It’s great to create a beautifully decluttered space, but why does it keep getting messy again?

It might be because you don’t yet have the habit of putting things away when you’re done with them.

This is extremely common — most people don’t have the Putting Away habit. When you’re done with some clothes, you put it on the chair or bed or floor. When you open mail, you put the papers wherever is most convenient. When you’re done with dishes, you put them in the sink or leave the dirty pans on the stove.

Some of you might be better — you put away clothes and wash your dishes, but perhaps you leave your keys in various places, or your smart phone gets put in random spots. You’re mostly there, but just need to focus on the few remaining Putting Away habits.

The bad news is that it can be hard to remember to put things away. The good news is that putting things away isn’t very hard — if you remember, it only takes a few seconds.

So how do we form the habit? Let’s take a look.

Forming the Putting Away Habit

Actually, the Putting Away habit is a bunch of little habits, created over time.

So you have to remember things like:

How do you remember all of that? By forming one of these habits at a time.

That means you won’t form them all this month, not without some incredibly concentrated effort and lots of reminders and mindfulness. For most people, this is not manageable.

So this month, just get started. Form the mindfulness that will help you remember all the habits. You can continue this practice (even if you mess up a lot for awhile) for months.

Forming the Mindfulness

We’re going to use several tools to form the mindfulness required for the Putting Away habit:

  1. Set your intention at the start. When you pick anything up, take a second to pause, and remember where this thing belongs. Mentally state an intention to put it back when you’re done, mindfully.
  2. Pause when you’re done. When you finish an activity (eating, reading, drinking a glass of wine, cooking, showering), pause for a second. Be mindful of what needs to be put away. Take a breath before your next activity.
  3. Notice when things aren’t put away. As you walk around, be more mindful of what isn’t where it belongs. Notice a few clothes on a chair? Put them away. It only takes a second. And yes, at first, if there are lots of things lying around, it’ll take a little longer and be a bit tiring, but remember this hassle. It isn’t fun, so next time, try to remember to put things back so you don’t have to clean up later.

Be forgiving when you forget, but develop the mindfulness over time. It’s like a muscle — it grows stronger the more you exercise it.