I’m still clearly behind on writing my blog on any kind of a semi-regular basis, but I think I’m already trumping last year, so setting the bar low and tracking progress is always a good motivator. I’m about to leave for an 8 day trip to San Francisco and LA. And while the winter in Chicago has been mild, I still look forward to getting away for a few days, to a very productive trip, to spending a few days in my favorite city in the world, to catching up with some good friends and to seeing my parents.
I had a lot of things on my to do list today, including packing, finishing out some work and homework and cleaning my place. For those of you who don’t know me well, cleaning my place has not been a priority for me for a long time. I grew up in a household where my mom basically cleaned nonstop and I’ve never had to. So while I developed a prediction towards a clean environment, I definitely didn’t develop a cleaning habit.
It was only a few months ago that I decided to make a clean and neat household an important part of my life. Why? Well, because it took me 10 years of living by myself to realize that I dislike a dirty place much more than the thought of having to clean it. I don’t know how a simple concept like this takes me 10 years to develop and accept. This seriously make me wonder how many other simple ideas will take a decade to pop out as BFOs (blinding flashes of the obvious).
Anyway, I decided to clean up my place (which was already pretty clean), just because I didn’t want to come home to a dirty apartment. When I was little I would ask my mom why she would be cleaning our house prior to leaving. It made little sense to me. After all, why clean a place that you are not going to see for two weeks. However, now I understand. It doesn’t seem as strange anymore.
I guess I’ll have to wonder what kind of peculiar habit of my parents will inadvertently enter the realm of normalcy as I get older. I’m not even going to begin to touch this one right now. At least, the cleaning part is useful.
So, for those of you who enjoy being in a clean home, but are lazy and hate cleaning, I highly suggest that you look at the steps I’ve taken in my life to keep my life clutter free. Not only is my place just very pleasant to inhabit now. I feel that my life is more organized and that I have more energy.
First, I will not do any repetitive tasks that are more complicated that they should be. That bugs the shit out of me. Once I realized that keeping my place clean is a constant activity and not a weekly or monthly activity, I started looking at ways that can simplify it.
Steps for lazy people who want to leave in a clutter free and clean home:
1)Throw shit out. You are going to have to go through your household and throw out things you don’t need. There are a shitload of blogs on this subject alone, however, I’m going to simply it significantly. If you haven’t used something in a year, then sell it, donate it, or throw it away. If it’s a pain to sell or donate it, then just chuck it. I know it may seem like an extreme solution to some, but I’ve been doing that for a number of years and I’ve yet to throw something out that I regretted not having later. This will significantly reduce your clutter. You will not miss things you do not use, and you can’t create a mess with things you don’t have. You will also have a much better idea of what you own and you will free up space. Now, you can do it in chunks, you can do it room by room, closet by closet. This can be a daunting task so make sure you break it up into manageable parts. Also, stop buying shit you don’t need. I’m amazed when I walk into people’s homes and I see collections of wooden owls or some shit like that. Really? You collect wooden owls? What the fuck is wrong with you?
2) Go Digital. Let’s face it, in 2012, you pretty much don’t need to have any DVDs, CDs, Books or any other type of media in a hard copy format. I’m a huge proponent of digital everything, and I know that there are people my age who still “adore the way a book feels”. I don’t get it, I will never get it. To me, if it’s not searchable and easily carried around, I don’t need to have it. But, people do insist on book collections etc. I’m just saying, if you have a library in your house, fine, but if you are living in a one bedroom apartment, maybe you no longer need your Calculus book from 9th grade. While I’ll give books a pass, there is no reason why you would need to have an actual copy of a dvd or a cd. Digitize everything and sell/throw away the hard copies. This will free up a LOT of room. This can help you get rid of bulky entertainment centers and closets full of DVD cases for movies that you may watch again in 2020 when a DVD is going to look to you like VHS did 10 years ago.
3) Go paperless. You know that pesky filing cabinet you have full of receipts and bills and tax returns and the hanging folders for every occasion. Get rid of that shit. There is no reason to have this antiquated system in your household, 0. The documents are not searchable, they take up space and you can never find what you need. I highly recommend 2 snapscan/evernote solution. You can also scan everything in and upload it to google docs.
I’ve been using Evernote http://www.evernote.com as a central repository for all my important documents since 2009. I cannot recount the amount of times that solution has saved me from forgetting to take documents or other important information with me. Evernote syncs all your data across your computer and mobile devices. It’s a great too. Here is a link to the fujitsu ScanSnap, the best and affordable document scanner on the market http://goo.gl/EEFZK. I’ve used this thing since 2009 and it works flawlessly. Don’t buy Neat. That solution is shit. This combination makes it possible for you to never have to retain another piece of paper or another bill. Scan everything in. Organize it, makes the pdfs searchable and voila. That pesky filing cabinet can disappear. No more paper clutter.
