I Still Use This Ingenious Room Cleaning Trick My Older Brother Taught Me When We Were Kids

published Apr 10, 2023
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Credit: Lula Poggi

My childhood was full of an affectionate sort of chaos. My father liked to say there were no rules at his house, and that wasn’t really hyperbole. Perhaps this is the reason my older brother Neill felt compelled to teach me a whole host of things, from confidence-boosting self-affirmations to how to order food from Dairy Queen. 

I don’t eat at Dairy Queen anymore and I stopped shouting “I’m beautiful” to the ceiling, but I still tidy a cluttered room the way Neill taught me because it’s ingenious. For context, I was as messy as you would expect a child brought up without rules to be. When Neill announced that he was going to teach me the “secret formula” to cleaning a room, I was in desperate need. 

First, he declared, we throw everything out of place onto the bed. That part was fun and fast, and like magic, when I looked around the room everything was tidy except the bed. Dramatic visible progress, indeed. 

Next, we turned our attention to the mountain of things, which you’d think would be daunting, especially to a novice tidier like my younger self. But not only was it incredibly satisfying to watch the pile slowly shrink, but it was also easy to place Rainbow Brite in the doll basket because said basket wasn’t covered in a pile of costumes. Everything was clear and easy to access.

If my attention started to wane, or if I felt distracted by Polly Pocket, Neill would say theatrically, “We can’t give up! Where will you sleep?” I suppose it should have occurred to me that I could, theoretically, push everything off the bed, but even now I hear Neill’s voice in my head when I’m ready to give up on a partially clean room. I can’t give up! Where will I sleep? The bedtime deadline is still a serious motivator for me. 

This method works best in a bedroom, but it translates well to other rooms. For the garage, I back out of the car and pile everything on the floor (Where will I park?), in the living room, the items go on the couch (Where will I watch “Ted Lasso”?). The kitchen is a bit trickier, but I still find that if I can pile all the dirty dishes together, the mess is far less overwhelming than when dishes cover every surface. 

If you have trash in your bedroom that you don’t want to place on the bed, you could strip the bed and wash the linens while you work, or you could place a trash bag on the bed. My childhood bedding wasn’t nice enough for this level of care, but I’m not going to toss my dog’s chew toy on my current duvet. 

I’ve fully embraced rules as an adult, so the mess in my home rarely reaches the epic proportions of my childhood. But after a party or when the house gets out of control, I channel my inner Neill and toss everything on the bed. 

What cleaning hacks did you learn growing up? Let us know in the comments!

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