Breaking the Clutter Habit

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How to Break the Clutter Habit @ #ATimeToClean

Ladies, I just wanted to apologize for getting so behind in my writing! This is real life. I have had so much going on the last few days I just haven’t been able to find the time to write. Please forgive me!

This is My Life Planners

I do want to take a minute to mention that last week I was able to begin offering a pre-printed version of my “This is My Life” Planners. Currently, there are two versions available in print with more to come soon. These are available for sale on I’ll be sharing a video or two in a few days so you can see how nice these planners look – plus how I’m using them! These planners are in full color and so beautiful. I know you’ll love them! You can read more about all of my “This is My Life” Planners here.

I also have a new Blogging Planner available for those of you who are bloggers and want to be more organized. And it’s FREE!

A Time to Clean: Day 22

You can read the rest of the posts in this series here. 

Maintaining clutter is about more than just “doing” – it’s about changing the way you think. It’s really hard to “do” when your “brain” is still in clutter mode. We all have our comfort zone. Some people are comfortable with more visual clutter than others. I’m not saying this is wrong, but if your desire is to have a neat home with less clutter, you need to create new habits that will promote your new way of thinking.

I know I’ve struggled with this over the years, although my habits have improved considerably since I was a young mom.

The Broken Window Effect

So there’s this theory called The Broken Window Effect. This theory is a criminological theory of the how neighborhoods deteriorate into vandalism and anti-social behavior.

From Wikipedia:

The theory states that maintaining and monitoring urban environments to prevent small crimes such as vandalism, public drinking and toll-jumping helps to create an atmosphere of order and lawfulness, thereby preventing more serious crimes from happening.

So, what does this have to do with clutter in your house? 

Well, basically, we all have “hot spots” in our homes that just seem to collect clutter. For some of us…. every surface may be fair game for clutter and others may notice that the kitchen counter, the dining room table are the primary targets for clutter.

So, let’s say you do a good job of getting rid of all the clutter on your dining room table and you can finally sit down for a meal with your family. It stays clean and clear of clutter for … two days. And then someone discards the mail on the table. And then another family member {seeing that the surface already has some clutter} mindlessly sets down a book. Then you walk by with your arms full of laundry and you think, “I’ll be right back to get this put away,” but you forget or get busy and it doesn’t get done. Now, within less than 24 hours you have a pile of clutter that, if left unchecked will grow even larger tomorrow.

[Tweet “How to Break the Clutter Habit…”]

The Broken Window Effect basically means that once a window in a neighborhood is broken – it breeds more broken windows, more decline in the neighborhood untill the whole area is full of broken windows, graffiti, and crime.

In the example I used above, the first family member to set the mail down on the table “broke the window.” Now everyone else feels {subconsciously} that they have “permission” to add to the “broken windows.”

How to Break the Habit

You can’t change everyone in your home overnight. {Maybe never.} But you can begin to train yourself and your family to follow this simple rule:

Don’t set it down, put it away.

Once you have decluttered your home of excess belongings and found a place for those things you need or want to keep, it’s time to get serious about keeping your house free of visual, mental, and physical clutter.

If you see your child set something down where it doesn’t belong, repeat the old adage and ask them to put it away. But then you also need to say this to yourself! To really create a new habit, you need to do it for at least 28 – 30 days consistently. You may have setbacks, but that’s okay. It’s part of learning and growing. The important thing is that we are on the road to success!

Today’s Goal

  • Pray and ask God to help keep clutter at bay and to learn to deal with clutter when it happens so it doesn’t pile up.
  • Pray about making hard decisions – about what things you should keep, preserve, or let go.
  • Pick up a journal and write down your thoughts about what He has shown you or print my free prayer journal.
  • Choose an area in your home you want to tackle. I’ll be working in my bedroom today.
  • Fill at least one bag or box full of stuff to give away. You can donate to our Appalachian Community Center if you’d like.
  • Take a picture of your bag. Share it on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or Instagram – use hashtag #atimetoclean {optional}
  • Leave a comment below about what you chose to get rid of and anything else God has laid on your heart.
  • Do your best to wake up early tomorrow and spend time in prayer. Use your prayer journal. I’ll be waking up around 6:00 am.

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  1. I want to declutter and make my house "less", but as I do little projects God is leading me to declutter my thoughts and mind first. To get off the "playground" of extra thoughts and imaginings of conversations gone differently or future ones going right. It is amazing the amount of energy it takes to change your thoughts and heart! Everyday I read Psalm 91 more than once to have encouragement. Does anyone else feel spiritual work is as demanding as physical!?! Thank goodness He is pumping me full of grace and strength.
    1. Jennie, the spiritual work is often the hardest! Have you read the rest of the series? I cover all sorts of heart clutter issues! God bless you!
      1. I have :) I read every day. I started family worship and also did some purging from the examples. My life is at a huge turning point and practical, Godly, female, mom advice is one of the things God had blessed me with! Your blog is a blessing. God is using you here in cold snowy Central NY :) I pray for you and your family weekly!
  2. Hi Melissa, I just have to write to you and tell you that I really love your blog. I stumbled upon it one sleepless night last month. It really soothed my troubled heart and mind in so many ways. I just find your writing and ideas calming and encouraging. I feel I am a better mom, Christian, and wife because of it. The chaos and clutter (physically and mentally) is finally clearing. Thank you, Stacy
  3. I am finding myself trying to balance the heavy decluttering with the every day cleaning. I have been working so hard to get those BIG hot spots taken care of that I find myself slipping in the every day little tasks. I keep telling myself once I get the big projects done I can concentrate on the basic stuff again. Good news is, I think I have only 2 more big projects, my granddaughter's bedroom and a cabinet between the kitchen sink and the fridge. There is only about a 12 inch opening,door, but it's very deep and wide inside...really hard to get into so items have been put in there but can't really get them out. :-( I am so happy though of all the many bags and boxes I have been able to remove from my home! I can't believe how much I have gotten rid of....and how much more I would still like to get rid of. Thank you Melissa for all your encouraging words, your teachings and your prayers. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to help teach us in God's word. I think our husbands are happier for it...I know mine is. :-)
  4. I have really enjoyed the planner since I have printed it out this week and had it bound at staples. It has been a wonderful blessing! My mom is in town visiting and she and I are worshipping together and the meal planning once done makes the week that much more effortless in that aspect! Thank you for the emails I look forward to them daily! Jackie
  5. how sweet you are to be so positive and encouraging. When one struggled with mess and clutter a lot of emotion is involved. Thank you for sharing your tips and your positivity!
  6. Thank you Melissa, for calling me back to de-cluttering. In the last 2 months, I've been really concentrating on the mental and spiritually clutter. But my home is still a wreck! I live alone, but my grands are here a LOT. God is cleansing my mind and heart. But I know He desires me to have a clean house too.