Just Tighten It Up a Little Here and There
July 21, 2016 6:42 AM   Subscribe

How have you gone about improving your slight sloppiness in almost all aspects of life?

Our home is not naturally tidied up- when I go home my clothes get thrown on the floor, my bag gets deposited randomly somewhere. Not a pigsty, but some effort required to clean(once a week?)

My shoes aren't always shined but they're generally new. I usually toss stuff in my bag (rolling my laptop cord with the velcro? Who does that?) and it looks like a disaster when I open. My

At work I get good reviews but I have a mentality that if it takes me 8 hours to do A+ work, but 1 hour to do solid B work (some mistakes), I'll do the hour work, and deal with the rework.

This has been all ok for me, but I do feel better/less stressed when I'm tidier, organized, and produce error free, hard slogged work.

Have you ever went from slight slob (in all aspects of your life) to someone more "crisp"? How'd you do it? What are your tips/steps?
posted by sandmanwv to Human Relations (13 answers total) 98 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am both a slob and a nitpicky order freak. I developed ways to sort of overlook some of the slob aspects to maintain my self-image and have lately been working on, as you say, tightening the whole thing up. A few things that were helpful

- some of my slobbishness is just laziness combined with anxiety. That is I would put off things and then be all "AAA I HAVE TO DO THIS" and rush (I feel you on the work thing) and so part of it was better time management. Thinking about how long it really took to do a thing and giving myself the time to do it right and find a way to be proud of doing A+ work. Some of that is just being in the right workplace and getting the right feedback, so if that is not your situation, think on whether that matters. Also maybe people don't care about A+ work, so be realistic about what is needed. Solid B work may be enough actually.
- Anxiety makes me sloppy. So I'd try to, as a dumb example, bring in all the bags from the car at once so I didn't have to make two trips but then would be awkward and clumsy in the interests of some misplaced idea of efficiency. Trying to notice when I am literally rushing for no reason and chilling out, making two trips (or equivalent) has been good for me.
- a place for things and enough things. I have a keys/wallet/glasses landing strip in my house. I have a cable bag for my laptop bag (these, they are the best) and I have multiple charging cables so I am not bringing one everywhere with me and losing it or not having it when I need it. An investment of just a little $$$ for more cables and some organizers (and discipline to use them) is helpful.

In short building in the time to live the life you want. I started meditating this year and besides just enjoying that practice it's also taught me that the day is full of little ten minuteses where I could be making a thing work better for Future Me, not just zoning out checking social media (or whatever your thing is) for Current Me.
posted by jessamyn at 7:45 AM on July 21, 2016 [45 favorites]

Read Home Comforts if you haven't already, Mendelson gets into the details of home keeping. I'm certain that you'd have a gorgeous, tidy home if you follow her advice.

Disclaimer: my home is not gorgeous or tidy, but it is improving daily and this book helps (the intro alone is wonderful motivation)
posted by Baethan at 7:47 AM on July 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

I am far from good at this, but I have found that developing rules (clothes I've worn always go in the hamper or get hung up, briefcase always goes on the chair next to the front door) helps a lot. It becomes a little bit of a game at first, but then gets ingrained. I find that for me identifying the official place for things to go helps a lot.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 7:57 AM on July 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

I won't claim to be fully un-sloppied but I am always working on this, too. Being a non-sloppy person is not a miraculous transformation but a series of habits. The best approach for me has been identifying specific and manageable habits I'd like to form, then pursuing these habits one at a time until they are muscle memory. It sounds silly to make a list of habits like "throw away junk mail every day" or "change the toilet paper roll" but I found that I would gloss over these bad habits unless I addressed them head-on. Just try forming one new positive habit a week and you will notice a difference!

For me, sloppiness is also combatted by mindfulness. If I immerse myself in the experience of cooking dinner, I will do it more neatly than if I'm trying to check social media or relive an awkward conversation while stirring the vegetables.

