What do you do? If the clutter is yours, inform your family of your plan and carry on. Let them know what to expect. For example, if you are organizing a lifetime of paper work that has been stored away in your home office, let them know that some of that paper will be spilling over into the living room for a while. Assure them that it is temporary. Be sure to tell them how your organizing will benefit them as well as you. Remember that if this is your mess, you do not need permission from anyone else to fix it.
If the problem is not just your stuff but others’, you’ll need a different approach. If you live with older children and adults who leave their belongings around, change will be more of a challenge. You can threaten and complain but unless their bad habits affect them personally, they are not likely to comply. Get their attention by putting things you find around the house in a designated area. You don’t have to be mean about it, or charge them a fee for return – although I like that idea. Just be matter of fact. Pick a place, or a basket that is big enough to hold shoes and cloths, books, and laptops. Do a “sweep” of the public areas of the house once or twice a day and deposit the items in the “found” basket.
I know that it may seem wrong that you are still picking up after people. However, it usually is less frustrating than having things left all over the house. Also, when you put an item in the “found basket,” it is still the owner’s responsibility to retrieve and take care of it. They may be annoyed, but it will create awareness. Having to search for the things they need, even if they can guess that it’s in the designated area, requires extra effort. It might just be annoying enough to change their habits.
Food and dishes left around are a different story. You can create rules about where acceptable eating areas are. You can send everyone off to their crime scenes daily to gather any food, dishes, or garbage. If you do this before serving dinner each night, you create a “will work for food” situation. The bonus is that after dinner, when it’s time to clean up, all the dishes in the house will be in the kitchen. It’s even better if everyone has loaded their returns right into the dishwasher.
The most difficult thing about any of the above its sticking to your guns. When you are sorting and purging, and putting things away in logical places, your home is likely to look worse before it looks better. It may be hard for your family to accept this. This can be a tough situation. They want you to improve things but don’t want to accept the discomfort that can come with change.
When you decide that you are serious about change you must do three things. Make a plan. Inform your family of your plan. Proceed with the plan. This can be done in a calm, non combative manner. “This is what I’m doing. This is what it is going to look like.”
Often, no one believes the change is really going to happen…including yourself. Be clear about your goals and your plan. Let those whose life it affects know you are serious. Although they may complain, carry on. There will come a time when they will see and appreciate the changes you are making.