Toss Easy


Have you ever noticed that few people enjoy putting things away? It seems to rank right up there with filing taxes and going to the dentist. Most people either struggle themselves or are frustrated with trying to get others to return items to the drawers, closets, shelves, cabinets and containers in which they belong.

If you think about it, this reluctance is not surprising.

The reward for taking an item out is immediate and tangible:

  • Eating the bag of chips
  • Playing the game
  • Wearing the shirt
  • Using the paintbrush
  • Writing with the pen
  • Etc…

In contrast, the payoff for putting items back comes primarily in the future and is a bit more vague:

  • Knowing where to find the scissors
  • Retrieving a needed piece of paper
  • Preventing the shirt from wrinkling
  • Minimizing the presence of bugs
  • Keeping the toy from being stepped on and broken
  • Etc…

For some, the peace of mind of having things in order is enough of a motivator to put things away. However for many, the benefits are not compelling enough to justify the effort required to put things away. In fact, all it takes is just the tiniest of hurdles to deter us. Hurdles include things such as:

  • A lid that needs to be removed
  • A hanger that requires a few seconds of effort
  • Stacked storage that requires moving bins on the top to access the one on the bottom
  • Absence of convenient trash receptacles or laundry hampers
  • Cramped or broken drawers that are difficult to use
  • Containers that are too high to reach

Whenever barriers are in place, we are probably going to simply “stick” an item in a convenient location. For instance:

  • Putting the clothing tag we just ripped off the new shirt onto the nearby shelf rather than walking into the bathroom and throwing it away
  • Piling the papers on the kitchen counter instead of taking them outside to the recycle bin or filing them in the drawer in the upstairs office
  • Dropping the dirty soccer socks in the entry instead of walking them to the laundry room
  • Leaving the folded clothes on the dresser/chair/floor instead of shoving them into the broken or crowded dresser
  • Hanging the coat on the back of the chair rather than wrestling to get it onto a hanger and into a cramped closet

The best way to make yourself (and others) put items away is to establish storage systems that are “toss easy,” where items can be put back with little more effort than it takes to toss a pen into a cup. The key word here is EASY! If you are finding items strewn about, odds are there is a little barrier in place that is keeping family members from putting them away. Again, it doesn’t take much to dissuade action, so look for any small obstacle that can be eliminated.

Of course, everyone has limited space, so not all of the items you own can be given quick access storage. For instance, the holiday dishes may be stored in a bin in the attic or in the cabinet over the refrigerator, but since they are handled only once a year, this is appropriate. The key is to establish convenient storage for the items you use every day. If you use it frequently, aim to make it just as easy to put away as it was to take out.

One caution: you want it to be easy, but still organized. While it is relatively effortless to toss items into a junk drawer, without sorting and a drawer insert, items will quickly get mixed together. This undermines the whole purpose. It is important to add structure and labels so like items stay together, and objects remain where they are supposed to be.

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Are there items in your home that never seem to get put away? Can you think of a way to make storing them “toss easy?”





27 thoughts on “Toss Easy”

  1. I like this “toss easy” concept, Seana. I entirely agree with you that organizing needs to be easy enough to really use and functional enough to actually work.

  2. This is so true and I admit that I also sometimes have my fair share of trouble to put stuff away immediately. But eventually I do put things in their proper place as I am also not a fan of clutter and disorder. So that usually trumps the overall reluctance of putting stuff indeed away here.

    1. You are on the people who enjoys the order and will go the extra mile to put stuff away, Janine. That makes the process easier, as you know you will “do what it takes” to restore order! I am the same way. Others who live with me… not so much:)

  3. Melanie Turner

    This is so true! I often find that tiny hurdles deter me from putting things away. “Toss easy” seems like a great way for me to stay organized!

    1. Kind of amazing to realize how the smallest little barrier keeps us from acting, especially in the moment. Sometimes it is just more convenient to put something down instead of away, but this only works if you are pretty good about coming back later and following through. Just a little phrase to keep in mind if you find that you are resisting putting a particular item back!

    1. Always helpful to have a few catchphrases that clients can easily understand and internalize. Even though I like putting things away, I can still have little barriers make me resist in the moment. Since I am short, anything that needs to go up high tends to get stashed “just for now.”

  4. I love the “toss easy” concept…or removing barriers to maintenance. Any organizing system that gets set-up is only as good as the maintenance that we’re willing to do to keep it organized. And if the system is too complicated or inconvenient, as you said, the barrier factor rises QUICKLY.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…What If It’s Time to Let Go?My Profile

    1. It sure does rise quickly! It can fall apart in a couple of days. We all have differing tolerances for the effort required to put things away. All we need to do is look around at what never seems to find its way home and there is likely a barrier at play! Just a little phrase to keep in mind as we set up systems.

  5. This post is an important reminder. An organized and straightforward system is critical when creating order in the home, but making a habit of returning items to their home will keep it that way.

    Thank you for the reminder.

  6. Hi Seana,
    I never thought about the payoff and or rewards in that way but it is so true – when you need something you find it or make a mess to find it or whatever but there is no real payoff or reward to returning something back to its rightful spot. I love the “toss easy” plan and will try to adopt this in my own life as well as when working with others.

    1. The study of “payoff” is interesting. It impacts us more than we typically acknowledge. A misty or uncertain payoff is not very motivating. This ties in with delayed gratification, which is a powerful concept. I like phrases that are easy to remember, and therefore more likely to come to mind when implementing a plan. Have a great day, Kim!

  7. When working with kids I’ve always found hooks to be so much easier than hangers (for clothes) or rods (for towels). Hooks for kids = “toss easy” in my book! Thanks for the reminder to assess those minor obstacles and see if you can’t get them out of the way to a more streamlined put-away process.

    1. Hooks are pretty much better for everyone. I think my husband prefers hooks to hangers as well:) For kids, it is a no brainer. I think kindergartens understand “toss easy” so well. Simple to take out, simple to put back. Can’t argue with success!

    1. I love a reward. Just spoke with a client today about this. We agreed the painting and curtains and artwork would be our “reward” for having done the tough work of decluttering and organizing!

  8. Such a straightforward and accessible and actionable piece of advice! Small steps can make a huge difference in the smoothness of our lives!

  9. If you have a bigger home its easier for mess to hide itself, a smaller home looks messier a lot quicker and so needs tidying up more regularly.

    I can’t find an incentive for my kids to clean up – other than avoiding punishment like no screen time.

    For myself, I have times during each day which I put towards dishes, cooking and cleaning (along with my partner of course).

    Embarrassment when people come over and see the mess is probably the biggest motivator.

  10. I’m probably one of those for whom the peace of mind of having things in order is enough of a motivator to put them away, but despite that, if it’s too difficult, I won’t do it. Example: I have two sets of metal shelves sitting on top of the regular shelf in my bedroom closet, where I keep purses, suitcases, and other items I don’t need to access all the time. I recently used a duffle bag, but when I went to put it back, I couldn’t make it fit on the shelf. Instead, I tossed it on the floor of the closet to deal with at a later time. 🙁

    1. Been there myself. It is pretty amazing how reluctant we can be to put forth an extra step or two worth of effort to put things away. Even organized people are vulnerable to the temptation to just “stick it here for now.”

  11. I think by nature, many of us are lazy. But as a mom, I know how much I appreciate it when the kids put things back in the right place. It makes me CRAZY when someone “borrows” the scissors/tape/pens and doesn’t return it. I don’tt have time to waste hunting it down.

    1. I remember putting a guard on my sewing scissors. Nobody was allowed to touch them! I think that “lazy” thing is pretty powerful, which is why making it easy to put things back helps.

  12. Pingback: Good Storage Is | The Seana Method Organizing & Productivity

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