Reducing Clutter With Minimal Effort

It’s nice to be able to cut down on clutter that’s overtaking your living space, but it’s a pain to go through the effort of actually organizing everything. What you need is a way to make things look better while spending as little as time and effort as possible.

Speak Softly and Carry a Red Pen is here to tell you how to do just that. Here’s some advice from the post about how to organize your rooms quickly and easily:

* Rush through it. If you’re preoccupied with other stuff, you’ll plow through the process without overthinking it, making it easier to discard unnecessary items.

* Trick someone else into doing half the work. Invite a friend over to “hang out,” and when they get there, make sure to be in full swing reorganizing everything. Your guest will be have no other option but to help out, cutting down the workload.

* If you accomplish nothing else, clean off flat surfaces. Desktops and window sills look bad with a bunch of junk piled on them. Start by clearing off surfaces that need to be bare to look good, then proceed from there.

De-Cluttering for Lazy People [Speak Softly and Carry a Red Pen]

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  1. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    Trick someone else into doing half the work. Invite a friend over to “hang out,” and when they get there, make sure to be in full swing reorganizing everything. Your guest will be have no other option but to help out, cutting down the workload.

    I don’t need any friends like that, but thanks for the invite. Bye.

    • ARP says:

      Yeah, I’d be kind of pissed if someone asked me to help out. I guess if it was under the rubric of purely hanging out and you know the person well, that’s a little less offensive.

    • anti09 says:

      Agreed. Am I the only one who finds this horribly tacky?

  2. RedOryx says:

    Uh, yeah, if any of my friends pulled that stunt with me, we wouldn’t be friends for very long. If you need help, I am more than happy to assist if you ask. But tricking me? No.

  3. TommyTutone says:

    Hey ya, Dave, c’mon in, grab a beer. Oh, while you are over there, can you scrub down my stove and check the containers in the fridge to see if they’re spoiled? Thanks!

  4. sponica says:

    my problem with clearing off flat surfaces is that it all ends up on the floor….or in junk drawers

  5. alana0j says:

    Oh man I get so mad when my apartment gets cluttered!! So every few days I overhaul things to try and keep the mess to a minimum. But it doesn’t help that I have a kitchen that is the size of a closet (and not a big closet) and I have two kids

  6. KyBash says:

    Is that meant to be on Onion?

    It all sounds almost plausible, but if you think about it for even a few seconds, it’s all fail.

    • DariusC says:

      Agreed. Rush = throw away something that will bite you in the ass. Trick your friend = pissed ex-friend. Clean flat surfaces = junk drawer or junk floor.

  7. DoraAreGames says:

    I think if someone invited me over to hang out, and I arrived to find they expected me to help them clean their house out of awkward politeness because they were already doing so, I’d probably be a little offended. Just come right out and ASK me and I’m most likely going to say yes. (… unless I start feeling guilty when I think of how much of my OWN cleaning I need to do… ) If you try to sucker me into it, I’m just going to go, “Oh, I didn’t realise you were busy, give me a call when you’re done.”

    The bit about flat surfaces is a good one, though, if only because for me it provides a good jumping off point for the rest of the cleaning. I tend to get overwhelmed whenever I decide I want to to a BIG cleaning (oh no, windows need washing, carpets need cleaning, DVDs are a mess, recycling isn’t sorted, AAAAAA) and picking one thing that makes a good visual impact to start with is a good confidence booster.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Oh yeah, that’s what I do. The coffee table is the worst offender, and it’s front and center. So it gets swooped down on first.

  8. Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

    1. Gather clutter into big pile and wait until midnight.
    2. Over the fence into neighbor’s yard.
    3. Problem solved.

  9. little stripes says:

    Or … just throw shit you don’t need away (or sell it, or give it away)? There. Easy.

  10. Outrun1986 says:

    Exactly, that isn’t a very good idea if you want to keep your friends.

  11. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    Wow, the advice on the page and Phil’s paraphrases almost don’t match at all.

    It said enlist help, and included bribery to get help from friends and family–not dupe unsuspecting people into cleaning for you. :/

  12. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    What a fantastic way to lose a friend.

  13. nicless says:

    Clicking through to the article shows us:

    If you can rope an unsuspecting family member or friend into helping you (with promise of treats), then do.

    Nothing about tricking people at all. I guess we see how Phil treats his friends!

  14. kobresia says:

    I’m surprised “arson” isn’t on the list. Fire is the answer to almost every problem.

  15. hoi-polloi says:

    While I disagree with the suggestion to lure an unsuspecting friend into helping (which Phil made even worse in his summary), having a fresh set of neutral eyes can help. Agree to help a friend organize their place if they help you. You might pick up new organizational methods. On top of that, catching yourself repeatedly saying, “Oh, I couldn’t get rid of that!” might give you a reality check.

    I’d say keep on top of the little things as a systematic way to manage clutter. Sort mail and recycle the junk as soon as you bring it in the house. Break down boxes for recycling as packages are delivered so you’re not looking at a stack on recycling day. If you need to return something, you can always grab the box and some packing tape.

    My pet peeve is my wife using tools and not returning them. I’m nearly to the point of getting my wife her own toolbox, dividing the tools equally, and locking up my set. Even if I just sort the multiples between us, it would cut down on hunting for a driver, tape measure, or safety glasses. If you habitually straighten and return things as you go, it cuts back on the need for those occasional large-scale organizing job.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      i burn my junk mail so i set up a can outside just for paper trash. it doesn’t even enter the house anymore if it doesn’t need to

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I made myself a toolkit with a shower caddy left over from my daughter’s college days. I even went to Lowes and got a hammer that felt comfortable. I also organized all the tools in the cellar, and built a workbench, using an old solid wood door as the top and scrap 2×4’s as the base. I scrounged a free Remline red tool box, with drawers, and put all the drill bits, pliers, wrenches, etc. inside.

