Systems for straightening up your home

I am easily distracted, so I have to use little tricks to keep me on task when doing my 30 minutes of picking up around the house each day. If I’m straightening up a room, I’ll close the door to the room so I don’t wander off into another part of the house. If the room doesn’t have a door, I’ll set something in front of the entrance — like a trash can or a chair — as a visual cue to stay in the room until I’m finished with my work.

I also usually have a laundry basket with me where I put things that don’t belong in the room. Then, after I’m finished straightening a room, I’ll walk through the house and put the things in the basket back to their proper storage spaces.

This past weekend, I decided to embrace my distracted self and try a new method for picking up stray items around the house. I named it my “Wherever I may go” system.

I started in the bedroom and worked in there until I found one of my son’s socks under the bed. I took the sock and carried it to the laundry room. Once in the laundry room I noticed the trash needed to be emptied, so I took the laundry room bag of trash outside to the big trash can. When I came back inside, I washed my hands in the guest bathroom and noticed the toilet paper supply was getting low. I retrieved extra rolls of toilet paper from the linen closet and put them in the toilet paper holder in the bathroom. Then, I went back to the linen closet and took a quick supply inventory to evaluate if I need to buy soap or paper towels or any similar items the next time I’m at the grocery store.

I bounced from room-to-room all morning, tending to whatever caught my attention. I’ll admit that the “Wherever I may go” system took significantly longer than my usual method, but it was nice to switch things up a little and see how another style might work for me.

When straightening up around your home, what is your plan of attack? Do you go room-by-room, or are you more of a “Wherever I may go” type? If you go room-by-room, do you work in the same order of rooms each time? Do you work in the same way around each room? (I do. I move clockwise from the door, focusing from the ceiling to the floor, and then tend to the middle of the room last.) What method do you use every day for picking up around your home?

63 Comments for “Systems for straightening up your home”

  1. posted by Astreil on

    What I really like to use is my children.

    What I want to use is a bulldozer.

    What usually happens is that I do a half-way job.

    I like your “wherever I may go” technique. Maybe I’ll try that today.

  2. posted by Karen Hagee on

    My method is to stay in one room for about 20 minutes. Within that 20 minutes, I pick a starting place of the piece or area that bothers me the most. The rooms I work on least have doors, so I just close them when I don’t want to see the clutter I have not dealt with yet.

  3. posted by Teresa on

    I have ADD and this is my usual method. I really hate it and I’m trying to get away from it. I usually forget what I was initially working on, so I have to follow a list if I want to accomplish anything.

  4. posted by Linda on

    I work from home and use a similar system to getting both work and chores done–I just try to do something productive all day long, switching often among activities. I think of it as a “bicycle” approach–keep moving foward, and you won’t fall down.

  5. posted by Maureen O'Danu on

    I do something similar to what you describe, as well as having a set rule, since I’ve been home and working on two blogs as well as writing for Technorati and working on a couple of books (whew!) that every time I get up from the keyboard, for whatever reason, is a five minute “mini session” of cleaning.

    Since I am working somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty to eighty hours a week while getting established (sigh), this also ensures that I get away and have a life every now and again.

  6. posted by Blake on

    I tend to stick to one task and then move on. My wife, however, is a “wherever I go” person. It seems to work out fine this way unless we are trying to stay on task and I end up finding her in the closet arranging old photos. Yeah it needs to be done but it’s way down on the list.

  7. posted by Caitlyn on

    I often use the ‘wherever I may go’ technique, and often find myself 10% through 30 different cleaning projects for that very reason. But I’ve managed to get one aspect of it to work well – I make a bag or a basket in every room that is for ‘things that go somewhere else’ – If I’m in the room and I come across something that belongs in a different room, it goes into the bag. Then, when I leave the room, the bag comes with me, and I drop off everything in it’s appropriate location. If I get distracted, the bag just ends up in the new room until I’m on my way again. It also means that if something isn’t where it’s supposed to be, I usually can find it in one of the bags, rather than having to search every other room.

