I've always looked at the Monica Gellers of this world with a mixture of bafflement and jealousy — to me, it seemed like a pig pen type of character like me can never learn how to be neat if they're messy. I have so many questions when I notice a Type A personality — how does one have the self-control not to step out of jeans and just leave them crumpled on the floor? Or not throw their keys by the front door and pick them up only when they need them? Sure, you might live in squalor and chaos, but it seems so much easier than tidying all day and night.
Or so I thought, that is until I reformed. I used to be like the Tasmanian Devil with my clutter — I would blow into a room and it would automatically fold in on itself, leaving an impressive mess behind. But I've since learned habits and tricks that have turned me into a budding neat freak, and I'm here to pass on my new found wisdom to any other slobs out there that want to reform. While it might seem like you need a Windex bottle strapped to your belt at all times, it's actually not that hard. Below are 11 tips on how to become neat if you're messy.
1. Give Items A Home
If you're a messy person, chances are you just drop things where you're standing and walk away from them until you need them again. Sweaters are stored on the arms of couches, sunglasses are left on top of fridges and forgotten on kitchen tables, and keys are dropped by the door. But if you give everything a home — whether it's a bin, container, or drawer — then you'll force yourself to walk the item to that spot. Lifestyle writer Hilary White from POPSUGAR explained, "Give your items a 'home.' Designate a place where the keys go, where spare towels are stored, where sunglasses are kept, and don't deviate from this system so that you always know where everything is." If you know the exact spot where a certain item should be kept, you'll be more inclined to put it away.
2. Set Tidying Goals
Rather than falling to your knees and screaming over how much tidying you have to do, take your transformation into a neat-freak slowly. Let yourself get used to the change. One great way to do that is to set yourself three cleaning goals per day. Lifestyle writer Asli Omur from Lifehack offered, "Make a point to sit down every day with your calendar or notepad and write a list of three things that you would like to attend to." Whether that's to wipe down the counters after cooking, putting away your coat in the closet, or clearing up your desk before going to bed, setting yourself mini goals will keep you on the neat-track.
3. Always Make A Room Better Than You Found It
Here's a great rule to get you on that neat path: Always tidy at least one thing in a room you step into. It might sound like a lot of hassle, but it's really easy. Organization writer Megan Francis from lifestyle site The Happiest Home wrote, "If I’m on my feet, I’m tidying. I never leave a room without making it better than I found it." So if a sweater is on the couch, take it to your room. If the counter is dirty wipe it down, or if a blanket is messed fold it. It's simple and will keep everything looking like it's been spruced up.
4. Don't Let Things Pile Up
Chances are you hate cleaning because you let things pile up to scary proportions. Once a small task turns into a mountain, it'll obviously take 10 times as long to do. So don't let things pile up — try to tackle them as soon as they hit a decent size. Francis pointed out, "Laundry, in and of itself, is an easy job. It’s when we let it become a monster mountain of dirty clothes–and then clean clothes that need to be folded and put away–that it seems so overwhelming." So whether it's laundry, dishes, dusting, or putting away the clothes on your chair, don't wait till it's at max-capacity to do something about it.
5. Get A Handle On Clutter
One of the reasons it's hard to stay tidy is because you have so many things to keep track of. Instead of being avalanched by things on a daily basis, prune your belongings so you only have things you really enjoy, are inspired by, or 100 percent need. And a great way to keep a handle on that is to follow the "one in, one out" rule. White explained, "if you get something new, something old that you don't use anymore has to go." That way you keep the hoarding to a minimum.
6. Start Off Small
Now that you've made up your mind to leave your messy ways behind, you don't have to go full-on Monica Geller mode and tackle your whole house. Instead, allow yourself to start small. Omur advised, "Your small act of cleanliness might simply be...doing your laundry, washing your car, dusting your bookshelf, wiping down your computer keyboard or hanging up your clothes." Also, you can start small by only tackling a section of a room at a time. For example, if you want to straighten out your room, clean your desk one day, your wardrobe the next, your vanity the day after, and so on. It'll be a lot less overwhelming that way — especially if you loathe tidying!
7. Wipe Down Surfaces Daily
Done cooking? Wipe down the stove quickly before eating. Did you wash your hands? Grab a paper towel and wipe it down. Are the counters getting a little crumb-heavy? Grab a rag and fix the situation. If you wipe down grimy-prone surfaces daily, then you'll never have to go in there and do the whole scrubbing thing, keeping you permanently neat. Francis explained, "That way it never gets really nasty, even when I go weeks without doing a 'big' clean."
8. Settle For "Good Enough"
Don't stress yourself out by thinking how you have a couple of drawers that look like chaos or every nook and cranny isn't dusted. Instead of aiming for perfect and intimidating yourself from starting, instead set your sights on good enough. Organization writer Nicholas Gibson from lifestyle site Neat and Tidy explained, "This might not sound like good advice, but it is. Instead of aiming for perfection, try to make your home only as tidy as it needs to be. This massively reduces the amount of time you’ll spend cleaning up." You'll be working on your tidying habits, your space will be clean, and you won't be bogged down all day doing it.
9. Make Tidying Fun
Cleaning doesn't have to be the bane of your existence. You can make it into a fun experience if you customize the activity a little bit. White offered, "Make cleaning enjoyable. Pick out cleaning products you like, turn on music while you work, or clean when you're stressed so that you feel accomplished." Doesn't sound too bad!
10. Make It Routine
A lot of the tips on here recommend that you do a certain task each day, and there's a reason for that. Performing it daily rather than weekly turns it into routine, and it'll become a natural part of the day. Gibson explained, "The best way to build consistency is to turn tasks into habits. Once you start to clean up your home every day — even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time — you’ll start to turn cleaning and organizing into habits that you perform naturally in the future." You're messiness will be a thing of the past.
11. Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
If you're a naturally messy person, you can start beating yourself up if you fall off the bandwagon and let clutter build up again. But the important thing here is not to be too hard on yourself — after all, a new habit takes time to form. Lifestyle writer Emma Siemasko from career development site The Muse said, "But this down-on-yourself attitude gets in the way of actually cleaning up. There have been so many times when I’ve slinked around my apartment, convinced the cleaning would never get done. When I actually started cleaning, though, it only took me about 30 minutes to get through everything." Allow yourself to mess up, and keep on trying!
In this way, you'll leave your clutter-loving self behind.