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How To Declutter & Clear Off A Flat Surface {And Keep It That Way}

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Today's mission is to declutter a flat surface in your home that seems to accumulate clutter, quickly.

We all seem to have one, or more, flat surfaces that for whatever reason we can't keep clear. Instead, these surfaces can get cleared off, and then boom, within a short period of time, stuff is all over it again.

Some people call these hot spots, some clutter magnets, and I call them plain aggravating. :)

So today I want you to do two things during the mission. The first is to identify what flat surface you will work on for at least 15 minutes, removing clutter and putting away things back into their rightful places. This will make the spot look better right now, and give you a sense of accomplishment.

The second thing I want you to do, while you're decluttering though, is to think about what types of stuff you're finding there, and to analyze what habit or circumstance causes you (or a loved one) to place stuff there on that flat surface over and over. Once you do this you can brainstorm a solution for that issue so you can try to prevent the clutter from re-accumulating there again.

Finally, we'll also discuss building the habits necessary to stay on top of these clutter hotspots so that they never get quite as out of control in the future, and instead stay more consistently clear.

What Is Your Flat Surface Clutter Problem Area?

List of some of the most common flat surface clutter problem areas, plus advice on how to conquer them {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
The first question you need to
ask yourself is, "what is the flat surface (or surfaces) in your home that seem to accumulate clutter?"

You can't deal with the problem, after all, until you identify it.

One reader, Marlo, was kind enough to send in a collage showing some of her own personal flat surface clutter hotspots, which you can see on the right, and she explained, "These are four flat surfaces that are currently bugging me!"

You need to figure out for you, just like Marlo did, which surfaces are bugging you the most.

I have compiled a list of some of the most common and typical flat surface clutter problem areas that many people have (so don't feel alone). All of these I've written a specific Declutter 365 mission article for, so I've linked to the articles within the list, so you can read more about that particular hot spot area if you want recommendations for dealing with it, particularly.

Then, you can read below for more general suggestions that will work to help conquer the clutter on any flat surface!

So, some of the most common problem areas include:

Once you've identified the areas that are a problem for you, below I've provided advice on how to fix the problem and stop accumulating clutter in these spaces from now on.

Top photo courtesy of ewen and donabel

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3 Ways To Keep Clutter From Piling Back Onto Your Flat Surfaces

Before and after when Regina decluttered her nemesis flat surface, her kitchen counters, for 15 minutes {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}

Decluttering your flat surface isn't that hard, at least in theory. All you need to do is remove the stuff from the surface that you don't want there, discarding clutter and putting things you do want to keep in your home, but don't really belong there, where they need to go.

Depending on how much stuff is on that flat surface it may take one, two, three, or more 15 minute decluttering sessions to get the job done, but it can get done.

In fact, when it does get done, like it did for Regina, a reader who sent in the photo above, it looks much better. She decluttered her flat surface clutter nemesis, as she called it, in 15 minutes, and you can see the difference.

The problem, is however, that it is a never ending job. As she said, when she sent in the photo, "This is my problem area. Everything gets dumped here. I loved how big this was for when we have parties but for the everyday function it's a collect all. Then when we have company all the junk gets thrown on the side of my bed. So that's my next mission these two places are never ending."

In fact, this is a really common problem. Here's another photo from a reader, Michelle, where she asked me a question, saying, "I keep clearing this off and then it keeps getting junked back up. What can I do to keep this space clear and items put away?"

Flat surfaces are notorious for being clutter magnets. Here's advice for how to clear off your flat surfaces and then keep them from re-accumulating clutter in the future {on Home Storage Solutions 101}

So here's my attempt at an answer to this really common problem. I've thought of 3 things you can do to help you stop clutter from accumulating on these flat surfaces again in the future, or at least deal with it more quickly so it doesn't get so overwhelming.

1. Make Sure You Have A Storage Space For The Stuff That Normally Piles Up There

The first thing you need to do, as you clear the clutter off your flat surface, is evaluate where all the stuff goes that you (or a family member) has been putting there.

Sometimes, when we lay things down on these flat surfaces it is because it is too difficult to put the item away, maybe because the place it should itself go is very cluttered and overstuffed, or because we've never actually designated a place for it.

If this is a problem the general process of following the Declutter 365 missions will eventually help you, because as you clear out unneeded and unwanted stuff, you'll have more space in your home to designate a real home for everything.