  8. posted by Lee on

    Flylady does something like the “wherever I may go” system, she calls it “reverse scavenger hunt”. It’s fun (as odd as that sounds).

    I really like the idea of putting a visual reminder in front of the doorway, may have to try that today. (Now where’s that laundry basket??)

  9. posted by paul on

    This sounds similar to, if not exactly like, a method known as yak shaving, where you start a task and en route to finishing it end up knocking a lot of smaller items off your list of annoyances. Agreed, that it’s sometimes productive and satisfying for your distractible self to let its freak flag fly.

    I’m thinking I may get some “these don’t go here” baskets for stuff I find that doesn’t belong where I found it. Then I can just put stuff in it and hand it to the person who owns those oddments.

    Between this site and IKEA hackers, I may finally get a handle on some of the lingering annoyances.


  10. posted by Maxine on

    This link seems to say women are chore listmakers, while men are less so. However, I find myself in the whereever you may go mode a lot, but probably need to go to the list mode more often.

  11. posted by Maria on

    Radio podcasts feel like my secret weapon to cleaning. We put one a story or a show (Live Wire! Radio, This American Live, the Moth, etc…) and begin at one end of the house (usually the kitchen) and move to the other. After about 30min, everything’s usually in order. The radio is a key distraction and energizer.

  12. posted by Jen Zagorsky on

    Definitely a room by room organizer. I also like using the “Timer” method. I’m extremely competitive (even with myself) so, right before I start cleaning, I look at the time and give myself an exact time to finish – say, 17 minutes from the time that I start. This helps me make quick decisions and I avoid getting caught up in any ’emotional’ sorting, because there’s just no time – I have to beat the clock! I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager and find that it works really well.

  13. posted by Alex on

    I just did this yesterday! I do it from time to time, because I seem to get more done this way. Otherwise, I get bored and don’t want to stay in the same place, and the kitten wanders by so I just play with him until I’m ready to get up and stop pretending that I’m going to get anything done.

    I only have a bedroom, hallway, kitchen and bathroom to keep tidy, so this method is great because nothing is too far away (except the outside garbage, but I just put all the garbage next to the door and take it all out at once… that’s my signal to myself that I’m done).

    This gets a lot of the little stuff out of the way to make room for bigger cleaning projects later. With this method, I can get everything off the kitchen counters piece by piece, then later, I can wipe off the counters, or have room to spread out something that needs to be organized or cleaned out, like the junk drawer.

  14. posted by Anita on

    I’m somewhere in between your two methods:

    Step 1: I start off by cleaning the bedroom, which is at one end of my apartment. First I put away and straighten everything that’s in the room that’s supposed to stay in the room.
    Then I gather all the things that aren’t supposed to be in the bedroom, and divide them by their intended location.

    Step 2: I grab the pile of things that belong in the office (the room closest to the bedroom in my apartment) and drop the whole pile on my desk. While I’m in there, I’ll look for anything that belongs in the bedroom. I bring these things back to the bedroom and put them away.
    Then I go back to my piles and pick up what belongs in the living room, and repeat the process until all the piles in the bedroom are gone.

    Once everything in the bedroom is put away, repeat Steps 1 and 2 for all remaining rooms. Work lessens with every room, so it’s easier to keep up the momentum. And with a small apartment, walking back and forth doesn’t take much time or effort at all.

  15. posted by Liz on

    My husband does this and calls it “ADD cleaning”.

  16. posted by Sarah on

    I try to convince myself I’m being super efficient by NOT doing the wherever-I-may-go thing. You know, piling stuff at the bottom of the stairs instead of going upstairs, that sort of thing. But every once in a while–maybe once a month?–I do exactly that: do what needs to be done, right then. Yes, maybe I’ll end up going up and down the stairs fifteen extra times, but I need the exercise anyway. And honestly, it just feels like I get more done (even if I don’t), and that feels good.

    Really, I think any shift in “how it’s always done” is good once in a while. If your system is to always, always start at the right side of the door and work your way around, see what happens if you start at the left and go the other way. Jog your normal route in reverse, or at a different time of day. Just switch anything up, just a little bit, and see what happens. Maybe you’ll find out that your “normal” way of doing it really is the best. Hey, great! Now you know.

