When You Can’t See The Floor

Floor covered with clutter. When stuff ends up on the floor.

I saw the definition below years ago. It made me laugh then, and I think it continues to ring true:


For a variety of reasons, stuff ends up on the floor. Items are commonly…

=> Moved out of the way (pillows, boxes, purses, briefcases)

=> Worn, taken off, and dropped (clothing, outerwear, shoes)

=> Used and abandoned (toys, projects, mugs)

=> Dropped instead of put into the trash (wrappers, tags, cups)

=> Stacked, and then toppled over (paper, books, magazines)

Regardless of the reason, and as convenient as it may seem in the moment, the floor is not a good storage area because things on the floor are…

  • Tripping hazards
  • Painful to step on
  • Often broken underfoot
  • Easily lost
  • Dangerous for small children and pets

In addition, a room can be beautifully decorated, but if the floor is covered with belongings, the space tends to look messy and unattractive.

If you’ve got a cluttered floor, here are a few “Dos” and “Don’ts” to keep in mind.

Make sure the space is safe:
- Clear a path between the bed and the door
- Pick up choking hazards
- Put a gate or barrier around small pieces if you have pets or children
- Throw away trash
Get sidetracked by wanting to make everything perfect and ending up spending too much time in one small area.Safety is the number one priority.
Decide if the space is yours to organize.

If the space isn’t yours, (and once it is “safe”), offer to help. If the offer is declined, consider closing the door.
Go into your spouse’s office or your teenager’s room and start pitching things. You will end up irritating the owner and your work will be quickly undone.
Assess if the situation is ongoing or temporary.

If the situation is temporary, either set a time limit for how long the items will remain out and/or decide what level of daily “clean up” will be acceptable until the project is completed. (e.g. Each evening the contents are put in a large box.)

If the situation is ongoing, continue the following steps to create order.
Clean up the pieces of a school project or other “work in progress” that the owner plans to return to and complete in the near future.You may move or throw away important pieces.
Sort through the items and group them by category (e.g. gaming supplies, DVDs, large toys, small toys, clothing, paperwork, etc.)Toss dissimilar items into boxes or bins.Mixing belongings flung into large containers results in items getting lost. It also creates a time-consuming future project to sort through it all.
Establish a box into which you put all objects that need to be carried back to other rooms in the house.

Leave time at the end of your session to carry this box around and put things away.
Get interrupted carrying items throughout your house each time you come across a misplaced item.You will waste time going to and fro, and are more likely to get distracted by things you see in other spaces.
Group items that belong to others in the home and put them in boxes or piles for review.Get rid of things that are not yours, unless you are the adult responsible for a child’s decision.It is not ok to get rid of other people’s stuff without their permission.
Establish storage locations for the items you want to keep in the space.

Ideally, only carpets and furniture should remain on the floor, so consider adding shelving, hooks, racks, cubbies, file boxes, and containers so that everything has a home.
Pile items on the floor or stash them in the corner.Anything stacked on the floor can be easily kicked over, knocked out of place, spilled on, lost and ruined.

*     *     *     *     *

Clearing the floor can be a quick way to make a space feel fresh and inviting. What is most likely to end up on your floor?

30 thoughts on “When You Can’t See The Floor”

  1. I actually have a corner in our bedroom floor that tends to be my dumping ground sometimes. I cleaned it at the beginning of the summer and all was good for awhile. But recently, I have been guilty of using this space for that reason again. Thanks for advice and push to not do this again as I will be straightening this up hopefully now in the next few days.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…How to Remove Those Fall Kid StainsMy Profile

    1. It happens… once your mind assigns a space the “dumping” label, we feel at peace putting things there. No big deal, though, because you can just go through it periodically and clear it up. If you have the discipline to do this once a quarter or so, it never gets too out of control!

  2. I have seen a lot of rooms that don\t have garbage cans or very tiny garbage cans. I always encourage people to have a garbage can in each room to help prevent dropping items on the floor.

    1. I love this comment! You are so right about rooms not having garbage cans, or having teeny ones. Those small trash cans really don’t do the job. Even children need a trash can in their rooms to form healthy habits. Thanks for sharing this!

      1. I keep plastic bags in the bottom of the trash cans so that when you take out the one with the trash you always have another handy to replace it. Saves a trip back to the room.