You know the phrase, "a place for everything, and everything in its place." Well, having that as your goal really will help with a lot of this surface clutter you deal with regularly. Once it is easy to put something away then you'll reduce the amount of flat surface clutter you've got in your home.

Declutter 365 missions {15 minute missions for your entire home}

2. Address Any Habits Or Circumstances That Are Causing Things To Get Placed There Regularly

As you are removing clutter from these flat surfaces you may also notice something interesting about some of the clutter items. They are things that, for a variety of reasons, you or a loved one is placing on this space as part of a habit.

Some examples of this include placing your keys somewhere when you walk in the door, or putting your change from your pocket on the dresser top as you change clothes at night.

To the extent that you've got these types of "clutter" accumulating on these flat surfaces see if you can work with people's habits. Either designate a new place for keys, or maybe put a bowl onto the entryway table that can hold the keys, or a jar for pocket change on the dresser top, to contain that "clutter" in a specific area.

3. Make A Habit Of Clearing These Spaces Consistently As Part Of Your Routine

Finally, we all know that despite having a real storage space designated for stuff, there are times we and others in the household still don't put it there, at least not right away.

Yeah, some of that may be from laziness, but it could also be because we're in a hurry right then, or are hands are full, or whatever else.

This happens a lot on the kitchen table, for example, but it can happen on just about any flat surface. The key to dealing with this type of clutter is to get in the habit of routinely clearing the space so it never gets really out of control.

Dealing with a few hours worth of clutter on the kitchen table that accumulated during the day, before dinner when you (or someone else in the house) routinely clears off the clutter, putting things away, doesn't take too long at all, and never makes the space be too inconvenient for too long.

How often you need to clear the space depends on how much you use the surface, and how quickly clutter accumulates on it. Some surfaces, like your kitchen counters and table I suggest habitually clearing of clutter, daily. Others, like a dining room table may be less frequent if you don't use the table often, or could also be daily if you want to use the table to eat each evening.

You can learn more about how and why you should adopt a daily tidy up routine here.

How and why to adopt a daily tidy up routine

I would suggest, for your peace of mind, purposefully clearing clutter from your hot spots at least weekly, if not daily. The reason is that a clear surface is much more mentally calming rather than seeing junk everywhere, so keeping things tidy really does help you feel better about the space you're living in.

Below I've provided some before and after photos from readers who've taken on this mission to get you inspired, and to let you see the great results that can happen when you clear the clutter from your flat surfaces!

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Before & After Photos For Decluttered Flat Surfaces

Before and after photos from Sandra, who decluttered her problem flat surface, a kitchen island {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

A reader, Sandra, sent in the photos above, explaining that while her child was sick she had to stay home and so she tackled this problem area for herself, and that the after photo "has stayed like this all week!"

Before and after photos from Teresa who decluttered her problem flat surface, her kitchen hutch {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
These photos are from a reader, Teresa, who tackled her kitchen hutch. She did a great job, didn't she?

Before and after photos from Michelle, who decluttered a problem flat surface {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Finally, Michelle sent in these before and after photos of the flat surface she worked on, which is in her living room.

Want To Do More Decluttering Missions? Get Started With Declutter 365 Today!

Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!

Click here to take me to this year's Declutter 365 calendar

Get This Miscellaneous Decluttering Checklist + 32 Other Decluttering Checklists For Your Home

Right now you're decluttering your home, and there's a lot of items to declutter.

Get your 2 page miscellaneous decluttering checklist, plus 32 other decluttering checklists, to help you declutter your entire home here.

Get this miscellaneous decluttering checklist and 32 other decluttering checklists for your home {on Home Storage Solutions 101}

I've done the hard work of breaking down these tasks into smaller more manageable steps for you, so you don't get overwhelmed or worry you're forgetting a task, and you can go at the pace you want, whether that's fast or slow.

In addition, you can tackle these decluttering tasks in whatever order you want when you use these checklists!

