My life used to be a mess, literally. After work, panic scared me stiff. On arriving home, I’d startle as I slammed the gate. In time, the gate unhinged. Once inside my home, I’d brawl with sprawling Starbucks cups, books, and DVDs. Next, I’d unsteadily snatch my thesis as loose-leaf fluttered to the floor. The words on the pages struck me as scrabble boards?in Punjabi. I’d drop the thesis, turning my focus to the kitchen scare. In the sink heaped dishes?last year’s. Richly colored Cornell crusted over. Ovens, irons, toasters?once loved?now taboo. Yet little got trashed. I feared mistaking my purse for litter.
So, where did the mess start? Well, as children, my siblings and I made spotless beds. Mom cleaned better than Private Ryan. Some days I’d come home to find my bed torn apart?Mom spotted a wrinkle.
Yet, Papa’s office heaped with papers. Papa, always on the go, ate dinner standing up. But in my eyes, Papa was faultless. So, in grade twelve, my bed went unmade. My bedroom carpet morphed into a year’s worth of homework. And my knack for cooking summed up to Eggos, Pop-tarts, and Pizza 73.
But when my best friend became my boyfriend, my messy home grew flawless. Every day, at 5 a.m., I polished to the purr of The Flower Duet. I’d then shop for flawless fruits and veggies. Four-hour cookery?off-the-cuff?followed. At 6 p.m., I greeted my boyfriend amidst wafts of savory scents.
That is, until the day panic boiled over.
But every sad story has an upside: My boyfriend and I dined out. Dined hard. Caesar salads with side salmons and yam fries. Casino buffets with prime rib and cherry flambés. Stir fry chicken with pencil thick black strands from the cook’s fresh haircut. And not a dish to wipe.
So, twice I went from clean to messy. But I’m not alone. Cassandra Aarssen, author of Real Life Organizing: Clean and Clutter-Free in 15 Minutes a Day, called herself a “super slob.” I dined out; she trashed her crusted over pots for new ones. I brawled with sprawling books; she carved paths in clothing that covered her entire floor.
Now she teaches cleaning at colleges?and writes on how-to-be clutter-free. So, let’s look at Aarssen’s advice for cleaning house:
- Purge stuff frequently. Decide fast what to chuck. “When in doubt, toss it out” (p. 62). Why? The more stuff we collect, the more it takes a toll. So, free yourself.
- People who stink become immune to their own stench. Same goes for people with messy houses. So, what do you do? Take photographs of your place. If you’d be ashamed to publish the picture, clean up the mess.
- The first step to cleaning? Purge. Grab a garbage bag and scour the house for junk to toss. Also, donate 21 items to charity each month. If you waffle about donating an item, store it in a box labeled with a date six-months in the future. If after six months the box remains unopened, don’t open it’donate it.
- When you buy a new item, donate an old one.
- When buying stuff that you might want to return, keep just the barcode, the instructions, and the receipt. That’s all you need. Throw out the box.
- If you get a pile of stuff in a certain spot, store it there. In other words, put a basket there or find a nearby closet. Give your pile a convenient home.
- Use brightly colored baskets and bins?to release your inner butterfly. Make to-do lists and set timers if that’s your style.
- When you go to Ikea to buy organizing items, bring a tape measure. (But first, at home, measure the stuff to store.)
- Spend fifteen minutes a day cleaning your home?up to a maximum of thirty minutes. That’s all you need for a spotless dwelling.
Navy Seals say start your day by making your bed?as one small success leads to another. In fifteen minutes a day, you not only make your bed, but clean your castle.