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Tips on Cleaning the Room

I have discovered a rather profound lesson about the art of cleaning.

For those of you who don’t know, I have a real problem with keeping my apartment clean. It is a source of continuous embarrassment for me; I could write an entire book about why it’s so hard for me to organize my apartment. Basically, I accept the fact that as a writer and creative person, I will never maintain a perfectly clean house. My goals are much more modest. I simply want to be able to see the carpet once in a while!

Honestly, I love cleaning up; I just allow myself the joy of cleaning on rare occasions; on the other hand, living in a dump can take its toll; you lose things (I still can’t find my right sneaker); you are annoyed by the fact you can’t walk without obstacle.

I have noticed that breaking a large task into smaller tasks can mitigate the problem somewhat. It also provides a sense of accomplishment. If I set aside an afternoon to cleaning up an apartment, I usually get sidetracked by something I discover while cleaning (which I would describe as an “edge task).”

What I need to do is choose very small tasks (i.e., clean the computer area, clean the bathroom, clean the living room, etc) and do only that. Yes, it sounds obvious, but the problem with that plan has always been the interconnectedness of my mess. This paper by my computer is a bill which means I need to organize my bill files, which means I need to search around my bar to look for other bills, etc.

Now I’m going to try another strategy. Clean everything in a designated space, and anything that requires action in another part of the apartment will instead be placed on a “to do” pile right near the space I was currently working on. This could backfire. My cleaning sweeps could become  more superficial and grow less effective over time. Let’s see.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Frank Carver 6/13/2007, 3:49 am

    I’m partial to “incremental garbage collection”.

    The rules are simple: (1) once you have something in your hand(s), you may only put it down in a place where it should “live”; (2) start your tidying by picking up one thing that you know immediately where it goes. (3) rinse and repeat.

    This technique works well for short bursts, either timed (tidy for 30 minutes) or counted (tidy away 100 items, however big or small), or just until distracted or interrupted.

    The key is that by starting with the “low hanging fruit”, you clear physical and mental space to deal with the stuff that requires a decision. It also has the benefit that you are making real progress from the first minute of tidying.

    “Agile housework”. Hmm…

  • Robert Nagle 6/13/2007, 1:42 pm

    the problem with putting it down where it should live is that several of my writing projects involve a stack of books and papers. They live in their own place. And there are times when I don’t finish these tasks for quite a while.

  • laanba 6/13/2007, 6:47 pm

    Oy… I hate cleaning. And when my apartment gets junky (which it is on the verge of doing now) I don’t feel like I can go out and do things until it is straightened. So I end up just sitting on the couch ignoring it all.

    I’ve tried the small tasks and I’ve tried putting things away right away. I always fall of the wagon.

    But what to do. Climb back on and try again.

  • Abel Lozano 7/27/2008, 10:52 pm

    The easiest way to get your living space clean. Once you get it clean to the way you want things.(nice and tidy). Hire a house keeper to stop by once or twice per week. You will notice a dramatic improvement about the cleanliness of your home.This technique is especially helpful if you hate cleaning like myself.

  • Megan 6/4/2009, 9:22 pm

    The best (and most simple) advice I have ever read about cleaning is this: have a place for everything, and everything in it’s place.

  • Lory 6/24/2009, 9:10 am

    The best, fastest and easiest way to get your cleaning done would be to smoke some crystal meth. It makes cleaning fun, & the time flies!

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