Overwhelmed by a Messy Home? Get Motivated, Organized & Decluttered
It's probably safe to say that everyone likes a clean home. A clean and clutter-free home promotes health, peace of mind, and general well-being. Most families and individuals make a concerted effort - at least on some level - to keep their homes orderly and clean, but this involves some daily work to keep it that way. So, what happens if you have the flu for a week, or everyone's schedules are bursting, or life just gets out of control? Often, it's the housework that suffers, and before you know it, your house is a mess. If you have ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed by the sudden accumulation of clutter and disarray, you're probably not alone. It is most often the magnitude of the task we face which elicits this sorrowful question, "Where do I even begin?" Well, the following seven steps will show you how to go from clutter to clean.
1. Make it a date, enlist some help. . . or kick everyone out (for the day!) Choose a day specifically, set it aside, and don't book anything else. Hopefully, you can get willing family members to dive in and help, perhaps with some incentive offered, if needed. Otherwise, get everyone who's not helping out from under-foot! If you live alone, then be sure to dangle a carrot for yourself, if you need that extra bit of motivation. After the work is done, you can collect your reward (whatever you choose).
2. Set the mood. Open a window for fresh air (weather permitting, of course), turn off the TV, and turn on the stereo. Music with a good beat that's lively and fun can be a motivating force; the television is simply just distracting. So, turn up the volume, invite the fresh air, and get pumped!
3. Make a list, but keep it simple. On a notepad, jot down just the rooms that need cleaned (assign them, if you have help), but leave a space to later record what specific things you have completed. . . after they are done. Why do it this way? This is much less overwhelming than seeing a list nine yards long to begin with. So, as you get one room cleaned, not only check off that room, but take a brief moment to write down some details - cleared countertop, swept and mopped floor, wiped baseboards and fingerprints, etc. - as this is the psychological boost you'll need to stay motivated. Rather than feel discouraged by all that is remaining, you can smile and feel pleased at what you have accomplished. Kids often find this fun, because - contrary to what they would have us think - they really do like to contribute.
4. Throw in a load of laundry. It is surprising how dirty clothes, socks, and towels laying around can quickly add to the perception of clutter. Once the laundry is gathered, separated into piles, and the first load is in the washer, your home will already begin to look (and smell) better. Continue on throughout the day, so that when the rest of the house is clean, your laundry will be, also.
5. Tackle the smallest room (or job) first. While some may argue that getting the biggest job out of the way first is the best way to go, that may not be the case if you are already overwhelmed. Being able to quickly check off that first item from your list is a huge boost, to both your spirits and your energy level. Be sure to finish cleaning one room first, before starting another.
6. Everything must have a "home". As you move from room to room, be sure to put things back where they belong (no fair hiding them all in the closet. . . unless the in-laws are arriving any moment!) Mothers, and other advocates of orderliness, have long been following the maxim "A place for everything and everything in its place" for good reason: it works. You may need to invest in a filing system and space-saving home-organizing cubbies. If you find you have many things which are "homeless" - which wind up getting shuffled around, but not used - then it is time for step number seven. . . .
7. Use three bins for sorting: keep, give, throw.
- Keep: It is very easy to slip into the habit of keeping "stuff" - magazines, paperback books, boxes and containers we think we'll reuse, half-burnt dusty candles and such - things that you haven't touched for a very long time. This habit, if left unchecked, can lead to a problem with hoarding. Being judicious, decide now what you truly need, and what you cannot bear to part with. . . and keep only that. (If you think you may have a problem with hoarding, it is very wise to seek help and support from a professional.)
- Give. The remaining things, if they have some value, should be donated to charity. Especially sort through clothes and household items, checking for duplicates and things you haven't used or worn in the last 18 months to two years. There are plenty of people in need who will make use of them. Alternatively, if you have a large accumulation of useful household items, you might also consider holding a garage sale.
- Throw. Without being needlessly wasteful, do realize that when the life or usefulness of an item has come to an end, it must go. Broken toys, chipped drinking glasses, socks with big holes (are you really going to mend those?). . . that mateless glove. No one else can use them, either. And papers: other than what is required by law for you to keep (tax forms and supporting documents, for example), shred and recycle the rest. To reduce those heaps of paper that result in cluttered countertops, choose to go paperless for bills and bank statements, receiving them via email instead (where available); it's good for the environment, as well.
One final note: If cleaning your entire house in one day is truly unmanageable, then assign yourself one room (or task) per each day of the week until it is completed. Once the clutter and dust-bunnies are gone, it is easier to maintain an orderly home on a daily basis using a revolving cleaning schedule. . . that is, until the next time life gets in the way! Oh. . . and don't forget to reward yourself for a job well done.
© June 2011 Sharla Smith