Making over Oscar the Grouch
July 16, 2018 3:45 PM   Subscribe

If you were a formerly messy person who is now decent at keeping things organized, how did you do it?

I'm messy. There's just no way around that, and if past actions are an indicator of future behavior then I'll be messy for the rest of my life. But I don't want to be. I have apartment therapy dreams and when I do manage to get things a bit more organized (usually through hiring a service) I feel so much happier. But a gradual decline into mess inevitably happens. It doesn't help that I live in an older building that naturally has more worn areas/dust/grime.

I don't know how to be one of those people who are just naturally organized and have beautiful apartments (I would love to feel proud of my place!), it seems like such a herculean task to me. And even now, with a recently cleaned place, i'm trying to implement little habits to maintain it...but it's stressful because it feels like piling on an endless list of little things I have to remember to do all the time, when I already feel stressed by the state of the world. I know maintenance is important and necessary, but it feels daunting. Do I just need to get into the habit of it? Or do I need a complete mental overhaul?

I'm not anywhere near hoarder level, but I'm not fond of having people over because I feel so disorganized. I've tried konmari, to limited success. If you've been there, what is the thing that helped you over this messy, garbage pile hump? If you've found peace with your daily surroundings, what finally helped you do it?

Frustrated at Seeming Inability to Adult
posted by sprezzy to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
The single biggest piece of advice I can give you is to find a home for stuff. "A place for everything and everything in its place." When everything has a place in your home, then straightening up becomes easy. The way to get to this point is to de-clutter until you have a specific home for everything you want to keep.

Start with one room. The Kitchen is an easy one. Keep what you need; donate what you don't have room for and don't need. Figure out where everything in the kitchen should live. Put everything away. Now you have empty surfaces that are easy to clean. When things are out of place in the kitchen, you know where they belong - put them back.

It doesn't take long to clean up a room once you've decluttered it. One mental trick for me is knowing how much I like it when the room is cleaned up. This encourages me to put away objects when I see them out of place. No one else is going to put it away, so I might as well do it sooner rather than later, so I can enjoy the cleaned up room.

It's a work in progress. I've successfully gotten to this point (mostly) with my kitchen, TV room, and front room. I need to put the time into clearing out my office, guest room, and bedroom.

One other important rule - if something new comes into the house, then something needs to be removed to make room for it. This helps keep clutter down.
posted by hydra77 at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2018 [11 favorites]

One thing that helped me was buying a roomba, which reduces the general level of dust in the house, and it adds some slight psychological pressure to keep stuff off the floor. Eventually I just kind of fell into the habit of putting things away instead of leaving them lying around.
posted by cirgue at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2018

Make a schedule and stick to it. Here's mine, if you need inspiration:

Monday: Kitchen. Spray and wipe down counters, purge anything nasty from the fridge, do your grocery shopping, clean the burners of the stove.

Tuesday: Bathroom. Scrub sink, tub, toilet. Windex mirror. Do a load of laundry and make sure you wash towels and bathmat.

Wednesday: Vacuum the ground floor of the house. You have to dust what needs dusting and pick shit up off the floor when you do this. Every other week, mop the kitchen floor.

Thursday: Vacuum the second floor of the house. Ditto dusting, picking stuff up.

Friday: Water plants. Every other week, vacuum the attic, too.

Saturday/Sunday: More laundry, yard stuff.
posted by coppermoss at 4:15 PM on July 16, 2018 [9 favorites]

Messy person here. Im not 100% rehabilitated but I have a presentable apartment now, or one that can get there with some quick picking up.

What I did:
Thought about what I needed. For each category think about where you can store stuff sensibly. The easiest place to start is either the bathroom or kitchen. These provide obvious categories. Start getting rid of stuff.

How to get rid of stuff? I liked the Kondo method for clothes and media. Also her folding tips help you see what you have.

Now you have more space. Again, easiest places to maintain are kitchen and bathroom. Put stuff away. Keep cleaning supplies in those rooms. Clean a little bit, don't be a perfectionist. Wipe the mirror with Windex one morning. Next morning clean toilet.

Think about why you're messy and what your messes are about. Are you not doing your laundry? What would help you do it? Is it because you dont have a place to put stuff away? Then declutter. Is it because laundry is heavy and boring? Smaller more frequent loads, or a service.

Anyway, feel free to me mail me. I fucking love this stuff.
posted by charlielxxv at 4:18 PM on July 16, 2018

Lifelong messy here, still struggling. There was one period of time in my life where I was organized and tidy, however. I had just separated from my second husband. I moved out and got my own apartment. I didn't take very much stuff with me from the house, just the bare necessities I needed to set up housekeeping as a single person.

The biggest factors were not having very much household stuff; only having to clean up after one person (me) and no animals; and not having money to spend bringing in excess groceries, craft supplies, books, etc. And also I guess it would include the fact that I only lived there for a couple of months and so "stuff" did not have time to accumulate, for example tons of partially used cleaning products, toiletries, junk, years of paper filing, etc.

It was just so easy to be tidy and organized. I'd make up a pot of something (spaghetti, chili, etc) and eat it all week, so no nightly kitchen cleanup. Between dinner and breakfast I'd have two bowls, 2 spoons, a glass and a coffee cup to wash up daily. Easy peasy.

No knicknacks or bric-a-brac to dust, so it took just a few minutes to dust and vacuum once a week.

I had two towels, 1 bottle each of shampoo and conditioner, a bar of soap. Toothbrush, toothpaste, neosporin, bandaids. Bottle of spray cleaner. Cleaning the bathroom was a breeze. Every Saturday morning I'd spray all the surfaces down with cleaner, wipe it up with the used towels, throw them in the laundry basket with my one set of sheets and my work clothes, and head for the laundromat. Take me about an hour to wash, fold and put away.

I just fell into this little organized routine so easily and painlessly! I would love to recreate similar conditions in my current life and have things under control, but there is too much I'm not willing to give up (spouse, books, cat.) I am gradually decluttering and hopefully will at least see some improvement in the mess and disorganization eventually.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:55 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I'm still pretty messy, but I just got a compliment at work for how clean my desk is, so I'll tell you about that. The two keys are to find a place for existing things, and to limit intake of new things. Put everything you have on a shelf or in a drawer (this is a good time to get rid of things you no longer use, but it's not necessary). The advantage of drawers and closets is that you can hide your messiness. When I got that compliment, I actually had a weeks-old Tupperware in a drawer, but since it's out of sight, it doesn't scream "mess". The other thing is to limit the new things you bring in. It's really easy to accumulate stuff (magazines, post-it notes, decorative knickknacks, etc. for a desk), but most of it is really useless. Most of the things you need, you'll have when you buy your shelves and drawers. Don't bring anything else in, and if someone tries to give you something new, politely decline. If you do bring something new in, make sure it's intentional. And finally, of course, make sure you put things back on your shelves and in your drawers when you've finished using them. Don't just let them sit out.
posted by kevinbelt at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2018

1) Everything has a place. Even if that place is a random desk drawer. I'd rather have the mess in drawers than on my floor.

2) Tidy as you go. Do breakfast dishes after breakfast. Do lunch dishes after lunch. Get toothpaste on the mirror? Wipe it off. My problem was always letting things pile up and then looking around at hours of work to unfuck it. But those hours spread out over a week? Not bad at all.

I'm still messy. I'll never not be messy. (Look in those desk drawers. Actually, don't.)
posted by Automocar at 5:12 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Full hands in, full hands out. When you're leaving a room, pick up something that's out of place and take it where it belongs. When you're going to a room, pick up something that the new room needs and bring it in with you. Basically, don't ever enter or leave a room empty-handed.

It really helps keep things tidy, and it also helps a lot with keeping rooms stocked with their necessities (like toilet paper, etc).

Another corollary is that you should keep things where you actually use them, or else you're just going to waste a ton of time moving them back and forth. Keep bathroom cleaning supplies in the bathroom, keep laundry detergent by the dirty laundry/washer, etc.

