August 16, 2009

Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Housecleaning

I do want to clean the house for my mother-in-law's visit. I do. Not ONLY for her visit (though that is the motivation, just as a dress-up occasion might be the motivation for a diet) but also because BEEZUS. It's due for an overhaul.

1. Tidiness is a knack and a skill and an inclination, and it requires an allocation of both time and energy. I am not sure those of us inclined to messiness can ever truly become Tidy, but certainly we can learn to fake it for special occasions.

2. Tidy people disagree vehemently on what is the best way to achieve and maintain tidiness. One tidy person will say "Get rid of every single item you haven't used in the last week/month/year!" while another has a storage system. One tidy person will say "Decorative items do nothing but collect dust! Pitch them out!" while another suggests you put out the pretty stuff currently taking up basement storage space. One tidy person will say "Don't get overwhelmed: just concentrate on cleaning one small area thoroughly, then move on to the next small area" while another will say "Let's not polish dark corners while we still have heaps of stuff in the middle of the floor."

3. Just as there is no one single diet/fitness program that works for everyone, there is no one single tidiness program that works for everyone. For myself, I find I like to take a little of this, a little of that. There are some times when I would rather take everything out of a closet, clean the closet, and carefully sort/clean/organize everything I put back in. There are other times when I need to be reminded that it's better to make a passing swipe at the counter with a damp rag than let it stay covered in crumbs and puddles because it seems like there's no sense bothering if I'm not going to pick up every single thing and clean under it and then use a toothbrush on the rim of the sink.

Those of you who are tidy and willing, will coach those of us who are messing and willing. Each session, we will address one problem. All the tidy people will weigh in. Messy people who have learned a good coping technique for that problem will weigh in.

Anyone can then go through the suggestions and choose the one that makes the most sense for them. I think it would be fun to say "OMG what do I do with my messy bookshelf??" and then choose from "Take everything off, dust, sort, donate, organize by size!" and "Organize by color for fun!" and "You should not even own any books you don't need at least once a month: all they do is collect dust and you should let the library deal with them" and "Stack paperbacks horizontally, hardcovers vertically" and "Leave the bookshelves for now: there are more important areas to tackle first" and so on. Like a choose-your-own-adventure!

If you were at the door to my house (it doesn't have to be MY house---just ANY house where your advice was requested), what would you say was the FIRST THING that should be done? A chart? A shopping trip for supplies? A run-through with a garbage bag? A plan? Choosing a room? Setting up empty boxes? A blowtorch? First step, small or large, practical or philosophical, GO.

This is one of the tidiest areas of my whole house. We'll start slow. (Yes, that is a piece of sheet metal leaning against the wall. No, I don't know why.)


Melissa Haworth said...

I am squarely on the MESSY side of this equation and seeking advice. I currently have an entire quilt project in my entry way but, to my credit, I did just put away the lego train set that was under the dining room table. Now just to put the table and chairs back before someone beheads themself on the pendant lamp. Small steps ;) Looking forward to advice--I am willing.

Laura said...

I'm halfway in between. I'm reasonably tidy, but allow things to get... lived in before I start really cleaning.

1) Pick up everything off the floor that doesn't belong and put it away. Some of this may involve the garbage.

2) move up to the next highest surfaces and so on, putting things away as you find them in the wrong place

3) dust

4) sweep, mop, and vacuum.

5) Clean bathrooms, including scrubbing toilets and bathtubs

6) Clean oven, stove, and microwave making sure to clean off countertops

7) can be done while doing other things--catch up on the laundry; it's easy to get behind

brightfeather said...

I should mention that I have places that I allow to be completely and totally messy that only get cleared out every few months, if then. Visitors just have to deal with it. There's a corner of my living room that's like this. I have bags and boxes of fabric stacked there. I also keep wipes and the baby's diapers there, too. Basically anything that I don't want Evie to have stays in that corner. Occasionally, like before Christmas when the tree goes there, I clean it out and put it back in the mess that is my sewing closet, but it's a rare occasion.

LoriD said...

I love this idea... I bet there will be some great suggestions. We're in between tidy and messy here. Here's my first step for general tidying:

1. Have a bin/box/laundry basket for each floor of your house (bungalow with basement=2 boxes; 2-storey house=3 boxes).

2. Sweep everything on the floor to one end of the room - garbage, toys, everything.

3. Sort the pile into garbage; stuff that goes elsewhere on the floor you are on; stuff that goes on the next floor, etc. The kids often like to help with this step. Put away whatever is left to go in the room you are in.

4. You can either stash the boxes away to deal with another day (like, if someone is coming over right away) or put the stuff away from the boxes.

Melospiza said...

Ooh, I love this!

Here's my suggestion for tackling a situation of moderate messiness, such as presented in the picture above: a thorough straightening. I find it helps to have a dump spot (such as our bedroom) in the house when embarking on a Straightening, so that troubling questions such as "why did someone buy this piece of sheet metal and why did they put it here?" can be saved for later.

The main advantage of the Straightening is that the true scope of the mess can be determined (i.e., are we going to have to get out the vacuum, or is it safe to move on from here?). The main disadvantage is that it requires a certain measure of time & energy in order to soldier through, and then once that energy has been expended, it's hard to muster it up for something else (such as vacuuming).

Katy said...

I love this idea and look forward to other people giving me ideas on how to me less of a disaster.

Serial Mommy said...

sorry swistle, i can't be much help, i'm VERY much on the messy side, and having 2 week old twins along with the rest of the heathen horde certainly doesn't help matters any! i'm having a big "meet the babies" party the sunday of labor day weekend and i'm starting my cleaning NOW because i'm also a big procrastinator and i'm HOPING that by starting now i (and my darling hubby, big on procrastinating, not so messy thankfully) will have it ready in the 3-4 weeks when i need it done...i'm definately one of those "fake it when company is coming" kinds!

brightfeather said...

Should say... I used to be messy. The cure for my absolute messiness was moving into a dorm room the size of a walk-in closet. When anything left lying around can lead to injury, you start learning to put things away...

willikat said...

I typically start with the kitchen and the bathroom; those are the two rooms of our place that I can't stand to be dirty or messy. After I thoroughly clean them, I collapse on couch and eat cheese and crackers, vowing to do the rest another day.

On a really good day, I also get out the vacuum and do a big sweep with it, get the laundry going while I fold, sort, and put away clothes, and sort through the junk we seem to accumulate faster than anyone I know. Or, they know how to clean better than I do. So I can use some tips, too.

Leah said...

I adore this idea. I'm definitely messy. I actually don't mind cleaning, but I hate the daily grind of tidying up. So, things get awful, I spend a whole day cleaning, it looks great, and exactly 20 seconds later it looks awful again. I need help LIKING the tidying process. Not sure if that's possible though.

melissa said...

I would say I am on the tidy side...before children I was probably neurotically tidy but after children I've learned to lighten up a lot.

A tip:

I keep a pretty basket in our TV room and put things that don't really have a "home" there--junk mail that I want to go through, stuff from school that isn't pressing, items "new" to our home that need to find a space. Once a week I sit in front of the TV (HBO on Sunday nights!) and go through the basket. It doesn't seem like such a chore if I only do it once a week while I'm doing something else too. Some items remain in the basket it's a cute decorative basket so it doesn't look super messy just hanging in a corner.

desperate housewife said...

