Every home I have been in as a professional organizer has a pile of papers on the kitchen counter. Some may also have piles on the dining room table or hallway table, but they all have the pile on the kitchen counter. Even in my own home, this is the first place that piles start to grow if I don’t stay on top of the mail and my son’s schoolwork.
So why is this such a common problem? Clutter is a magnet for clutter, according to the book “Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving and Hoarding.” What this means is that when there is a pile already started on the counter, you and your family members will start to contribute to that pile because everyone thinks, “oh, this one piece of mail won’t add that much.” Furthermore, the presence of the pile becomes confirmation that it is acceptable to add to the pile. If everyone is leaving stuff there, then it must be okay to leave stuff there, goes the thought process.
Thus, the secret to keeping the pile off the kitchen counter is to make sure no pile ever gets started! Be ruthless about keeping that counter clear. If necessary, put a sign there that says “Please do not leave papers on this counter” as a reminder until the new habit sticks. And of course, make sure you have an alternative place to put mail, school work and other papers, and educate your family about this new place. For more ideas about creating a system for organizing papers, read this post and this post.
Clutter attracts clutter, so make sure there is no clutter there in the first place.