Reader Barbara submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:
I’m organized and like things to be put away, except it doesn’t always happen. (I’m swamped, just like everyone is these days.) I want to know what I can do to step-up my game. Easy things with big impact, without much effort. I’m single and live in a 1BR apartment.
You say you’re already organized and that picking up is your biggest concern, so these three simple suggestions are tailored toward alleviating messes (not uncluttering) your small space.
- Five minute pick up. If you watch television, use the first commercial break of the evening to do a general clean up around the apartment. Race the commercials to see how much you can get done before your show returns. If you don’t watch television, each night before making dinner set the timer on your microwave for five minutes and race the clock. If your space were larger or there were more people living in your place, I’d suggest using two or three commercial breaks or setting the microwave timer for 15 minutes. A little work each night goes a long way toward keeping your place mess-free.
- Shift your mindset. For reasons unknown, most of us think of doing something and putting stuff away afterward as two activities. For instance, we think about “dinner” as making dinner and eating dinner, but we think of cleaning up the dining room and kitchen afterward as another thing to do, “cleaning up after dinner.” If you stop thinking of cleaning up afterward as a separate activity, but rather as part of the activity itself, you’ll get better at putting things away after you use them. Wrapping a gift for a friend doesn’t stop when you put the bow on the package, but is complete when all the wrapping supplies have been returned to storage. You aren’t finished playing a board game with your friends when someone claims victory, but rather after the game is boxed up and returned to its shelf. This also means you don’t ever randomly set stuff down. The act of handling the mail each day includes retrieving it, reviewing it, and processing it (shredding, recycling, filing, etc.). If you set the mail down on the table without processing it, you didn’t complete the project of handling the mail.
- Get ready for bed at least an hour before bedtime. I’ve written this nugget of advice numerous times, but I do so because it has such a strong impact on the state of one’s home. Since you’re not overly tired an hour before bedtime, your dirty clothes make it into the hamper and your shoes and accessories get returned to their storage spaces. You have energy to wash your face and brush your teeth and then put away related supplies. You also signal your brain that you need to start winding down, which can make it easier to fall asleep when you eventually go to bed. Your memory is better then, too, so you can set out all the things you’ll need to take with you in the morning without forgetting anything important. The only thing left on your to-do list in the hour before bed should be crawling under the covers and turning out the bedroom light.
Thank you, Barbara, for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.
Do you have a question relating to organizing, cleaning, home and office projects, productivity, or any problems you think the Unclutterer team could help you solve? To submit your questions to Ask Unclutterer, go to our contact page and type your question in the content field. Please list the subject of your e-mail as “Ask Unclutterer.” If you feel comfortable sharing images of the spaces that trouble you, let us know about them. The more information we have about your specific issue, the better.