Well, you know how much I love cleaning, so I'm literally giddy here with the IDEAS and PLANS and SCHEDULES I could bore you with! However, as a starting ground I would suggest this:
Take a broom, static duster, or just a dust mop with a washable head and do corners and ceilings. Seriously. I know this seems like a stupid, nitpicky thing to start with, but when cleaning I am a firm believer in "Top to bottom." If there are cobwebs and grime in the corners, you don't want to be remembering to deal with them AFTER you've broken out the Pledge or the vacuum cleaner. So. Around the edges of the ceilings, in every corner, ceiling to floor, and then anywhere else you spot a stray dust web.

Suzannah said...

I'm a messy person who loves a clean house. I think a housekeeper is the only solution I need. Please send one ASAP.

Di said...

OOOH - I need all the help I can get! I hope there are suggestions for those of us living in smaller spaces too (telling an apartment dweller, to put off-season stuff in either a basement or attic is only going to result in my going further off the deep end!)

Elizabeth said...

Oooh, what a fun challenge.
I am generally quite a tidy person, but I am not really sure HOW I am tidy.
I would say I am a big big believer in everything having a place, and in developing systems to avoid clutter. If you are amassing crap in your front hallway, you might need a hall table with a drawer, and a mail sorting system, a shoe bin, and some coat hooks. Etc etc etc.

I do not always clean the floor or dust or have shiny spotless windows, but I cannot deal with the clutter. So a spot for everything is a huge must.

Heather said...

I'm halfway between. I like a tidy (and clean - they're NOT the same thing) house, but I don't like being the one to do it. Usually my impetus for cleaning/tidying is impending company.

I am super organized, though. My first inclination is to work my way through my house, one room at a time. I always start with my bedroom, and the first thing I do is make the bed. It helps me feel accomplished, even if that's the ONLY thing I do all day.

Actually, I take it back. I make my bed, THEN I start with the kitchen. I feel as though I'm more able to tackle the rest of the house if that's clean. I almost always leave my kids' playroom for last, because as I'm cleaning the other rooms I always find things that belong in there.

It's my plan to do a whole-house-cleaning twice a year; once in the spring and once in the fall. Where I pull stuff out of closets and cabinets and organize. But just twice a year. I don't do that for normal, weekly upkeep.

Also? The newest trick I set up for myself is creating a Google Calendar specifically for household chores. Like, I wash clothes on Mondays and Fridays. Towels on Tuesdays, bed linens on Wednesdays. Clean bathrooms on Thursdays, dust and vacuum rugs on Fridays (I do a quick vacuum of our kitchen and dining room every day because we have a huge ant problem here, and crumbs are breeding grounds for them). Then I have my weekends "off" from the big stuff, and just leave those days for putting away toys and washing dishes. I even put the bigger chores on there, like giving the cats baths and trimming their nails twice a month; cleaning the turtle's tank once a month; changing the filter on our A/C unit monthly, etc. It helps.

Bea said...

I am a tidy person, though I am also a person who loves knick-knacks. These two sides of my nature live in constant tension.

My advice would be to think of a habit that you would be willing to pick up - something you could imagine yourself doing every day, ideally something with minimum effort and maximum impact, so nothing to do with scrubbing away invisible germs. Making the bed is a good one if you're someone who generally leaves the bed unmade. Then figure out when is the easiest and best time to do that thing every day. I make the beds every morning while hubby feeds the children breakfast. If that works, you apply the same technique to something like dusting - i.e. one area of visible dust per day. I can see dust on my dining room table, my piano, and my TV stand, so those are the places I focus - I generally get to one each day, right after breakfast. I ignore the invisible dust.

Stacie said...

Well, right now in my very own house I am starting the fall overhall of "throw out/consign/give away all things that have been outgrown, are broken or that no one likes anymore."

Generally, I do one room then decide I'd rather nap or cook or poke my eye out with a sharp stick than clean anymore so I'm goaling myself to get one room sorted and really cleaned, including getting whatever new storage-type-things seem needed per week.

Kate said...

My apartment tends to get messier during the week and then I restore it to decency on the weekends. I always start with clothes - any dirty clothes not put in the hamper, and clean clothes waiting to be put away, then put in a load of laundry, and then move on to the kitchen. If the kitchen is done I feel like I'm making progress. Then I collect all the toys, and then I target a few areas that tend to attract clutter - my coffee table, the bar/window in my kitchen, the bedside tables - then sweep. And then I can tackle any bigger projects. I have to get it to a certain level of cleanliness before I can tackle big projects.

I'm really bad at windows and dusting, and don't do either nearly enough.

donna said...

I'm a messy one by nature, but when faced with a crisis (impending MIL visit counts) I become brutal in my tidying.

For this space, the first thing I would do is go thru with the trash bag. That's the easiest thing - finding a spot to put what you decide to keep is the harder part and you can devote more time to it when you've cut down the clutter.

Miz S said...

I ADORE your readers. Can we do this every day, please?

Melissa said...

I love to keep my place clean, and I hate messes but I have a two year old and I let it slide because she makes things untidy and I clean them while she's asleep. The man and I have two different cleaning methods, he's is quick and on the surface while I think of places and things that need to get done that he wouldn't think of. So this place is pretty good my os nly problem is I live in an apartment and it'a two bedroom flat level with no storage. I have trouble getting rid of things so my question is what kind of things do you ask/tell yourself to help get rid of things you wouldn't normally?
The one argument that I always use when throwing out things come around is that when I have a bigger place I will be able to keep this/use it more.. What do I do????

Lindsay said...

I 2nd what Di said about small space living. HARD!

B/C I am a small space dwelling person my first step would be looking for stuff to throw out. Like shoes. At our house we hold on to them WAY too long. Do you have a bin of shoes you could dump out and cull (maybe not reasonable given little kids growing into big kids shoes, not too sure)? If you do you can sometimes donate them at Nike stores to have the soles turned into playgrounds, OR to a Rotary Club who will send them to a 3rd world country for use there.

And, just offer Rob or William a muffin in exchange for hauling the sheet metal to the furnace room. Instant gratification.

And disclosure, my place is usually a wreck. I tried Flylady and she DESTROYED my inbox along with Kelly.

Angie said...

I'm kind of in the middle of messy/tidy. I like to have a clean kitchen and bathroom (specifically toilet.) I would start with the kitchen, bathroom, moving on to shared living areas before going to bedrooms.

Caitlin said...

I am somewhere in between. I find that the house tends to get messier during the week. Then the weekend comes and I just can't take it any more, and feel a bit overwhelmed. So here is what I do to quickly help me feel less overwhelmed:

First, only think about ONE thing at a time. Otherwise it becomes overwhelming and impossible.

Start with the Big Stuff. Making the beds immediately makes the rooms feel tidier. Put away the laundry or at least pile it in the corner and tell yourself you will put it away later.

