We all have reasons why we don’t put things away. I’ve been taking an informal poll and thinking about the reasons why we leave things lying around and at what point it becomes a problem. We all leave stuff around (our Halloween decorations are still out). Knowing when it turns that corner and starts affecting our lives is important to recognize, so we can take care of it before we become overwhelmed.
Here are the top reasons I heard and observed about why we don’t put things away
- I don’t know where it goes
- It’s too hard
- I don’t know if I want to keep it
- I’m too tired
- I don’t have time/I’m in a hurry
- Someone else will do it
- It’s just a habit
- It’s no fun
- I’m still using it
- A crisis/event/vacation came up
Found your top 3 reasons?
Here are some ideas to make it easier to put things away.
1. I don’t know where it goes
2. It’s too hard
3. I don’t know if I want to keep it
Creating homes for items is one of the basic organizing skills. Sometimes you may need to create a home for things that are waiting for decisions. Then they can go in the ‘need to decide’ file. If it’s too hard to put something away, especially something you use a lot, make it easier. Move it to a more convenient place or make a bit more room for it in the drawer. We all know that some things are just going to be hard to put away, so just make sure those are the things you don’t use very often, like the turkey platter. A common reason files don’t get put away is because the file cabinet is too full, or there is no folder for your category.
4. I’m too tired
5. I don’t have time/I’m in a hurry
We all know what it’s like to come home tired or in a hurry to be off to another commitment. We drop things by the door or set them somewhere to put away later. That’s sometimes the best we can do at that moment. So, just make sure ‘later’ comes. Setting a regular ‘pick up the house’ time can help – maybe before bed, before guests come over, or every Saturday morning. The point is to not let it go too long or things start to get out of hand. If there is a place where you always ‘drop’ things when you come in, try making that spot its home. For instance, set it up so there is a place right by the door for you to put your purse or keys.
I try and think about my future self, when I will be in a hurry to get out the door next time. It is a nice surprise to find what I need is all nicely put away and ready for me. I am always thankful I took the time to give myself the gift of time. I also try not to always be in a hurry, but that is a different article!
6. Someone else will do it
7. It’s a habit
Often there is one person in the household whose tolerance for things around them is lower than the others. They become the default picker-upper, the ‘someone else’. It can quickly become a habit that if you leave things out, ‘someone else’ will pick it up. It can also become a habit that you think will put it away ‘sometime’. There are good reasons to break these habits and retrain yourself to put things away consistently. One reason is that it is far easier to put things away soon after you are done with them. Otherwise, the motivation seems to decrease more and more the longer you wait, especially if other things are added to the ‘put away later’ pile.
Another way to think of it is to decide that the cleanup is part of the whole process. When you take the scissors out, part of getting to use them is to put them back. You managed the time and effort to go get them, build in the time and effort to put them back. It will be come a habit. Your default ‘someone else’ will thank you for your efforts!
8. It’s no fun
It truly is way more fun to get things out than put them away. Consider the Halloween decorations: the anticipation of getting the box out, opening it up, thinking about decorating and having fun. Right now, though, I am really tired of seeing that box still sitting there. When you’re done using whatever it is, it can feel like a chore to put it back. That’s where using some motivational tricks can help, like setting it as your one goal for the day, enlisting household help, deciding to get the Christmas decorations out at the same time, thinking about how good it will feel to have that spot clear, so good in fact, that you deserve a hot chocolate! Whatever works.
9. I’m still using it
Then there’s the ‘I’m still using it’ tactic (most often seen with kids and crafts). It’s great to have a place to set out toys, hobbies and crafts till you are finished with them. It is frustrating to have to pick up a project in the middle. However, we don’t always have the space to do this long term, so setting a limit on how long something can be out can help. It works both ways-your stuff affects others, so knowing how long something will be out can make a big difference to those around you. Just like knowing that you can have space to work on your project without someone nagging you to pick it up feels good.
10. A crisis/event/vacation came up
Planned and unplanned big events come up in our life. Sometimes we don’t know or have control over the impact these events will have on our lives (such as an illness or caretaking) and sometimes we do (such as traveling or having a party). Either way, we often are so busy planning for the event or in the moment of the crisis, that we don’t give ourselves room to get back to normal after the event or crisis. Coming home a day early, taking a day off to regroup, or having a day to yourself after a crisis can help get you back to a manageable state with things. We seem to find the time to go to the event or take care of things, but equally important is taking care of you and your life. We tend to minimize how much time and energy it can take to ‘recover’ after an event or crisis. Giving ourselves this time can make it more enjoyable or manageable. I say plan for the day after as carefully as you plan for the event.
Do you have a different reason why things don’t get put away? I am always interested in understanding reasons and coming up with new tactics. Let me know!