Samantha's mother-in-law's office
My mother-in-law babysits my children and does a great job, but she can't seem to keep her house clean. Her home office has barely enough room to place a book. There are toys everywhere (from my kids) and two computers on two desks with more junk on them.

She has been intervening when I would try to set up a cleaning schedule, and then nothing gets done like it should. I don't know what to do—I don't want my children to think that this is how people should live.

— Samantha
The home office can be a really tough place to keep ordered. Especially when it is multifunctional.

I'd suggest two steps here:

Have another chat with your mother-in-law. She is obviously doing a great job babysitting the kids, but you need to be really firm with her about modeling the right behavior for the kids. So, instead of making this about the office, make it about the kids' toys.

Suggest you get a couple of bins for the toys and that, at the end of each day, your mom work with the kids to put the toys away where they belong. Make this a normal part of their playtime.

Suggest to your her that she could use the same principle with the home office as you want used with the kids. Help her find a good filing system
(maybe a file cabinet) and some trays for her desktop to manage the mail, bills, etc. Then, each day as the kids are picking up their toys, she can
use those 10 minutes to do a quick pickup and tidy of her desk.

You win, the kids get a good lesson, and your mother-in-law learns that it's all about small, consistent steps.

— Peter
Carol's home office
My husband and I moved into our home about 14 years ago. I used to work at home and had lots of time for cleaning, and since it was our first house, we didn't have a lot of belongings.

Fast-forward 14 years later, and we now have so much "stuff." Everywhere you look, there's clutter. I don't know where or how to begin to declutter our life. We figured the first step would be to "ask for help," as embarrassing as this situation is to us. Next step: Pick a room to declutter.

Our office is the smallest room in the house, so I am hoping it will be a good place to start the decluttering process. I hate living in this mess I used to call a home. It is a huge source of frustration to me. I just want to get rid of everything and get some calm back into my life. We haven't had friends or family over in years. The mere thought of someone showing up here sets me in a panic. I hate feeling this way and really miss having company over.

— Carol
It's amazing how clutter can take over—almost without us noticing. Don't
be embarrassed to ask for a little help—what you're experiencing is really common.

One of the biggest contributors to clutter is that we don't complete tasks. We put mail down in a different place every day, leave magazines all over the house, half-fold the laundry in the family room, then leave the rest for "later"…you get the idea! We don't regularly go through the house and get rid of things we no longer need, use or want.

If you want to make a dent in the clutter, you have to first of all stop buying new stuff today . Put a three-month ban on purchasing new things that you don't absolutely need.

Then, every day for a half hour or so, every member in your house needs to go through the house, finding things that you no longer need, use or want. These should be bundled up, put in the trunk of the car and donated to charity. Alternatively, they can be stored in the garage until you have enough for a great yard sale.

As far as the office is concerned, you and your husband should commit to a half hour every night. Slowly and methodically go through all of that
paperwork. I can guarantee that you don't need more than half of it. Keep only those things that are still relevant and essential—the rest should be

Do this for just one month, and you'll notice a huge difference in your home, your clutter and your lives. You give time to what you think is important—give the clutter some serious time, because this is really important!

— Peter


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