Do all the dishes and clean off the counters and tables. Clean off the coffee table and throw away any rogue trash or cups there. Straighten the pillows and throws.
Now the bigger areas are cleaner and tidier and this has a Calming Effect.

Then, focus on simple clutter. If stuff is lying around that clearly has a home elsewhere, return it to its original location (office stuff, mail, and papers back to the office, books back to their shelf or pile, fabric and crafty stuff back to their room, etc).

You have cleaned up the Big Stuff, and then the rest seems somehow less daunting. Then tell yourself you will do ten minutes at a time (or whatever amount of time works for you). It's just ten minutes. Tell yourself to just do that 10 minutes and be done. You may have do that same project again later before MIL, but over time, a few 10 minte segments a day add up without being overwhelming.

PS - word ver. is MEATCO. ....MEATCO.

Kathy said...

I'm on the messy side of this equation, myself. Really looking forward to your readers' suggestions!

Alice said...

swistle, this is such a great idea!!

i am very much a Messy Person who yearns for a Not Messy Space. my advice for initial tacklage of a cleaning project is to actually do some superficial cleaning FIRST. like, i'll fold the blanket on the couch, put the pillows on nicely, put the crap on the coffee table into a neat pile, and pick up all the cat toys from the floor, and then i feel better that the very first place someone sees when they walk in my house is at least TIDY, even if it's not clean.

Kristi said...

Tidiness is one area I seem to have under control - quite possibly the ONLY area. So, here's what I would do (quickly): get 2 large bags, 1 for garbage and 1 for "stuff" that doesn't belong in the main living areas of the house - run through and dump stuff in. Clean off tables, furniture, etc. Toss garbage and put the other bag somewhere out of sight so you can deal later. Quickly sweep/swiffer and run a vacuum over carpets. At this point you should only have about 1/2 hour invested - think of it like a painful workout where you can actually see the reward. Take a deep breath. Give at least 2 kids damp rags and show them how to dust/wipe (the crap will still be there when they are "done" - 5 minutes later - but beggers can't be choosers here!) Clean the kichen while some other kid is wiping the most obvious windows.

There - now you should feel better and maybe have enough motivation to put away the crap from the other bag you picked up earlier. The key to this whole thing is to drink a ton of coffee, and NEVER EVER sit down - or you're screwed.

Good luck!

Jess said...

I start with the simplest things that have the largest impact on my frame of mind. So, for example, if our gym bags and an empty dog food bag and a full recycling bin are all on the floor, I deal with those first. Gym bags in the closet, dog food bag in the trash, recycling in the big outdoor bin. Then suddenly the space looks much cleaner and more open and I feel like I'm making PROGRESS. Anything that is straightforward and doesn't involve huge amounts of effort. Then I get on a roll and suddenly I actually WANT to scrub the sink with a toothbrush.

SIL Anna said...


Did you know you can DUST with that brush attachment thingy? And you can run it along the bookshelves that are a pain in the @$$ to reach? And do things like . . . like dust the CHAIR RAILS? Which some of us would never do, otherwise? And clean out the dust bunnies that take cover behind cords and surge protectors and things? And after that, since things that need putting away have been nudged a bit, actually putting them away it seems easier. I only discovered my love of the vacuum this year.
O vacuum. I love thee, and may have misspelled thee.

Groovymarlin said...

Not really a short-term cleaning suggestion, but more of an idea to help keep you stay organized in the future.

I'm a big believer in landing strips. This is a "station" that you designate near the entrance/exit of a house or room. It's a place to put things that you commonly need as you're coming or going. For example:

1. I have one near the front door. There are two leather magazine baskets - one for all of my mail, one for my husband's. There's a small wooden bowl where I drop my keys and sunglasses. And there's a small leather "valet" type thing where my husband puts his sunglasses, phone, keys, etc. If all of this stuff was just floating around our foyer it would be a freaking mess, but because we keep it organized on the hall table, it's not messy and it's easy to find things we need.

2. I also have one in my office upstairs. In this case, I have a charging station set up, and as soon as I enter my office for the first time in the evening, I immediately plug in my iPhone to charge the battery. There's a space where I always put my purse. And there's a wire basket where I drop things that I need to file or otherwise act on later in the evening.

Good luck with the cleaning. My best advice, as far as that goes: hire a maid service. :)

Christina said...

Oh God I love this idea b/c I'm horribly messy. I don't live in filth, with dirty dishes and mold, but I don't pick up stuff and it just adds and adds and adds until I get overwhelmed and I cannot breath. I hate it. I find it impossible to stay on top of stuff, but the funny thing is that I LOVE organization. When I'm at a workplace I'm clean and neat and organized, but at home it just all goes out the window.

I think the main problem now is my house (I'm living with my boyfriend in a house he previously owned prior to us dating) has NO. storage. NONE. There is a small closet in the kitchen that shares access to the attic. That is all the storage provided for the downstairs family room, the living room, the dining room, and the kitchen, besides the cabinets. Then upstairs is just a tiny, shallow closet in each bedroom. It's horrendous so nothing has a PLACE.

It all just ends up on the floor and in piles, much how your entryway is. We have much odder stuff than sheetmetal. haha I just need somewhere to PUT IT!

Looking forward to future segments and learning all the tips. I love a few I've read already about secret "stashes" of baskets and bins to collect the random things. I need one of those b/c our kitchen usually collects it, which I hate b/c it eats up counter space.

Brenna said...

I'm big on the 'company cleaning' method (meaning I only clean when we have company, not that a company does it for me...although I would do that in a second if I could afford it). To the point that if my kids see me get the vacuum out, they ask me who is coming over.

The tip that's always resonated with me is: spend the most time/care cleaning the guest bathroom, because that's the only alone time guests have to really notice the mess. Plus, that's where they snoop.

Erica said...

Tidy person weighing it: I keep the house picked up on a daily basis and do BIG cleaning typically once a week/once a month as needed. I tend to get overwhelmed when it's time for a big cleaning so I'm a fan of a list. I have a dry-erase board on my fridge and I list the things I want to get done. Sometimes I even assign them days so I can feel proud of achievements and not overwhelmed. (Example: I vacuumed today! Oh, the laundry still needs to be put away... that's not until tomorrow! I'm all done today!)

I also keep some Method wipes under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. A quick wipe of the counters/toilet seats/sink makes it look like the whole room is clean when it's not really.

I recommend delegating. You have lots of children! That means FREE labor. Assign them appropriate tasks for their ages. Preferably things you dislike doing. My daughter is big into the "helper" stage right now and LOVES to feed all the pets in the morning. I hate this job and gladly let her do it.

Erica said...

I was just thinking... why are you cleaning for the MIL? I mean, it's not as though you're going to impress her or even please her because we all know she is a horrible shrew.

I would leave the house in it's natural state and if she has a problem with it, then she's welcome to stay at a hotel that offers housekeeping services.

But, then again, I'm a bitch and you're not.

Lippy said...

Oh my hell. I am a messy person, and I get overwhelmed. I start in the kitchen and find something that needs to go upstairs. So I take it upstairs and notice our bed needs to be made. So I start to make it, and I find a pair of socks in the bed, so I take them to the closet. Then I notice all the laundry, so I take it to the laundry room, but now I need to pee so I go to the bathroom, which smells like pee, so I clean the toilet and empty the trash. Then I take the rugs to the laundry room, but now there are clothes already in the washer, and in the dryer and......... kill me. It's like the book If you give a pig a pancake.

sagessa said...

