more things.

6) Communicate – a home stays decluttered only when all family members pitch in. Children, especially, need constant reminders to put things away. Don’t hesitate to use post-it notes or reminder note clips on surfaces you’d like to keep clean. These might also be just what you need if you’re in the habit of slipping up. A visual reminder comes in at the right time and will help you and your family set a routine and build new good habits.

7) Tidy up every day – the easiest way to keep open surfaces clean is to declutter on the go. When you spot something that’s not supposed to be there, remove it and put it in its place that very instant. Tidying up daily makes the task as simple as getting up and drinking coffee. It gradually becomes a part of who you are. When you tidy up every day, things don’t pile up and decluttering becomes a one-off task.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on keeping open surfaces decluttered. Have you made a change in your lifestyle that helps keep your spaces tidy? Drop them in the comments below. And if you’re looking for decluttering and organization services, write to

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