However, I don't think your work situation is necessarily a shortcoming. I often wish more of my colleagues would take an hour to do B work, discuss it, and then spend another hour pushing it in the right direction.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:49 AM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Unf*ck Your Habitat has some great tips both for tidying up and for general maintenance to prevent as much need for the tidying up part.

I agree with jessamyn: having a designated "place" for things is definitely the way to go as far as keeping things tidy in between proper cleanups. Take a few days and just make a note of where your clutter tends to pile up (random bag placement, laptop cable all wonky, etc.) and address those hot spots in particular.

Tired of searching everywhere for your bag? Maybe putting a hook on the wall or a little table or shelf would help solve this. Laptop cables all wonky? Get a bag to put it in when you're done so you can just stuff it in there, or if you really only use your laptop in a handful of places, see if you can buy up a couple spares and stash them around. Clothes don't make it to the hamper? Maybe you need another hamper for your bathroom/bedroom/wherever.

As far as personal organization/time management goes, starting a bullet journal has been nothing short of transformative for me in terms of keeping track of upcoming appointments, daily to-dos, lists of things I'm supposed to remember, etc. Rhodia Webnotebooks are my journal of choice because the paper in them is smooth like butter, but you can use whatever. Here's more information about the basic system and how to set it up.
posted by helloimjennsco at 9:10 AM on July 21, 2016 [3 favorites]

My philosophy is to look for ways to touch things only one time and to do the touch to completion.

For example, I have a specific spot my work bag goes and I hang it there as soon as I step in the door (as opposed to dropping it where ever and having to potentially move it again to find something under it). Clothing gets tossed into the hamper as the last arm movement of taking the clothing off. Mail gets opened and decided upon while it's on its trip between the mailbox and either the recycle bin or the 'bills to pay' folder. Laptop cords get wrapped with velcro as the last step of coiling the cord. In each of these acts, other than possibly talking to someone, I'm focusing on doing that one thing at that moment.

The work thing is fine (and advantageous) as long as you aren't spending the other 7 hours pretending to work on the thing you spent an hour on.
posted by jamaro at 9:22 AM on July 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

In my experience, messy home habits are a function of unrealistic spatial and storage arrangements.

You throw your clothes on the floor -- why? Where do you change? Is your laundry hamper in that place? Or are you throwing stuff on the floor that you mean to wear again but don't want to hang back up in the closet because it has been worn once? The stuff I change into when I get home is good for 2-3 wears. So when I go to bed and take it off, I just fold it up and put it on a shelf allocated for "current home clothes." That way I don't wind up with more than one set in rotation before they need washing. This won't work without an allocated spot, of course.

Anyway, as far as tips go, that is one area where I have improved hugely: when a mess seems like it happens more repeatedly in the home, I figure out the usage pattern that is causing it and implement a space solution. I'm a fanatic evangelist for customized closets - even a $200 Rubbermaid solution (as long as it is one that is designed for your own thought-out needs, not a generic package) makes a giant, tangible improvement in organization and quality of life. The difference between areas in my home that I have taken control of this way and those I haven't (i.e. my husband's stuff) are very striking.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:39 AM on July 21, 2016 [13 favorites]

It helps me to have a "reset" day once a week where I get as much of my shit as straight as possible so I don't have to do much thinking and worrying about it in the week ahead. That way my naturally sloppy ways never get too out of hand, and it's always just surface level slop.

By "getting my straight shit" I mean: doing all of my laundry all the way through folding it (including all linens), cleaning my house as much as I have energy for that week, emptying out my purse and neatening the contents, making myself a couple of meals for the week ahead (usually bone broth or chili, which simmers while I do the rest of the stuff), going through all of my bills and mail and either responding or paying or ignoring them until later, making sure the car is pretty tidy, maybe coming up with a couple of outfits to wear. I also do Self Care Lady Spa Time (tm) that evening in the fresh clean bathtub with the fresh clean towels. I actually really, really enjoy reset day, and feel pretty shitty if I can't do it that week. I just kind of do it at a relaxed pace and listen to podcasts the whole time.

