Clean & tidy space is a platform for a productive life. This week we’ll talk about how to best keep up with all our stuff so it doesn’t get out of hand and overwhelm us.
Keeping our space clean & tidy sets the stage for peacefully productive life
For most of us, an important part of our life is making a home. This is true whether we live alone, with roommates or a spouse, whether we have children, whether we have a job or career outside the home. No matter our stage of life or circumstances, wherever we might be, making a home is to one degree or another part of our role in life.
One element of making a home is taking care of our space and the stuff within it. That is pretty much a never-ending task, and one that we can sometimes struggle to keep up with, when we’re fitting it into life with other roles, whether it’s raising a family, maintaining a career, or all of the above. I’ve had some conversations recently with women who’ve expressed a certain level of stress and even guilt over the condition of their homes and lamented their seeming inability to keep up–or their frustration with having to spend the better part of their weekend digging out from the mess.
What’s the difference?
Clean – a space or object is clean if it’s free from dirt, unsoiled and unstained. When we clean our homes, we’re eliminating dust, dirt, etc., and putting the space and the items within it in an unsoiled condition. Cleaning is about removing dirt, dust, grime, and the odors that come with them.
Tidy – a space is tidy if it’s arranged neatly and in order. When we are tidying a space, we’re bringing order to it and arranging its contents neatly.
Space can be clean but not tidy, or tidy but not clean; they are two separate processes.
Why does it matter?
- Health–As one post puts it: “Dirt and dust promote illness.” We can’t protect ourselves or our families from all illnesses, but there are things we can do to reduce the chances of getting sick. Creating a clean and healthy environment is on that list. The article’s writer points out that “dust is a very common cause for colds, coughs, asthma attacks, breathing and respiratory problems, and various types of allergies. This can be minimised and even prevented completely by reducing dust accumulation in your household.”
- We can reduce the stress we experience from carrying in the back of our mind the knowledge of the long list of chores accumulating because we’ve put them off for so long.
- The article I mentioned above points out that “a dirty home ages quickly.” When dirt and dust accumulate, things can wear out and age more quickly. Carpets and rugs come to mind: regularly vacuuming them prolongs their life.
- Less stress–as we’ve discussed before, women are affected differently by clutter than men are; studies have shown that women in cluttered surroundings produce higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone)–article linked below for more info. NOTE: This applies just as much to our workspace as it does to our homes.
- More restful and welcoming environment–for ourselves, our family, even unexpected guests
- Keeping things tidy makes it easier and less time-consuming to clean
- Less time is wasted looking for things we need when everything’s got a place to live and it is always put there when not in use.
Besides making our life more peaceful and productive, it sets an example for our kids. Especially if we get them involved.
How do we achieve it? (What can we do to make it easier?)
First, give yourself grace–nothing is gained by beating yourself up over your perceived failings. Let that guilt or judgment go and take comfort in the fact that every day is a new day and you can make changes–small, incremental changes, please!–starting now.
Often we walk through our time and space preoccupied, not really aware of our surroundings. If we can cultivate mindfulness, being present in our space, we can become more aware — see as we’re walking through our space when something is out of place or needs to be cleaned; think of the rule from a couple of weeks ago: never leave a room empty-handed.
We talked about some of these in episode 417, such as following the 2-minute rule and never leaving a room empty-handed. Clean as you go (when you cook; when you dress or get ready in the morning; when you’re working on a project or a hobby).
Put things away when you’re finished using them – clothes when you take them off, tools, etc. The benefit is that tidying up as you go is quicker and easier, and avoids the need to spend big chunks of time cleaning up a mess. This requires, though, that you have a place for everything so you can put everything in its place.
These habits help save time because it’s easier and less time-consuming to keep a house clean than to clean when it’s dirty. (On a smaller scale, consider the time it takes to rinse/wash a used pan right away versus the scrubbing it takes if it’s left to sit.)
Set up routines
You can find lots of resources to help with this.
- The Fly Lady, for example. She teaches a simple system for keeping your home clean and tidy, offering suggested routines–she’s done the thinking for us. She breaks the home up into zones, with each week focused on a different zone for deeper cleaning.
- Organize365 Sunday Basket. We’ve talked about this before–and Lisa Woodruff has been our guest on episodes 122 and 308–as a great approach if paper clutter is your downfall
I’m sharing below links to a few articles and YouTube videos from other women who suggest tips and ideas for how they keep their space clean and tidy, including recommendations for tools and materials.