I love this idea! We are currently in the process of packing up and moving to a new house, so I'm getting a fresh start. The problem, though, is that I'm messy by nature. I can't wait to read everyone's ideas so I can start off right in our new house!

Stacia said...

Such an awesome idea!

I consider myself squarely on the side of messy, with a lot of work done to improve up to to semi-tidy. Generally, I have some coping ideas that keep things under control. My main cleaning system is to put stuff away, then dust, then vacuum.

We keep the bedroom, laundry room, and my husband's office tidy simply because there's almost nothing in these small rooms.

The problem areas are the living room, dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. The bathroom is clean but with so little counter space it gets cluttered. And it's so dusty! I wipe the sinks down daily with wipes, but they're dusty within 2-3 hours. The kitchen is also clean but cluttered by appliances and dishes air drying.

I need to find some system that makes putting things away easier to do. Things that sit out all the time do so because they take time to put away, and I know I need to streamline the process.

Laura said...

One more thing. In my last set of dorms, they held monthly inspections where everything had to be clean. I didn't always have time to deep clean or even spot clean much before they showed up, so I learned how to fool 'em.

If it smells like bleach, it tricks people into not looking too close and assuming that something is clean. So... while wiping down the toiler/sink/shower is great, my tip is to pour bleach down 'em, because then people think you've deep cleaned it, when you probably haven't. The added advantage is that it'll kill some germs regardless if you have time to scrub it to a fare-thee-well or not.

Kerry said...

I'm a tidy person. Compulsively so. But, that doesn't really mean I'm a clean person. I mean, I have to put away the pile of video games sitting in front of the TV, but I'm certainly not going to dust unless my in-laws are coming over.

That said, if I was coming into a house that needed to be tidied, the first thing I would do is prioritize. What really needs to be done quickly, and what can wait? I mean, no point spending 3 days organizing your closet if your mother in law is never going to look in there. And if you have a list of things that must be done vs. things that can be let slide, you have the option of letting some things slide without feeling like a failure. I'm a big fan of not feeling like a failure!

Marion said...

You've got two goals:

(A) Make the house look good in time for MIL's visit;
(B) Declutter, tidy and clean everything properly.

Do (A) first. That's the goal that has a time constraint and can't be postponed. Once the house looks good, you can do (B) at your leisure. If you start with (B), however, you're in BIG trouble if you get interrupted. Say your child breaks a leg or you've got to help out a sick relative or whatever: you've got one very clean room and half a dozen more that are still messy. If you do (A) first, you'll get the whole place reasonably clean relatively fast.

(1) You need two boxes, a garbage bag, a hoover, and something to wipe down surfaces with. (And music.) Put everything in the first room. Start with the hall, then work your way clockwise through the house.

(2) Choose an upbeat, fast tune.

(3) Starting to the left of the door, tidy up everything that doesn't belong in the hallway or makes the place look cluttered. Garbage --> binbag. Stuff that's from other rooms --> box 1. Stuff you don't really need or want to keep, but aren't sure yet what to do with --> box 2. Label it (f.expl. "Stuff that used to clutter up the Hall"). Work fast, without thinking over things too much.

Wipe down the surfaces, lampshades and skirting boards. It just has to LOOK clean. You can do some in-depth cleaning some other time.


Put away your cleaning equipment. Take the first box and tidy up its contents. Take the second box and put it someplace visitors won't see it.


If you've got some time left: do all the rooms again, one per day. Clean it more thoroughly, repair stuff, hang up pictures, buy plants, whatever. And go through the box full of the clutter that used to be there.

Allison said...

When I was preg with my third my husband gave me a few visits from a cleaning lady for Christmas and I would donate plasma to keep her. She's priceless and worth every cent (and really not that expensive either...honestly..way less than a monthly gym memebership!).

I still have to clean in between her monthly visits, and I find I am much happier if I can keep the house somewhat neat. I say first declutter. I can usually get the whole house decluttered in an hour. I usually wait until 7 or so to do this and start with the baby's room and then do the other kids rooms (so they can get to bed). After they're in bed, do my room and bath, then the rest of the house after everyone's asleep. I see the idea of a box or bag to collect clutter in, but that would never work for me. I'd never get around to cleaning it out!
IMO, decluttering is really have the battle. Even if I don't do anything else, the house looks pretty clean after that. But if I have company coming, I do this: clean the bathrooms really well, since people will probably be sitting idly in there and that's the only place they'd really notice, then do the kitchen counters, sink, and floors (sweep, mop, & vaccumm). And that's all I do, even for company!

Anna said...

1) Rubbish, recycling, things that can be dealt with immediately (dirty clothes into the machine, dirty dishes into the other machine)

2) Things that have a home but are not in it

3) Things that do not have a home (if tidying up for a specific event, it's OK to put these things in a box or bag and hide it, as long as you remember to return to it within in a reasonable amount of time) (say, five years or so)

4) Cleaning

Kristi said...

Start with the sheet metal.

Helpful, no?

the new girl said...

I am going to come back and read all of this when I have more time but I wanted to add that I've noticed that sometimes Tidy People don't self-identify as Tidy. Like, they think THEY aren't Tidy Enough to be considered Tidy People.

So, for the sake of these posts, I'm going with anyone who claims to have ANY DEGREE of Tidiness.


Hillary said...

Tidy but not Sparkling Clean here --

1. Pick up everything that doesn't belong -- including that sheet metal -- and get it OUT OF THE WAY. It would be best if it went to its proper home, but short of that get it out of sight. Trash what you can.

2. Things that belong but are cluttery -- like kids' toys -- should have a spot. Find that spot, put out a basket or something to keep things there.

3. Clean to the degree that suits you.

4. Because this is the first thing people see, including you, make it pretty. I would hang a picture directly in front of the door on the back wall and maybe put a table under it or against the wall where the sheet metal is.

Mommy Writes said...

Messy person married to Tidy person here. Still working through the marital skirmishes on this. My only advice goes with the music someone else mentioned.

I like to put on some sort of bouncy, energetic music (They Might Be Giants works for me) that I have either on TAPE or CD.

I pick up/clean until the music ends. Sometimes, then, I'm on a roll and I keep going. If I want to quit when the music quits, I can quit. But I have to keep finding things to put away/clean/pick up/organize until the music is over. (This keeps the job from seeming so overwhelming, but is more fun than an actual timer.)

Catherine said...

I am not so great at the serious, heavy-duty cleaning (seriously, who regularly washes their baseboards?!), but I am pretty tidy (aka neat freak). So here's what I do:

Put everything away first. You're going to have to do it eventually if you're going for a real, heavy duty clean, and it will make cleaning easier.

Prioritize your cleaning. Since I don't like cleaning, I often lose steam, so I do things that seem most important first and then move on to things like cleaning windows and washing baseboards (ha! like I ever get to that last one).