      We have over 40 screwdrivers because my husband is not organized, and would just buy a screwdriver instead of trying to find where he left the last one.

      I warn him to stay out of MY toolkit as he doesn’t put anything back! Sounds exactly like the opposite of your issue :)

  16. hmburgers says:

    “Rush through it.”

    Wonderful, and I’ll likely shred documents that I need, or bits and pieces of the disassembled kitchen table in my basement rendering it garbage… “Rushing” is almost never the answer.

    “Trick someone else into doing half the work”

    Seriously? That is the stupidest thing I’ve heard in a while… don’t expect to retain the friend for long…

    “If you accomplish nothing else, clean off flat surfaces”

    This at least seems like a reasonable idea, at the very least by cleaning the flat services like a desk, you will have working space to review other items that may need to be looked at before organizing them…

  17. namcam says:

    I used to have wood chopping parties. Plenty of people showed up…no serious drinking until all the wood was cut and split!

  18. AllanG54 says:

    My wife’s 19 year old son just organized our food pantry and a few other assorted cabinets while he was home on break from college. Heaven forbid he should get a paying job but at least he did something besides sit on his ass and Skype with his girlfriend.

    • Misha says:

      Assuming he was home on a winter break of no more than 3 or 4 weeks, really? Really? A paying job for 3 or 4 weeks? It’s hard enough just to find a paying job IN that length of time, much less a paying job that won’t balk at the desire to stay for only a few weeks.

      • JeremieNX says:

        “My wife’s 19 year old son”… That phrasing alone gives me some clues here.

      • Not Given says:

        My neice has a job she’s had since she was 16. She has been working for them during her school breaks since she started college.

      • Nyxalinth says:

        My wife’s 19 year old son just organized our food pantry and a few other assorted cabinets while he was home on break from college. Heaven forbid he should get a paying job but at least he did something besides sit on his ass and Skype with his girlfriend.

        Winter break should be just that, a break.

        Kid probably thinks of you as “the surly old sticdk in the mud my mom married”.

    • shepd says:

      Do you regularly find alternative employment when you take vacation from your current job?

      If you answer no, do you regularly clean the house when you take said vacation?

      Again, if you said no, your son-in-law is the better man.

  19. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    my friends are used to my clutter and my ongoing fight with it so they are perfectly content [and i prefer] that they sit and enjoy a nice beverage while i sort a box of books or whatever.
    i’d never invite someone over for the express purpose of tricking them into cleaning. although a few of my friends are eager to help me and have in the past helped me with getting boxes in the attic or something

    • CrankyOwl says:

      You need to train your raccoon houseguest to help you with that. Make that critter work for its cat food!

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        last night it was playing with a bag of cat6 cables that i had set down in the dining room.

        • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

          I think you should give up, capture him, get him a rabies shot, and just let him stay. Just make sure he doesn’t figure out how to turn on the water faucets while you’re at work or you’ll have a giant water bill! I bet he could be litter trained! :)

          • HogwartsProfessor says:

            LOL I had a pet raccoon once at my ex’s. Well, we did. She was a hoot. I still have her little chewed-up ball. We ended up letting her go. They’re smart little suckers and those little hands are just amazing.

  20. KFW says:

    How is rushing through it less effort? Is this helpful advice, or grasping-at-straws for new content?

  21. libwitch says:

    “nvite a friend over to “hang out,” and when they get there, make sure to be in full swing reorganizing everything. Your guest will be have no other option but to help out, cutting down the workload.”

    Sure, as long as they understand my idea of r-organizing is “throwing everything away”

  22. Mr Grey says:

    When is the last time you opened that book – or watched that DVD – more than a year – its got to go.

  23. Jane_Gage says:

    I agreed to help my friend clean his house after his mother died. He gave me some objects for use in my classroom for still life day. We had a yard sale and he got me a case of imported beer. Probably such an arrangement would be better and more fun than being manipulated into cleaning.

  24. halifornia says:

    Did someone forward you this crap from The Onion? This is just sad.

    If you want to get serious about de-cluttering, see: http://unfuckyourhabitat.tumblr.com/

    No, it’s not my tumblr. But I’ve followed it, and it works.

    • halifornia says:

      Ok, now I’m even more irritated with you Phil. Who wrote those three bullet points in your “article”? Was it you? Because they’re some sort of ridiculous, twisted paraphrasing of the original article. Good joke, but it’s not April 1st. I guess you’re practicing “Blogging for Lazy People”?

  25. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    My method is simple. I watch an episode of Hoarders. Then I feel guilty about stuff under the sink, or sitting on one of the bookshelves in the living room, and I make a throw out, donate, or keep pile. If it’s a lot of paperwork, I sort it while watching something on Netflix streaming.

    I don’t like clutter, and too much of it makes me anxious.

  26. SissyOPinion says:

    “Surfaces, darling! Surfaces!”

  27. ansjc09 says:

    I do this to my boyfriend when his mancave/office becomes difficult to walk through. I go in and start going through boxes or papers and yell downstairs, “DO YOU NEED THIS?” So that forces him to come upstairs and help me, which gets him to toss out more of the unnecessary stuff. When I switch “winter” and “summer” clothes, some of his older polos/shirts disappear as do some of my dressy tops, pants, skirts, etc. It forces me to acknowledge what I want to keep and not. Also, watching the hoarders show forces me to vacuum and pack up even more stuff for rummage sales/charity organizations.

  28. Dallas_shopper says:

    Here’s a great way to minimize clutter:

    Buy less shit.