For more abstract organizational stuff, I find that keeping a calendar works on the micro level and keeping a life priority list (with priorities like "friends" or "family" or "education" -- I'm talking the big stuff) works on a macro level. The priority list is important because it keeps your calendar relevant and pared-down ;)
posted by rue72 at 5:19 PM on July 16, 2018

You might find FlyLady useful - the style is irritating to some, but it's aimed directly at someone like you, who wants to develop habits that keep a house clean.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:36 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

UFYH is like Flylady but with less religion and more cursing. I've found their checklists helpful as far as getting a baseline idea of how often I need to complete different cleaning tasks. There's a lot more to the site and there's also a supportive FB group.
posted by bunderful at 7:22 PM on July 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

Five minutes of work every day is easier and gets more done than 35 minutes every week, and way more than two and a half hours once a month.

Semi-related: one minute of cleaning now beats five minutes later, because the one minute actually gets done.
posted by Etrigan at 7:56 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I got rid of a TON of stuff. I was pretty ruthless about it. If I hadn’t used it within the last year, it got tossed or donated—except for a few genuinely irreplaceable sentimental items, enough to fill a small moving box. Once my then-apartment contained only the things I actually actively used, it made cleaning a lot easier and faster.

When I moved into my house, I had room for more stuff, and admittedly I still have stuff in moving boxes that I never bothered to unpack (9 years later) and some other stuff I need to get rid of. But overall, the one-year rule is still in effect, and I try to go through my closets at least once per year and do a purge.

For cleaning, I have a whiteboard on my fridge and I write down a few quick tasks that I want to do when I get home from work that day. It’s usually about a half hour worth of stuff. I clean for a few hours on the weekend.

I also have a couple of those canvas cubes that you put in bookcases, which store my junk neatly in a decorative way. They’re good for the random clutter that you often need to use but which doesn’t store neatly. Spare batteries, my spare adapter for my work laptop, business envelopes, that sort of thing.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:22 PM on July 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to be much messier because, to be frank, I found cleaning BORING and I just didn't want to do it, so I didn't. Now I only let myself listen to certain podcasts that I love WHILE I clean. So now my apt is clean, because I take an hour twice a week to listen to, say, Pod Save America or the new My Favorite Murder.

Bribe yourself.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:21 PM on July 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was doing okay, but then had health issues, and now I have piles of stuff with no designated place. When I have energy, it's much easier. My family member is a lifelong messy person. She is always coming up with a new organizational scheme. She'll reorganize the bathroom closet, it will be full of cute storage things, very pinterest-y, but then there will be a box of leftover stuff stashed randomly in another room, and it will get dumped because there's useful stuff in it, so now the dining room has a pile of makeup, lotion, perfume, etc. on a chair. So, be practical over being cute.

For many things, do it now. I try to look at mail when I bring it in, and get rid of junk mail right away, literally sorting mail standing next to the recycling bin. Get a handle on how long stuff takes. I hate to empty the dishwasher, but I read Rob at Cockeyed's article about the dishwasher really only taking 3 mins, 15 sec to de-load, and now it's easier to just do it while the coffee brews or the pasta water boils.

Develop simple systems and habits. I have a reminder on my calendar to take the trash out, which is what I did this evening while the pasta water was getting hot. I hate taking out the trash, but it's even worse to try to remember in the morning because they get here early, and it's even worse to miss trash collection and have an overflowing recycling bin. I finally got in the habit of putting the toilet roll on the holder. I keep the shower clean by putting conditioner in my hair, and scrubbing the tub while the conditioner does wonderful things and also the crud has been softened. My hair and the tub then get rinsed. I don't have to think about it, I just do it on the weekend when I wash my hair.

Ziplock bags are a fantastic organizational tool, allowing you to throw stuff in a drawer, and still be able to pull out that spare USB cable because it was in a ziplock bag with some other phone stuff.
posted by theora55 at 9:39 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

I used to be much messier than I am, as did some people I know. Some things that might help you, some of which are re-phrasing of other posters:

1) Have more storage than you have stuff. Others have already covered the "have less stuff" end. What do you use every day? Every week? Every month? Where do you keep those things? How does that look? How do you feel about it? Sometimes people have massive "clean" and "dirty" clothes piles on the floor because they have almost no clothes storage, and the piles won't go away until laundry baskets and a more practical dresser or shelving unit are acquired.

2) Use space thoughtfully. A three-foot-wide, six-foot-high bookshelf holds about three times as much stuff as a three-foot-wide, two-foot-high bookshelf, and both versions use up the same amount of floor space. If you're having difficulty remembering where anything is when it's all been reorganized (or when you're changing your mind about where to keep what), consider labeling all the drawers/cabinets with painter's tape or light, solid washi tape.

3) Prioritize sensory input. I don't know what smells, looks, or feels pleasant to you, but finding surface cleaners, vacuums, sheets, and so on that you're happy to use might make cleaning, vacuuming, and changing the sheets feel more effective. It's okay to unscrew the tops of spray cleaners and things like that in the store to sniff them, so you have a better sense of whether you'll like the scent once it's all over your home. Going from "dingy old blanket" to "dingy old blanket that got laundered yesterday" might seem like less of an achievement than keeping soft, cozy bedding feeling fresh and clean.
posted by bagel at 10:34 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

My husband and I used to be very messy. To the point where college friends would remark we would have the messiest house ever (mean, I think). The final piece that helped me was hiring a cleaning company. It is less expensive than you might think, and has helped us tremendously. I always feel the need to declutter before they come, and that helps tremendously. I know there are lots of other strategies for organizing your things and decluttering, but I'm the kind of person that needs a real deadline. Also, we have dinner parties frequently--additional deadlines.
posted by fyrebelley at 10:41 PM on July 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

1. I embraced the fact that I needed to keep my place clean or my life reflected the messiness. It's like an alcoholic recognizing that, while others can handle drinking, they can't and that's just that.

2. Get rid of as much stuff as you can. It's harder to have a messy closet when you have ten shirts than when you have 50. So important this point. SCALE BACK. If you have to, add to a maybe pile that you box up and stash with a date in a few months. If you come back to it on that date and you didn't miss anything in there, chuck it all.

3. Make lists of chores to do. Crossing them off is satisfying as fuck and keeps you on task.

4. When I don't want to clean I tell myself to do one of two things. Sometimes I tell myself I need to pick up ten items and take them to the spot where they belong (that's when I am seriously unmotivated). Sometimes I will set a timer for 15 minutes and I will take items to the places they are supposed to be. When the timer is up, I put those piles in rooms away and, damn if my place isn't much cleaner and ONLY 15 MINUTES.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:16 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

I also used to be pretty inveterately messy (like any table top would be a morass) but having a cleaning company come once a month really helped me cut down on this. I HATE having to do a frantic clean before they come, so I tend to keep things more picked up between times to avoid that frantic "stuff everything in a closet" problem.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:12 AM on July 17, 2018

I had my adult ADHD diagnosed and treated. Sounds kind of reductionist, but it was a goddamn miracle to discover that I had literally not been able to see the mess because of a cognitive disorder.
posted by Mayor West at 6:21 AM on July 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

Also, we have dinner parties frequently--additional deadlines.

Oh, yes! Having people over is a great motivator. And for about six months (!) my apartment was on the market, which meant that the owner and realtor could show up on only 24 hours' notice to show the property to prospective buyers, so I had to keep everything at a "can be reasonably presentable if I have only one weeknight to clean/straighten it" level (and I wanted any new owners to want me as a tenant, so I wanted the place to look nice). I had been basically on strike from cleaning until that point, so it was an abrupt shift, but I realized how much less anxious I am when my home is clean, and that realization is motivating now, too.

I think it's also good to just experiment with stuff and figure out what works for you. I haaaaaaaaate cleaning the bathroom, and I've discovered that if I do it first thing when I wake up on a Saturday morning, it gives me enough momentum and sense of accomplishment that cleaning the rest of the house is relatively painless. I also much prefer to spend a couple hours on a Saturday cleaning and making everything nice and shiny, rather than spreading cleaning (other than laundry) throughout the week; other people find it easier the other way. theora55's tip about multitasking is great, too. I do the dishes in the morning while waiting for the kettle to boil, I throw laundry in when I've got a couple minutes between steps in a recipe, etc.

