I thrive in uncluttered environments. They are my jam. A tidy, uncluttered environment lets me breathe and think; I feel more creative and energized. An uncluttered home is even included in our ideal life manifesto.
As we've minimized and minimized some more our home has become the bright and uncluttered environment I've always wanted to live in. And I've implemented a simple trick for maintaining a home with an uncluttered feel: maintain clear horizontal surfaces.
This brilliant idea isn't my own, I read it years ago in a post at Small Notebook. Like the idea of the Sunday home the concept of keeping horizontal surfaces clear has stuck with me, although I'm only recently implementing it in full. Now I'm nearly obsessed with finding horizontal surfaces we can keep clear.
Maintaining clear horizontal surfaces goes along with the idea behind the warning in The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that clutter attracts clutter, which is so true! Now that I know the power of clear horizontal surfaces I find myself looking for more and more surfaces in our home that we can keep uncluttered.
For example, I used to keep a couple of potted plants on the kitchen island. I love the idea of having houseplants but the reality was that everyday I was shoving them to the side to make room to cook and to prep snacks. Instead of looking ready for use the island was always partially occupied and the plants kept the kitchen from ever looking truly clean. Now we have nothing that "lives" on the island and the large, empty surface is full of potential and energy instead of being a collecting place of things and tasks to be completed.
Our bedroom dresser was another horizontal surface that was perpetually cluttered with clothes and everyday items. I used to keep a small jewelry organizer there and who knows what else. What I do know is that since there were already a couple of things on the dresser we discarded clothing, papers and other random items there and they blended right in. There was no urgency in returning items to their proper home because the dresser top was a catchall. The space was not designated as a clear surface and so anything could find a home there.
We have since designated our dresser as a stuff-free surface. Like the kitchen island the dresser surface is not home to anything. And so when there is something on the dresser Chris and I both know that a true home must be found, it can't stay on the dresser. It's was so easy to let clothes pile up on the dresser, and then to take over the chair and then the bed. Clutter attracts clutter! Having the dresser designated as a surface we keep uncluttered gives our whole bedroom a more tidy vibe. It keeps stuff from piling up and thus keeps the rest of the room tidy.
On Friday we had the house professionally cleaned, as we do once a month, and I was taking notice of all the clear horizontal surfaces throughout our home. There are surfaces in every room awaiting use. There are side tables where I can put a mug of coffee as I read books to the boys in the early morning. My bedside table has room for my water bottle each night and the book I set down before I go to sleep. Our dining room table is ready for a boisterous family dinner or to be transformed into a podcast studio.
We've found that clear horizontal surfaces are perfect for a home environment for young, curious children. We avoid many "no's" simply by not having as many things out in the house. The toys that we do have out see lots of play time because the boys aren't overwhelmed by choices. Plus we can tidy the house in a snap because we don't have many toys to put away and everything has a home.
I realize that our aesthetic tends towards the minimal and isn't for everyone. But the photos in Rachel's post show a home that does not look minimal in the least and yet has an uncluttered feel because of the clear horizontal surfaces. So I think it's a concept that can work for any style of home.
Also, please know that my home does not always look this clean and tidy!! Surfaces become cluttered with stuff during everyday living in my home just as they do in yours. The power in a home with clear horizontal surfaces is that the clutter that temporarily accumulates doesn't stay; everything has a home to return to and we are motivated to clear surfaces and return to an environment that is ready for life and living.