How can piles of clutter help you get rid of piles of clutter? Oooh, good question, right? First, you'll need to put on your detective hat and find the answers to: Who, What, Where, When and Why.
The easiest question to answer is "Where". Where is this pile? Is it close to the front door, the dining room table, the kitchen counter....the floor? This would be considered "Exhibit A" labeled "Dumping Ground"
The next easiest one of these questions to answer is "Who". Who is leaving stuff in this pile, or basically, who does this stuff belong to? Whoever it belongs to is usually the culprit. This would be considered "Exhibits B, C and D" labeled "Timmy", "Sarah" and "Me".
Moving along in your detective work you'll answer the "What" question. What is in the pile? The mail? The dog leash? Jackets? Sunglasses? Keys? These items don't seem to have a designated "home" and are considered "Exhibit E" and labeled "Homeless Items"
Next, think of "When" this piles grows. After you get the mail? After school? After errands? Usually they appear after the culprit enters the home. Hmmmm.... Let's consider this "Exhibit F" labeled "When my back is turned" or "When the number of humans increases in my home".
Now the tricky question to answer and the answer to your pile problem is "Why". Why are these things being dumped in a pile. Do they not have a specific place to go, like a hook on the wall for the dog leash or the car keys? Do you not have a specific system and place to process mail? Is the closest hanger for your jacket aaaaaaall the way across the room past the counter, chair, sofa, or any other surface, and just not convient to get to?
So, now pull all your detective work together to solve the mystery of the pile. The "why" is usually answered by the items not having an easily assessable specific home or system to follow. The key to that "why" is "easily assessable". If a system is not easy to use, the culprits won't use it. The main entry might not be close to the coat closet and therefore just "too far away" to use. Maybe a set of hooks by the entry door could solve a lot of the "What's", like the jacket, keys and leash. Perhaps having a trashcan and shredder closer to the pile will help with the endless amounts of paper/mail that comes into our homes that lands on the closest flat surface. Make it as easy as possible for you and the other culprits to put things in the correct place upon entry of the house. If children are the culprits, give each child a hook and a bin to put (dump) their things. At least all their things will be contained in a place that works for you.
So, the "Why" is the most important clue. Catch the "Who" "When" they come in the home and show them "What" needs to go "Where". Piles usually grow because things don't have a designated "home" or putting "it" away correctly in it's "home" is just not convient enough, so create a system that is easy to use.
Sleuth on my friends, figure out WHY those piles even get started and you're on your way to solving the mystery of the perpetual pile.