There are certain places in our homes where we leave out items because we think it is more convenient. For example, we leave something on a counter because it is easier for us to grab it the next time we need it.
We see this happen at countless places in our home: the kitchen, the bathroom, the living room, the office, the bedroom.
Consider items like:
- small appliances on our kitchen counters
- toiletries beside our bathroom sinks
- office supplies on our home-office desktop
- DVDs on the entertainment center
- tools on our tool benches
- art supplies, keys, canisters, magazines, newspapers, a knife block
By leaving these things out in the open, we think we’re saving time when we need them and we think we’re simplifying our lives, but the result is anything but. I call this the “convenience fallacy.” And it’s a huge source of the visual clutter in our homes.
Sure, by leaving them out, you may save a couple of seconds when you want to grab one of them. But for the other 99.9 percent of the time they’re sitting out, where they create visual distraction, get in the way, add to the disorganization of our spaces, and attract more clutter.
Consider those old CDs you’ve held on to for years in a CD tower in your family room. Since it would take very little time to pull a CD out of a storage cabinet and put it back when you’re done, wouldn’t it be better to store them out of sight instead of where it’s contributing to clutter and acting as a visual distraction in your space?
The same goes for most, if not all, of the things we leave out for “convenience” around the house. They actually spend far more time as clutter than in service to our lives and our environment.
For example, if you make toast for breakfast, it will take you roughly three minutes to toast your bread. After that, the toaster will sit unused, on your countertop, for the next twenty-three hours and fifty-seven minutes.
Is leaving the toaster out where it’s taking up space and creating visual distraction worth the few seconds you will save pulling it out when you’re ready to drop your slice of bread into it in the morning? Think of all the times you’ve needed to move it to clean around, or behind, or had to shuffle it about to create more working space on your counter.
Rather than allowing these appliances to take up space, find a home for them in an easily accessed part of the kitchen, such as inside a cabinet or on a shelf. When you do, you will immediately reduce the amount of visible clutter for both you and your guests.
How to Overcome the Convenience Fallacy:
1. Notice, and identify. Look around the room you are sitting in right now—maybe you are reading this in your living room, your bedroom, great room, or office (or maybe you need to wait until you get home). Where can you see the convenience fallacy at play? A coffee maker, a teapot, a blender, a video game controller, a stack of unread magazines or newspapers, a stapler, maybe even an unnecessary clock. Take note of how many items you leave out simply for “convenience-sake.”
2. Clear unneeded possessions from cabinets and drawers. One reason, understandably, people leave items out on visible surfaces is because their cabinets are so full, they don’t have space for those appliances to be put away anyway. In order to overcome the convenience fallacy in your home, you’ll actually need to minimize the possessions that are hidden away. But once you’ve gotten rid of things in your drawers and cabinets and under the sink, you can put more things away and keep that counter beautifully clean.
3. Find a new home, out-of-sight. Organizers will tell you it is best to keep the most-frequently used items in-front of rarely-used items, so they are easier to reach. That is good advice. Which of the items on your counter really do get used? And on what basis? Keep the most frequently used items stored out of sight, but near the front so they are easy to reach. In my home, that means the toaster and the coffee maker are in the front of our kitchen cabinet, while the tea pot and hand mixer are in the back… and the canisters of baking goods are kept in the pantry.
4. Be intentional at the beginning to store items away. Habits can be tough to break. Once you have found a new home for your Convenience Items, be intentional and diligent to put them away—especially at the beginning. After a short while, you will begin to appreciate the empty space and those items will feel like clutter when you forget to put them away. But at the beginning, you’ll need to re-program yourself through intention to put things away immediately after use.
5. Take special note of the new, empty space. There is wonderful possibility in empty spaces. It keeps our eyes, minds, and attention focused on other things than material possessions. An empty space can be used for anything, at any time. Energy is free to flow. And an uncluttered space is less likely to attract more clutter. Notice these benefits as you clear surfaces and keep them clutter free.
There are many different factors that contribute to the clutter in our home. The “convenience fallacy” is one of the them. Now that you are aware of it, notice it in your own home and I’ll work to notice it in mine. And together, we’ll live more focused, intentional lives, focused on the things that matter.