This 3-Minute Daily Habit is the Key to a Forever-Clean Home

published Jan 29, 2020
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The January Cure is an Apartment Therapy tradition, helping you clean and declutter your home for the year ahead. We’re in the final week, but it’s never too late to sign up and join. Or you can begin your own journey any time with The Eight-Step Home Cure book.

There are no shortcuts on the path to being a tidier person. It is, and will always be, about staying committed to your goal of a more organized home. But “committed” doesn’t have to mean “difficult” or “complicated.”

In fact, keeping clutter at bay can be distilled into one simple daily habit. Something that you can handle during a TV commercial break or while listening to one favorite song: Take three minutes near the end of the day—every day—to do a quick surface sweep.

“Surface sweep” just means cleaning up errant items from your rooms’ floors, furniture, and tabletops. The magic here, though, is to define your task by time (just three minutes!) and not volume. It’s what keeps the whole thing manageable day after day, so you’re always in step chasing a tidier home without burning yourself out.

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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Prop Stylist: Stephanie Yeh

Today’s Assignment: Do a 3-minute surface sweep.

Take a few minutes from your day today to clear and clean your less-than-tidy surfaces.

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 (if it’s close, like magazines out of their magazine rack) 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!

You can watch me take on a surface sweep of my home in the video above, if it helps, but this task should feel natural to you. Start in whatever room, pick up whatever things. This is truly a feeling exercise; it’s all about dedicating a tiny bit of time to making your living area feel a little more in-control at the end of every day, so you can start tomorrow afresh.

If you dedicate a few minutes a day to the task, this simple habit will become your most effective weapon against creeping clutter.

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.

Credit: Apartment Therapy

We’re in the home stretch! Here are a few ways to participate in the Cure: