I am literally going to clean all the things.
May 10, 2013 1:26 PM   Subscribe

I would like to do a massive clean/organization of my apartment over the next few weeks. Help me figure out a game plan.

tl;dr version: Help me figure out a game plan for both organizing and cleaning my two-bedroom apartment over a period of 2-3 days.

I've been in my apartment for a year, but I've been traveling for about half of that, plus organization and home decor are not my strong suits, so about half my stuff is either still in boxes or is just shoved haphazardly into drawers or closets. I'd like to take a day this weekend and then most of Memorial Day weekend (in two weeks) to really get my apartment in order. I'd also like to do a deep-clean. I know what I want to do, but it's all a bit overwhelming and I'd love some help formulating a game plan.

What I'm starting with: I have an apartment with a lot of space but not much storage. I have two main rooms (a kitchen and a living room) which are both large but somewhat awkwardly long and narrow. I also have two bedrooms, one of which should be a spare room, but is where the boxes live. The only closets are in the bedrooms, though the kitchen has a lot of cupboards and drawers.

Kitchen: Somehow, though this room has the most storage, it also seems to have the most clutter, so much so that I often find myself not wanting to cook there, which is a problem. I would love some tips for how to manage all the stuff (pantry items, dishes, cookware, junk drawer stuff) so that it's organized and easy to find/put away.

Bedroom: I still don't have a dresser, mainly because I've never been able to successfully keep my clothes in a dresser, so it seems like a bit of a waste of money. But that means that right now, most of my clothes live in hampers, on the floor or (rarely!) on hangers. Does anyone have non-dresser ideas for storing clothes?

Spare room: Boxlandia. I would love to be able to pare down what I have in my boxes so that it all fits in the closet, leaving the rest of the room available to be a proper guest room (I've also thought of eventually turning it into a TV room/den so that my living room is a TV-free space).

The living room is actually OK - mainly just need to properly clean the floors and the upholstered furniture and straighten up some of the dog stuff I have lying around. Eventually, I'd like to turn one end into an office/work area, but that's the next step. One thing I would like to do is set up a better way of distinguishing the entrance from the outside - it opens right into my living room, which means 1. stuff gets thrown just anywhere in the room when I get home and 2. dirt gets tracked in really easily by me and my dog.

Beyond the organization stuff, I haven't done a deep-clean in 6 months. I sweep the floors and wipe down all the surfaces every week or two and vacuum once a month or so - what are a few things that I could do in, say, 3-4 hours to make my place feel really, really clean? (Baring in mind I have a mix of hardwood, carpeted, tile and linoleum floors).

One limitation: I'd like to avoid buying too much additional furniture unless I know I need it, because I'm on a somewhat tight budget right now and I want to avoid additional clutter. So I'd like to make the best use of what I have now before I start buying more shelves or other storage furniture. What I have now is a lot of cupboard space in the kitchen and bathroom, several small end tables with drawers, a small drawer set I use as a TV stand and several tubs/hampers.

Oh, and bonus question: I have a 5-month old puppy who follows me everywhere I go and is curious about everything I touch. He also protests mightily if I leave him in his kennel while I'm home (he's fine if I do so when I'm out). Any ideas about what to do with him during all of this? Thinking about sending him to doggie day care for at least one of the days.

Note: I know about Unfuck Your Habitat and will be using it a lot for inspiration/ideas.
posted by lunasol to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 68 users marked this as a favorite
The more stuff you give away first, the less you have to find places for and clean.

If your kitchen has the most clutter, concentrate on it especially. If you have appliances or utensils or anything else that have only one function, pile them all into a great big box and take it to goodwill.

If you last moved a year ago, you probably have boxes you haven't yet opened and unpacked. If so, they contain the things you don't need.

Whatever you do, don't START by adding things (furniture)! Subtract things first.
posted by fritley at 1:40 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

The secret to effective cleaning and organization is getting rid of a lot of things. Seriously. (If you have the option to do a yard sale, by all means, do that -- if not, give to charity/friends/throw away. The point is to have less stuff to find space for.) The less stuff you have, the better you can fit it all in and make it accessible. It's better to have a smaller number of things you use and love (and can find!).

To cut down on the clutter in the living room, create a proper landing strip (I hate the term, but there you go) so your keys/purse/coats/dog leash/etc. have a place to go when you get home. Add a rug/doormat to cut down on dirt.

If you're willing to, you can really cut down on floor cleaning time if you institute a "no shoes in the house" policy and designate an area for shoes.

Organizing closets and cabinets is easiest when you take everything out first. Bonus: Removing things from a cabinet/closet will make it easier to see the clutter for what it is.

Storing clothing: Can you use your closet for this? Shirts and pants on hangers, hanging shelves for sweaters/whatever.

I also find the TV show Clean House very inspiring, especially when it comes to letting go of clutter -- there are a couple of seasons available on Netflix.
posted by pie ninja at 1:40 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Non-dresser storage that work for me: clothes that can be are hung, including underwear and socks in a hangable cubby (a hangable shelves kind of thing that I think was meant for shoes). Unhangable clothes are stored on metro shelves that were assembled in the closet (I have one closet that allows hangables, i.e. two hanging rods, at full-height and half-height and one closet with the Metro shelves in it.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 1:41 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh and I agree with you and encourage you to try it: a living room that's TV-free is so much nicer, especially when you have friends over.
posted by fritley at 1:42 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

This weekend - get rid of crap. Goodwill or toss or whatever. Get crap gone.

Memorial Day weekend - clean and get rid of even more crap.

You can't get a clean house in a mass of clutter you no longer want or need. Purge baby, Purge.
posted by 26.2 at 1:43 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Flylady. Seriously, despite the twee-ness and Southern Church Lady tone of the site, the cleaning strategies are really effective.
posted by essexjan at 1:45 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wait. Did I somehow write this question from another account? Because I was seriously going to ask how I can clean up my place this weekend. Some thoughts:
- If it's been a year and there's stuff that you haven't unpacked yet, maybe you don't need it at all and can get rid of it.
- Baby steps. You don't need to go through all of the boxes at once. One box, one drawer, one cluttered corner at a time.
- I like to put all of the things that I want to keep in one place first, like a shopping bag, and then get a feel for what size storage container I might need, whether I want a clear one, where it will go eventually, etc. And again, if you're just going to store it somewhere, maybe you don't need it.
- There are a few places in our apartment where I just keep those wipes with the cleaning solution just out on a counter, specifically the bathroom and kitchen. If the top of the stove looks a little grimy, I can just pull one out, spend a few minutes on it and move on. It's a lot easier to do that occasionally than do A Big Clean regularly.
- Kitchen: I have this pot rack and I like it. This is good for inspiration, as is Pinterest. That said, think less in terms of being cute and creative and more about, do I really need this? Less stuff around, less to clean. I'm not advocating a monastic existence but it's totally true.
- Entrance: You need a landing strip.
- Clothing storage: I prefer to hang stuff because I hate wrinkles. This thing can't fit all of my clothes (I'm tempted to get another one) but it's not bad and the price is reasonable.
- Take breaks. Celebrate small victories. Just not by buying more stuff :-) Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 1:46 PM on May 10, 2013

I came here to post Flylday. So, I am seconding it. It really works. If you find you get stuck with parting with stuff, I HIGHLY rec Clearing Clutter with Feng Shui. Even if Feng Shui sounds out there to you, just the idea of releasing stuff is very powerful. Get the book from the library you will see what I mean. Or, l am sure there are a lot of great reviews for it on amazon.
posted by TRUELOTUS at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you have a LOT of closet space, buy hangers (super cheap) and hang EVERYTHING!

You can do baskets or milk crates or plastic tubs for things like undies, nighties and socks. This is another alternative. You can fold your sweaters/tshirts and store them in stacks in this. Here's another option.

The narrower hanging bag is for shoes, purses, etc, but no law says you can't put underpants in it.

If space is at a premium, use under bed shoe storage, put shoes in it, slide it out to select, slide back under the bed. Keeps dust bunnies out of your shoes and leaves your closets for clothing.

You can also roll sweaters up and stack them like towels at the pool.

For the kitchen, get all the crap off the counters. Start fresh. Rearrange your cabinets and drawers so it makes sense for you. THEN bring back the crap and find a place for it. Get rid of any "single taskers" a rice cooker is an awesome appliance, but you can cook rice on the stove.

Do you need 4 sets of dishes? Purge.

Once the kitchen is decluttered, you can clean it.

Lots of great ideas here.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:50 PM on May 10, 2013

In the kitchen, have a goal of "clear counter space here" in at least one part of your counter. Think about what MUST be stored on your countertop, and toss or store everything else so that it doesn't creep back into view. A cluttered countertop makes kitchens more claustrophobic.
posted by samthemander at 1:54 PM on May 10, 2013

The key to being tidy and organized is "everything has a place, and everything in it's place." It sounds silly, but when I clean up I am asking "where does this go?" And then I put it there.

So in the kitchen: one cabinet for pots and pans. One cabinet/drawer for baking sheets and muffin trays and pie pans. One drawer for stovetop utensils, one for cutlery, one for other miscellany. One for ziplocs and aluminum and saran wrap. One for tupperware (and maybe a smaller one for tupperware lids). One cabinet for spices and oils, one for mugs and glasses, etc. Just start assigning and organizing…you can switch them up later. And then stick to it.

You need a place for board games (a shelf), a place for sporting goods (nice bins or baskets in a closet, or a drawer in a dresser, or hooks on a wall), a place for extra blankets and linens and sheets. A place for paperwork (I have a filing cabinet, put it could be a portable file box that you stick in a closet). A place for electronics and cords - shoeboxes or bins in a closet works. A jar for spare change, a place you keep extra keys and pocket knives and bottle openers, a place for pens and sticky notes. Etc. Etc. Etc.

- Go buy a LOT of hangars and hang up everything except undies, socks, and knits.
- Undies, socks and knits (and maybe jeans and tshirts? this is really a preference thing and depends whether you have more hanging space or drawer space) go in nice looking baskets on shelves in the closet, or in a dresser : )

Assign things-that-are-alike to a particular place, then put them there!

As for the entryway - get a little table with an underneath shelf. Then underneath put a basket for umbrella, dog leash, plastic doggie poop bags, etc. On the top put a little tray for your keys, wallet, etc. Maybe have a coat rack nearby.

Have a mat inside that you can wipe your shoes on to avoid tracking in dirt.

Get a bookshelf if you don't have one - not just for books, you can also put miscellany in baskets and store them on the shelves.

It's ok to have some "junk" or miscellaneous" drawers and baskets, but try to minimize this by grouping things together.
posted by amaire at 1:57 PM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In terms of a game plan, go through drawers/closets/boxes (one room at a time, probably) and sort through stuff. As you go, here are the categories:
- pile/box/bag for trash
- pile/box/bag for donate
- lots of little piles for "things that go together" (see the examples I just gave in my first answer)

Then you start clearing out the place that you've assigned for each category of "things that go together" (for each little pile), and put it away in that space.

Probably some trips to a store needed along the way to pick up bins and hangars and things.

As you go, wipe dust off of flat surfaces before putting new things on them.
posted by amaire at 2:07 PM on May 10, 2013

Previously from me. It really made a difference.

Don't even worry about "organizing" and cleaning yet; just get rid of things. I would suggest using this weekend and all but Monday of Memorial Day weekend to get rid of things only.

On Sunday, from late afternoon through evening, clean. If you get rid of a lot of stuff, it won't be a big deal. Then on Monday, do "detailing." Treat yourself to candles, nice smelling Method cleaners, a pretty bowl for your keys, and the like.

In 3 or 4 hours, you can throw away obvious trash, start the washer and dishwasher if you have them, clean the bathroom (small space and quick results, plus no furniture moving), and make a list of goals for each room.

Also, I'm sending you a me-mail. I have long experience with this sort of thing.
posted by jgirl at 2:33 PM on May 10, 2013

I recently did a pretty major re-org of my entire apartment, and my process worked like this:

I started in one corner of one room and worked my way outwards from there. Everything that belonged in a yet-to-be-cleaned room/space got added to a semi-sorted basket or pile of things and those things were periodically taken and dumped into the rooms they belonged in. Anything that belonged in a previously cleaned space had roughly the same thing done with them, but instead of dumping them, I would periodically take them back and put them away immediately. That way everything behind me was always tidied and I wasn't wasting time putting away things in spaces that I hadn't yet given much thought to the organization of.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:36 PM on May 10, 2013

You need to embrace your weaknesses and make allowances for them. Forget about doing things in a correct or logical way, if those ways haven't worked for you in the past.

2 approaches: One task at a time; one room at a time. I prefer the former for deleting things, and the latter for organizing or cleaning. Don "The Clean Team" Aslett suggests starting at one point in a room and just moving to the left or right, tidying and deleting. Have different containers for trash, donations, and things that need to be moved to another room.

I bought a rolling clothes rack (here's a random example) and plenty of hangers. It's okay for t-shirts to go on hangers! If you have sweaters that might droop out of shape, you can fold them in half and drape them over the horizontal bar on a hanger. I'm not good at folding clothes and putting them on shelves or in drawers. I had to stop pretending that I was going to change in that regard. Underwear, socks, and other things that don't need folding can be tossed into drawers or other containers -- just sort it enough to be convenient for you. By the way, the clothes rack doesn't have to be in your bedroom if you have space elsewhere.

In the kitchen, you really do need a place for everything. Hanging the pots and pans really helped me because pots are hard to organize neatly, and low cabinets are hard to root around in. I agree with others that it's super important to get rid of stuff you don't use.

To make the place seem really clean -- if you have bare floors, sweep or vacuum and then mop with a damp mop or cloth. You can just pull a cloth around the floor with a broom or sponge mop. If you have carpet, move the furniture and vacuum under it. My place looks extra clean when surfaces are clear, and when items on surfaces are very neatly placed. In the kitchen, look for hard-to-see dirt, often found on cabinet doors and drawer fronts. You'll notice the spotlessness once they're clean. Doors throughout the apartment probably have a little hand grime near doorknobs and wherever you put your hand to push them closed. Light switches, too.
posted by wryly at 2:36 PM on May 10, 2013

Unless it is your birth certificate or similar, anything still in a box after a year should go. I would open up the box, take a quick peak to make sure it isn't something actually important and then start a "to go" pile that involves stacking up most of the boxes.

Make three piles: 1) Trash 2) Donate/sell (preferably donate just because it is a sure thing and faster) and 3) keep. If you do this right, what's left at the end will be far more manageable.

For kitchen: Pots and pans should be stored in easy reach of the stove and oven, dishwear should be stored in easy reach of both dishwasher (or sink if there is no dishwasher) and dining room...etc. In other words, convenient to point of use. Frequently used items should be stored just below the countertop or just above it. The highest and lowest shelves get used for the least frequently used items.

Once you master this for the kitchen, it will be easy to apply the principle elsewhere.

And unless you actually use it, ditch the yogurt maker your sister gave you with photocopied instructions because the original can't be found that was passed on to her from a friend who got it as a gift and neither of them ever actually used it to begin with. If you don't use it and they didn't use it, this is a White Elephant. Admit it and move on.
posted by Michele in California at 2:44 PM on May 10, 2013

Kitchen: get rid of stuff you don't use. Do you have pans that you rarely or never use? Get rid of those. The same goes with any appliances, gadgets, cookbooks, utensils, dishes, etc. If you live alone and don't entertain, you don't need 20 coffee cups or plates. Do you have too much Tupperware? Too many beer koozies, plastic tumblers, etc? Be ruthless and get rid of that kind of stuff. Place things where you use them. In the cabinet next to the stove is where your spices should go. In the cabinet next to the fridge is where your glasses should go. Wipe out your cabinets. I put my spices on a thing like this inside the cabinet. Get rid of any old spices, expired food, decorations you no longer use, etc. Don't save too many things thinking you will use them. Things clutter. I know this sounds environmentally unfriendly, but if your personality is such that you have a hard time keeping your place clean, don't save the two or three leftover paper plates from the birthday party, or the grocery bags, or the pretty bows or tissue paper that are too pretty to throw away.

Linoleum: If the dirt is built up use ammonia. Scrub on your hands and knees if you have to. Don't forget the corners. I also like Greased Lightning All Purpose Cleaner. You can buy it at Home Depot. I also like cleaners that have a nice scent. They make cleaning almost enjoyable. Myer's Clean Day All-Purpose Cleaner (I love the Geranium scent) and the new Clorox Fraganzia.

