If going on cleaning binges is just stressing you out (and doing nothing to keep your house clean), reader wjglenn has a different solution: just clean for 15 minutes a day, instead of striving for perfection, and everything will fall into place.
Photo by Maarten Takens.
We've always struggled against a messy house. We're not hoarders or anything and I'm not talking unsanitary levels of messiness. We're just generally untidy. And our kids developed the same problem.
We'd occasionally put in a big cleaning effort, get the place spiffed up, then watch it go right back to the way it was before. After spending a couple of days cleaning like crazy, you get sick of it.
So, I took a different approach based on one of my favourite sayings: Start as you wish to continue.
Instead of trying to do a big cleanup and then keep it clean, we figured that 15 minutes per day of general cleaning from everybody in the family was a reasonable and sustainable goal. Note that this is in addition to cooking, dishes and laundry -- but we never had much trouble with those anyway.
So, no matter how messy the place was, we just started that way. Fifteen minutes each day. Didn't matter if it got clean or not. We could focus our efforts on whatever we wanted to. We also decided that it would be better if everyone put in their 15 minutes at the same time, so we do it before we start cooking dinner.
And here's the most important part. When the 15 minutes is up, you stop. Even if you feel like you want to keep going.
It took about a week for the house to get to a great level of clean and we've pretty much stayed that way for months now. Most days, it requires much less than 15 minutes to get the place back to tidy, so we spend the extra part of the time focusing on something specific -- like cleaning out a drawer or the fridge.
The problem with a big initial cleaning effort is that then, you're sick of cleaning and let it go for a few days. But if you start as you wish to continue, it's much easier to keep up the effort long term.
We also noticed that a great side effect started happening without even trying. Everyone in the house also started getting better and better about putting things away when they were done with them. It just happened naturally.
I also figure the same strategy should work for different things you may need to get done in your life.
This tip seems to go pretty well with the idea that a perfectly clean house isn't necessary -- just one that would take 20 minutes to get into a perfectly clean state. Again, the goal isn't to get the house spotless here, just a bit cleaner than it was 15 minutes ago. After awhile, you might find things mostly fall into place.
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