This Is the Best Habit to Start if You Want a Perpetually Tidier Home

published Jan 20, 2022
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Credit: Lula Poggi

Apartment Therapy’s January Cure is a free 20-day program all about loving on your home and preparing yourself and your space for the new year. Sign up now to get daily lessons sent straight to your inbox!

I’ve come to learn that “clean people” don’t exist — everyone makes messes! We all stack dirty dishes in the sink, set mail down on the counter, and toss our dirty clothes off at the end of the day.

The thing that makes a so-called “clean person” clean is that they approach those messes with the frame of mind that they can and will handle it when they need to. And then, they do. They take care of those messes regularly with an ingrained set of automatic, everyday habits that keep their tidy home running like a well-oiled machine.

My favorite one of those habits is the “surface sweep.” And your assignment today is to try it on for size, then try to make it a habit.

Let’s try it!

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Credit: Lana Kenney

Day 14: Do a 3-minute surface sweep.

Take a few minutes from your day today to clear the everyday surfaces around your home.

Set a timer for three minutes, grab a bag or box, and start. Work around your tabletops, countertops, or shelves, scooping stuff up as you go. Gather together anything that’s out of place and either put it back where it goes or into your box if it belongs in another room (like glasses and mugs for the sink or junk mail for the recycling bin). You can pull things in and out of the box as you work your way through your rooms and spaces.

While you’re working, keep your eyes on the prize: This exercise is just a quick pick-up — not a full-on room cleaning binge. Work with intention and work fast, hustling to tidy up as much as you can until the timer runs out. Then stop.

If there’s anything left in your box, place it quickly in its home. Then you’re done!

If you dedicate a few minutes a day to the task, this simple habit will become your most effective weapon against creeping clutter. Try to pick a time to do a three-minute sweep tomorrow, too… and then the day after that…

If three minutes doesn’t seem to be enough time to feel good about what you’re getting done, feel free to bump it up by a minute each time until you hit the sweet spot. But no matter what, definitely keep it under 10 minutes. This is a quick daily habit to make life easier, not another dreaded task for the already too long to-do list.

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More Ways to Participate in the January Cure: