How to Be Neat Without Life-Changing Magic

I will tell you the secret of how to collect things: it is not more difficult if you do it right away.

If you hate cleaning, you will probably postpone it. But you only make the situation worse. The longer you wait to tidy up, the harder it gets to get started. You say to yourself, “I’ll wait for the day when I can do all of this at once,” but that makes it all the more terrifying as you allow each stack to grow larger. You buy a copy of Marie Kondo ‘s book and add it to your stack of unread books. Your solution to a mess is now a mess.

Because cleaning isn’t always life-changing magic. It’s not always a massive week-long project that transforms you as a person, so you live impeccably, drink a lot of water, and end up in inbox zero every day at 4:59 am.

You don’t have to become a completely new person. You just need to pick up one thing. And then, a little later, something else. Etc.

Don’t put it off, put it off

When you clean up a spill, you start at the source. To tidy up, first stop losing sight of things. When you get home, put your coat where it goes. When cooking, remove ingredients whenever possible. Yes, you’re really happy to just sit back and flop on the couch after your long drive home, but you’ll feel a lot more anxious after doing the grueling job of folding your coat.

You don’t have to go crazy. You don’t have to be one of those monastic ascetics who wash the dishes right after dinner. Just pick one thing you hate picking up and start putting it off, not putting it off. Now you will never have to lift it again.

Don’t step over it

My mom kept a five-person house clean by following this rule. If she caught me when I tripped over something that was lying on the floor, she would shout out her catchphrase: “Don’t step over this!” It worked so well that I sometimes throw other people’s trash on the street or on the subway.

You don’t have to be the world’s scavenger and carry your little Purell bottle like me. Just refuse to trip over your own shit. Pick it up instead. Feel bad. Doall of Paul Rudd’s dramatic routine . Really explore the space. Seriously, this will be great.

Don’t leave the room without taking anything with you

Writing this out is a school thing! But have you ever seen a schoolteacher who has no shit? In any case, when you move from one room to another, bring something to clean up.

This is an exceptionally good way to clean your car. After doing this two or three times, you will become greedy and try to see how many pieces of trash you can carry into your home at one time, as if you were carrying groceries with you. Okay.

Hug the trash bin

If you leave shit aside because you don’t know where it is going, relax. You don’t have to look for a special home for everything or buy one from a container store. Just put it in a big box or drawer or closet.

Your litter box won’t be a fun place. But at least this is only one place (or two or three), not the floor of your bedroom. It’s even better! Maybe someday you can clean out your trash can, but if you don’t, who cares? Just keep it dry, don’t overflow, and don’t store anything that rot, mold, or smells.

Have company

If you really want to shock your home, give yourself a reason. Invite some people with a few days’ notice. If you are good at cleaning – wiping up spills, washing dishes – but not tidying up , then you can even throw a party. (For some of us, vacuuming and throwing away forty beer bottles is easier than picking up a stack of shirts.)

Otherwise, just invite one or two people to dinner, people who are prettier than you, people you want to impress. People you are likely to be cleaning up for. Either way, this gives you both a deadline and a reward.

If that doesn’t get you going, have a friend over to clean up. Let them sit there while you collect everything. Complain about them all the time. Then go buy them lunch.

Accept tidying up sucks

Nobody likes to clean up. This is why people who love it become millionaire gurus. As noted by Albert Burneko of Deadspin in his summing-conversation Get out now,” cleaning will always be tedious. (If you’d rather skip all my baby steps and take them all out at once, read his article to get motivated.)

You see, being tidy doesn’t mean having fun cleaning. It simply means breaking the work down into tiny steps so it doesn’t overwhelm you. This is a lie. And as they say, cheaters always win.


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