Eliminating clutter frees the mind; people then feel better about themselves. It frees time for other things as an organised home needs less cleaning and maintenance.
How the Toothbrush Principle Will Change Your Life, and Self Esteem
Banish Clutter Forever was born out of Sheila Chandra’s cluttered childhood and feeling that possession were more important than she was.
As someone who has long worked from home as an author and song writer she has had to develop better habits in her own home and life.
A Place for Everything, and Everything in its Place
Although Banish Clutter Forever does not use the phrase beyond an initial reference it does rely on a similar approach but with important modifications. Whereas a place for everything is about organisation it has typically relied on storage being arranged by function or some other physical characteristic of the items. Banish Clutter Forever instead relies on the idea of “Zones” and “Completion”
Zones and Completions – the Toothbrush Principle
Using the tenets of Banish Clutter Forever items are stored or located where they are regularly used – the zones in the principle. After use items are returned to their base location , the completion. Just like a toothbrush. No one loses their toothbrush as it is always kept in the same place and is returned to that place when it has been used – hence the Toothbrush Principle. As Sheila Chandra suggest, even in the most disorganised household people do not misplace their toothbrush; indeed even when staying in hotel the basic principle remains true.
Items that are in frequent use are stored as close as possible to where they are used. Like a toothbrush, tea or other drinks making items are never lost because they are in constant use and thereforew kept where used. Even in the untidiest of households they can always be found instantly. This is the item's zone and facilitates completion as it is no effort to put it back when the job is done. Other things that are used less often are put in secondary storage locations.
Banish Clutter Forever starts with the interesting idea of moving into the house again but this time doing it properly starting with the bathroom. It is not, quite, as daunting as it sounds but is a useful concept.
Get Rid of the Unused
Those items that are never used, or so rarely, they can never be found when needed should be sold, given away, recycled in some way or junked. Sheila Chandra has robust advice on such matters which is sound but she does, reluctantly, provide a slightly softer approach where things have some form of emotional baggage.
However this is not about tidying-up such as the occasional blitz when visitors are expected. This the author compares to crash diets which may have a short term effect but do not change the underlying habits that make it necessary. The reorganising steps in this book are considered, disciplined and tough but should produce long term changes.
Organised Rather Than Tidy
However it is not about clinical tidiness. A fussy or visually busy environment may be the desired result but it will not be disorganised clutter but planned disorder. Things can still be found easily. The author encourages the reader to define their “tidiness style” through visualisation exercises.
Eliminate Clutter and Time Management.
Banish Clutter Forever is easy to read although following the advice will require strong self-discipline. It will help the chronically disorganised who work hard and apply the advice in this small volume. In many ways to it is two books. One is about physical organisation of the environment in which the reader lives. The second is more of a guide to time management, principally for those that work from home. To be fully effective work organisation is dependent on the space being free from clutter.
At times Banish Clutter Forever feels very prescriptive but to change habits of a lifetime requires a robust approach so an element of well intentioned bossiness is needed. Rather like a loving but firm nanny, or parent, to the children in her care. Like Sheila Chandra she knows that the lessons will make life easier for her children or readers in the long term.
As Sheila Chandra points out being organised raises self-esteem as it lifts the burden that weighs on people so preventing them feeling good about themselves. Eliminating clutter also frees time for other things as it requires minimal maintenance unlike a mess.
Banish Clutter Forever, How the Toothbrush Principle Will Change Your Life (2010, ISBN: 978-0-09-193502-3) by Sheila Chandra is published by Vermillion, an imprint of Random House in paperback at £7.99.
First appeared on Suite101