  3. The floor – the largest shelf – love it.
    Love your practical, specific checklist – so important to remember safety, boundaries and the like.
    It’s so easy to get lazy and dump clothes on the floor (my weakness as I usually sneak to bed in the dark) but it doesn’t show that I have respect for my things.
    Kristina Duke recently posted…What are you procrastinating???My Profile

    1. I love your comment about how dumping things on the floor doesn’t show respect for the belongings. Children really need to be taught this idea, because it isn’t something they inherently know. They are close to the floor, so putting things there seems logical. But as we grow and understand what can happen to items dropped out of sight and underfoot, we need to learn that ownership should entail respectful care!

    1. I think the teenager thing is a whole separate subject. They are becoming adults, and so there needs to be a new negotiation. They experience an exponential surge of life complexity, so a little tolerance goes a long way. I’ve seen some of the worst “offenders” end up being the neatest in a tiny dorm room, so don’t despair. They do watch you, so leading by example is the best approach!

    1. Okay, that is hilarious! I love this story… makes me think I should write a post on funny things people have heard or said while organizing:)

    1. Floordrobe is a great word! (you’ve got a couple of those, Sarah… I ought to start writing these down.)Read Janet’s comment.. too funny! Often, dumping on the floor becomes a habit, and people don’t realize how inefficient it is. Great to just be mindful now and then and know that you can make a change if you want to.

  4. I love the image quote, about the floor. When I first graduated college, I worked for a safety consulting company and became quickly aware of how many hazards there are in the home. Leaving stuff on the floor is a big one if you can’t or won’t find homes for the items. I allow certain things to be left on the floor because I know they are not permanent., like book bags, violin cases, etc… That being said, I prefer to have them moved to a corner or out of the way so that they don’t become a hazard. Thanks for sharing this information. Also, I like that you used a grid to help give people guidance.

    1. The number one thing that brings older people into the emergency room is falls, and things on the floor often contribute. Also, being adults, we forget how interesting little things on the floor are to children and pets. Certain items may have a designated “home” in the corner of a room on the floor, but getting things up and away always makes a space look bigger and fresher.

  5. One more reason things land on the floor: you have a toddler and a preschooler! I’m currently experiencing this, staying at my daughter’s house. We’re working on establishing Putting Things Away habits. Meanwhile our toddler makes it his mission to clear all tables onto the floor — so he may teach us to keep tables clear, too!

    1. Yes, little ones are a real challenge. For them, the floor is close by and makes sense. They are too young to realize that things on the floor get broken and lost. I wonder what it is that makes children sweep things off the table – I guess we all really love a clear surface:)

    1. And when you have children, pets, elderly, or visually impaired, clear floors are extra important! I love a good matrix… can’t help myself!

  6. Safety first is always my motto! It’s clear to most of us that keeping the floor available to walk is a great option for being organized. When I look at the floor with a “carpet”of stuff, it’s always where I start to work.

    I always love your amazing charts!

    1. It is so important to be able to move about safely. I wanted to write this so people realize that they may not be the only ones with this type of situation, and to help get a strategy going for how to tackle it. A pathway is a great place to start!

  7. Great post Seana! One other thing to consider is space planning. Once you get the space cleaned up check to see if there is a better way to arrange it to keep it organized. I once organized for a client’s son who was 13. They way they had his small room set up the bed was almost blocking the closet so her would never put his toys, clothes or shoes away. Once we moved the bed he had full access to his closet. It really helped! Also, labeling where I put his different groups of toys helped. Julie had a great comment about adding a garbage can as well!
    Autumn recently posted…The Shocking Truth About Clutter: It’s Not Always BadMy Profile

    1. Great thoughts, Autumn! I had a client whose closet was blocked as well. You could “squeeze” in, but it was so awkward that nobody was even trying. Once you can see the floor, think fresh – and label!

    1. A clear floor is practically empowering, right Susan? I know all of my organizing followers relate to this feeling. This photo was a client, and I’m pleased to say the floor is now clear and the child is enjoying the room!

    1. This isn’t a staged photo, either! The more people in a space, the easier it is to lose control. But that is why I love my job, and getting to help people climb out of these situations and feel free again:)

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