Click here to learn more about 33 Decluttering Checklists Pack

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Join The 52 Week Organized Home Challenge

Go From How To Declutter A Flat Surface To Home Page

Comments for Before & After Photos For Decluttered Flat Surfaces

Click here to add your own comments

this sets the tone for the whole household!
by: Blair

I did this earlier in the week after a super busy week the day before and it has set the tone for the whole household!

my problem areas
by: Billie Jo

The back of the toilet and bathroom sink area. I finally took the time to organize and put things away in the cabinet.

entertainment stand is our catch all
by: Stacy

Our entertainment stand seems to be a catch all for junk and gaming stuff. When I clean it off it makes the whole room look better.

just took 5 minutes
by: Joan

Cleared the top of a book case and organized the top of a display case in less than 5 minutes. 10 minutes to do what?

I will have a place for everything
by: Lisa

Our spot is the kitchen counter. It fills with school papers, purses, just crap. We are having major construction now and it's about sending me over the edge. When it's finished I WILL have a place for everything.

my problem area
by: Sarah

The top of my deep freezer.

gets messy fast
by: Steph

I cleared and cleaned the kitchen bench yesterday. My husband came home from work and now it's messy again.

top of fridge
by: Amy

Top of the refrigerator. All things banished get put there and forgotten about. Suddenly the kids have new toys again.

it is a clutter magnet!
by: Jackie

Why does everyone in the house think that the dining table is the drop-off place for the junk they are bringing in? Oh I know. It is MAGNETIC!

top of washer and dryer
by: Teri Jo

Top of the washer and dryer has become a catch all again. It's hard to fold the laundry between all the stuff sitting there.

Flat Surface Disease
by: Gina

THANKS! I needed this. My hubby says I suffer from an incurable case of "F.S.D" otherwise known as Flat Surface Disease. I'm going to give your tips a try. Wish me luck!

big issue in our house
by: Beth

This is one of the greatest issues at our house. We leave things on the kitchen table because we PLAN to come right back to finish what we were doing!

collect daily mail on the counters
by: Alice

Our kitchen counters hold a lot of clutter. The kitchen table collects the daily mail. Always a mess.

my kitchen bar
by: Julie

The kitchen bar. It had 3-4 piles of stuff on it, clean pots and bowls, and various and sundry other things that belonged somewhere else.

craft room table
by: Jan

Planning the craft room table but it will have to happen tomorrow!

I'm a pilot
by: Lani

ANY flat surface in my home is fair game. My husband calls me his "Pilot". You know, pile it here, pile it there. HAW haw hee!

The Forgotten Flat Surface - The Floor
by: Anonymous

In addition to the usual suspects when it comes to flat surfaces, in my house the FLOOR is every bit as much a clutter spot as those flat surfaces higher up. I know I have my own problems with clutter building up, but there's a 17-yr old boy, and a 61-yr old man here, neither of which knows how to pick up a darn thing and do what needs to be done with it. I gave up requesting nicely, and nagging years ago, mostly with the "old guy". Computer and photography stuff is everywhere. Then my own stuff, genealogy and quilting though those two are at least contained to one room set aside for me and my projects. The only way I see this changing is when the young man moves away from home, and the old man doing what all of us old folks eventually do. So all you young folks, train those kids and husbands from the get-go!!!

All above is cluttered.
by: Pat Townsend

Since I hit 62, now 65. Every single surface is cluttered. Help can't see a surface!!!!!

I like your steps for keeping the space clear
by: Anonymous

I really like your steps. Every night I put the two or three things I or someone else puts out on the desk. It has stayed clear for two weeks. That is when I decluttered it. It looks amazing! I don't feel upset about my living room any more. If kids are still awake they put their own stuff away.

Trashcans: the ultimate tool
by: Anonymous

Don't forget that your ultimate declutter tool can be your garbage can. When other residents of the house leave things on the floor (as someone said above) or a surface, and absolutely will not clean up after themselves, then I believe it's fair to say, "You do not respect or care about your possessions. They are hindering life in this house. The possessions are possessing US (or ME) and they gotta go!" Doesn't need to be an ultimatum. You can make a list of items, and a time limit (one week) to handle them. Then, only then, employ your garbage can!! This item isn't necessary to a life well-lived - you know it can't be, because it sat on the floor for 4 months!

Also, remember that YOU can pick up stuff for other people if YOU are the only person hacked off about it. This takes a big emotional toll on some of us (me included). But I realized one day that I was so much happier when the job was just plain done, regardless of who did it. If it's in the common space and you don't like it, find a closet for that person's junk and they can figure it out at their leisure (which is what they were already doing, just now they don't do it on your table or floor).

