Clutter Jail

clutter jail

About a year ago, I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with my family about the clutter that was in every corner and on every surface of our home.

We’re homeschoolers, and that means we are home ALL DAY. You might think that would give us plenty of time to pick up clutter, but the reality is that it makes clutter worse. There are a thousand projects going on that we don’t want to put away because we are coming back to it. The kitchen is always cluttered with dishes from cooking three meals every day. And don’t even get me started on the books and papers that come with homeschooling.

And I don’t know about you, but clutter makes me cranky. I like order and organization. I found myself constantly raising my voice about the mess. Our home was not the peaceful, fun, comfortable, happy haven I wanted it to be

Y’all, something had to be done.

I turned to my BFF Pinterest for ideas on how to restore order without my having to nag. The idea of a clutter jail sounded like it was just the ticket. After instituting this idea for the last few months, I am happy to pass it on to you, as it has helped us tremendously.

Every day we do 5-10 minute clean-ups. These have helped tremendously to keep the clutter under control. They are short so that nobody gets overwhelmed by having to take on the whole clutter project at one time, and we can pick up a lot of clutter in 5 minutes. We try to do one of these during the day, one before J comes home from work, and one before bed. If anything is left out after bedtime, it goes into my clutter bucket, a Rubbermaid bin that I keep in my hall closet. If there are items left in my bedroom (a big no-no!! I HATE to step on Polly Pockets when I get up in the middle of the night!!) they go into the bucket. If bathroom counters are left messy, it all goes into the clutter bucket. I’ve even thought about instituting clutter for things that get left in my car.

The girls have to do chores around the house to earn their items back from clutter jail. Of course, the chores are age appropriate, but they also serve to help keep the house in order. It’s a double win for me: the clutter is out of the way and I get the dishwasher unloaded or a load of laundry folded or the floor swept. My girls have been known to do a quick chore to get their ballet shoes out of clutter jail as we wait in the car to take them to ballet. They have had to earn back their toothbrush before they can brush their teeth in the morning.

The thing I love most about this idea is that I don’t have to nag or be grumpy. I simply pick up the clutter, and into the bucket it goes. The girls know the rules, and they know to check the clutter bucket when they can’t find something. They routinely come to me and ask for chores to get something back from clutter jail. I get a chore done, and they get their toys back. Order is restored and everybody is happy, happy, happy.


  1. Wow, I am a professional organizer so I have, and have seen, quite a few tips and tricks but this is a new one, and I love it!!! Great idea! Although I work a lot with moms, I have not had a home-schooling family yet, and I have wondered about the unique organizing challenges home-school presents. I am going to borrow this. May I like to your post on my blog?
    All best,
    Wendy (organizing in Red Bank, NJ and surrounds)

  2. Nice! We may have to try this one.

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