And sometimes I just accept my dislike of cleaning and force myself to do it anyway. I knew I had to clean on Saturday because my anxiety was out of control and the house was making it worse, but I didn't want to. I basically just forced myself to do tasks in whatever chunks I could handle with giant breaks in between: I threw a load of laundry in at 8am, then sat for an hour or more drinking tea, then cleaned part of the bathroom, then sat some more, then finished cleaning the bathroom, then screwed around on the internet for a good hour, then changed the sheets and put more laundry in, then ate lunch, then vacuumed, more internet, then mopped.... Throughout this time, I was also picking up random things that were in the wrong place and putting them where they should go. It took until 4pm. It was a silly, inefficient day, but the house is clean (and I was thoroughly caught up on Facebook!). I think sometimes it's ok to just putter rather than having a grand-scheme "system."
posted by lazuli at 6:46 AM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Do I just need to get into the habit of it?
Yes, this has worked for me.

Honestly, if you're naturally messy, then at least at first, keep it really simple.

1) Throw shit away. (Recycle, donate, etc., but be honest-- if you're the type to make a "to-donate" pile and then the pile sits there for three years, just get rid of it. If you live in apartment building, bring it to the trash area and someone will take it.) You don't need a book or philosophy for this. If you don't use/love it, it's just taking up too much room and cluttering your life, and you don't need it and won't miss it.

2) Non-negotiable, every day: do dishes, manage trash, manage mail and papers, pick stuff up off the floor, clean spills, wipe food-prep areas, clean any obvious mess (paw prints on the counter, etc.) This takes literally only a few minutes even though it sounds like a lot.

3) Non-negotiable, every week: I do 1-2 hrs on Sundays: clean surfaces, dust (I live in a crumbly old building too, there's always dust), vacuum/mop floors, tackle any one special project, e.g., organize a closet, wash windows, wash baseboards, clean oven, etc. I'm not too methodical about the special project, I figure it'll always be something, so just do one thing.

Bonus tip: you really don't need a ton of supplies. There's not much I can't clean with hydrogen peroxide or water and Dawn dish liquid. A good vacuum helps.
posted by kapers at 8:22 AM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

I still struggle with this, but the following things helped me:
- Getting my adult ADHD diagnosed and treated. Seriously.
- creating some structure and schedule to it (certain rooms on certain days).
- have a clearly defined task (or set of tasks), and do one at a time.
- listening to interesting fun/things. Sing-a-long playlists are awesome, but often I enjoy old radio shows and audio books as well.
- have a reward for keeping on top of your cleaning.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 8:49 AM on July 17, 2018

There's a lot of good advice here but what helped me the most was I set

1. 5-15 minutes to clean with a timer set
2. Choose one single area or task
3. If I want, I am allowed to stop or continue after the timer goes off depending on how I feel

Tonight I will clean off my kitchen counter and sweep as soon as I come home, take my shoes off and pet my cats. I usually have a comedy I've seen before on to provide background noise and entertainment that doesn't require super close watching.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:20 PM on July 17, 2018 [2 favorites]

This is minor, but I prefer looking at clean tidy spaces to dusty messy ones, so when I've gotten it together and cleaned somewhere I look at it a lot. Reward!
posted by clew at 5:44 PM on July 17, 2018

Two things have helped me a lot, as a lifelong messy person:

1. For a while I was really into Unfuck Your Habitat, and from that I got the idea to do (somewhat) daily 20 minute cleaning sprints. It didn't stick long-term, but it was super helpful in showing me that regular maintenance does make a big difference and that most cleaning tasks are not as time-consuming as they feel. It is sometimes shocking how much I can get done in that 20 minutes. I mean, if I cooked an elaborate dinner that night, I might just wind up cleaning up and loading the dishwasher. But most nights I found that, after straightening up the kitchen and living room, say, I still had the time to do something like vacuum the whole apartment (which itself actually only takes less than 10 minutes).

