Decluttering: Drop Zones & Clutter Migration

Keeping the creep of clutter under control is an ongoing battle. Even if you’ve previously rejoiced in a successful mass clear out (congrats!), the fallout from everyday life soon sprinkles across each and every room of your home. To combat build-up, always take one item that doesn’t belong in the room away when you leave (or an armful of things if you live in a household like ours) and if you’re not going directly to the destination at which said item/s belong, then ‘drop zone’ ‘em.

Drop Zones

A drop zone is how I refer to certain areas of the home that will provoke a later action to complete a tidy-up task. A very typical example of a drop zone that many people are accustomed to would be the trusty bottom stair, where bits to go upstairs are temporarily placed in the hope of someone taking them on their next ascent…

In our home, these bottom tread items become mysteriously invisible to to everyone but me. All who pass them leap gazelle-like over them, springing merrily and unladen on their way. Nevertheless, these items are quickly and easily gathered up on my next journey, and gradually they migrate.

These drop zones hold a danger of becoming a blind spot for many families, and would be much more accurately described as permanent dumping zones unless the second and vital step of ‘clutter migration’ takes place.

Clutter Migration

Don’t let a simple tidy-up overwhelm you when feeling rushed by the daily grind, thoughts of “I don’t have time for all this’” or “I’m not headed to the room where these belong” will lead to a bigger problem that needs far more attention. The easiest, least energy demanding way of keeping a home in check is gradual clutter migration.

For me, after downstairs clutter has passed through its first drop zone on the bottom stair, it travels first to the master bedroom (TIP: place daily clutter items on the bottom of your bed, this way it HAS to be cleared before bedtime). Later, I’ll grab the few items that belong in each of our kids’ rooms and they migrate to the drop zones there; this means that they are on hand for me them to put away properly at bedtime whilst I’m laying out school uniforms and book bags. This way everything is reset for the next day, and the kids don’t have time to start whacking each other over the head pulling out more toys when they should be winding down for bed. Win, win.

Decluttering Decision

You’ll find you have many drop zones around your home (possibly previously used as dumping zones) but make a firm decision to have them cleared within the same day, or next day at the absolute latest, to prevent clutter mountains from forming. As our current bathroom is a mini trek down one set of stairs and up another, things that belong in there sometimes take a short tour through two interim drop zones (top landing & half landing) but the point is that they do get there during the course of one day.

Drop Zone Dishes

Decluttering your home of the odd used dishes can work this way too. There’s always a couple of cups in the home workspace, kid snack bowls/beakers in the living room and water glasses in the bedroom. Ideally I’ll do a blanket dish recon to bung all the stragglers in the dishwasher at the same time but days when I’m on the run I’m fine with the fact our dishes might do a short phased migrate too.

When in a spin getting myself ready (like a bedraggled wonder woman) or playing audience to my kids’ latest game/stunt/dance move/indescribable (“Mammy, mammy, watch this…” *child kicks leg half out to the side and falls to the floor* ??!) I’ll also be making a speedy little collection onto a surface nearest the door/stairs. When the shows over I’m ready to make a quick trip to the kitchen bench before racing back upstairs for act two–grabbing any items from the base tread drop zone en route, naturally.

When you use drop zones for gradual clutter migration, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff! With minimal effort, everything finds it’s way home.

Read my article on ‘Mastering Home Organisation: 3 Steps to Creating Task Zones’.

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