  17. posted by Living the Balanced Life on

    I usually try to do the room-by-room method, it keeps me more focused as I can tend to get easily distracted!
    I do always try to never leave a room empty handed, whether I am removing a misplaced item, carrying a load of laundry to be washed, dishes to go in the dishwasher, etc.
    I also use a technique that one of the first commentors uses. I am at the computer quite a bit, so I will work in short bursts as well. It gets me up from my computer, moving around, and helps me maintain some semblance of order in my house!
    Great discussion!

  18. posted by momoboys on

    I usually set out to pick up one room b/c that’s what will be on my list (the kitchen, let’s say, or the bedroom), but then the “mood” strikes to do the general pick up of the house. That said, I am much better at this on the main floor than the lower level of our house (split-level). Out of sight, out of mind. I guess I don’t have to trick myself into doing any of this. The reward of a neater line of sight is a powerful motivator for me.

  19. posted by Debbie M on

    Mostly I straighten things when I am done with them. When I do notice that an area is out of whack then (eventually) I just devote time to that area. When that happens, I try to do things in priority order so that no matter when I quit, I’ve gotten the most important things done. So if I’m cleaning my desk, I start with the bills. If I’m cleaning the kitchen, I start with the dishes.

    (Obviously I don’t have kids.)

    Unless I’m going through a big stack of things that belong in multiple rooms, I usually go ahead and put things (usually recycling) in the other room (because I need more exercise) rather than saving them up. (I don’t generally get distracted.) Otherwise I put things in different piles and then handle the piles one at a time.

    The only time I use a system like everyone else is talking about for straightening my home is when company is coming. Again–it’s all about the priorities. 1) bathroom fixtures, 2) living room surfaces (including floors), etc.

  20. posted by chris on

    I usually clean this way, but I live in a 1400 square foot studio space so the penalty for moving from one area to the other is much less. Nothing’s to far away and there aren’t really rooms. I will concentrate in areas, but I’m generally a roaming cleaner.

  21. posted by Jessicah on

    I do sort of a cross between the two methods. We have a 2 story house…living & kitchen downstairs, 2 bedrooms upstairs. I do a “wherever I may go” downstairs, except that I pile everything that belongs upstairs at the bottom of the stairs.

    Then when I’m done wandering downstairs, I take the pile upstairs with me and start putting that stuff away/wandering upstairs as I go. Usually I end up making a small pile of stuff to go back down, and I finish by putting those things away downstairs again.

  22. posted by Rebecca on

    I follow a “no empty arms” method. I used it when I worked in housekeeping in hotels during college. We had time limits per room to clean, so the goal was to take as few trips in/ out of the room as possible and always carry in or out what was needed. It really worked. On my way in carry cleaning supplies. Strip beds, carry out dirty linens. Carry back in clean linens and any needed toiletries. Clean. Carry out cleaning supplies, carry in vacuum and any other needed items. Done

    I do this at home as there is always something that needs to go elsewhere. So when I leave a room I take those things with me. I do have a small bin at the bottom of the stairs to go up, I do that once or twice a day, but it really helps keep the clutter down.

  23. posted by Carol on

    I’m not a huge fan of the “wherever I may go” method. Though I suppose it can be a nice change of pace if you don’t normally do it. For me I tend get distracted and apply that method in many of my daily routines and I feel as though I’m wasting time and energy moving about so much. Focusing on one room at a time seems more efficent.

  24. posted by Marrena on

    With the influence of this blog I basically don’t have stuff to put away. I put away my clothes in the appropriate place when I take them off. When I’m done eating I put my dishes in the dishwasher. I’m trying very hard for zero waste, getting rid of junk mail, refusing to let trash into my house, etc., so I don’t have to deal much with physical things. The only place I really have to straighten up is my kitchen as I do a LOT of cooking. But the mess there is limited to that room. If it’s really overwhelming, I will take frequent breaks at the computer (in my kitchen) between washing pots and pans.

    It’s amazing to me how much more serene my life is now that I’m becoming a zealot for zero waste.