Sidenote: Dust, THEN vacuum. There's nothing more annoying, cleaning-wise, than spending forever vacuuming only to dust and feel like you've just swept crap all over your floor again.

Bethtastic said...

I'm CRAZY tidy. I have been my whole life. Ask my Mom. And I have three suggestions for everyday stuff.

1. Make beds every day. Every day. It really is amazing what a made bed does for a room. And if you require that your kids make their beds, you do the same.

2. Clean off the front of your fridge. (It will surprise you how much nicer a kitchen will look if you throw away papers and organize the letter magnets.) I have one big clip for each kid, so one piece of art work can be displayed at a time. And a magnetic basket thingy to store the letters/numbers, so when they're not in use, they aren't a jumbled mess on the front and sides of the fridge.

3. If you have an upstairs/downstairs, never go in either direction empty handed. Always have something in your hands that belongs upstairs when you make the trip. And vice-versa. Even if your trip is just for the purpose of helping the little one wipe. Don't go empty handed. It keeps the upstairs things upstairs and the downstairs things downstairs. (If you have one level, do the same if you're heading to the bathroom/bedroom/office/toyroom/etc. Don't go empty handed.)

I have a million other things I do. Because I'm crazy. But my messy friends tell me these three are the easiest habits to develop, if you haven't already.

If I would pick a fourth thing to share, I would say this:
4. Keep a box/basket somewhere - in each closet if you have the sapce, by the laundry maybe, even under your bed - and use that box for things that could be donated/garage saled/generally disposed of. Put clothes and shoes that kids have out grown, clothes you don't wear anymore, toys past their prime, magazines you're done with. Whatever. If it has been in the box/basket for, say, 6 months, and you haven't missed it, get rid of it. If you find yourself looking for it, you still have it. Every six months empty the box and take it for donation or whatever. It's sort of a purgatory for the things you don't know what to do with right now...

Sarah said...

Here's my advice:

First, go through the room/area that you are about to tidy and ruthlessly get rid of things you don't use. If it's not beautiful or useful, why are you keeping it? It helps to be ruthless and sometimes having an impartial friend next to you helps. You need someone who isn't emotionally attached to your possessions. You need someone who will challenge you to let things go, either to the garbage or to someone who CAN use it.

Secondly, you cannot organize clutter. All the organizational equipment will only become clutter itself if it isn't there to organize something specific. I had to stop buying little baskets because unless I was buying it for something specific, it was too big or too small to be actually useful.

If something doesn't have a home, ditch it. I've gotten rid of countless toys simply because they couldn't be easily organized. You know the toys--the odds and ends of childhood that end up scattered all over your house that never get put away because there is no where for them to go. Also, how many little cars and trucks does a kid (or five) NEED? 12 trucks are not going to make a child happier than 5 trucks.

After you've gotten done beating back the amount of stuff you're trying to tidy, THEN tackle cleaning and organizing. It will go much more smoothly.

Here's my example: Before I had babies, I had thousands of books. After my third baby was born, I had to take a hard look at my bookshelves, which were bursting forth. I had to make some hard decisions. Was I really going to be reading Francis Bacon any time soon? Could I maybe get ANOTHER copy when I did feel I was ready? Yes. So out it went. It was hard because I had to let go of this vision I had of myself as someone who DID read things like Francis Bacon. But I'm just not. So, after I RUTHLESSLY went through my bookshelves, SEVEN boxes of books went trotting off to the library for their book sale. My rule was that I could only keep what would comfortably fit on my bookshelves.

Good luck!

g~ said...

I'm a semi-tidy person who has the distinct advantage to live in a 5 lb house with 10 lbs of crap. First thing:
I find a timer helps. A few times a day, I'll set a timer for 10-15 minutes and clean without interruption (if possible). It's amazing how much I get done in how little time. I find plugging in my kids to a TV episode makes it easy to get quite a bit done. And no reward until AFTER I finish up.
Have a set of cleaning supplies for each room you want to clean. For example: two bathrooms, two sets of clorox wipes, two shower cleaners, two swiffers or whatever.
Third thing: Make your bed and clean off your counters every day. The counters are such a clutter point and clearing them of everything can make your house seem cleaner by the fact that it is less cluttered-looking. Clean and cluttered are two different things.
Fourth: Make your children clean their own rooms. And don't micro manage. If the toys are somewhere, that's good enough (except, obviously, under bed or piled in closet). I know so many people who have separate bins for everything making it impossible for kids to clean to Mom's expectations. A few large toy bins will allow them to get it done quickly. I know that the argument is that they can't find their own toys but THEY'LL SURVIVE! And if they don't play with it, THROW IT OUT. But after each toy overhaul, buy each child ONE new toy to replace all those given away/thrown out, etc.
Fifth: Buy things that inspire cleaning. I LOVE to reward a good cleaning session with the purchase of a pretty container to store my newly organized stuff. It's a great motivator to clean if you can't buy the fun stuff until AFTER you've organized.
Also: from a truly clean AND tidy friend this quote: "It's much easier to KEEP a house clean than it is to GET it clean." As in, it's easier to put in 10-15 minutes a day concerted effort to maintain cleanliness than to power-clean for a few hours every couple of weeks. I have definitely found this to be true.

g~ said...

I meant distinct "DISadvantage" and I agree with the commenter above me to sometimes throw out toys just because they are hard to put away. I do that ALL the time. I HATE toys with little pieces.

Alexa said...

Swistle, this may be the best idea anyone has ever had (and yes, sliced bread, I'm including you). I am, ahem, solidly on the messy side, BUT, I have ADD, and messiness makes it noticeably harder for me to think/function. Of course the ADD also means that I tend to be, for instance, cleaning the kitchen, and I take something to put it away in the closet, and then I forget I was cleaning the kitchen and start organizing the closet...until I find something that goes in the bathroom can see where this is going.
I am ready to learn.

nicole said...

I am somewhere between messy and tidy, like most everyone I suppose. I say start with a quick cleanup of the floors, even if it just goes in a basket to be toted around the house later.

Amanda said...

How bad is my diagnosis if even these comments overwhelm me?

I'm feeling the itch of inspiration though. This is a good thing.

bessieviola said...

I tend toward tidy, though it's more difficult now that I have a toddler. However, I am staunchly with the "garbage bag first" camp. Go through and donate whatever you can, and throw out what you can't donate/don't need. Good karma points, right? Karma!

Then once the "extra" stuff is gone, you can feel all virtuous and have a drink. Once you're through with your drink, you can dive in to clean/organize.

My secret weapon? Space Bags! I know they're a total informercial product, but WOW do they work. You can cram so much stuff into them, vacuum the air out, and have more space! Total win, since you don't have to actually get RID of things to get more room. I use them for all baby things.

MoMMY said...

As a relatively tidy person living with 4 boys/young men who are decidedly NOT tidy, I can relate. The clutter drives me INSANE. Couple things that help to start:

1) Kids clean. I used to supervise and now there is no need. They can vacuum, swiffer, dust & do bathrooms. Each kid gets 1 age appropriate job a day during the summer. (It used to be clean toilet, now it's clean bathroom) House stays relatively clean with 4 of them pitching in. I do the kitchen & laundry. The only two areas I'm too neurotic to let them do. This step also involves letting things go and telling yourself it's better than not being done at all. And yes, every now and then I do it myself to make sure it's REALLY clean.

