I Follow This “Tidy Snacking” Habit, and It’s Transformed the Way I Clean

published Jun 13, 2024
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head on shot of wall art being dusted with a yellow duster.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Prop Styling: Tom Hoerup

Snacks are kind of having a moment, and I don’t mean the edible kind. There are movement snacks (think: five-minute exercises), social snacks (brief moments of connection, like engaging in small talk with your barista), joy snacks (pleasant, everyday activities), and — in my home, at least — there are tidy snacks.

“Tidy snacking” is the practice of completing one quick cleaning or tidying task to build momentum and kickstart productivity without feeling overwhelmed. These bite-sized cleanups are what I lean on when I’m sinking into a procrastination spiral, and not only when I’ve been putting off cleaning my home. If I’m struggling to get started on a work assignment, an errand, or another to-do list item, I knock out an easy-win tidying or cleaning task first, such as loading the dishwasher or folding laundry.

I first discovered how helpful this little habit was when I started working from home. Suddenly, my pinging laptop shared a space with my overflowing laundry hamper, piles of mail, and a sink full of dishes — not exactly helpful for my anxiety. The clutter was a distraction, and knowing it was in my workspace only seemed to exacerbate my procrastination when I had a big assignment due. That is, until I started tackling the mess in small, snackable chunks.

How Tidy Snacking Works

Here’s how it typically goes.

  • Step 1: I notice I’m slipping into procrastination mode. Acknowledging any feelings of dread I might be experiencing before a task helps me pause before falling into a social media rabbit hole. 
  • Step 2: I identify one tidy snack (just one!) and complete it. Ideally, it’s a chore that feels accessible and easy to complete within about five minutes or less, like loading the dishwasher. The cleaning activity can be made extra fun by using music to track time. Bonus points if the tidy snack reduces visual clutter that may be hampering productivity.
  • Step 3: Resist the urge to do another tidy snack (and another). Instead, I try to keep my overall, post-snack goal — like making a difficult phone call or organizing my budget — in mind as I complete my chore.
  • Step 4: Congratulate myself on my progress. Sure, I might’ve just pushed a couple of buttons on my washing machine, but that’s still progress! I capture that sense of achievement and use it as inspiration when moving on to the more challenging task.
  • Step 5: Repeat as needed throughout the day. I still have moments here and there of getting overwhelmed where I need a mental break. A little tidy snack between to-do list items keeps me productive while still honoring my mental health.

Why I Love Tidy Snacking

A quick round of tidy snacking interrupts my tendency to procrastinate when I feel bogged down. If I notice I’m languishing on the sofa and locked into a doom-scrolling session, I tend to one tidying task. This forces me to get up and start being productive in a way that feels doable, not heavy or stressful.

I’ve also noticed that tidy snacking gives me the momentum to continue with my to-do list. Even if washing the dishes appears unrelated to writing an email, I found that completing the former gives me the quick dopamine hit needed to take on the latter. 

Plus, having a tidier, more organized environment makes it easier for me to focus. Many people have said that your environment reflects your mindset, but I’ve found the opposite to be true too. Once I tidy my space, my internal state feels a little less frazzled and chaotic. Watching the before and after of a tidy snack — such as a tabletop transform from dusty and cluttered to sparkling and organized — also serves as a visual reminder that I’m capable of getting stuff done, which motivates me to keep moving forward.

We’re spotlighting the link between how we feel on the inside and how our spaces look and feel in our Mind, Body & Home collection. This content was presented by a sponsor; it was created independently by our editorial team.