This comes as a shock to many people who don’t know me very well. I recently had a conversation with a friend of a friend when we were out one Saturday night, and it came up that I was, in fact, a total disaster when it came to keeping my apartment organized.
“YOU’RE messy!?” she exclaimed! (I think because I have a pretty blog that makes it look like I have my life together, people just assume I’m a well-organized person. This is both extremely flattering, and extremely incorrect.)
I chalk this all up to my scattered, self-diagnosed ADD brain. I’m always going a million miles per minute and typically, I just don’t have the time to wash a dish RIGHT THEN or hang all those dresses back up right after I’ve tried them on.
I’ve always just assumed clean people were inefficient and didn’t prioritize the important things that needed to get done during the day because they were too busy cleaning up after themselves. (Clean, organized people, is this true?)
This personality trait, according to further investigation, is completely hereditary, and something my now very tidy mother went through in her younger years. (There’s hope for me in about 27 years from now, or so it seems.)
In fact, my messiness is the #1 thing Neal and I fight about. It’s actually honestly the only ongoing thing we fight about. Okay, you get it. I needed to change.
While I’m still a mess addict in recovery mode, I’ve figured out a few tried and true ways that really help me keep things clean.
(Side note: Neal is totally choking on his water as he reads this blog post for the first time, I know it. “Yeah right,” I’m sure he’s saying.)
1. Set the timer
This helps SO MUCH. Oh my goodness, it’s insane. You can always find 10 minutes in your day, right? What I’ve been doing lately is setting the timer for 10 minutes each morning. I put on my favorite podcast or some music (NOT the TV, because you’ll stop and actually watch the TV instead of cleaning) and clean for 10 minutes straight.
This trick is easy for me to stomach because I feel like this isn’t taking too much time out of my schedule, and you’d be astonished at the amount you can get clean in 10 minutes when you really put your mind to it.
2. Take mini cleaning breaks
If you read my post about the Pomodoro method (if not, go read it right now–it’s the best productivity technique I’ve ever used!) you’ll know that it’s recommended to take mini breaks throughout the day. Since I work from home, I often use these breaks to clean.
Your brain needs a break from work for a few minutes anyway, and luckily, cleaning is a totally mindless way to do this. After a 90 minute working spurt, I’ll spend 30 minutes vacuuming, making the bed, or tidying the house. That’s it–then I’m usually done for the day! Yay!
This builds cleaning into your routine, and also makes you look forward to it–because, hello, it’s a break from work!
If you don’t work from home, you can still apply the cleaning break tactic on a Saturday or Sunday. If you’re in the midst of making Sunday dinner, take a 30 minute cleaning break while the soup is on the stove. Or take a break from doing your taxes to clean the counters. (Taxes. Woof.)
3. Identify your three biggest mess-creating actions and declare them off limits
Messy people usually have some type of messy MO–such as, hoarding water glasses on their nightstand, leaving dirty dishes in the sink, taking their shoes off in the living room and leaving them there, etc.
(Ugh, yes. Fine. I DO ALL OF THESE THINGS.)
The most effective strategy is to identify the top two or three things (baby steps, you know) and declare them off limits.
In my case, I chose the things above to focus on, as they drive Neal the craziest. 1. Dirty dishes in the sink. 2. Shoes in the living room, and 3. Water glasses on the nightstand.
In many instances, messy people (ahem, me) just aren’t even aware that they do these things. I did not actually know I possessed a chronic shoe scattering tendency, and I often wouldn’t even see those three water glasses on the nightstand.
Focusing on your problems just makes you more aware of them, allowing you to catch yourself in the act and realize: 1. Oh man, I do do this all the time, don’t I? And 2. Give yourself the opportunity to correct the messy behavior.
So, in conclusion, when I catch myself taking my shoes off in the living room, I remind myself that I must get up RIGHT THEN and move them to the bedroom. No dish of mine can even touch the bottom of the sink. (Confession: Most of the time. Unless I do all the cooking for dinner, and then I can leave them for Neal. Hehe.)
You see, it’s all about self-policing.
Do I do this all the time? Of course not! Again, I’m in recovery mode here–but these three tips have certainly gone a very long way in helping me become a tidier person.
What are your tips for staying tidy? I would LOVE to hear them!