2. I intellectually knew that the organization of my stuff (ie, having a "home" for everything) was really important, but struggled to actually find homes for all my stuff, probably because I have ADHD and spatial organization is difficult for me. So I hired a professional organizer for 3 sessions and holy shit! It made SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE. For literally the first time in my life, I was able to actually HAVE a truly clean place, because straightening up didn't just involve throwing everything in a drawer, or moving stuff around on the kitchen counter. I'm using past tense because I just moved which has thrown things a little out of whack, but I'm actually bringing the organizer back for one session to help me figure out how to organize things in my new place. I found my organizer by using the great advice in this comment.
posted by lunasol at 10:17 PM on July 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Something people don’t say much but that I learned from moving into a house with very clean roommates is that it just takes a lot of work. The “trick” is to clean a lot, like as the background to whatever you’re doing. Come in the house, realize you tracked in dirt, quickly vacuum it up. Empty the dishwasher. Change out of work clothes, put them right in the hamper, throw in a load of laundry. Take your post-work shower, then use a squeegee on the shower door and a rag to wipe down and dry off the bathroom floor. Throw the rag in the laundry room, using the damp rag to quickly wipe the laundry room floor while you’re at it. Etc. ABC: Always Be Cleaning.
posted by salvia at 7:17 AM on July 18, 2018 [3 favorites]

That's a good point I can use twice, salvia. In the first place, tidying promptly means I don't make two messes by spreading the first one, so I am not doubling my effort. And when I remember that constant maintenance is just what it takes to keep anything in an entropic world I am not staggering around feeling that I am doing something wrong, or that the world is being unfair to me personally, which is a different double load.
posted by clew at 12:07 PM on July 18, 2018

I feel you OP! We had a leak that forced us to deal with getting rid of stuff ASAP. I think people always figure there will be time to clean but it doesn't happen. Once we were properly motivated, the transformation was quick and magical :D

I approached the problem by going through EVERYTHING and being very committed to it. Every evening and weekend we were throwing out, thrifting or recycling stuff. It helped to assign 0 value to the items. 20 year old college notes? No value. Great Grandma's wicker basket? No value. Removing the mental load by reducing decisions was amazingly helpful. We still have more to go through, but all the major stuff is done.

I made lists for every area that could be tackled and listed things on Kijiji. Donated craft supplies to a daycare. Look for the quick wins. A recent quick win for me was throwing out my tape cassettes. Look for that sort of stuff and you'll build your confidence. It does get easier the more you do it.

I drew diagrams of every room and pondered how we were using the space correctly or incorrectly. It's possible that your current room layout isn't helping or that you don't have the right furniture. Can I say that getting a purse hanger for my closet was life changing? Suddenly I had freed up two drawers that all my purses were in. WOW! And I didn't have to give away any purses :)

Another thing to consider might be if you were constantly told you were messy as a child. My parents frequently put the blame on the state of the house on me, even though I wasn't the one hoarding free gas station glasses *ahem*. It's been fifteen years since I left home and I'm pretty sure I wasn't entirely the problem :D It's easy to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Lastly, be kind to yourself, take breaks and bring in a friend if you need help. It will take time and can't be done all at once. I cried several times during the process because I don't know how we let stuff pile up like that.

We also had a visit from a junk removal company and it really helped to have stuff go in one go. We easily filled our station wagon 7.5 times with recycling and thrift store boxes. It took all of June, but the difference is remarkable - I no longer have to worry about lids falling on me when I pull something out of the cupboard, hehe. Much love and luck to you! It *can* be done.
posted by Calzephyr at 12:08 PM on July 18, 2018

The single biggest contributor was having my ADHD diagnosed and treated.

Additionally, organizational resources and books written specifically for ADHD people helped a LOT.