Just doing the 3 things above can already drastically reduce the clutter you have and make your life significantly easier.
The next steps:
4) You are going to have to spend $$$. Why? Because you need to have designated places for things. If you don’t have a designated place for a flashlight, or a pair of scissors, then you will end up just stuffing them somewhere. You’ll never be able to find items when you need them and then you will end up buying duplicate items and increasing the clutter.
I cannot say enough good things about organizers like these: http://goo.gl/0fGjL. I have 5 different variations of these and they store all of my little cables, connectors, mini gadgets, buttons, foreign coins and any other little stuff that you simply can’t put in a larger box without forgetting where you put it. Put all little things in those organizers. I can’t believe how much my life has been simplified by these. I also purchased under the bed storage units as well as larger containers for certain other things. Buy organizers as needed, Home Depot has some great deals, no need to spend your whole paycheck at the container store. Once you get in the mode of putting things back in place and cleaning on a regular basis, you will have a good idea of what additional storage needs / container needs you will have to keep your place clean.
5) Easy to clean Make sure that most areas of your house are easily accessible for cleaning. For example, I have a 300lb king size bed. It’s impossible to move. Dust would collect underneath. When I had to have my carpet replaced, I saw moving pads at Ace. Apparently these little things could make moving a 300lb bed across the floor a breeze. I was very skeptical, but bought the pads.. and well.. they made me feel like a superhero. That bed went flying across the room. I’m exaggerating, but it was pretty easy to move. Then I found that you can buy permanent furniture pads for all your furniture and just make anything easy to move. I proceeded to do that. So now, if I need to move something out of the way, it’s not a problem.
Next, wires! Many of us have more and more wires in our house and they are usually laying around the corners of the room or behind the entertainment center. Dust collects, hard to vacuum, impossible to mop. Work on getting all wires tucked in to the best of your ability. I happened to have a very nice entertainment center, so now with 5 devices and a TV, I have only 2 wires exposed that are going to the plug and the cable socket. Everything else is contained within, it’s clean, neat and gives that clutter free feeling.
I also installed a wire management system under my desk. They are pretty inexpensive and can be bought at Ikea. This way none of my wires are visible or are on the floor. I can easily vacuum under my desk.
6) 90 days to a habit. All the motivational behavior specialists will tell you that it takes about 90 days to form a habit. I believe actual numbers range between a couple of weeks and 90 days, but anyway, once you have your house organized and cleaning should not be as difficult anymore, make sure you stick to keeping the place clean for 90 days. Mostly, take care of the 2 minute tasks. Us lazy people love to procrastinate, so we generally will leave that empty glass on the kitchen counter or that bug on a night table, or a toilet paper roll goes is left with a wrapper and we just leave it there. A long day at work may make us disrobe carelessly and have jackets and socks fly in different directions. It only takes a couple of days of that behavior for things to get out of hand again.. Well.. there are already 2 dishes in the sink, what’s one more. Oh a snickers wrapper on the table.. well I’ll just leave it here with the dirty coffee mug. It’s really the broken windows doctrine and it will get you every time. As long as things get progressively dirty, you don’t notice much, until you look around and your place again looks like a shithole that you cleaned out a couple of weeks ago.
So, enter the 2 minute rule. If it takes you less than 2 minutes to do it, then just fucking do it without making excuses. Throw out the wrapper, replace that paper towel roll, wash your dishes after dinner, take out the garbage. You will be amazed at how many household “chores” take less than 2 minutes to complete. And once you get in the mindset of washing the dishes being a natural extension of something you do after dinner, then it no longer seems like a chore. Also, cleaning dishes right after dinner when there is no crust or mold on them takes significantly less time.
If you do this for 90 days, I will guarantee that you would not want to go back to doing things the old way. You will enjoy a clean place. You will start doing more stuff, like vacuuming on a regular basis because a dirty place, well, it will just simply annoy you.
One of my goals for 2012 is to keep my place clean. In 2011 I thought this was going to be a difficult task, but after doing things the clean way since at least October, I can’t imagine this being a big chore or keeping my place disorganized.
I believe these 6 steps can transform everyone’s household habits. If you are living with roommates or significant others, get them on board with this. No one wants to clean up after piggies