There’s an incredible sense of pride in finishing a major cleaning project. For me that achievement always comes after I’ve finished a serious decluttering of my living room. I don’t have a lot of furniture, but papers, magazines, books, Amazon packages, and even coffee mugs can stack up pretty quickly in the
free space. Thus, when I plough through that stuff, polish up the walls, and pull every last hair and loose fibre up from the carpet, my living room is a sparkling marvel to behold.
Those of you who have shared this experience with me, however, know that it doesn’t take long at all for that sparkling marvel to slide back into its usual state. Pretty soon that book that I had stacked away neatly on the shelf, ordered pleasantly according to size and color, is back on the floor, dust finds its way back onto my coffee table in no time at all, and chip crumbs can be felt under the cushions of the couch.
It’s a sad cycle, cleaning, then cleaning again in what feels like no time at all. In the end there’s no way to make it so that you’ll never have to clean house again, but there are steps you can take to extend the time between serious cleanings and make them less stressful projects. Check out my suggestions below!
Change Your Mindset
Before you can declutter your home, you must first declutter your mind. It sounds like an ancient Chinese proverb and, properly unpacked, it’s as useful as anything Confucius has to say.
So what do I mean by this? A few things. For most of us, major cleaning happens irregularly; we do hardcore cleaning when the spark of inspiration hits us, or things are so nasty that we are forced to act. Let’s be honest, though. This pattern sucks.
The cure is a shift in mindset. As with most anything, cleaning can be much more productive if it’s on a schedule. If it helps you, add regular cleaning dates to your calendar or get a planner for that purpose. Something that I’ve found that works for me is to get your friends in on it. Tell people that you plan on doing some cleaning on some date or another and ask them to bug you until you can prove that the work has been done. This doesn’t need to go on forever, but it’s a good way to get into a pattern of good habits.
Another way to change your mindset is to value a clean home appropriately. Many messes may seem “good enough” up until the point that they’re not, but that point often comes late and waiting only makes things harder when you do get around to tackling the situation. In order to motivate myself I took a picture of my apartment when I first moved in and it was clean as a whistle. Whenever I get the sense that my living room, for example, is at the “good enough” stage I compare the real thing to that picture. If it doesn’t stack up, it’s time to clean.
Sell or Donate Rarely Used Items
If you’re on a budget like me, storage space can be hard to come by. For this reason it’s essential to make the most out of the space that you’ve got by getting rid of rarely used items. For me the biggest culprits here were in the kitchen and my wardrobe. It’s amazing how quickly closet space can fill up with old t-shirts that never get worn.
I ended up donating a lot of clothes at a Goodwill drop-off near me. I really want to stress here that trying to go minimalist or cut down on the things that you own doesn’t mean just tossing everything in the trash! There are more environmentally and socially responsible things that you can do with the clutter that you don’t need. If donating isn’t an option for you or you’re willing to put up a little legwork, you can host your own garage sale (a term I use lightly, for the sake of those who don’t have access to a garage) to lighten your load and make a little cash on the side.
Like we talked about above, storage space is limited. One way to make the most of what you’ve got is to cut down on the things that are taking up that space, but if that’s not an option or that doesn’t go far enough for you there are other steps that you can take.
My first bit of advice is to enforce a super efficient storage layout for closets. Your closets are one of the only parts of your house or apartment that are made for storing things out of sight. However, this does not mean that you can make a pile of your clutter in your closet and then shut it away from the judgemental eyes of guests. Take my word for it, this strategy can only go so far. Organize your closets carefully so that you can stuff more clutter into them… gracefully.
Secondly, if you’ve got a garage the same sort of advice applies. A lot of people treat garages as large open areas to anonymously store junk. My parents, for instance, have boxes upon boxes of things they don’t use piled up in the garage. Once again, though, this is not a winning strategy. Take a stab at organizing your garage to make the most of this incredibly valuable space. If you need extra motivation, just imagine the look on guests faces when they see how neatly everything is presented in the garage, of all places! Pro-tip: if you’ve got a lot of sports gear (for me it’s piles of climbing rope, carabiners, and cams), it’s a good idea to do something like storage lockers both to keep your stuff in one fixed location and to add an extra barrier for anyone who might see the expensive equipment as an opportunity.
Editor’s Note: If you do have a lot of clutter and aren’t sure where to start I can highly recommend reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life Changing Magic Of Tidying Up” which will give you a good framework to start going through your items and decide which ones you should keep and which ones should go.