Overall, the most important thing is to get rid of stuff until you have more storage space than items needing storage. I find it easier to, instead of trying to take out stuff you don't want, take EVERYTHING in a category out and put it in a pile. Then start putting stuff away into its designated home IN ORDER OF HOW MUCH YOU LOVE IT. Favorites first. Then when you run out of space, for anything else to go IN to the storage, something has to come OUT. It's easier for me to say "are there any t-shirts already in the drawer that I don't like as much as this t-shirt in my hand?" than to look at a pile and pick 15 I don't want.

Note: If you are anything like me, this will involve getting rid of MASSIVE amounts of stuff. I sold some, gave away a lot, and threw away the rest. It was tough but honestly I don't miss any of the stuff I let go or mostly even remember what it was.

Once you've done this--and it will take a LONG TIME and you should do it one small bit at a time - you keep to the one in/one out rule with new stuff.

The second thing is to arrange your rooms and storage to facilitate the way you DO use them, not the way you think you SHOULD. If you always eat in the living room on a TV tray and you have massive stacks of books everywhere, turn your unused dining room into a library. If you always have to go get the scissors to open packages in the living room and tend to leave them lying out? There is now a pair of scissors that lives in the remote control caddy. There is a phone charger and a glasses cleaning cloth in every room. If you leave jackets and hoodies and scarves scattered about like fallen leaves while your coat closet sits empty, put some coat hooks on the wall next to where you take your outerwear off. Prioritize function.

For my ADHD brain, it is absolutely vital that storage is either visible (hung on a wall, put on a shelf, held in TRANSPARENT AND LIDLESS bins) OR that a certain type of thing is only and always found in a certain opaque storage facility (like a drawer.) Otherwise I will forget I have things and buy duplicates.

It really helps to do an analysis of what kind of mess you cause and why. So for me, I don't like to put things away if I think I might need them again soon, so I end up with little mountains of craft supplies or half-read books or random screwdrivers on every surface near me. By having lots of empty storage spaces and duplicate tools, etc., it helps me not do that, because the home for stuff is convenient. When I am done with my mail scissors I can just stick them back in the remote caddy. Also if you have a lot of "catch-all" happening on places like an end table or nightstand, it can help to put a "catch-all" basket. I have this on my nightstand. All my glasses wipes and lip balms and cuticle trimmers and random change and things that I had in my pockets that I'd normally put on the nightstand go in the basket, and when the basket is full I can go through it in one fell swoop, but in the meantime it stays looking tidy.

My house really did look like Hoarders a lot of the time--not the part with like vermin infestations and gross spoiled food, but the giant stacks on stacks of crap everywhere. And it's been more than a year and I'm still not done, but I'm WAY better than I was. For example, I can now put away all my laundry at the same time for the first time since I lived in a college dorm. Which means goodbye to "Clothing Mountain," a giant five-foot pile of mostly clothes but also random items that got swallowed by the pile, which made half my bedroom close to inaccessible for years! That was a major triumph. Also it means that I now actually have my treasured collections of art, toys, etc - DISPLAYED and CURATED instead of "in their original boxes, often still in the bags from the store, in piles". My house is colorful and visually pretty busy but when people come over (because I can have people over now!) they always gush over how fun and cute it looks.

The biggest project I have left is my craft supplies, and to get those done, there is a complex series of activities starting with getting junk removal people to clear out most of our back porch, then fixing the roof of the back porch that has been leaking, then moving our dinette set to the porch, and then converting the basically unused dining room into a craft studio-slash-office that will contain sufficient storage and workspace for all my fabric and tools and paints and embroidery floss and calligraphy pens and perler beads and ink bottles and paintbrushes and coloring books and the like to live, and for me to use them. (I planned it out with the help of the IKEA website, a tape measure, and some graph paper, and am absolutely sure that the layout I plan will work and fit the space.) It will likely take another several months to wrap up, but when I'm done basically the whole house will be organized enough that even if I get untidy and leave things out, it's possible and fairly fast to put it all away again. (because I can just put it away, I don't have to look five places trying to find a drawer that isn't already bursting to shove the thing into or make wobbly jenga stacks of books on top of a full bookshelf.)
posted by oblique red at 3:24 PM on July 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

« Older What is a rolling stop called where you live?   |   Tell me more about bra-fittings Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.