12 Tips for Maintaining a Clutter-Free Space

It’s hard to clean the house when you can’t even see the floor. Here’s help on getting — and keeping — your home organized.

This story was produced in partnership with Swiffer.

Another day, another avalanche of kids’ schoolbooks, dirty gym clothes, disassembled dolls, and half-completed arts-and-crafts projects sprawled out across your home. When there are kids around, messy can quickly become a way of life.

What you need is a speed-dial solution for getting rid of clutter in a hurry — a plan of attack, so that when you find 15 precious minutes to clean your floors, you don’t have to waste it packing up toys instead. Follow this de-cluttering plan to get your life, and your house, back on track.

1. Make a Clutter Box

A lot of things in your home have proper storage spots: towels in the linen closet, jackets on hangers. But some things don’t. Art projects and board games in progress shouldn’t be packed away — they’re not finished yet! So when you’re getting ready to clean, you need a temporary storage facility for random items without real homes. That’s what a clutter box is. You can buy a ready-made version that looks nice and holds up well at most home-furnishing stores (look for a basket or bin deep enough to prevent contents from spilling over the sides), or you can make one yourself, by covering an empty cardboard box with colorful wrapping paper and placing it in the corner of your playroom or den.

2. Send Toys to Jail

After you’ve asked your kids more times than you can count to put away stuffed animals and action figures, it’s time to show them you mean business. A toy jail is exactly what it sounds like: a spot where kids’ toys are held hostage until reasonable penance has been paid (kids straighten up their rooms) and a conversation is had about the importance of helping keep the house clean by putting things back where they belong.

3. Use a Shoe Organizer

Those flexible, hanging shoe holders can provide useful storage for many other odds and ends as well. Purchase a sheet-sized one with multiple pockets to hang on hooks inside the coat closet door and use it to store hats, mittens, scarves, and other odds and ends of outdoor dressing. Most are made from plastic material that can be cut with scissors, allowing you to custom-fit it to your door shape.

4. Swiffer Early and Often

One of the biggest cleaning mistakes is waiting until the house looks like a tornado hit it to take serious action. By that point, dust has accumulated and dirt has been ground into the floors. A better approach: Establish a twice-a-week Swiffer habit. On those two days of your choice, take 20 minutes to go over wood floors with the Swiffer® Sweeper® Floor Mop. The grooves in the dry cloth lock dirt, dust and hair while the wet cloth absorbs and locks away the grime. If 20 minutes isn’t in your time budget, try breaking the house down by room for 10-minute cleanups: Monday is den day, Tuesday is for kitchen cleaning, Wednesday is for the mudroom and bathrooms, and so on.

5. Make a Marker Jar

Every parent knows the challenge of purchasing a new set of 64 markers, only to discover that at least four or five of them are missing when it’s time to put them away. You’ll find them over the course of the next week — under the table, on the floor, or wedged between the cushions on your couch. For a quick cleanup, place a fishbowl on top of the arts-and-crafts table and drop loose markers, crayons, and pens into it.

6. Install Corner Shelving

Hands down, the most underutilized space in a room is the corner. Turn yours into a model of efficiency with the shelving you desperately need. You can buy a corner bookcase or build your own floating shelves (components are available at most hardware stores). If it’s DIY, make sure the first shelf is high enough off the ground that you can easily fit a Swiffer head underneath.

7. Hang on Hooks

When you’re trying to free up floor space, a stack of storage boxes can be counterproductive. Utilize extra wall space by installing hooks in your coat room or back hallway. Backpacks, colder weather layers, beach towels, and damp swimsuits finally have a home that doesn’t involve your floor.

8. Extend Your Reach

Whether it’s on the blades of the ceiling fan or on the top shelf of the bookcase, there are spots in your home that are nearly impossible to get to when you are cleaning. The Swiffer® Dusters Heavy Duty Super Extender cleans hard to reach places with six additional feet of reach. The 360-degree swivel head locks in four different positions, providing the optimal angle once you reach the dusty spots.

9. Invest in a Storage Ottoman

These comfortable seats may be a little pricey, but they pay you back in spades with their versatility and ability to make messes disappear with the lift and close of a lid.

10. Create a Filing System

From electric bills to children’s report cards, random papers have a way of piling up on counters and tabletops with no real home of their own. Purchase a filing box where you can label and hang folders by categories (bills, taxes, school docs, etc). Store the box in a study closet or under an office desk.

11. Go With Drawstring Bags

Certain games and puzzles involve a million super-small components and dumping them all into a storage bin brings the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack analogy to mind. Instead, use small drawstring bags, the size you’d store a pair of shoes in, to collect game pieces. Cinch the top and hang it from a hook in the closet or back of the door.

12. Keep Cords Together

Cleaning the floor when there is a tangle of computer, lamp, and other electronic cords is a nightmare. Pre-empt the situation by using twist-ties to keep cords organized and together. When it comes time to clean, you can easily move the cords as one unit, without worrying that they’ll end up in a knot.