    Cleaning, on the hand–dusting, scrubbing, polishing, that sort of thing, my home is so small I usually do the whole house at once–if I’m dusting I will dust the whole place, etc. Kitchen and bathroom get separate treatment, although I will mop the kitchen floor and then the bathroom floor so I don’t have to fill the mop bucket twice.

    As others have mentioned, the agony of neatening is my kids. Every tiny thing to be picked up must be nagged and nagged and nagged, and I have to follow them around and threaten punishments. They strew everywhere they go. It would take me a tenth the time to pick up their things myself, but that would make me a bad parent. It is exhausting.

  25. posted by Donna on

    I am a believer in wheels. I have a rolling utility cart (like people put groceries in to wheel home) for laundry & real cleaning and a 3-shelf metal cart on wheels for daily straightenng up. For laundry, wheel the loaded cart to the laundry room and put the stacks of folded laundry back in, wheel it to whatever room the stuff goes in. Cleaning, hang a trash bag in the cart and balance a tray on top for cleaning supplies. The 3-shelf metal cart is small, and I wheel it from room to room, gathering what doesn’t belong and relocating it when I get to the room the item does belong in. I keep a small container on the top shelf for tiny things that I find, like jewelry.

  26. posted by Anna on

    I tend to work by items. And what I mean is I’ll walk around and pick up dirty dishes from the rooms. Then I’ll check around for any dirty clothes from all the rooms. Pick up the clutter that has a home and wasn’t put away.

    I get overwhelmed sometimes staying in one room, so it helps to get a little bit picked up from every room.

    “Wherever I may go” works great for me.

    Of course, the best method which isn’t always used around here is to just put it away/pick it up/close it in the first place. We’re working on it.

  27. posted by Megan on

    I use “wherever I may go” when I am completely overwhelmed by the chaos.

    I try to say “anytime I enter a room I need to make it better”.

    I did that yesterday morning, and it definitely made a difference.

    It’s helpful to get me back in the habit of seeing the clutter AND doing something about it.

  28. posted by Ashlee on

    I do what I like to call the “2 to 3 minute swipe.” I start as soon as I get home from work beginning with the walk into the house carrying the mail. As I walk in I sort the mail the junk mail and to do mail (bills)it immediately goes into 2 separate baskets right inside the door (labeled burn-and to do) The first room I enter into is the kitchen I take care of all the business quickly (put dishes in dish washer, wipe counter, pull out items for dinner) Then I head to the bedroom where I change, tend to the bed, gather the laundry place in the hallway, make sure closet doors and drawers are shut. Move to the bathroom (wipe counters, floor, toilet, shower) Finally grab the laundry basket head downstairs to the “man cave” I made a rule for my husband since it has “man” in the title he is responsible for cleaning this room (den/bar) I tend to the laundry and head back up stairs to the living room this is the last room that needs to be straightened fix the cushions, blankets and pick up anything that has ended up in the room that doesn’t belong and place in a “to be put away basket” finally turn the tv on and head into the kitchen and prep for dinner. Each room only takes 2-3 minutes and the entire house is straightened up in less than 15 minutes. An easy way to stay clean is by having baskets with the items used to clean in their respective places. Both bathrooms and kitchen have there own cleaning supplies under the sinks. Its much easier than lugging around cleaning supplies when your hands are usually full of things your putting away.

  29. posted by Kari on

    I work from home most days of the week and don’t deal well with messiness in sight, so I tend to do some things pretty systematically, like make the bed and keep the kitchen and bathrooms clean. For other tasks, it depends. If I am just doing tidying (I tend to do a few times a day for 5-10 minutes or so at a time), I tend to do wherever I may go–pick up the magazine, put it where it on the coffee table, check how old the other stuff there is and pile for recycling as needed, fluff the pillows on the couch, take pile to recycling, etc. If I am actually cleaning (dusting, floors, etc., usually once a week), I tend to be more systematic–dust and straighten, then do the hard floors then the area rugs in one room, then onto the next. I also find podcasts make the work go faster.