If there is a flat space .....
by: Sherrie

If there is a flat surface in my house I assure you it's completely covered in junk. It's so overwhelming.

Flat surface hell
by: Anonymous

If every flat surface is a catch-all... (including the floor in some cases) ... where do you start?? I can get the visible stuff handled, but then my motivation for the unseen (but still nightmarish) clutter is gone. But it still drives me crazy. I drive myself crazy...

by: Katel

I'll admit, I have the advantage of cleaning for a living (I own a cleaning company), so I'm much more adept at doing this as a habit; every time I leave a room, even if it's just to grab something quickly, I take something with me that can be put away in the room I am headed to. Note that it does not need to be EVERY item that could be put away, just one or two, depending on how many hands or pockets I have free. I get comments regularly that my home is always spotless, so it's obviously working!

Make it a display
by: Lorraine from Newfoundland Canada

If you use home decor to fill a flat surface, it is less likely to be a clutter spot.

bathroom counters
by: Kitty

Took 40 minutes, but I got 2 flat surfaces decluttered and clean and the mirror too. Couldn't even see the flat surface before! We only have one chest of drawers in bedroom, that top us my husband's area. So my bedroom and bathroom stuff is here.
Now time for breakfast and dishes. Later today, plan to hit two more surfaces. All horizontal spaces in my house is fair game for my cluttering self! Ugh.

by: Anonymous

Years ago I reached all I could handle on this clutter and went from room to room tossing all on the floor. 30 years later my husband remembers it but has not corrected his part in creating the mess. The kitchen island has a shelf below where I placed a box for all his receipts. He doesn't reach below and still clutters just above the box on the counter. HELP all ideas are worth trying.

I hate clutter!
by: Pat


Dining room and magazines
by: Anonymous

Working on the dining room table now in preparation for Christmas. Plan to work on my magazine/ book piles while I have downtime during the holidays.

How I solved the problem
by: Catherine

We had a step son stay with us who had never been taught to pick up his clothes. Months of nagging and demands. Finally started bagging everything on the floor and made him buy back his clothes by the pound out of his allowance. Problem solved.

Learned young
by: Yvonne

Trained at a young age by my mother to put my things where they belonged. Every evening she would throw everything in the trash can that didn’t belong on the kitchen counter. Didn’t take long to learn that I didn’t like digging through the trash for my homework!

Beautiful Dining Room Table
by: Barb

When my children were young we ate in the kitchen and often did homework, crafts or played games on the dining room table. The table became a magnet for "junk" and the whole room looked untidy.

I started setting the table as if I were having company for dinner. That included a table cloth or place mats, napkins, cutlery, candles and glasses.

It was easy enough to slide a place setting or two over if some one wanted to work at the table. The table looked so lovely no one was tempted to drop a book bag or odds and ends on it.

It's my husband
by: Anonymous

It's my husband, it's my husband, it's my husband! He's a 65 year old hoarder and I'm about to lose my mind. Suggestions welcome.

A tent is the answer!
by: Mary

Love these comments and tips....I'm 76, and hard to teach an old dog new tricks. I have thought of placing a small tent on top of the butcher block cabinet in the middle of our small kitchen!
Actually, I'm determined to clear this and my dining room table and KEEP them clear!

Ugh - the flat surface challenge
by: Phyllis

I have 3 flat surfaces that are problems - laundry room sink area, bedroom closet dresser, and garage counter. I have cleaned these off and sent in before and after pictures yet somehow they always end up full of stuff. I have such good intentions every time - what in the heck happens. Oh well, I'm going up to do the bedroom closet dresser. I feel bad in the morning when I go into that closet and see all that stuff piled up on the dresser. Sets my day off wrong. I'm going to spend 15 minutes cleaning and then 15 minutes figuring out why this keeps repeating and how to stop it.

Bathroom counter cleared
by: Rebecca

I took just a **few minutes** to clear the bathroom counter. Now I can actually wipe down the counter to dry it after washing my hands or cleaning it once a day. Now, it's so much easier to disinfect it once a day with all the "things" are in their place!

Husband Hoards Books and Paper
by: Karen

I cannot get my husband to pick up his hoard of books and papers off the family room floor. (He is retired, but has been taking classes at our city's university for five-plus years). If I try to clean them up, he goes nuts! What can be done about this?

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