Whether you use somebody else’s system or develop your own, the idea is to set up regular routines–a short list of things you do at generally the same time each day–for daily basic cleaning; weekly or monthly deeper cleaning, making a quick sweep through the house or your workspace to quickly put things back in order
Set aside specific days or times to clean each area. This involves regular cleaning, maybe 15-30 minutes each day, rotating through the house: bedrooms, bathrooms, living areas, home office, laundry, car, purse/computer bag/diaper bag. Or just commit to doing a little something each day.
Recruit (or hire) help
If other healthy, able-bodied people live with you, there’s no reason you should be doing it all yourself; if you have the money, hiring help (whether regularly or occasionally for the big deep-cleaning jobs) buys you time and peace of mind.Train our kids – helps us, yes, but also helps make their life easier, trains them in the skills they’ll need to make lives that matter.
Assemble the best equipment you can afford (especially for cleaning
Just as having a well-balanced, sharp knife and good-quality pans make the task of cooking easier and more enjoyable, so having the right tools can make cleaning easier, less time-consuming, and more efficient.
- Cleaning tools (broom or vacuum, cleaning cloths, etc.) My robot vac cleans my floors while I do other things. Having a stock of microfiber cloths handy makes it easy to clean up messes when they happen.
- Cleaning supplies. Maybe seek good multipurpose cleaners that can be used on most surfaces instead of multiple single-purpose items.
Assemble the cleaning supplies and tools into a conveniently located kit so everything you need in one place. BUT, on the other hand, you might want to keep cleaning supplies near where you need to use them so it’s quick and easy to clean when the need or mood strikes. For example: I have bathrooms on both floors of our 2-story home. I keep toilet bowl cleaner and disinfecting wipes in each bathroom, so if I’m in the room and see the need I can clean the toilet in a matter of 2 minutes.
Purge, purge, purge! I’m not saying everybody needs to become a minimalist, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed and stressed trying to keep your space as clean and tidy as you want it to be, just keep in mind, the less stuff you have, the less time it takes to clean and the easier it is to keep it tidy
Everything else we do to keep our home clean, healthy, etc., is made easier and less time-consuming if we have less stuff
Dawn from The Minimal Mom on YouTube suggests one question to help declutter and simplify your belongings: “Is it adding value?” Another way she asks the question is, “Is it fulfilling the purpose for which I originally bought it?” (Obviously, if the answer is no, then it’s something to purge.) [Check out this video for more ideas from Dawn on this topic.]
I’m not trying to impose new standards or rules on anybody. If you’re happy with your space at home and at work, then keep doing what you’re doing.
Aside from that, we all go through times when even doing the minimal cleaning and tidying is hard–new baby, illness, tons of company, finals week, etc. Give yourself grace during these times. But having habits and routines in place makes those times less disastrous and makes it easier to bounce back from those times when the cleaning needs to be paused or minimized.
I’m not suggesting we should have a goal of a spotlessly clean and tidy house at all times, or that we should be devoting hours out of every day to cleaning and tidying. What I am suggesting is that a few thoughtfully nurtured habits and routines can actually reduce the amount to time, effort, and stress required to have a reasonably clean and tidy home or workspace.
I’m truly not trying to heap more work or guilt on anybody. Take from this episode (like any episode) what makes sense for you and your situation.
What do you think?
Resources and Links
- 6 Reasons Why Cleaning Your House Is a Top Priority – Maids in Brown
- 10 Reasons to Keep Your Home Clean and Tidy
- 15 Unexpected Benefits of a Clean Home – Oh So Spotless
- Why Clutter Affects Men and Women Differently (And What to do About it) – Rich in What Matters
- 11 Daily Habits to Keep a House Clean and Tidy – Clean and Scentsible
- (1) 10 HABITS FOR A CLEAN & TIDY HOME || THE SUNDAY STYLIST – YouTube
- Understanding the Difference Between Clean and Tidy
- Importance of a Clean & Tidy Work Area | Momentum Janitorial
- How to Keep a House Clean Every Day of the Week – Life Storage Blog
- Six Things I Do Every Day to Keep the House Clean – Clean Mama
- 25 Handy Tips for an Established Home Cleaning Schedule
- A Smarter Way to Clean Your Home – Smarter Living Guides – The New York Times
- You can use this one question to declutter your entire house – YouTube
- TPW417-10 Rules for a Peacefully Productive Life
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Royse City, Texas