2) Keep a bucket full of cleaning supplies so the kids/I can just grab it and go and everything we need is there. (Although there is toilet cleaning stuff in each bathroom so I can clean right then if I notice it needs to be done.)

There are more but I'll stop now.

penguinlady said...

Hi - a Tidy delurking here. My apartment is usually decent, but I go crazy when People are coming over and absolutely out of my mind when Family are coming.

I wasn't always a Tidy, though. We bought a condo a few years ago and I became "house proud" - I loved my house and wanted it to look good, and it was important to me, so I made it happen. The apt. we live in now I also love, so again, I'm a Tidy.

For your MIL's visit, what is the thing she harps on the most? Does she cluck her tongue at the state of your kitchen? Wrinkle her nose in the bathroom? Make a big push for that particular area. If it's the same from her across the board, that sucks. Kitchens and bathrooms are usually the big ones.

My honest-to-goodness advice for a non-Tidy who wants to have a special clean? Seriously, if you can afford it, hire a cleaner for a day. They know where dirt, dust and grime lurk and will take care of it, leaving you the time to focus on decluttering. How much is a clean house and your time worth to you?

If you can't afford it, leave the most impactful stuff until right before; dusting, vacuuming, dishes & trash. Don't waste your time vacuuming until the day before; otherwise pet hair, child dander, whatever, will get everywhere anyway.

My other tip is to have clear surfaces. It tricks the eye into missing the clutter. Buy a big basket and throw all your magazines and books and kids toys on the coffee table into the basket and the basket under the table. If it doesn't all fit in the basket, get rid of stuff until it does. If you have a storage spot, take a box, mark it "crap", and just clear every flat surface of stuff and throw it in your storage until after the visit.

Lastly, it's your house. If you are happy with it, she can shove her opinion. Cleaning your house for someone else is a sign of respect; if they can't see it that way, it's their loss.

Therese said...

Dear Swistle,

I am definitely a tidy person, my goal in life is to GET RID OF ALL THE CLUTTER! It makes me crazy, especially b/c I live with a husband who is a complete clean freak but will just clean around the randomn piles of crap everywhere....AAAAH.

Anyway, if I was at someone's front door, my suggestion for the FIRST thing to be done would be... pick a room! I say this in the context of a large deep cleaning (which is what I think you are talking about in reference to your MIL's visit). Do one room at a time. I have done this most recently with impending moves (preparing to sell a house as well as pack). I find finising one room will naturally push you to the next room.

The other suggestion I would have for the beginning is deal with the clutter! As I mentioned, I can't clean before picking up the clutter. put things in their proper home (yes, the garbage can be a proper home as well as a closet, attic...) or create a new home. I also keep a bag/box in the house that is always ready to be filled with stuff to donate. I'll randomnly be folding laundry and think "why do I have this shirt? Just drop it in the donation box. When it's full enough or on my nerves, I take it to the local Goodwill...

I could say much more but this is already a very long comment and I don't want to be overwhelming. Love the topic!

Alias Mother said...

I am a bit messy, though I have improved over the years. Something that I find very satisfying to do, and that fits this scenario nicely, is to take a moment to question items that have stalled somewhere they shouldn't be. Just wander through a room and notice things like, "Hey, that piece of sheet metal is still leaning there. Perhaps I should it to a more appropriate location, such as the basement." Then do it. It will only take you a few minutes but you will feel so amazingly self-satisfied that you won't need to clean anything else all week.

That may not be helpful, actually.

Ms. Flusterate said...

I'm in the middle: neat crazy one day, slob the next. HOWEVER, my husband is over the top neat and some hints I picked up from him:

Find a place for everything and put it there immediately after use. (including clothes, etc) I know it sounds..duh..but I didn't realize how often I'd just toss something somewhere (bed, floor, counter) when I could have taken 2 seconds to put it away.

Also, sort mail over the recycle bin. Ours in the garage as you come in from getting the mail. Toss junk immediately, open bills and toss the envelope etc. Only important things come in the house and go in a designated spot (by the desk, for example)

Tricks to fool husband: spray pledge or use pine sol or glass cleaner to make it SMELL clean! Works like a charm. heh heh
Also, do a mad-crazy pick up right before he comes home. (He always calls so I know how much time I have to crank it out and I am an EXPERT!)

Biggest help: I got a maid--therefore, I MUST straighen before she cleans. It's a lot like having guests come.

Jen said...

This is such a great idea! I am a very Tidy and very Clean (there is a difference to me) living with a very Messy person and a child who is not old enough to pick up after himself yet, though we are working on it. So I get very frustrated during the week as things get messier and messier and then go nuts on the weekend and clean up. Literally, the Messy had two days off during the week sans child and only managed to get half the dishes done. WHO DOES HALF THE DISHES? Anyway, I've tried a weekly checklist and it disappeared to the trash I suspect so I will be watching these posts for good tips.

Also, I negotiated a twice per month cleaning lady with the Messy when we had our house on the market because I couldn't manage the level of clean necessary when you show a house on a consistent basis. Best $120 we spend per month. I realize not everyone can afford that but I've made cuts in other areas because it is important to me to have it done. We both love cleaning day too. Many cleaners will do a one time only deep clean and it might help you keep your sanity for you to tackle the clutter and pay someone to do the cleaning. Also, have older kids help!

Christy said...

My favorite way to do general tidying, the sort that makes the house visible so I can SEE what needs to be deep-cleaned, is vacuuming. It requires me to deal with all of the clutter on the floor, and on a good day I don't just pile it on the couch and let it migrate back down. It seems like SUCH an obnoxious, time-consuming job, but it really looks like something has been accomplished when you're done. And, I have a Dyson, which is bagless, so I can see the filth that I have removed from the floor.

Christy said...

I was very tidy until I had kids. Now, the bathrooms and kitchen are clean, but the rest of the house is messy. I feel like there is so much to do, and not enough time to do it right. And, when I do try to tidy, little ones come through and mess it up before I've completely tidied. Discouraged perfectionist here looking forward to reading comments.

Sam said...

I say screw it! We should all go to Target.

Brooke said...

I think this is a great idea. I am a tidy person living with 5 messy people aged 16 mos to 42 years, so my tidy ideas don't get much traction. I am a fan of systems. Everything in its place. If it hasn't got a place, well, we need to think about why we need it. To me, everything that comes in finds a home, gets paid, or gets recycled. Resisting the urge to just toss something on a counter top or leaving something easy (like wiping up a spill on the stove) to do later (when it's dried/baked on) is so much less work than having to put a whole pile of things away or having to get out the steel wool. However, no one else in my house believes/practices this and that's why I'm in counseling. :-)

Anonymous said...

I'm way tidy. I'd suggest designate a messy place (garage?) and start offloading stuff (like that sheet metal) into it. Do not use the garage for anything you want rid of--just toss it. I am not good at being green or making yard sale money...but I am good at clearing space.

