Ever since we were children, we have been told to do certain chores. Clean the dishes, pick up your things, make your bed. Many of us begrudgingly performed these repetitive chores without question. To me, these chores seemed to matter very little in comparison with things like school, extracurriculars and my friends. When I entered my freshman year of college, I rebelled against the little rules like making my bed. “What’s the point?” I used to say, “I’m just going to have to make it again the next day.”
In reality, I think that I was giving in to the habit of all or nothing thinking. I believed that because I didn’t have enough time to make my room into the perfect Martha Stewart paradise, it would be better to embrace the clutter. So what if my bed isn’t made? So what if I have a few dirty dishes? I was doing well in school, making friends, joining clubs, and working a part time job. The turning point for me came when I realized that despite looking successful on paper, I felt completely stressed out. Stress was a common thing for me. I began to notice that when I was feeling stressed out, I neglected household chores. Then, when I saw the state of my room I would become even more stressed out. So, there it was… a cycle of clutter and stress that was begging to be broken.
Making my Bed
In 2009 I started reading Gretchen Rubin’s blog, The Happiness Project, which completely changed my perspective on clutter. In her article, “Make Your Bed”, Gretchen writes about how one small action can make something seem much better. I decided to try making my bed and appreciating the way it made my room look better almost instantly. Although making your bed will not make your entire room clean, it is, as Gretchen points out, a wonderful way to start. Since moving out of my college dorm and into my first apartment, I have started to develop more guidelines for how to keep my room clean.
Pick Up 50 Things
First, I made up a kind of game that helps me remember to put things back where they belong. When I get home at night, I look around the room and try to find 50 things that are out of place and move them back. I count every little thing, so that I pick up that scrap of paper that my puppy ripped up and those three pennies that fell under the bed. It’s surprising how clutter can often be the magnified effect of just a few items out of place.
Belt it Out and Dance Like Crazy
That’s right, I said it. I’m that person that sings while cleaning the dishes and rocks out to some Kesha while cleaning the floors. Not only does it make the time go by faster, but it brings a whole new energy to my cleaning routine.
Attack the Problem
Sometimes, I have to admit, I still let my room get a bit out of control. When that happens, it’s tempting to do only the easiest of chores. But, when your sink is full of smelly dishes and your trash is begging to be taken to the dumpster, you just have to suck it up and attack the biggest problem. If you’re blessed with having a dishwasher or are on top of your game with the trash, your biggest problem could be unpacking a suitcase you left in the middle of the floor, or cleaning up after a big project. Simply organizing the contents of your bathroom cabinet or rearranging papers is not going to cut it. So, save yourself the disappointment and focus on the things that will make a big difference on the status of your room.
The reason that cleaning can be so frustrating is that it’s something that we always have to do. How do you make sure to keep a clean house, despite a busy schedule? Let me know by commenting or tweet at me @cohalls.