If you’re a messy person looking to making cleaning and organizing a little less painful—and, you know, incorporate it into your regular routine—who better to get advice from than people who face the same challenges and have found ways to make it work?
It takes time, so do it in baby steps
One thing that quite a few people agreed on: Reforming your messy ways takes time, and your best bet is getting there in small steps. One Redditor shared the resource Flylady.net to help. “She has a great program for getting messy people into the habit of maintaining a clean place without overwhelming you,” they wrote. “It takes time to change from being messy to maintaining clean and this program provides daily steps that over time become habits. She calls them ‘Babysteps’, but over the course of a month you really do start to see improvement. Also she does not set you up for that cycle of spending hours and hours cleaning one day and then two weeks later you are back to living in a mess. It’s all about steadily going through a process to learn to be a non-messy person. Best of all: It’s free.”
Start by getting everything off the floor
Another popular response? Sometimes your best bet for dealing with a big mess is to move everything off the floor and onto a surface that you have to clean so you can use it, like your bed. “I find that getting everything off of my floor or desk immediately makes me want to finish cleaning, by opening up the space I feel less constricted by the messiness,” said one of our self-professed-messy-people respondents, Madeline. Another, Sarah, agreed: “Eventually, like when I need to vacuum, I just scoop it all up and put it on my bed and then it somehow seems more approachable—maybe because now I don’t have to keep bending down so it seems like less effort? Also, then I have to put it away because I can’t sleep with stuff on my bed.”
Do one chore every day.
Rather than letting the cleaning tasks on your to-do list pile up over time, which several people agreed is not a good strategy, try doing just one small thing every day to maintain organization. “One day I’ll change my sheets and blankets, the next I’ll fold and organize my clothes, and so on,” Madeline said. “Breaking it down makes it easier for me to concentrate and finish all of the cleaning.” And Reddit agrees—one user said that while a big, group effort clean (like with your roommates) is a great idea, they prefer to do one short task per day or every other day. Another Redditor mentioned Unfuck Your Habitat, a resource that helps people get clean and organized one step at a time. “It breaks it all down into small chunks,” they said.
Find a way to entertain yourself while you clean
A surefire way to make cleaning a little less painful? Find a way to make it more interesting. Several people shared their favorite ways to make tidying more fun—some said they drink wine or beer while they clean, others said they play music or podcasts, and some watch movies or TV shows while they work, but specifically ones they’ve seen several times, because they’re comforting but don’t require too much involvement while watching. “I make sure to have on some show I’ve seen a million times—like Friends or The Office—in the background so I can trick myself into feeling like I’m multitasking,” said Jess. Another respondent, Jane, said almost exactly the same thing—”Like a movie or show I have seen a million times and makes me happy. Sex and the City, Bridget Jones, Seinfeld or 30 Rock all work,” she said.
Use it to exercise… or when you’re procrastinating
One respondent, Kaitlin, said that her FitBit motivates her to clean more, since it gets her up and moving without having to get into exercise mode. “When I’m desperate for steps but don’t want to exercise, I do some tidying,” she said. It’s also a great way to force yourself to be productive somehow when you’re procrastinating another task. Another respondent, Kevin, said that—especially in college—he would force himself to clean whenever he found himself procrastinating. “It was like, alright, I’m not getting the thing I actually need to finish done, but at least I did something useful,” he said.
Spend time with cleaner people (or messier ones)
Quite a few people joked (but were actually kind of serious) about dating, marrying and in general spending time with people who are clean, because it inspires—and forces—them to be the same way as much as possible. “Marry a clean freak!” suggested Chris, while one Redditor simply said “I got married. I had no fucking choice.” On the flip side, some noted that their experiences living with even messier people than themselves helped them learn to be cleaner and more organized. Another Redditor said that living with an extremely messy person “prompted me to consciously change my habits and ways.”
Invite guests over to motivate you
Another way to force yourself into picking up? Have guests over regularly—the potential for others to see your mess will make you want to tidy up. Quite a few people agreed on this one as well. “Another real motivator is when I know someone is coming over and I don’t want my friends to realize how terrifyingly disgusting I am,” Sarah said. Another respondent, Lauren said that even her landlord seeing her apartment was enough to motivate her. “After my landlord had to fix a light over my bed and saw my pre-work morning mess, he said ‘Hmm… maybe try putting things away as you go?’ Embarrassing, but ultimately helpful,” she said.
Learn to be more of a minimalist
Another key to keeping your mess to a minimum is reducing the amount of stuff you have in the first place. Several Redditors and respondents agreed that it’s important to get rid of—and then not suddenly accumulate more—a lot of unnecessary things. “Invest in good closets and don’t buy too much stuff,” is some simple but smart advice from Chris. And one Redditor had this rule of thumb to share, noting that you should sell, donate, or throw away anything except the items you use and need: “If you haven’t used it in the past year—it’s out,” they said. “If it’s broken or missing a part, set a timeframe like one month; In one month if you have not made it useful then it goes.”
Trick yourself with timers and alarms
A few people agreed that giving yourself set times to clean—and setting alarms to force yourself into doing it—can be super helpful. “I have a bunch of alarms set up to remind me to pick up my clothes every other day,” said Harper. Another respondent, AK, shared a smart strategy using timers and their to-do list. “I make a very detailed to-do list like i’m trying to outsmart a sneaky kid who doesn’t want to do anything (‘put all the dirty socks in the hamper’, ‘put all books on a shelf’) and I set a timer so I only have to do it for 20 minutes and then I can take a break,” they said.
Now it’s your turn: Messy people of the world, how do you get inspired to keep your home tidy?