    Because the tidying and cleaning are just part of my routine, they never seem very onerous and the house is always in decent shape,

  30. posted by StellaPearlEsty on

    Thanks so much for helping me stay motivated!

  31. posted by Rebecca on

    Marenna, my husband is the biggest offender here, my three little ones are neat by comparison.

  32. posted by Eliza on

    I can do the wherever I go method as long as the house isn’t a complete dump. Unfortunately, it’s usually a complete dump and I can’t rest until I have at least a couple of rooms in shape. So end up cleaning the kitchen, then work my way into the family room, get it all done, then into the main bathroom. The bedrooms,form living room, dining room and other bathroom may still be a mess, but I can get a cup of coffee in the clean kitchen, sit in the clean family room, and know that I can dash to the clean bathroom, all while pretending that I have a clean house!

  33. posted by Jenna on

    @Anna – So true! If only we could just put things away first, then we’d never have to worry about which pick-up method to use! 😉

    @Maria – My boyfriend uses podcasts to motivate him through cleaning. He likes pulling up interviews from the NPR app on his iPhone to listen to while he’s working. Maybe I should try this as well!

    I use whichever method works with my mood. If I get motivated to tidy up, whether I’m in one room or all over, that’s a good method to me! Most of the time this tends to be the “wherever I may go” method, but sometimes I’m particularly focused on one area before moving on. I’d love to get into the habit of doing a few minutes of tidying up each night, but it’s been hard to get into that habit!

  34. posted by Leonie on

    My problem is that the “wherever I go” system is apparently my default….I’ll start in one room, see something I need to put away, or think I need to get X from room Y, then go there and forget about it, go back to the original location and realise it…

    It works better for me at least to give myself a time limit. I look around the room and estimate a reasonable amount of time say 20 minutes or an hour depending on what I need done, and when time is up, I leave. Usually, the time limit forces me to stay focus because I really want to complete the task.

    When all else fails, I throw a big party…I kid you not…BEST motivation in the world to not just clean house, but also find places for things.

    That’s really my main problem. Since moving back into the house after a remodel, it has taken a while to figure out what works best where and where things should go. once I have the system worked out, a few socks here and there, or books etc…is not a problem.

    It’s the piles of paperwork and odds and ends I need to work through this afternoon to decide how to file them and where they always need to be that are my challenge.

    So, netflix, a good tv show for white noise and “company” (kids are away…yay!) and off I go. Wish me luck!

  35. posted by chacha1 on

    I just use a list.

    DH and I tend not to randomly drop things around the house, and we don’t have kids, so there is not much random-clutter-collection required, thank the merciful heavens.

  36. posted by Leah on

    I do a middle ground of this. I don’t stay in just one room, but I try to stay mostly focused around one room. We’ve got a decently small place (2 bedroom apartment, and we rarely use one room). When things go in another room, I usually take them in there and make a pile. Then, when I’m done tidying one room, I move into the next and continue the process. I try to only let myself get distracted for really small stuff (like your toilet paper example) and save the larger items for later.

  37. posted by Vanessa H. on

    I do the “wherever needs straightening” technique. That way I can make the most impact with the least amount of time. I just focus on whatever bothers me the most, meaning that when it’s taken care of, I’ll feel better. Maybe I should call this the “most impact method” or “highest impact method.”

    The great thing about it is, you can do it for five minutes or fifteen and you will still be getting the best possible results for your time.

  38. posted by Jasmine on

    I usually have an energetic playlist of music going as I clean one room. The music keeps me entertained enough that I won’t be bored by that room. Once I’m done with that, I’ll physically take my laptop to another room and find another style of music to play (e.g., if I was listening to Jamiroquai in one room, I’ll listen to Daft Punk in another).

    My laptop is large, heavy, and has low battery life, so when I move it into another room, I won’t feel like running around the house lugging the beastly thing with me. In a way, it tethers me to one room until I’m all done with it.

    I usually have a box or pile of “stuff to take to other rooms”, but I like the idea of a laundry basket instead, since that’s much easier to carry around. And I can put my laptop in that as a way to move it to other rooms.

