I love having a clean and uncluttered home.  I’m particularly sensitive to my environment, and clutter makes me feel like I have undone work.  Unfortunately, I am not an organized person.

An additional reality is that between three growing boys, a dog, the constant influx of Amazon boxes, and the demands of everyday life, I just don’t have the raw hours to keep things as organized and Zen as I’d like.

So about a year ago, I decided to tackle this problem head on by testing a lot of processes and products.  Here is the short list of hacks and tools that I love:

Category 1: Stop Overflowing Waste Bins With These Gadgets

Hack #1: Compost Your Cardboard

We are Amazon junkies.  Even though we’ve upgraded to the largest size recycle bin, we still run out of room in it…every…single…week.

To tackle this problem, we bought this beast of a shredder that cuts most cardboard:

Pair it with a pair of carboard scissors to break up your larger pieces.

Use this on brown cardboard only, and it qualifies for your compost bin!  Did I mention how satisfying it sounds when you shred up that box?

Reduce clutter, add to compost, and get to cut things up with a crazy tool?  This hack is a triple win!

Hack #2: Crush Your Cans

Only slightly less thrilling than smashing cans on your head, is using this phenomenal can crusher to compact your waste.  We have it mounted to the wall by the kitchen table.  You finish your La Croix, White Claw, and then smash it to about ¼ the size.  The sound is legendary, you will feel like Thor.  And, you really improve your waste bin efficiency.

Usage note: get the larger size so you can handle tallboy cans, and never try to crush one can on top of another.

Category 2: Cleaning Policies

Certain things in life do better if processed in batches.  Email, for example, rewards this kind of focused and batched attention.  But when it comes to cleaning, you always want to be doing a little bit of it so that the clutter doesn’t pile up.  This is called “nibbling”.

Hack #3: Full Hands In, Full Hands Out

This hack is well known in restaurants.  It’s called “Full hands in, full hands out”.

As in a restaurant, in a home, there are always things needing to be moved between different locations.  From one floor to another, from the car into the house, from the house into the car, etc.

As you move between locations, always grab a couple of items that need to be moved.  A mug that hasn’t been brought in, laundry that needs to go upstairs, garbage that needs to go outside.  It takes very little effort, but the consistent application of this keeps things tidy and in their place.

I combine this with having a “staging” area.  Tables or areas near the entry and exit points where we know things are looking to be transported.  Everyone can contribute as they walk by.

Hack #4: The Two Minute Rule

I got this hack from David Allen’s legendary productivity book “Getting Things Done”.  If you see some piece of work or cleaning that needs to be done, and you can deal with it in under two minutes DO IT NOW.  The effort it takes to file it away, remember it later, etc. will always be more than two minutes.  And your place is cleaner longer.

Hack #5: A Place For Everything, and Everything In Its Place

I am notorious at losing things.  The solution was to make sure that everything had a place, and preferably there was only one place for everything (it’s not as helpful if your shoes are in three different locations for example).

If you don’t know where something belongs, ask yourself “if I lost this, where is the first place I would look”.  That’s it’s place.