(Image credit: Alexis Buryk)

Of course, there never is a magic bullet for anything. Having a clean, organized home takes effort, no lie. But, it is possible to help keep your place more firmly on track by spending just a couple of minutes on it each day. No matter how clean and well organized a room actually is, it can look and feel like the opposite when the surfaces are cluttered with everyday stuff. And, when it feels messy, you're far more likely to add to the mess and then get discouraged and give up, letting it go and allowing things to start to pile up. Fight this pattern!

Here's how: the surface sweep. Getting into the mindset of regularly doing a speedy, frantic-yet-focused surface sweep is one of the best habits to try and pick up from the Cure. It doesn't need to take long (3 minutes is usually a good amount, really!) but the change in your room is major. It really helps, especially when done regularly. Let me prove it to you today with a fast, super-effective exercise.

Today's Assignment:

Do a Surface Sweep

Choose one room in your home where the surfaces could use some attention. Set the timer on your phone (or stove, for you nostalgia lovers) for 3 minutes and GO. Dive in and straighten as if your life depends on it, flat out FAST for the duration of the timer. Scoop stuff up, gather it together and put it where it goes. Glasses and mugs to the sink, magazines in the rack, junk mail in the trash...you get the idea. This isn't about going on a full room cleaning binge. It's just a quick reset to get things under control in the speediest way possible and then move right on to whatever it is you want or need to be doing at the moment; getting back to making dinner, replying to emails, watching your show or playing with the kids.

It's a surprisingly effective tool against creeping clutter, it really works for staying ahead of the tide before things get to the "I give up!" point. It's most effective when done regularly. Start doing a 3 minute "surface sweep" once a day for the next few weeks - I think that once you see the returns on your (very small!) time investment, you'll be hooked.

Note: Everyone's household is so different - you may want a slightly longer regular daily "sweep" time if you have kids, for example. Feel free to up it by a minute each time until you hit the sweet spot, but no matter what, definitely keep it to under 10 minutes. This is a quick daily habit to slip into your life to make it easier, not another dreaded task for the already too long to-do list.

Please tell us where and what you "swept" for today's exercise in the comments and how much you got done in the very limited timeframe. And, I know there must be some regular "surface sweepers" out there already. If so, please share your wisdom on the process below.

  • See all the assignments: January Cure Main Page
  • Download the calendar: January Cure 2016
  • Share your progress on Instagram: #thejanuarycure


  • Want to keep improving your home one step at a time after the Cure? Sign up now for our once-a-week Weekend Projects program, starting in February: