3 Tidying-Up Tricks Everyone Needs to Know Right Now

updated Jun 1, 2021
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Credit: Viv Yapp

It’s entirely reasonable that your normal cleaning routine might have gone out the window in the last year. When no one was coming over and everyone was home all the time making perpetual messes, the house got really messy really fast. And frankly… sometimes (a lot of the time) you just plain don’t feel like cleaning.

The thing about pervasive messes is that there’s often a tipping point where you just can’t stand it anymore. By that point, though, the mess is so overwhelming that you just don’t even know where to start. Even worse, a piecemeal, half-hearted, easily distracted attempt can make you feel like you’ve cleaned forever with nothing to show for it.

This is where cleaning methods come into play. They give you a road map to follow, one that keeps you on the shortest, most focused path to a clean house you can enjoy. With a framework, you not only know where to start, but you get motivated by watching your mess shrink along the way.

Here are a few tried-and-true methods for cleaning up messes, big and small, when you need a little nudge to get past the inertia:

Credit: violetblue

1. The “Laundry Basket” Method

The laundry basket method gives the most immediate payoff for the least amount of work. To get started, grab a laundry basket and go room by room, picking up everything that isn’t where it belongs and tossing it in the basket. The laundry basket method allows you to pick up items without getting distracted—as you too easily could if you put them away one by one. It’s a speedy and low-exertion way to bring order to your space. Here’s the catch: That laundry basket full of stuff (what I call a “crap basket”) is a major energy zapper if it’s left around. Make sure you put everything away at the end of your sweep. One way to do this is to make a deliberate agreement with yourself to not even put the basket down until it’s empty again.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. The “Clean Surfaces” Method

The clean surfaces method automatically chunks your cleaning up project into manageable sections. To employ the strategy, view your messy space as a collection of independent surfaces with stuff on them that you’ll clean off. For instance, if I were to tackle my messy office, I’d first focus on the books and blankets my kids left on the couch. Then once that’s done, I’d look at the paper piles on the desk. Then maybe the items on top of the bookshelves, then anything left on the floor. When you shrink your focus down to a single surface (instead of one large space), each cleaned-off area feels like a small triumph—which boosts your momentum to finish another one, and pretty soon they all add up to a clean room and then a clean house!

Credit: Marie-Lyne Quirion

3. The “Cleaning Clockwise” Method

If you get distracted as you clean up and find yourself feeling like you’re spinning in circles with nothing to show for it, the cleaning clockwise method is going to be your new best friend. Cleaning clockwise means you pick a point in whatever room you’re cleaning, start there, and then move clockwise through the space. (It’s closely related to the “follow the wall” strategy.) This can be done in layers. Here’s an example: Let’s say you’re cleaning clockwise in the kitchen. You start in the corner of the room and work your way around, first clearing off everything that doesn’t belong on the counters, then making another pass and wiping the counters, and finally wiping down all the appliances in the same clockwise revolution, before sweeping and mopping the floors.