Bedroom: I would advise to buy a dresser. Practice putting away your things. If you absolutely do not want a dresser, hang everything up that can be hung and install things like these for folded t-shirts, underwear, sweaters, etc. . I put my folded jeans on a shelf in the closet.

Garbage cans are VERY important for clutter-prone ADD-types. Make sure you have a big enough, good quality garbage can in your kitchen. Line it with the 30-gallon black garbage bags. Put a garbage can with a white liner in your bedroom and spare room. I find that garbage bags in bedrooms cut down on the clutter and paper trash that tends to accumulate: old magazines, clothing tags, kleenex, newspaper, etc. I know you are supposed to recycle magazines and newspapers but don't even think about recycling right now. Just throw them away. When you build new habits, then you can recycle. Don't get anything too tiny for the bathroom. Buy a substantial bathroom trash can that can hold empty shampoo and mouthwash bottles. Line that one, too. On trash day, gather up all of your garbage bags and put in new liners.

Doormats. One outside the door, one just inside.

How to make your place look really clean? Get rid of clutter. Vacuum, scrub, wash windows inside and out. If you have blinds, dust them. If you have curtains, wash them. Wash baseboards. Dust ceiling fans if you have them. Dust lampshades. Use furniture polish on your wood. Windex glass and mirrors. Use comet and bleach in the bathrooms. Hang up fresh white towels in the bathroom. Use Murphy's oil soap on your hardwood. If you have throws on your couch, wash them. Wash your sheets. Make your bed. If your bed pillows are old and worn, replace them. Wash the fronts of your cabinets -- windex works well. If they're really grimy fill a sink with hot water, a capful of ammonia and some Dawn dish soap. Wash with this solution and then spray with Windex and wipe with paper towels.
posted by Fairchild at 2:44 PM on May 10, 2013 [9 favorites]

Seconding everything MoonOrb said. Think in terms of "retrieval" not "storage."

I really recommend getting a pack of bankers boxes for sorting, the soothing white ones. (That might sound silly now, but just wait ...).

Boxes stay open (unlike trash bags grocery bags) and can be closed up at the end of a session.
posted by jgirl at 2:45 PM on May 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: This is so incredibly helpful. Resolved: this weekend is purge-a-palooza, starting with the kitchen.
posted by lunasol at 3:07 PM on May 10, 2013

Well, I was going to suggest piling everything in spare room and cleaning the rest of the apartment this weekend, on the theory that a sparkling-clean home might be inspiration to weed out all but the essentials of what you own, but I'm not going to deter anyone from a good purge!

I have an additional pile/bin to suggest beyond the trash/donate/keep -- sentimental. There are things that I just struggle to part with and as I don't aspire to ruthless minimalism, I don't see anything wrong with keeping them as long as there's a place for them (even if it ends up being a box at the back of the closet until I find I'm not attached to them any longer). So that's where the "ehhhhhhhh, I don't want to get rid of this" stuff goes, reserving the "keep" pile entirely for things I genuinely need and really like.

The key is, nothing comes out of the "sentimental" pile until the other piles are dealt with, and everything in it is then subjected to the same sorting process. I am surprised every time I do this -- many things that I felt attached to become something I can give away happily once I'm clear about what I already have and what I have space for.

A question that has worked for me in the past when confronted with something I've struggled to decide about keeping: Do I want to move this again? (I hate packing and unpacking, so this highly persuasive to me. Another I've heard: "Do I want to clean this?")

Would a babygate work to keep the puppy out of the room you're working in? He might not love not being able to be right next to you, but being able to see you seems like it would cause less anxiety than kenneling him. Play and walk breaks with him might also help you not burn out on your tasks.
posted by EvaDestruction at 3:48 PM on May 10, 2013

You'll definitely want to take puppy walk & play dates.

It sounds like you might need some furniture for the spare room, but you can totally hold off until you know what you need. Personally, I like old dressers as additional storage for stuff, I either inherit them or buy them used.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 6:11 PM on May 14, 2013

« Older International postage stamps from a domestic...   |   Is a California LLC the right way to go for a film... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.