8 Simple Steps to a More Relaxed Morning

It's morning.  You wish you could roll over and sleep a bit longer, but the day is calling.  You pad in bare feet out to the kitchen, flip on the light, and are greeted by a sink full of dirty dishes and a countertop still covered with crumbs.  Ignoring the mess for now, you make coffee and wander into the living room, stepping painfully on your son's scattered Lego bricks and wondering where the TV remote is hiding this time.

Throw pillows are scattered on the floor, a pile of mail and your daughter's crayons cover the coffee table, and a half-drunk glass of milk adds a sour smell to the room.

As you sip your coffee, you don't know where to start with the mess, so you browse social media instead.

What a great way to start the morning – defeated before you even get dressed.

clean kitchen

And now for something completely different.

Imagine walking into your neat and clean kitchen.  No pile of dishes, no sticky countertops – everything is ready for use.

As you enter the living room with your coffee, there's not a toy in sight.  The couch is comfortable with throw pillows in place, mail has already been sorted and dealt with, and nothing smells funky.  Everything is orderly, and you feel relaxed and happy.  Nothing is nagging you to clean, put away, sort, file, or otherwise deal with it.

Now you're free to do something that lifts your spirits.  You might watch the early birds in the back yard, read from a devotional book, jot a line or two in your journal, or even just sit quietly with your coffee and calmly think about the day ahead.

You deserve this.  You deserve to start the day without chaos.  You deserve a home that supports and inspires you – that helps cure your stress, not cause it.

Starting with a mess can kill your motivation for the rest of the day.  It makes every task harder and slower, and can negatively impact your mood, your work, and your relationships.  It affects your spouse and kids in all of those ways too.

It just isn't worth it.

The cure

If you want to say goodbye to chaotic mornings, you need to learn to do an evening reset.  This isn't just for the end of the week, or for half of every Sunday, but every evening before bed.

Does that sound too demanding?  You may need to start first with decluttering, because when you live with too much clutter, things get messy faster.  The payoff is that once you own less, a reset will take mere minutes, not half of your evening.

Start about half an hour before you want to relax with Netflix or a book, or before you want to scrub off your makeup, put on your PJs, and crawl into bed.  (You'll get the process down to 15 minutes or less as you practice.)  Take 8 easy steps to prepare your home for a chaos-free morning.

The 8-step evening reset for happier mornings

1.  Collect.

With basket in hand, go around your living spaces picking up objects that aren't where they belong.  From remotes, grooming tools, and piled-up paperwork to stray dishes, reading glasses, and toss pillows, pick up everything that isn't where it should be.  (You might consider decluttering some of these things if they're a regular problem.)  Your kids can help with their toys, and your spouse with his/her items.

2.  Replace.

Everything out of place needs to go home.  Therefore, everything needs to have its own spot to belong.

What does that really mean?  It means I can hand my child any item that belongs to him or is used by the whole family and say, "Put this where it belongs," and he knows exactly where to go.  I can ask him to get me something that belongs to him or is used by the whole family, and he returns with it right away because the item is exactly where he expected it to be.

This makes putting things away so much faster, because you're not trying to decide where they might fit for now.  You don't have to reinvent the wheel every evening.

And if you don't have room to put things away?  Obviously it's time to declutter.

3.  Hide the toys.

This is not about having a playroom that looks magazine-styled.  It's about having things organized and put away.  Use bins or baskets to put like toys together.  These are also great for keeping a limit on numbers – if the stuffed animals have multiplied beyond the capacity of their storage bin, it's time to declutter those that have become less-loved.  Use shelves, drawers, and closets to maintain limits on how much you own.  Believe me, you'll still have plenty.

Even if you don't have children, you have toys.  You just call them hobby supplies.

4.  Deal with paper.

This job really shouldn't be left until the evening reset.

  • When you come in with the mail, don't just add it to a pile somewhere.  Immediately recycle what you can, shred what you need to, file important papers, and pay any bills.
  • When your child comes in with schoolwork or a permission slip, take a few moments to look, comment, and/or sign.  If you like, display one item on a bulletin board for several days.

  • When you get an appointment reminder or invitation, note the date and time on your calendar, then recycle the paper.

Okay, I realize that sometimes you simply don't have time to read, file, pay, etc.  So keep a basket on your desk and put action items there until later.  Plan to deal with all of them together, say on a weekend afternoon.  This chore is so much less daunting if you don't let the piles get big.  You'll thank me when you no longer frantically search for a statement or bill you "know you have somewhere."  My paperwork takes 5-10 minutes per day – definitely less than an hour per week.

5.  Put away clean laundry.

This insures that you can find the clothes you need in the morning, plus it frees up the laundry baskets for the next round of dirty clothes.  (If you have kids, you know that's coming up fast.)  Practice quick and simple ways to fold, hang, and store like items together.  Don't worry so much about an Instagram-worthy drawer or closet if just getting clean items put away is a challenge for you.

6.  Straighten up tables and other decorative surfaces.

Only certain things belong on the coffee table, end tables, desk, or sideboard.  Limit those surfaces to one or two items, for example:

  • a lamp on the end table
  • one knickknack or plant on the coffee table
  • a basket for paperwork and the family phone dock on the desk
  • a couple of photos on the sideboard

If surfaces always seem crowded or hard to dust, you probably have too much stuff.  Consider leaving at least one surface bare for versatility and a calmer space. 

7.  Wash and put away cooking implements.

It really doesn't take that long to wash a pot, pan, salad bowl, baking dish, and the utensils you used to fix your evening meal – especially if you clean as you go while cooking.  Run the sink full of hot, soapy water, and put each piece in as you finish using it.  While something simmers or bakes, clean what's in the sink and put it away.  You'll be left with far less to do after dinner.

Put away leftover food and have everyone load their plates and flatware into the dishwasher after you eat, before moving on to evening pastimes.  Be sure to start the machine before bedtime.

8.  Clean the countertops.

This might involve spray cleaner and a washcloth or an antibacterial wipe, depending on what's there.  The point is to have a hygienic, tidy space ready for breakfast prep, making lunches, or writing a to-do list.  And if there are too many storage containers or decorative items in the way of your cleaning (especially if you usually just wipe around all of them), consider decluttering.  I mean, if there's any place that needs to be really clean it's where you prepare your food, right?


Take a deep breath, relax your shoulders and neck, and give me a big smile, because your mornings are going to look different from here on.  As with every habit, the more you do these evening steps the more natural they'll feel, the faster and easier they'll become, and the more smoothly your reset will be accomplished.  Soon you won't even think twice about the process – you'll simply enjoy a calmer, happier, more efficient start to every day.

If you're tired of the stress and frustration that clutter brings, you'll appreciate my book Uncluttered: How Minimalism Helps You Create the Life of Your Dreams.*  Uncluttered offers more than a one-size-fits-all approach – it's an encouraging, multi-faceted guide to help you

  • remove the stuff that's bogging you down
  • uncover a cleaner, more spacious home that welcomes and supports you
  • overcome bad habits and practice better ones
  • highlight your favorite belongings
  • and more!

You can be happier with less, and Uncluttered will show you how.

* This blog is reader-supported.  If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.


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