  39. posted by Jules on

    I usually go from room to room and mostly in the same order. However, if I am deep cleaning, I absolutely have to mix it up. I used to go in the same order each time and end with the bathrooms (I guess because wiping the toilet with the same rag I used to dust the coffee table seems fine, but visa versa seems disgusting). I always ran out of steam towards the end and the bathrooms never ended up as clean as the rest of the condo. The last thing I felt like doing after I’d already cleaned for a few hours was scrub the bathtub.

    Now I may have more towels to wash when I’m done, but the house is more evenly clean.

  40. posted by Leah - Bogue Living on

    Oh wow, you describe my natural approach so well!

    I fight against this, but then I do something equally as troubling, I start to ruminate over the most “efficent” way to get the house clean, trying to priortise what to do next etc. It can lead to bouncing around a but too! I have to remind myself that as long as I stay productive, stuff that needs to get done will get done even if I can’t get to ALL of it. Podcasts playing in my ear help me shut this line of convo down.

    It’s nice to potter around sometimes, but head down bum up in one room or job for a but before moving onto the next is the best use of the time. I hate it when I’ve spent a good chunk of time and nothing looks finished!

  41. posted by kylie on

    I use the ‘Five Things’ method: every time you go into a room try to put 5 things away where they should be (in that room) and then when you leave try to take 5 things with you and put them where they should be (elsewhere in the house)

    I find it amazing how much difference moving just 5 visible things at a time can make!

    @Erin: I love your website – thanks 🙂

  42. posted by *pol on

    Heaven help me but I am usually a “wherever I may go” method kind of task-tackler. And it usually leads to a whole bunch of barely touched rooms. Our house is very chopped up, and with 2 children a dog and a husband there are things on every single surface that demand cleaning up. I bounce from task to task, room to room, even though I am always putting stuff away, no room ever looks “done” with this method.

    When a room is REALLY BAD (like a kid’s room) I will do like Anna and put away categories of ITEMS to make the fastest best dent. I direct them in their cleaning….ALL the books go here, ALL the Hotwheels go there, ALL the lego belongs in this bin and the laundry goes out in the hall (for me to scoop up when we are done)! It’s the only way that works for me with the boys.

    I do try to take an item with me that doesn’t belong when I leave a room — and then hope I don’t get distracted on the way to where it belongs!

  43. posted by jbeany on

    Ummmm…I’m always on the where ever I go system of cleaning, I think. It’s not a conscious choice most of the time, though! I just tell myself it’s not about efficiency, it’s about exercise as I bounce from room to room. Thankfully, I’m pretty good now about putting things away as soon as I’m done with them, so stuff rarely gets left in the wrong room anyhow. But yes, What should have been a straight trip from laundry room with clean clothes in the basket to put them in the closet often gets derailed with a trip to the craft room to sew on a button and while I’m there let me reorganize that shelf of books the cat tipped over and then I’ll decide one of the books can go on the swap site and then I’m on the computer answering e-mail until an hour has passed and then the sewing machine is still on and the clothes are still in the hamper on the bed….

  44. posted by Cher on

    My sister-in-law calls your “Wherever I may go” system, Mother ADHD.

  45. posted by Cindi on

    I find the TV commercial mode to be successful, especially if it is combined with the one room at a time mode. I am ususally so tired by the end of the workday, that all I can manage is short bursts of activity. i just get up at the commercials and pick up and put away, change a load of laundry from washer to dryer, iron an item or two, wipe down the kitchen appliances, whatever I can manage.

    I am working hard at implementing and maintaining the departure and arrival routines, but the thing that messes the house up during the week is not putting things away. The commercial method seems to work for mess control.

    Great post, btw


  46. posted by tiff on

    I use the “stewardship” method. Each person in the family has an area they are “steward” of. Every day at a certain time we all attack our area of stewardship and complete all daily tasks for that area: like shine the mirrors, or take the trash out, replace t.p., you know the stuff that has to be checked every day. It’s great to work as a team, and then we can all sit back and enjoy a well run home and one another’s company in a tidy house. Mommy is the one who checks all the areas when done and offers coaching and help as needed to keep things going day by day. The bonus for my girls is they also get to add thier own beauty touch to their area. They do the seasonal decorations for fall, or add flowers to the table or a candle they like the smell of, whatever they feel will make their area just that much more special!

