I’m sure we all have read The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up, and we’ve all said “wow, that sounds amazing!” And then we’ve all promptly said “jk lol I’m super busy and don’t have time to thank everything in my life for the time its spent with me before passing it along to the trash or a donation shop.” And then, we do nothing except daydream about the future when we WILL live in a spotless house.
Yeah, I feel personally attacked by myself right now, it’s whatever.
Well, at the beginning of December, my best friend Rach said to me, “have you read Unfuck Your Habitat? You should. You’d love it.” Rach has a knack for knowing how to phrase “clean up your shit” in a way that makes you intrigued, not angry. She’s awesome. So, after being on mood stabilizers for a month or so and feeling better, I bought Rachel Hoffman’s amazing book, read it in a day, and decided “fuck it, let’s start now.”
Now, let me preface this by saying: I didn’t follow UFYH’s exact plan. I took what I loved, and modified it to fit my own situation, which I think Rachel Hoffman would give me a pass on and/or celebrate. What I did may not work for you, so just take it all with a “your mileage may vary” grain of salt.
My problem has always been not that I’m a dirty person, but that I’m a cluttered person. I’m the person who moves seven times and still has boxes from seven apartments ago. I’m the person who puts things down rather than putting them away. I’m the person with Bipolar II Disorder who can’t sustain the energy to clean and organize for more than 3-5 manic days straight (but now I can thanks to the magic of modern medicine!). I’m the person who assigns emotional value to e v e r y thing and can’t let go of the shirt I wore one time when I was considering rushing a sorority but ultimately didn’t. Yeah, I’m that person.
No matter how much I clean, the house will NEVER look clean if it’s got shit looming at me from every corner of the house. Never. So I knew I had to resolve to get rid of almost everything and make sure everything I owned had a home. When I was a kid, my mom used to tell me, “a place for everything, and everything in its place,” and instead I said “nah,” and chucked my shit wherever it landed. Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry, and you were right.
So, Rachel Hoffman has this idea of cleaning in bouts of 20 minutes followed by 10 minutes of rest. I knew if I followed this stringently, it would take about two years for me to complete my goal, so I said “eh it’s fine,” and stressed myself to the max. Probably don’t do this. Or do. Don’t let me tell you how to live, man. Anyway, I decided to basically make it a full time job during the weekends. So I cleaned for 4 hours, took an hour break, and cleaned for 4 more hours every day followed by breaking for the night.
I also devised a little bit of a plan: start in the innermost portion of your house and work outward to the outermost area. For me, this is how it worked: start with the master bedroom closet. I can’t clean my bedroom if my closet is too cluttered to put anything away appropriately. An embarrassing amount of hours passed, and BOOM! Clean.
And yeah, about 5 full trash bags of good-but-unworn clothes were donated, with like two more bags of not-good-not-worth-passing-on-wow-this-is-a-lot-of-hyphens clothes were thrown out.
So, okay, clean closet! Now what? Master bath. I didn’t take a picture so imagine:
SUPER GROSS | SUPER CLEAN
Wow, what a beautiful image. Truly stunning.
Okay, so clean bathroom, clean closet. Now what? Master bedroom. My albatross. The bedroom for me is the catch-all room of bullshit I don’t want downstairs, but don’t actually want to deal with. You know “the chair”? Yeah, my whole bedroom is “the chair.” You know all the clothes strewn around the place? The ones I decided to keep got to go live with their siblings in clean closet heaven. Wow. Color me surprised at how that works. Ugh. So, 8 hours later, and BOOM! Clean.
Like I said; those are moving boxes from like a hundred moves ago. Yikes. This is between you and me; don’t tell anyone how gross I was (okay, am). And actually, this looks even better now because I was able to bring up the bookshelves from the garage (*mumble mumble*) and put them where they belong. Incredible. What a revelation, M. Put shit where it goes instead of where the car is supposed to go.
So, what’s next? For me, I worked out to the guest bath, which is what I use as my bathroom (it’s got a BATHTUB, y’all, I’m not fucking around with a standing-room-only kinda shower). It was a yikes factory, but only took about 4 hours. BOOM. Clean.
I want to pause quickly and say that if you’re thinking to yourself “lol, there’s no way anyone is actually this cluttered,” I want to assure you that I absolutely am, and these photos were not staged.
So the upstairs was mainly good at this point (the nursery and two guest rooms were essentially fine, just some tidying), so I moved downstairs. All the shit that I was weirdly keeping downstairs that belong in the bedroom or bathroom now had a tidy place to go! Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles.
The “box room” was next. Again, no before picture, but allow me to paint you a word picture. Imagine a living room sized room with no furniture, only partially broken down boxes, other recycling, and various bullshit accoutrements littered as far as the eye could see. Yeah. It was bad. I mean, so bad that it’s literally nicknamed the “box room.” BOOM. Clean.
Up next was the kitchen. It looks even better than this now, and this one is frustrating because most of the minimizing I did was in the cabinets and drawers. But like, can someone explain to me why we had six spatulas and four vegetable peelers and two cheese cutter string guillotine things? Why? WHYYYY? And why did we have a fridge full of expired food? Ugh. The worst. But anyway, BOOM. Clean. (The crock pot was in use and the stack of papers was waiting on a filing box, so just…pretend those don’t exist.)
So, let’s all breathe a collective sigh of relief at these pictures. Wow. I feel so much better coming home to this less cluttered house! It took me about three weeks all said to get things this way, but it was WORTH IT.
In summation, here’s my tips for minimizing and decluttering:
-Start from the innermost part of your house (whatever you deem it), and work out.
-Just get rid of it, oh my god. If you’re holding it right now and thinking “should I get rid of it…” the answer is yes. Do it. Now. Put it in the trash and/or donate box. There, doesn’t that feel better? NO DO NOT PULL IT BACK OUT OF THE TRASH, DAMMIT!
-Remember: you didn’t make this mess overnight, and you will not claw your way out of this mess overnight. Allow yourself the time to take pride over the small areas you manage to clean, and remind yourself that tomorrow is a new day for the next tasks!
-Work to your level of ability. If 8 hours a day is unobtainable, shoot for 4 hours. Or 1. Or half an hour. Or five minutes. Whatever you can do, do it. It’ll be better off than you started.
-Progress is progress. Don’t get down on yourself if it doesn’t look perfect yet!
-Take before and after photos and show them to EVERYONE. You think I posted these on my facebook? Hell yeah you bet your ass I did. “Look at this huge thing I did!” Man, made me feel amazing.
-Find accountability partners, join a facebook group (I’m particularly fond of Making a Secular Home, but that might be because it’s my group lol), or text with a friend. Just find people who have a similar goal as you and who can help keep you on track. Or don’t! Some people work better alone and that’s fine too.
-Ignore everything I’ve said and do what’s best for you and your life.
Okay, so I think that’s it. Hit me with those questions, concerns, and troll comments below, and I’ll respond asap!