We’re all familiar with what some consider the Holy Grail of decluttering – that level of possessions where it’s not really possible to have clutter, because you only have several dozen things in a 1,000 square foot apartment.
But does that really describe your life? I know it doesn’t describe mine!
The reality is that even minimalists usually have enough stuff to make a pretty good-sized mess if it’s scattered everywhere – and that only becomes more true when you add kids into the mix.
Today I’m going to outline a plan that will, if implemented, help you take back your home from the constant onslaught of mess and clutter. Sound like fun? Let’s jump in!
Zone Your Home
Most homes divide pretty neatly. Each room (or in an open floor plan, what would normally be a room) is a zone. In my apartment, for example, we have a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room, two closets and a bedroom (not counting the extended hallway).
For each zone, ask yourself a few questions.
How quickly does this zone accumulate mess/clutter? My parents have a storage closet under the stairs, and the answer to that question is “it doesn’t”. It’s storage; anything that goes in there is put away properly and actually belongs there. The closet upstairs, on the other hand, is where all of our boots & coats went when we were kids. It got torn apart on an almost daily basis!
How many people can clean this area at once? If you’re talking about a small closet, it’s probably only big enough for one person to tackle. The living room, on the other hand, can be a family project. Make some notes.
Is somebody responsible for this area? Living rooms are shared, and so is the kitchen. Bedrooms, however, typically have occupants – and usually the occupants are the cause of the mess. Assuming it’s feasible, assign the responsible parties to clean their own spaces.
Is somebody the best candidate to deal with this area? The closet upstairs might be a shared space, and the mess might come from the children, but if the biggest concern is Dad being able to find his coat/hat/umbrella consistently then Dad might be the best person to tidy it.
Take The Offensive
Grab a piece of paper, and lay out a tentative plan detailing the zones and the people responsible for their cleaning. Combine them as appropriate by day, and label the individual days.
Now get yourself a calendar (or a dated planner), and start assigning the numbered days to days on your calendar. Assign them sequentially, until you run out. Then start over. If you have four days worth of cleaning zones, you should be repeating them every four days.
15 Minutes Until Freedom
Get yourself a kitchen timer. Heck, get yourself a few kitchen timers if you’re having different groups working in different areas. Set them for fifteen minutes, and clean like crazy!
After fifteen minutes, stop. If you’re holding something that needs to be put away, put it away – but stop.
If you’re finding that you can’t finish an area in 15 minutes, maybe you should adjust the number of people you put on the task. Or if you can’t adjust the number of people, maybe you should repeat it on consecutive days.
You may also be in a situation where it’s going to take some time to get the initial cleaning done – feel free to schedule additional time if necessary. Once you’re rotating through your zones like clockwork, however, it should be possible to keep things tidy with the occasional 15 minutes of attention!
A Couple Of Quick Notes
Kitchens are one of the areas where a bit of advance planning is required. If you have dishes accumulating, run some hot soapy water and start them soaking half an hour or so before you do your fifteen-minute cleaning burst.
If you need to spray the shower down with shower cleaner, feel free to do that ahead of time. Anything that needs a cleaner applied ahead of schedule should be done however far ahead of schedule is necessary.
The idea is to work efficiently – and pre-soaking/pre-treating is efficient!
How I’m Implementing It
My wife and I will be figuring out zones this week. We did this for a couple of months straight once before, and things were unbelievably clean – then we let ourselves get complacent, and the mess came right back.
This week we’re going to get on top of it, so the mess isn’t a problem in the future.
What about you? Is your house already nice and tidy, or could you use 15 minutes a day to make some serious progress?
Let me know in the comments!
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