Have you ever cleaned your entire house, only to find it a total cluttered mess a mere few days later? If you're human, the answer is probably yes, and it's why mastering a few habits that will keep your house clean can kind of change your life.
The struggle to keep my apartment clean and uncluttered for more than a couple days at a time has been a recurring source of frustration in my life — so much so that it sometimes actively prevents me from cleaning in the first place. "What's the point when nothing stays nice anyway," I'll think. This inevitably makes cleaning way harder and more time consuming when I finally do get around to it — which creates even more frustration. Not to mention I genuinely just prefer having a clean, usable space to come home to each day — it just feels nice.
This led me to wonder the obvious: how do other people do it? How do they manage to keep their homes neat and tidy? What are they doing that I'm not? In an effort to get to the bottom of it, I interviewed Annie Traurig, professional organizer and founder of Live Simply, over email and asked her my most pressing cleaning and organizational-related questions.
If you feel my pain and are also at your wit's end with clutter, here are the top five tips I compiled from Traurig's pretty awesome advice.
1. Put Everything Back Where It Belongs
"The reason why people feel like their homes are always messy is obnoxiously obvious: they're not putting things back where they belong," Traurig says. "You are responsible for putting things back where they belong. [...] If you're only doing the first part — the taking out — and not attending to the second, you are bound to end up in a mess." So first things first, put your stuff away!
2. Have A Designated Space For Everything
This leap frogs pretty strongly off the first point — it's easier to be consistent about putting your belongings away when they all have a clearly designated home. "Ideally, everything you own should have a very specific place where it lives in your space. That's the way you locate things easily, and you maintain organization," Traurig says.
3. "Edit" Your Belongings
This was my favorite tip from Traurig. "So many people are stymied at how to organize and keep clean spaces that are filled with so much stuff they don't actually need or want," Traurig says. "By not addressing the matter of editing first, they're making the task much harder for themselves."
She went on to note that, "In general, the less you own, the less you have to manage, and the less opportunity there is for a mess. If you're prone to being 'messy' it's essential that you work to edit your belongings to include only what you truly need and love—that's the way you give yourself a fighting chance."
4. Be Diligent
Traurig also stresses the importance of being consistent with your tidying — unfortunately, there is no magical short cut around this one. "There's a fluid dance that needs to happen every day; a bringing out and using, and a putting away. Unless you have seriously devoted housekeepers or fairies on your payroll, this process never ends," she says. The good news, however, is that taking a couple extra minutes to do this every day means you don't have to devote an entire day to putting things away a few weeks down the line.
5. Reframe Your Perspective
This last tip might be the hardest to master of all. "Your motivation for organization begins with your mindset," Traurig says. "When you really intentionally edit your space and the entirety of its contents, you gain a firm grasp of precisely what you own and (importantly!) why. You claim your space as your sanctuary, and you see everything inside it as there to serve a purpose for you, or else be released. In this way, you gain a sense of respect for your belongings. You want to treat them well so they'll continue to serve you, and you want to ensure you're able to live in an environment of clarity and beauty that supports your wellbeing."
A clean home doesn't have to come down to slaving away with a mop and vacuum every single day. Instead, it's much more about ridding yourself of clutter and being consistent in small ways, as well as reframing how you view the things you have. So take care of your space, and it will help take care of you!
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