Make it a habit to put things back so you don’t have to think about it.
Many lists of rules for children or roommates include some variation of the rule “Put things back where they belong”. This is so basic that you might be thinking it not worth being mentioned. Think again. Lots of adults throw their dirty clothing on the floor wherever they happen to have taken them off and don’t bother bringing the dirty dishes from the dinner table to even the kitchen, let alone putting them into the sink or dishwasher or, *gasp*, washing them. We need to declutter our space not only because we get more stuff than we use, but also because, without putting things back to their designated place, even the useful objects tend to clutter up every available surface.
There are so many issues stemming from not putting things back in their place that it seems silly not to develop the habit of returning everything to its resting state when you are done. How many times have you run around your place swearing, looking for your keys, wallet, or phone when you are late for an appointment? How about frantically searching for a band-aid while trying to contain the blood gushing from your finger which you’ve impaled while trying to cut up some veggies on a small region of counter free of clutter? What about looking for wipes and realizing they are not where they should be when you have a very messy squirming baby in your arms?
None of these situations are enjoyable. We run late, make a bigger mess, and find obstacles in our way that would not be there if only we would designate an appropriate place for things we use on a regular basis and develop the habit of returning them there after use. When you look forward to spending the rare quiet 15 minutes to relax with a book while your baby is peacefully napping, it is really frustrating to realize you’ve wasted them searching for the book.
Don’t wait until you run out of supplies or ingredients — replenish them. Don’t allow the laundry to pile up on the floor — make a habit of putting it directly into the laundry basket. Wash dishes after every meal or at least once a day, so that you don’t wake up to a kitchen that looks like a battlefield. Avoid frustration trying to find things when they are needed and tripping over them constantly when they are not. Put things back where they belong, and teach your children to do the same or you’ll spend a lot of time picking up after them. Their future roommates and partners will thank you.
It’s easier to keep up than catch up :)