After the pickup and placing where something should go, I say give the floor some attention and move on to the next place. Dusting is a low value activity and best to accomplish once floor clutter is not the main problem. In fact I'd do some other kind of cleaning before I'd do dusting (like fingerprint cleaning).

Hope this helps.

squandra said...

Weee! I wish I had time to read all of these comments, because I LOVE this stuff. I am very tidy, and could go on for hours, like a dork, but I'll just give you one tip:

My boyfriend and I live in a very small place and we're good at Getting Rid Of Stuff. I don't like the "If you haven't used it in the past three months, get rid of it" rule of thumb. I think it's illogical. What if it's a CRADLE, and I haven't used in the past three months because I'M PREGNANT?

Or something.

Instead, we use the "Will I notice if it's gone?" rule. If you can't see yourself remembering that you owned the item, much less wishing you still had it, it goes.


Secret Mom Thoughts said...

I'm totally like Brenna I clean when company comes. Clean the bathroom and the room that they will spend the most time in first. Clean the rest if time permits.

Omaha Mama said...

I'm not tidy. But will enjoy reading comments from your tidy readers. Your cleaning house posts were what hooked me initially to reading your blog.
I'm am inherently slobbish, which is strange - since my mother is a doer and very tidy. I'm her opposite.
Good luck with your projects!

Kylene said...

*Raises hand* Professional Organizer in the works, here. :) And I agree with pretty much everything all the Tidies and Cleanies have said. I really can't think of anything else new to say, other than Good Luck!

swimmermom said...

I'm a pretty relaxed tidy & clean person. I LIKE things to be clean and neat but I can live with moderate messes too -- which is a good thing since DH is a total slob, and I have three kids who just don't care either.

We live in a small house. Smallness is a double-edged sword: it's hard to keep the house clean because we live in every inch of it; but when I do clean, I can power through it pretty quickly.

I am BIG on decluttering. The way I see it, there is always going to be that next great thing that will catch my eye and make me want to bring it home (I'm looking at you, Target). So I try to be equally free about letting go of the "old" great thing that maybe isn't even so great anymore. Something new means getting rid of something old. I always have a donation bag/box going.

If I walk in the front door and the house is a wreck (say, if I've left DH and kids at home for an hour), the first thing I do is pick stuff up. You can't really clean until things are picked up anyway. Once there is some semblance of order in the LR and DR, I head to the kitchen and clear off the counters, empty the sinks, etc.

Basically, I try to give myself a fighting chance by not having too much stuff; and then I triage the actual cleaning up. The most glaring areas get attended to first.

One "company's coming" tip: clean the windows that are mostly likely to be noticed, and the bathroom mirrors. Clean windows make a whole room seem cleaner, or at least they give the impression that any messiness/dirt is only temporary -- that the underlying condition of the house is one of cleanliness.

shygirl said...

Queen of Untidiness, right here. I'd love to be tidy but it just seems to take such a constant low-level effort, whereas my enthusiasm for cleaning only comes in fits and starts.

The only real tip I've come up with is if the house really has to get cleaned up, I will literally plan the cleaning out on my calendar: like Monday I'll go around and pick up any trash/recycling, Tuesday do all the laundry, Wednesday scrub the sinks and toilets, Thursday vacuum... single-focus tasks, basically, so that I don't get overwhelmed or distracted. I look at my calendar and there's only one cleaning task on there for the day, so I don't even have to think about it, just go around the house doing that one thing.

Otherwise I get too ambitious followed shortly by overwhelmed, and end up with a bunch of half-started cleaning projects in every room but nothing actually finished-- depressing! (I do not do this calendar business as a regular thing though- it is only an emergency measure for when company is coming ;)

Nowheymama said...

Haven't read all of the comments, so this may be a repeat, but I'm really enjoying Stephanie's (of A Year of Slow Cooking fame) Totally Together Journal site. Her tips are really working for me right now.

Katie said...

GAH!!!! Reading all these comments is actually making my house messier because I can't tear myself away from the computer. I couldn't even read all of them. But Swistle, I LOVE this post idea. Maybe something of some recommendations will stick with me.

I am a tidy person who is stuck in her personal hell of never having a tidy house like I did before the kids. It bothers me on an HOURLY basis every day of my life. My biggest problem is that everything always seems to be on the wrong floor of the house. When I have a couple hours to myself to clean, it seems to take over an hour just to get things to the right floor. I need a solution for this! My dining room table has become the dumping spot for everything. And I HATE it. I need some organization PRONTO!

My mom always said to do the dishes first, then make the beds in the house. So, that's my only suggestion for today!

Jane said...

I find that "messy" people often sabotage themselves by trying to do too much. Like that picture of your room? Pick the shit up off the floor, put away the box on the chair, dustmop or better yet, vacuum the floor and call it good. Don't shop for storage bins, mop the floor with oil soap and then dry, dust every surface, wash the windows inside and out, take the rug out and beat it, fuck that. Just tidy up.

Sally said...

I'm just like Lippy and her "Give a Mouse a Cookie/Pig a Pancake" method. I'm generally messy and I don't like to clean OR tidy (although tidy is easier and less time consuming than clean) so I only do it when I HAVE to and then it is a horrible, overwhelming chore which I put off. Vicious circle. I am enjoying the comments though and it gives me some hope that maybe someday when my kids are older . . . I'll be able to afford a cleaning service! A girl can dream can't she?

I love Bethtastic's idea of a "stuff purgatory"! Its a way to get rid of stuff without commitment and fear of regret. I am so doing that!

Ellen said...

I'm a rather organized person and don't really feel able to relax unless the house is pretty much in order. My top tips:

1) Start with a garbage bag walk-through - maybe a few days of this. You will find that as things get tidier, you are more motivated to get rid of more things.

2) Follow with a give-away box walk-through. Same several-day technique. 1 and 2 can be done simlutaneously.

*1 and 2 are the core of my organizing approach. I find it nearly impossible to be organized if we have too much stuff. Areas in which stuff can approach critical mass tend to be: toys, clothes, kitchen everything, and decorative items. I do 'clean-out run-throughs' reguarly and find them to be the key to tidiness in general. Also the longer that I adopt this approach to stuff, the more I find that I can both easily limit what comes in and get rid of useless/non-sentimental items without regret.*

3) Find storage containers that are large enough to corral entire categories of items. Go around and find everything belonging to those categories, put them in the container, then put the container in the room/on the level in which they are most often used.

4) THEN clean. It is hard to clean with stuff everywhere and very demoralizing.

Basically, do this reasonably often. The idea is that you have edited your stuff with garbage and give-away walk-throughs and have enough storage space for the remaining items that you can easily toss whatever is lying around into the appropriate boxes QUICKLY, therefore producing a tidy-looking environment without much fuss.

Also, you can basically find things. Wonderful.

Astarte said...

For me, it's usually spurred by something that's driving me bananas, like the dining room table has crap on it for several days running, or the island isn't useable at mealtime because it's covered in stuff. One place leads into another, and then I have a generally clean space.

