If you're like me, then about half an hour before any house guests arrive you frantically run through the living and dining room, sweep any evidence of actually living in your home off of your surfaces, and jam all that crap into the nearest drawer/cabinet/closet to create the appearance of cleanliness. I would literally sweep clutter under a rug, if I could! Unfortunately, it would probably look lumpy under my flat-weave carpets.
While I feel like it's working — because it does look clean; my guests say so! — the wind was taken out of my sail a little when I recently spoke with organizing and lifestyle expert Lorie Marrero, creator of The Clutter Diet. It turns out, my method is absolutely the worst way to clean before company comes over. Marrero even has a name for my kind of people: stashers.
Why "The Sweep" Is a Bad Idea
Besides not actually being a cleaning or organizing technique — as I'm just moving the clutter around and not putting it away — my stashing habit, or as Marrero calls it, "The Sweep," means that junk I've tucked away will most likely stay hidden and accumulate.
"Neat does not equal organized," explains Marrero. "Your space may look better, but behind that pretty facade is a nest of delayed decisions and delayed actions. Your clutter is manifested procrastination!"
When I move, there's a good chance I could totally (hypothetically) find a shopping bag full of half-written thank you notes and mementos from my wedding five years before. Or a plastic-wrapped desk drawer organizer filled with color-coordinated Post-Its and clear thumbtacks from three jobs ago. Or a shoebox full of charger cords for electronics I don't own anymore. All totally hypothetical, of course.
These may seem like fun little time capsules from days past, but if you stash the wrong thing away, you risk missing something important, like a bill that needs to be paid. "Stashing can cost you time, money, and embarrassment," warns Marrero.
A Tiny Trick to Help You Get More Organized
Fortunately, I can change. Or rather, there's an easy way to make The Sweep work for me.
Instead of randomly hiding things in a drawer here or a cabinet there, Marrero suggest tossing all that stuff into one container you're likely to use again soon — like your everyday laundry basket, for example. The next time you go to do your laundry, you'll have incentive to put that stuff away (or throw it out!).
This is ingenious, and I'm going to do this the next time a social gathering at my place sends me into a decluttering panic. Mostly because I'm running out of drawer space.
How do you declutter before company comes over?
This post originally ran on Kitchn. See it there: This Is the Worst Way to Clean Before Company Comes Over