It kind of makes it okay to toss my clothes on the floor or shove crap in my purse or whatever, because I know they'll go in the right place on reset day.

PS Sunday is obviously the best day for it.
posted by moons in june at 4:12 PM on July 21, 2016 [5 favorites]

Commit to spending 20 minutes a day tidying. Don't plan a specific activity, focus on setting aside the time. It will take care of itself.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:55 PM on July 21, 2016

One thing that helps me at least FEEL less slobby and more organized is having a brain book. It's a big, fat, three section notebook. Nothing fancy. Got mine at Walmart.

The first section has my Running Master List. This is my ongoing "to-do" list. Every time I think, "Oh, I need to..." it goes on the list. Current entries include: Find a genealogy program that's user-friendly and work on Mac and PC; Figure out Facebook Live; Look into the work-from-home jobs MeFi told me about it months ago.

The second section is daily running notes. (I've got two of these, actually, but one's for physical, medical, psychological stuff.) Yesterday's notes include: Emailed with ; Did live chat with disability law firm - follow-up appointment is Monday at 1530; Exercised 20 minutes.

The third section is for more in-depth notes. For example, I spent an hour on the phone with a business mentor a couple weeks ago. Two pages of notes on that call. Another hour on the phone with my personal trainer. Got a page of notes there.

The other big thing that helps me is creating a 6 Most Important Things List. James Clear does an outstanding job explaining its origins. Every night before bed, I'll make my list. When I'm in good form, I do two lists: one for work, one for personal. I make sure to look over my Running Master List as I make my daily lists, to ensure things aren't being overlooked.

I have my 6 Most Important Things List on a Post-It in the middle of my desk. When the day is done, it goes into the notebook with the day's notes. I take this extra step because my memory is horrendous, and I want to make sure I can look back in the future to see what I've done.

posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 5:05 PM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

The three practices that have made the most difference in my life:
1) If a task will take less than 5 minutes, just do it now. I timed myself and found most of those tasks that I put off because they're so onerous, like scooping the litterbox or loading the dishwasher, take far less time than I tell myself they take. So rather than procrastinating and whining to myself about how the litterbox stinks or the sink is full, I just fix it.

2) Don't step over anything. If something is on the floor, pick it up rather than stepping over it. This helps us keep the house from being overrun with random shoes, dirty laundry, and toys.

3) When you leave a room, pick up something that doesn't belong there and put it away or in the garbage. There is always something that belongs somewhere else. This can be combined with #2.
posted by belladonna at 5:20 PM on July 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

When you leave a room, pick up something that doesn't belong there and put it away or in the garbage.

This helps me very much. I had a friend of a friend (maybe apocryphal story) who had velcro strips on his walls and a lot of velcroed tools and stuff he used in his art. As he'd move through the house he's take a thing from where it was and stick it along the wall closer to its eventual destination. I always liked the idea, even if it's a metaphor, so I think about just getting everything a little closer to where it needs to be, not getting hung up on whether I've put it AWAY or not.

Like with the mail, for example. I am usually good with it but some days I can't even. So I'll just open it and leave it there. Makes it slightly easier for Future Jessamyn to engage with it and opening a ton of envelopes is a pretty low stakes thing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 AM on July 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

I had my first organizing epiphany while reading The Happiness Project which introduced me to the concept of uncluttering. Slowly at first, I started reducing the amount of stuff I owned.

Owning a lot of stuff creates a kind of mental noise for me.

This year, I stumbled upon Marie Kondo's book and it was a true game changer. The less I own, the less mental noise. I magically started catching up with things, cleaning more, tying lots of loose ends.

It all started with reading a book.
posted by M. at 11:54 AM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]

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