My post on clutter attack resulted in some good comments, and I want to bring more attention to them and share them here.
In that post I asked my readers for suggestions on dealing with daily clutter. After downsizing from a house to an apartment, the clutter became more noticeable in the smaller space, and I was looking for some help in dealing with it. For further clarification, I’m talking about daily clutter – stuff that accumulates throughout the course of the day, like dishes, craft supplies, mail, paper clutter, etc.
Here are the suggestions you shared
Set the example – Megyn laid out the cold hard truth. Whatever I do sets the example for my daughter. If I’m not being responsible enough to clean up after myself then I am teaching that lack of responsibility to my daughter.
Make sure kids do their part – Another good suggestion from Megyn. If you have kids, make sure they are participating in the cleanup. Get them in the habit of cleanup up immediately after activities.
Deal with mail immediately – Starr is the neat one in her family and offers the suggestion to deal with mail immediately. Don’t bring it in and let it sit unopened and unprocessed. Bring it in and take action. Toss the junk mail, pay the bills, and take action on anything else that requires it.
Stash and toss – Starr also offered a suggestion for those families that have one neat freak and one clutter bunny in the house. In Starr’s case she often boxes up her husband’s clutter and if nothing is needed after a time she tosses the entire box.
Daily 30 minutes cleanup (and set a timer) – Awesome suggestion from LC that we just implemented in our family. Schedule a certain time every evening to do a cleanup. Work as a family on cleaning up and whatever else needs to be done. Don’t wait until it’s almost bedtime, do it a bit earlier so you don’t feel rushed at bedtime. Set a timer so the kids know when cleanup time is over. When the bell rings, you’re done.
Make it fun – This is an additional tidbit from LC that goes along with the timer. You can have a race to see who finishes first or mix in some fun chores. The race may work better with multiple kids as my daughter didn’t feel much need to race her dad. Instead of racing, I tasked her with dusting, which she enjoyed. After dusting she tackled some of the other chores. In this case I had her dust first to get her motivated, and then moved her on to other things. You might also do the reverse and “allow” them to do a fun chore if they finish the other stuff before the timer is up.
Wash your bowl mantra – Jill reminded me of a topic I wrote about last year. Wash your bowl embodies the concept that you clean immediately after use. In the case of the bowl, you wash it right after you eat. I started chanting “wash your bowl” to myself every time I walk through a room, and it’s been helping me clean as I go.
Prioritize and don’t sweat a little clutter – Lyle shared his philosophy of keeping some areas cleaner than others. There is a natural order that some areas get more cluttered. If you are a clean-when-piled-up type of person, then you might find it helpful to focus on one area and keep it clutter-free while not worrying so much about others. In our house the dining table would be the area to keep clean. It’s the one spot where clutter is most noticeable. It can either bring up or bring down the rest of the room in terms of feeling cluttered.
Clean Sweep – I love this suggestion from Amy. She gives her kids a 5 minute warning every day before doing a clean sweep. Here’s how it goes:
- Give kids the 5 minute warning that the clean sweep is about to occur.
- Take a push broom and sweep everything that has been left on the floor into a big pile.
- Trash the trash and any broken toys.
- Put everything else in a bag and let the kids earn their items back.
Don’t buy it in the first place – David brought up a common theme of “don’t buy junk” and “throw the junk away”. The idea here is to not have the clutter in the first place. And, if you already have a bunch of stuff, then maybe it’s time to do a major declutter and purge. I can vouch for the fact that not having a bunch of extra stuff makes it easier to clean. Even when my apartment is cluttered up, I can pretty much get it clutter free and cleaned up in about an hour.
Endpoint Zero – I added this one myself after finishing a couple of 30 minute cleaning sessions. At the end of the night, before you go to bed, make sure everything is in its place. This will be easy if you are doing 30 minute cleanings each day, as it should leave just a few things out to take care of. That last glass of water before bed for example, make sure it’s either cleaned and put away or put in the dishwasher. You want to end the day with zero cleaning/tidying tasks remaining. The benefit of this is to wake up in the morning to a clean and tidy home.
Our new routine
After getting so many great suggestions I started putting a few of them into practice. Actually, in some form or other I have incorporated all of these suggestions.
Our nightly routine
- Every night at 7:00 (or after dinner on the days we happen to be taking a late dinner) we do a 30 minute cleanup
- I set the timer for 30 minutes and we clean until the timer goes off.
- After the time goes off we move to the clean sweep. I take any toys left on the floor and bag them up to be earned back.
Endpoint Zero – one final sweep before bed to make sure everything is in its place.
We have started the nightly routine, but I haven’t started the clean sweep portion yet. My daughter’s room is currently a huge mess and she has asked me to help her get it back in order. We plan to do that this week, and then start the clean sweep. I love the idea of the clean sweep, as it provides incentive, and it also provides rewards to be used later in the form of earning back her toys. We have struggled with finding suitable rewards and I think earning back her own stuff will work well.
Clean as we go with the Wash your bowl mantra – I want to get into the habit of cleaning as I go, so I’ve been chanting “wash your bowl” anytime I’m up and walking through the apartment. I also chant this after dinner, as I have a bad habit of leaving the table a mess and moving on to other things.
Thanks for all the tips! I hope I have the fortitude to stick with it. I know the 30 minute cleanup will be a challenge as we aren’t always home at 7:00, but we’re going to try to be flexible with the start time and still get a 30 minute cleaning in every day.
I think I’m making an impression as my daughter said to me the other day, “All you ever want to do is clean.”
A couple of days later however, she approached me at 7:15 and said, “Isn’t it past time to start cleaning?” I was on a phone call at the time, so I asked my friend to hold on a sec, and I asked my daughter, “Would you like me to start the timer so you can get started?” She said yes and jumped into her cleaning tasks.
Again, I’m really hoping I can stick with it. It feels really good to wake up to a clean apartment every morning. I’m using that feeling plus Megyn’s advice of setting the example so I can stay motivated. My wife, who is home studying for much of the day, really appreciates the clean apartment. She says it makes it easier for her to focus on studying. I really want our daughter to grow up with good habits, and that can only happen if I set the example.