  47. posted by Laura on

    My life is wherever-I-go. I have ADD, three kids, two dogs and a cat, plus a husband who is a neatnik but never home. When the kids were little, they’d yell “MOMMMMMMMY!” and I’d leave whatever I was doing to see what was up, then get distracted and forget to go back to my task. Eventually, I learned to yell “I’m in the kitchen if you want to talk with me!” so I could stay on task, which worked sometimes.

    I have resigned myself to a half-done house, but I am getting rid of things!!!

  48. posted by Natalie @ Scarlett Notions on

    I have set mini-routines for when I get home, before bed, and after I wake up. A little laundry, dishes, and straitening up every day keeps the chaos away! Now if I could only make myself mop the floors…

  49. posted by Michele on

    I use the ‘do the same chore in all the rooms’ method. For example, if I am picking up toys that the dogs have left all over the living room floor, I go to the bedrooms and bathrooms to pick up whatever is on the floor. If I empty the trash in the kitchen, I stop in the bathrooms and bedrooms and empty all the trash. If I am stripping beds, I strip all the beds. If I am collecting recyclables from the living room (newspapers) I stop and collect from the bin in the office. If I’m loading the dishwasher, I collect any dishes from the other rooms…it makes it a lot easier and keeps the house semi-straightened in a short amount of time.

  50. posted by Sasha @ Organize Your LIfe System on

    I pick a number between 5 and 10 and tell myself that I’m going to do THAT number of things, and then I do:

    1) Empty the dishwasher
    2) Water the plants
    3) Pay the bills —
    and so on.

    The counting method really works well for me. Often once the energy is going, I wil keep doing more things. A body in motion stays in motion…

  51. posted by writingallthetime on

    I do both methods. Every time I go from one room to another, something gets returned to its rightful home.
    For cleaning rather than de-cluttering, I focus on one area, starting at the top and moving down most of the time.
    When we expect guests, the public parts of the house – living room, bathroom, entry – get the most attention in terms of cleaning and de-cluttering both.

  52. posted by Vicky on

    I always thought I was the only one who needed to mark there space with visual cues. If I start laundry in the morning before work, I always leave the door to the laundry room open to remind me to put them in the dryer.

  53. posted by suzjazz on

    I’ve addressed the problem on several fronts.
    I get rid of clothes and old household items regularly, with a couple of bags that sit on the stair landing–I just throw stuff into the bags and take them to Goodwill when they are full. Slowly but surely we are reducing the amount of stuff we own. As far as picking up is concerned: I have a place for everything and try to consistently replace items after using them. (BF isn’t as good at this as I am but is learning) Getting into this habit reduces clutter, although when I am tired I tend to just let things pile up. Then when I have a day off I go from room to room picking things up and putting them away. Like other people who have posted, I keep a basket of cleaning supplies in the bathroom under the sink and have kitchen/dusting cleaning supplies in a kitchen cabinet. I wipe off surfaces every day because I am squeamish about stickiness and germs. I leave post-it notes in prominent places to remind me to put laundry in the dryer, or I will stick a note on BF’s computer. I have paper recycling bins in several rooms and consolidate them in one large bin in the office before taking it out to our curbside recycling bin. I tend to be obsessive about keeping things clean and neat because I can’t focus and work at home when things are in disarray.

  54. posted by Letitia on

    I really need to avoid the wherever-way of doing it. Before I started working on organizing and decluttering I always used this method. With a guaranteed 150% clutter raise with every cleaning session: e.g. I start to organize the wardrobe, empty some shelves on the bed, in baskets and on the ground, then: I find a single sock that I know has a mate in the laundry room, so I go there, find the sock and start pairing all the other socks. Phone rings, I find myself in the office and see a stack of books to organize, one of the books should go on the shelf in the living room. I go there, find the order of books is not nicely arranged by colour, start doing that etc. 3 hours later, every room is a bigger mess than it was.

