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4 clutter-tackling strategies I learned in the restaurant business

Updated: Feb 13

Table in a restaurant with a wine glass, napkin, silverware and salt and pepper shaker.

Before becoming a professional organizer, I spent several years working in the hospitality industry, both in hotels and restaurants. I thought it would be my career path for a while, but, despite loving my work, it was ultimately not the right career for me. Nonetheless, I learned a lot during those years, and I still catch myself applying principles from those jobs in my daily life.

Below are four clutter-tackling strategies I learned in the restaurant business that still play a role in tackling day-to-day clutter in my house.

360 degrees

A circle is equal to 360 degrees, so applying the principle of 360 degrees ultimately means completing the circle. In the restaurant world, if you start something, finish it; if a table wants a side of ranch with their meal, put the order in and make sure it also makes it to the table.

In our house, 360 degrees essentially means the same. As in, if you open something, close it. If you unwrap something, throw the wrapper away. If you take in the mail and there is junk mail, throw it in the recycling bin. After eating a meal, clear the table and load the dishes in the dishwasher. Or, when a laundry load is done in the dryer, fold the clothes and put them away. Go full circle. There are fewer loose ends to tie up at the end of the day or on the weekend by constantly doing this.

32 inches

The standard height of tables in a restaurant is 32-inches. Therefore, a server taking note of 32 inches means they are looking down onto the tables as they pass them to see what needs to be done.

I use the same principle of 32 inches at home when I walk around my house. I take note of the things I pass. What can I pick up off the floor? Is there something thrown over the back of that chair? What doesn't belong in this room at all? Of course, I don't just look down to 32 inches in height, I look around, but the mental reminder still works.

Mise en place

A male chef smiling in a professional kitchen.

"Put in place" is the direct translation of this French kitchen term. It refers to the practice of a chef putting everything in place and ready beforehand to make things easier and less messy during meal service.

I apply the principle of mise en place all over my house, not just in the kitchen. I strive for everything I own to have a designated home, and I try to put things where they logically belong.

Where do I use this? Who needs access to it? Do I need this at all?

For some people, mise en place might mean having cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink, so doing a quick clean-up is easy. For others, it might mean having art and craft supplies all in one place, so they are easy to access for a school project. No matter the task, having things organized saves both time and frustration!

Closing duties

A restaurant closed sign.

When working in a job with shifts, you usually have a list of closing duties which signifies wrapping up your shift and leaving everything ready for the next person. For example, in a restaurant, closing duties often meant filling up salt and pepper shakers and sugar bowls, cleaning up around the tables, and restocking the server station in the back.

At my house, closing duties are the last few tasks I do before I call it a night. For example, I will usually finish loading the dishwasher and turn it on, or I may put a load into the washer on a delayed cycle so that it will wash overnight. Another thing I try to do is a quick 15-minute walk around in the house's main spaces, putting stray items away. These small closing duties wrap up my "shift" and help set my morning self up for success.

What experience and skills do you possess that can help you on your organizing journey?


"No knowledge is irrelevant; sometimes, it simply takes a while before you discover its relevance."

- Lisa


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