Three “Hazardous” Words


Do these scenarios sound familiar?

… Someone hands you an object, and rather than put it away, you mindlessly set it on the nearest surface?

… You come across a slip of paper requiring action, so you lay it down on the counter or desk as a reminder?

… You stumble across an item that belongs in another room, but lacking the time or energy to carry it to its final destination, you set it down nearby to be put away later?

In other words, do you have a tendency to drop items in a convenient location “just for now?”


At some level, most people believe that putting items away in the appropriate spot is a good idea.  Nevertheless, many of us simply fail to follow through for a number of reasons, including:

  • It is inconvenient. For example, if we are supervising a young child, we may not be able to get up and leave in order to put something away.
  • We don’t know where to put it. If we’ve never taken the time to assign a “home” to a particular item, we don’t know where it rightfully belongs.
  • We are afraid of “losing” something. We fear that putting an item out of sight means we will either forget about it or will be unable to find it when we need it.
  • We are lazy. It is simply easier to put something down than to walk up the steps or go out to the garage.


Unfortunately, we often fail to count the cost of temporarily stashing items. These costs include:


We forget where we have put something down, and end up spending far more time searching for it than it would have taken to put it away in the first place.


We never get around to actually returning items to their rightful “home,” creating an atmosphere of disorder that further demotivates us from putting things away.


We neglect important responsibilities because our visual reminder (e.g. a slip of paper) gets buried under other belongings.


If you struggle with the discipline of putting things away, ask yourself these questions whenever you handle an object:

⇒ “Where does this go?”

If you can’t answer this, begin by assigning it a spot.

⇒ “Am I able to put this away right now?”

If the answer is no, (e.g. because you can’t leave the room or don’t have time) place it in a “put away” bin. Allocate time each day – and a bit longer time each weekend – to empty the bin.

Or, move the item “one step closer” to its final destination. For instance, an item that belongs in the upstairs closet can be placed on the stairway and grabbed next time you go upstairs.

⇒ “Is there a good reason to not put this away?”

If the answer is yes, ask yourself if leaving this item out is the BEST way to fulfill that need. For example, if you don’t want to put the bill away because you need to pay it, consider creating a “to pay” file which you schedule to work on weekly, rather than just leaving it out on the counter.

⇒ “Am I being lazy?”

 If the answer is yes, remind yourself  (out loud, if necessary), that you are causing yourself future pain, that you deserve better and that you want to change this habit. Ask a family member to encourage you if he/she hears you having this internal struggle.

*     *     *     *     *

As with so many aspects of life, the temptation of momentary pleasure frequently screams louder than the long-term payoff of self-discipline. However, by making an intentional decision to resist the temptation to set it down “just for now,” you are giving yourself a gift that will pay dividends for the long haul.

How do you motivate yourself to put things away when you really don’t feel like it?

18 thoughts on “Three “Hazardous” Words”

  1. This is wonderful advice! I also give my clients permission to create a ‘marinating’ or ‘pending’ bin. They put things in this bin when they don’t have a clear idea of what to do with it. This gives them a little time to process. Then they plan a time to deal with the items in the marinating bin.

    1. Love the idea of “marinating” bin… great term that people will immediately understand and relate to. A place for things to sit and wait awhile. Terrific term, Diane!

    1. We all have our lazy moments:) I think it always helps to be honest with ourselves and decide whether we want to try and change a behavior. Can’t wait to click through and read about those cookies btw:)

  2. I’m absolutely guilty of this – laziness or something even more deep-rooted. Like fear of being 100% organized or 100% anything?
    Seeing the kids do it – or wanting to know where things are better because of them has made it better for me to put things away instantly.
    Tamara recently posted…The Only Things I’m Certain AboutMy Profile

    1. You always make me smile, Tamara. Fear of being 100% organized.. LOL! Don’t worry – putting things away won’t interfere with your free spirit or creativity. Meanwhile, so glad to hear that your kids are embracing organization – I affirm them!

  3. Great post, Seana! The “just for now” statement is one I heard all my life. My parents would say it, my clients would say it, and even coworkers would say it. When I would hear it, I would turn to them and say, “if you are not going to handle it now, then when?” Most of the time they didn’t even know how to answer that question because they didn’t think beyond the statement. It’s important to have a reason for something not being placed in its home. That way you will remember what needs to be done next. For example, if something needs to go to the dry cleaners and you hang it on the railing “for now”. You know the next time you leave the house to go to the dry cleaners, you will remember that item because you will have a mental note of what the next step is for that item.

    1. I love this thinking, Sabrina. Understanding the “why” of what we do with our things is very helpful in understanding how to proceed. Even the “why” of keeping an item is helpful because it gives insight on where and how to store it. It also gives us the chance to consider if simply putting something down is the BEST way to address the “why.” Putting it down to remember to act isn’t always the best system!

  4. Great eye-opening post, Seana. My life has been beyond chaotic for the past six months. I didn’t intentionally mean to use the “just for now” excuse, but I now realize that I have been. Thanks for making it crystal clear. Off to straighten up a bit. 🙂
    Susan recently posted…Dish Cleaning Caddy Tote 3 Easy WaysMy Profile

    1. The temptation is even greater when life is crazy, right? Every now and then these words are a necessity, but when we use them in a routine fashion, it can lead to trouble.

  5. I always put things on the stairs to go either up or down. Though I admit, I’m not a fan of those stair baskets that people have for this purpose because often times things just end up living in the basket as it’s just seen as a storage container. One or two things on the stairs only and make it a house rule that you can’t walk by without taking it!

    1. I totally agree, Sarah. I’m not a huge fan of putting things into “concealers” where we lose track of them. If you use the container, you must be diligent about getting it emptied on a regular basis. I just stick things loose on the stairs as well.

    1. Kids have an amazing ability to make a mess.. it is part of their “zest for life.” Put away bins can be a great tool, as long as they are emptied daily. I know you are pretty organized, Rea. Your boys are lucky to have you as a role model:)

  6. Wow! JUST WOW, i have been dealing with so much stress lately because of THINGS. Things I don’t love, but are sitting around anyway. Fifteen minutes ago I collected up 4 items to take down and put in the lobby on our “giveaway shelf. Instead of just taking them down, I put them on the half wall next to the door and told myself tomorrow morning on the way to work I will leave them downstairs.
    I sat down to google decluttering blogs ….mainly to read and make myself feel motivated and hopefully less stressed. Yours is the first I srarted reading and what do I see but your post on Three Hazardous Words. What it said to me was DO IT NOW!
    I immediately got up and took the things downstairs. Not tomorrow……NOW.
    Thank you for that gentle but firm “kick in the butt!
    The stuff is gone and I am a tiny step closer to where I want to be!

    1. Every tiny step is empowering! I’m so glad you felt motivated by the post. So many people desire to get out from under the clutter, and I affirm each and every one. I believe there is true freedom in organization. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and commenting, Terri!

    1. Isn’t that the way it always goes? Especially for busy families, you think you will come back to it, but you never do. I love that you thought of these words when you saw the title- success!

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