So, I would say, start with one place that you really can't stand another second. If it's going to require a trash bag, fine, but don't worry about dust rags, etc, quite yet. Sort things into Areas, like 'this goes to the kitchen', and grab all of those things and put them in the kitchen. Anything that doesn't have an obvious home will then be left, and you can figure out whether they actually belong there, or in the trash. Once the area is clear, THEN you can get the dusting / vacuuming apperati, and if you have the time and energy, move on to the next place.

I do surface stuff, like larger piles and obvious junky areas, before doing things like sorting toyboxes, which can be dealt with later and do not affect my daily life (aka, walking space). Also, by doing them later, I find that I'm a lot more willing to just TOSS stuff rather than being overly pensive about it. When I do closets and things, I keep a trash bag and a donation bag with me, and put them in the car immediately, because otherwise the bags themselves will just linger.

Katie said...

HI! Hi! HI! I am checking your site for more cleaning updates. I did my entry way yesterday--totally re-organized it and I'm totally loving it and ready to move on to other areas. What's next, Swistle!? (On roll over here..._

Jody said...

My answer depends on the time available. If you have really limited NOW time, but plenty of LATER time, I would start by designating a room in which to stash, and then run from room to room, removing everything that doesn't belong there and stashing it in the other room. Trash would go into a bag. This is called Stash-and-Dash, and FlyLady hates it, because you rarely get to the stash. BUT, if you are being Disciplined, and can then set aside 15 minutes every day to eat away at the Stash, you will have created a nice soothing Everyplace Else from which to operate.

If you have bits of time hear and there, then I would start with the first rooms people see, and pick up and put away as much stuff as I can in 15 minutes. I would enlist the children to do with same, and there would be boppy music. And I would dump some toilet-bowl cleaner in a toilet before the 15 minutes started, and then swish at the end, because you can almost never go wrong swishing your toilet.

And a load of laundry. You can almost always afford to start a load of laundry, right?

Regardless of how you get there, I think you want to have one space that has made a huge improvement at the end of your efforts. Sometimes that big stack of stuff at the end of a kitchen counter just needs to be gone, you know?

And for the record, in the moments before guests arrive, I actually clean my kitchen last. Guests can believe that you never got around to washing the dishes that day -- they won't necessarily know how long the kitchen has been a mess. The dust? You can't pretend that accumulated over lunch while you were distracted by the children.

Monique said...

I am truly a messy person and the house only really gets cleaned and cleaned well when there is crisis cleaning involved. The rest of the time there is always at least one room in a mess, if not more. Now, I'm talking mess as stuff being all over, not food and garbage. Just stuff. And papers. And toys. You know. I always start the night before by gathering ALL the dirty laundry I can find and sorting it into bags. Maybe I start a load, maybe not. Then the next morning, I get a load started, then I do the kitchen as when it's clean, I feel better. Then it's the bathrooms, then the area where we enter the house -- living room now, but used to be dining room. Finally the dining room and bedrooms. I start each room with 3 boxes and the trash can. One box is for things that go in the kids' bedrooms, one box for elsewhere in the house and one box for in this room, but not where I found it. I do the floor, then start at a door and work my way around. When I finish that room, I deal with the boxes. Then it's cob webs, then other surfaces, then vacuum or sweep and mop, depending on the room. The two older kids are able to handle their rooms mostly on their own, but when I have to step in, I use the same box method, but it's usally just two -- not here, and here. I am trying to get past crisis cleaning and being a bit more tidy, but it's hard. I am up to getting the living room passible in about 20 minutes and the rest of the house in about an hour, but don't even go in my room. It's the dumping ground and is really what I'll be focusing on during this co-housecleaning project!

Black Sheeped said...

It's too depressing to read all these comments, I'm not tidy. Sanitary, yes, but tidy, no. For my job I go to strangers' houses several times a week--specifically kitchens and baths. And I can tell you that no matter how messy you think your house is, there are tons of messier. I never realized most people have messes and clutter until this job, and it's SO NICE knowing that household mess is normal.

I think the most important things are:
a) Make sure nothing smells bad. You can fool people via the nose.
b) Make sure your countertop is clean and not sticky.
c) Clean tub, bathroom sink, toilet.
d) Do dishes, wipe out sink.

Everything else is just bonus. TRUST me.

Since we are all crammed into 700 square feet and I am naturally disorganized/messy, I've found that it helps to keep a floating laundry basket around the house to collect items that Need To Be Dealt With. It travels around, collecting crap I need to put away/mail/file. When I feel motivated, I empty it. In between motivated sessions, it holds stuff I'd otherwise be tripping over and cursing.

misguided mommy said...

okay i'm way late in the game but i have a tendency toward ocd and cleaning so here goes.

the rug is in the wrong spot pull it right up to the entrance of the door. i mean, touching the door frame.

the sheet metal SERIOUSLY SWISS SERIOUSLY, if anything cram it in the garage and call it husbands fault.

pick up all the shit on the floor. ALL OF IT. here is where the kids come in. get all of them, and say no bullshitting around kids we are picking up every single item on the floor in the next hour or no dessert (or reappropriate threat here). give the little ones small tasks like blocks or something. codi is 22 momths old and even he will pick up blogs and put things away.

Part two. explain to the little assholes that picking things up doesn't mean picking them up and shoving them somewhere it means picking them up and putting them in the right goddamn place. Don't know where that place is BULLSHIT because you took it out.

Next. For the older kids, on the weekends give them small areas of their room and make them organize it. A toy bin, drawer whatever. Tell them to set it up however they want, and get rid of whatever they want. It gives them a sense of control and if they are the one organizing and cleaning they will take a lot better care of it.

Next. This will sound dumb but it really makes a huge impact on me. Clean out the fridge and freezer. Why? Because no matter what you open the fridge every single day. Every day for the next few weeks you will see your handy work. And the next 10 grocery trips you will be more likely to put every thing away to keep it pretty like it is. Not to mention mostly likely any certain visiting family is probably also likely to open the fridge just so she can complain about what you eat but whatever she will have an organized fridge to bitch about.

Next up, the pantry. Same as the fridge, chances are, you open it every day and chances are every time you open it you will have the best sense of satisfaction.

Next. And this one will hurt. STOP BUYING SHIT AT TARGET DAMMIT! You have more then enough stuff at home for give aways or presents, seriously you really really do so STOP. Then take the money you would save at there or the average amount you spend and do one of two things. Get yourself a pedicure to relax from all of this housework, buy dinner somewhere for the family so you don't have to cook after a long day of cleaning.

Next up, all of those boxes of project things, why don't you start boxing that shit up and make that your new give aways. Chances are someone out there would love to get a box of stuff to start making jewelry, or knit, or quilt or whatever the shit it is you have stored there. Make a deal, no more buying stuff until you have given away all of that other stuff. There are a ton of people who would LOVE to have some of that stuff you have just stuffed into boxes hiding out, and getting rid of that gives you so much more space to stuff other junk

and then, finally, make friends with the mop and vacuum missy!

Misguided Mommy said...

okay next, things to detract form the mess. put some curtains on the windows pictured there, they will look homier and draw your eye from the surrounding mess. I'm not sure what is in the rest of the room with that chair but it looks like it needs a large rug. why is there a box on the chair? boxes don't go on chairs put them away. little things babe little things.