How Do You Keep Your Main Living Areas Clean?

If your household mess knows no bounds, check out Real Simple readers’ clever clutter-busters.

Photo by Aaron Dyer

I throw parties. I’m not always motivated to put away my own stuff, but I get moving once I think about my friends coming over and seeing my mess.
Elizabeth Strong
Richardson, Texas

I charge my children when they leave things lying around the house. Twenty-five cents for each item left by an elementary-school–age child; 50 cents for items left by the middle-schooler; 75 cents for items left by the high-schoolers. On Friday a friend and I have coffee—and a treat if it has been a particularly messy week.
Elizabeth Sheridan
Vienna, Virginia

I’m lucky: My husband picks up after me. When I return from work each evening and drop my bags in the entryway or on the couch, he quietly moves them into our bedroom closet. Usually I don’t even notice until later. I’m grateful for his small—and necessary!—acts of cleanliness.
Brooke Field
Anchorage, Alaska

I was notorious for tearing out magazine articles to save—but I never got around to reading or filing them, so they wound up all over the house. Now if I come across a tidbit I want to remember, I don’t rip out the entire article. Instead, I type it into my MemoPad on my BlackBerry. And if I want to check out a Web page or make note of something to research later online, I e-mail myself that information.
Christa Biddle
Lake Elsinore, California

Sawyer, my young Cavalier King Charles spaniel, helps me stay neat. Sawyer will pick up anything he can get his mouth on and attempt to swallow it: car keys, the newspaper, my iPod, the screwdriver I was using 10 minutes ago. He gives me great motivation not to leave things sitting around.
Peggy Sherman
Greenville, Florida

When the kitchen or the living room is messy, the whole family pitches in and we all sing the "cleanup song," which my 2-year-old invented. It makes straightening the house surprisingly fun.
Meagan Erickson
Braham, Minnesota