    I adapted it and use a new way:
    I only clean with a timer on 10 minutes, so when it beeps I am reminded that I started something 10 minutes ago… Then if I catch myself going to another room, I place the item there, promising myself that my next 10 minutes will be spent in that room. Then I will return to the original room that I need to finish in 10 minute increments, knowing that soon I will have a 10 minute “break” in the form of that other room.

  55. posted by elizabeth on

    when my intention is to clean, i am a room by room … but i am a wherever i may go when i am just tidying up …. and then it is just as you describe … oh, a stray sock… to the laundry room … oh, need more detergent … make a list … oh, kitchen counter is cluttered, tidy … might as well wipe down the counters …. let’s do the kitchen table too … i bet the coffee table could use a wipe … and the mantle … oh, what’s this doing on the mantle, i’ll go put it away ….

  56. posted by JC on

    Our family of four lives in a large house. The house is larger than we currently need because when we built it we had planned on adopting more children. The emerging special needs of our daughter put a permanent kibosh on bringing any more children into our home. We are staying here until the housing market recovers and then will downsize- could be 5-10 more years.

    Not every chore needs to be done every day so I have sorted the work and have a different check off list for every day of the week. If I use the lists consistently, the house stays in pretty good condition. When my cleaning time gets annexed by family emergencies, things aren’t quite so neat and I have to simply do the minimal basic cleaning with what little time I have at that moment.

  57. posted by Natalie in West Oz on

    Which method of cleaning I use depends on which room I start in! If i start in my youngest childs room (he’s 7), I will have a lot of things to put in other rooms as he tends to collect things that arent his to play with.

    If I start in my room, its the same as we tend to drop things in our room as a quick fix to tidying up when only given short notice of impending visitors.

    Surprisingly enough if I start in my ADHD son’s room, I can stay there as he doesnt ‘borrow’ other peoples things, he just doesnt put away his own!!!

    I enjoy the wander from room to room thing though. I put on a a pedometer one day and had done half my daily steps requirements just pottering around the house.

  58. posted by [email protected] on

    I often wander about picking up as I go, but I get little satisfaction from multiple rooms that look only marginally better than they did, and the mileage required? Bleah! I’d rather work efficiently and use any extra energy in washing windows or something.

    Check out my Baby Central method at http://minimalistmum.blogspot......yself.html

  59. posted by katrina on

    I use a combination of 2 methods. Generally, every time I leave a room I take something that belongs in the room I’m going to (if there’s something that needs returning).

    When I clean, I take the laundry basket with me and any stray objects are put into the basket. Then when I’ve finished tidying/cleaning a room I deal with the items in the basket.

  60. posted by Maura on

    I call your “Wherever I May Go” method “puttering”…. Or, “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie-Syndrome”.

    I CONTINUALLY strive to become more focused, and complete tasks from start to finish. But, alas, I often have too many balls in the air at once.

  61. posted by Ann on

    I also call the “Wherever I May Go” method “puttering,” as does Maura. Puttering is sort of recreational for me, and can take expand to take up large quantities of time. To try to keep the time limited, I sometimes give myself a certain number of things that I plan to pick up per session, such as, “Pick up seven things, wherever I may go deal with these seven things.”

  62. posted by dandyrose on

    I do both methods. I tend to do “wherever I may go” as maintenance, but if I am having company I will do a clean sweep of the common rooms.

    I tend to integrate “wherever I may go” into other activities. I’m watching TV and want to go get a glass of water, so I grab anything from the living room that belongs in the kitchen or dining room, and deliver it to its rightful place before getting water. Going back to the TV, I will grab the dirty kitchen towel and drop it in the laundry room on my way.

  63. posted by Leszek Cyfer on

    Room by room, followed by photo session – I make photos of all rooms, then sit and watch the photos. It’s funny how looking at a room it appears perfectly fine and shiny, then looking at a photo of the same room it is as if shells have fallen off from your eyes and you see all the things to fix.

    Then i fly around in ADHD manner, from time to time looking at the photos again 🙂

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