Saturday, 21 July 2012

Keeping up with it all.

Way back when I was in primary school the beginning of the school holidays signalled clean-out-my-room time. This was mostly self-inflicted. It seems I got some sort of  joy out of emptying my cupboards and drawers, going through all my bits and pieces and then putting it all back again in a neat and tidy fashion. I would throw out a handful of things I didn't want anymore like dried-out textas then sharpen my pencils, alphabetise my books and so on. I didn't have a great deal of 'stuff' back then so it wasn't a major task but I would dedicate most of a day to it.

Nowadays I am not the greatest cleaner or tidier in the world and I do have a fair bit of 'stuff'. I went through a bit of a hunter/gatherer phase around the turn of the century but have slowed down on the gathering a lot now. The last time we moved house (coming up to five years ago) was a real eye opener. So many boxes of fabric, 'things to sell on ebay', memories, 'collectibles' and so on. Too many. And those 'boxes full of stuff' stayed 'boxes full of stuff' for too long. I had to come up with some motivation and some rules to get me sorting, culling, organising and getting real about the stuff-to-space ratio in our home. Slowly I'm starting to realise what works and what doesn't work for me when it comes to cleaning and organising. After a recent chat with a friend made me realise I wasn't the only one with this sort of problem I thought maybe sharing a few of my favourite tips here might be helpful for someone else... and motivating for me.

Here are the things I tell myself about cleaning and tidying, in no particular order. They might not work for you but then again, maybe they will?

1. Nothing should have a permanent home in a cardboard box. Find a place for the things you have in boxes that were never unpacked when you last moved house. If you still want to keep those things but have to store them away for whatever reason try to get a plastic box with a lid and make sure you have a place for that box whether it be in a shed, garage, in the top of a wardrobe or somewhere out of the way. Try not to have the box in view in the house. If you can make space to have a box in the house you should be able to make space for whatever is in the box somewhere out on display.

2. Do you use it? Do you need it? Do you love it? When I'm really stuck on an item in a clean-up I try to ask myself these three questions. I think I got this tip from watching an episode of Hoarding - Buried Alive. If I can't answer 'Yes' to any of these questions then I seriously need to think about letting go of the object in question.

3. The 'Pick Up 5 Things' rule. I'm afraid I can't remember where I came across this suggestion. I think it might have been on an Oprah organisation special some years ago. This one works best for me on a more day-to-day basis. Every time I get up from the computer, the couch or walk through a room, for example, I pick up and put away five things that aren't in their place. If I'm feeling extra motivated I'll change the rule to 'Pick up 5 things and wipe down one surface'. I don't actually do this all the time but when I do it helps keep the mess, created by two untidy adults and one active toddler, down a bit. Sometimes it's hard to know where to start when faced with tidying or a major clean up. Just start with five things.

4. MOOP - Matter Out Of Place. This ties in with the above point. The problem is that to deal with MOOP, everything in your home must actually have a place. If you can aim to have a place for all your belongings and then have an empty shelf or cupboard somewhere you might find you feel a whole lot better in your surroundings. (Easier said than done, right?)

5. Daily email from The Organised Housewife. Recently I subscribed to the daily email from a blog called The Organised Housewife. Daily Tasks are sent to your inbox. Instead of dealing with cleaning all at once these emails suggest one thing to do each day. Breaking it down this way makes it much less daunting. Examples of tasks I've seen in the emails so far include clean your knife block and wipe down the kitchen cupboard doors. The little things do add up to making a difference.

6. Pomodoro technique. I think I first heard about the Pomodoro technique from Frecklewonder's blog. It's a timer system that can be used to help get you through any task at home or at work. I find I use it most when I am working. Check out the Pomodoro website for the details but basically you break tasks down into 25 minute blocks with 5 minute breaks after the first three sessions and a longer break after the fourth. I find it really makes me stay on task and the job feels a lot shorter somehow. There are various Pomodoro apps for the computer or your phone or you can just use a regular timer. Try using it when cleaning or sorting your 'stuff'. It might help keep you motivated.

7. Watch Hoarders, Hoarding - Buried Alive or How Clean Is Your House?.
These TV shows never fail to inspire and motivate me. They remind me of what could happen if I never did anything in the way of cleaning or tidying. I think I could watch these shows all day long.

As I said, these are some tips that work for me. Does anyone have any good cleaning and organising tips to add?


  1. I'm a fan of the "always have an empty shelf or cupboard" rule - but most of my empty shelves are empty because I can't reach them...

    And even though I don't really hoard random things, I DO accumulate a lot of clothes - I find having market stalls every now and again and selling things I don't wear or don't want helps me keep that in check. Sometimes I sell them on ebay too, when I can be bothered taking pictures!

    1. Getting a bit of money back for things you don't want anymore is always good. :)