Okay, we're a month into the New Year — how are your goals coming along? Like the one where you weren't going to have any more of those marathon cleaning sessions right before company came over (you know the ones I'm talking about. They usually have you throwing all your papers into a bag and throwing the bag into a closet. It's not until you've turned the entire house upside down looking for that business card you desperately need that you remember where you put them.) To stave them off, here are the tips I've found most useful.
Put it back after you use it: This is the simplest tip and the one that, if it's the only tip you take away, will render your house clean enough. It's also the one I'm most guilty of not following. I realized that the number one reason I feel grumpy about putting stuff away is that most of the time, it's not easy to put it away — the shelf it goes on is too high, the closet it goes in is too crowded, the drawer is too full. Recognize yourself? Then it's time to rethink the homes of the things you hate putting away the most. For me, it was the vacuum cleaner. Once I moved it from the coat closet (seemingly convenient but I had to move a lot of stuff to get it out) to the scary closet (a few steps further away but all I have to do is shove it inside), not only did I vacuum more often but after I did, the vacuum didn't sit out for days while I got up the "courage" to put it away.
Keep it where you use it: A sharpie in the freezer to mark those bagged leftovers, pens by where I plug in my iPhone, laundry detergent with my clothes, dishes stashed near my sink, the extra set of sheets stored underneath the mattress. The less effort I need to make to put something away (or find it), the more often it will actually get put away (see above). Even if the place you put it seems crazy (jewelry in the kitchen, vitamins by the front door) if it works for you and it gets put back, work it. It's your house.
Chuck the stuff you don't use: As Laure pointed out in her post about decluttering, some stuff, as much as you love it and think it's ridiculously beautiful and useful (the usual criteria for keeping something), is just not working for your life. As hard as it is to admit that there isn't a place in my life for that fully-equipped wicker picnic hamper, that I will never be a person who wears Mary Jane flats and that teacups are made for people who actually drink tea from teacups not mugs, getting rid of these things can have an enormous affect on your cleaning routine. Donate them to someplace that gives a receipt so I can take them off my taxes or gift them to a friend that will love and use them. I can even photograph the things that are sentimental to me or that I find particularly beautiful. Now my home has more room to house the things I actually use and I feel a lot less guilty.
Have an outbox: I started using an outbox during my first Cure and I haven't looked back. Most of us have a problem detaching from our stuff even if it's stuff we don't use or want. Of course there's the junk. That's easy to get rid of but man do I feel guilty when I'm getting rid of something I paid good money for, that was gifted to me by a good friend or that I inherited. That's where the outbox comes in. I use a bag but you can use a box, a spot in the closet or a little-used corner of a room. I put stuff here while I live without it (and subconsciously work through the anxiety of getting rid of it). After about a month or so, it's easier to make a rational decision about what to do with it.
Quality over quantity: My life got a lot simpler when I started to cut down on how much of any one thing I bought. For example, I have two sets of sheets. One for the wash, one for the bed. It feels good knowing that I have less to store and I don't feel guilty about buying stuff that's a little better quality because I know I'm definitely going to using it.
Make one thing in every room a priority item: I learned this from Flylady whose famous directive is to keep your kitchen sink clean. There's a "sink" in every room. Concentrate on keeping that one thing clean and the rest of the room will feel clean and eventually the clean will spread to the surrounding areas. For me, that means keeping the bed made, the coffee table clear, my desk free of papers and the bathroom sink wiped.
Use a landing strip: It's not only a place to put down the mail and the keys, it's also a launch pad where I put stuff that I'm planning to take with me for the next day. While this may seem to be more of an organizing tip rather than a cleaning tip, once I started using it, I found that it was much less likely that I was going to rip apart the house looking for my dry cleaning receipt. I started out my day on the right foot, came home to a calm home and I felt relaxed. Home clean home is home sweet home.
Do you have a go to cleaning tip or organizing routine?
Image: Bethany Nauert from Warren & Mimi's Highly Personal Architectural Home