March 23, 2008 11:00 PM   Subscribe

Cleaning Filter: Help me make an oasis of clean in my bedroom, to fight back the chaos in my household?

The mess in my house is driving me nuts. Short of moving out (I’ve applied to transfer universities in the fall, so I’m saving my pennies), how do I deal with a family who is disorganized to the max when I function much better in a peaceful, orderly area?

We are five humans and three cats. Everyone is allergic to said cats, me included, but my mother believes the pets are family too and will not be parted with them. We’re similarly all allergic to dust but the house is as a rule, one giant dust bunny beneath all the clutter. Family has been about the same for the past 22 years of my life, so it’s fair to say that family isn’t going to change.

However, while I’m not very good at cleaning, and I don’t think I can tackle the whole home, I want help creating a little fortress of cleanliness to withstand the tides of mess that wash past my bedroom door, and maybe keep the downstairs bathroom clean too. And get all that lint and pet hair off my clothes!

I’m not a very clean person. After a childhood where the floors gave me black feet, I have trouble remembering not to litter or track in mud. Part of my question is based on asking: How can I develop clean habits before I drive my future roomies insane?

Also: How can I keep my bedroom and bathroom clean and dust/pet hair free? What’s your best clutter busting advice or resources?

I don’t have much money, so buying an air filter or something is out. I have mop, broom, all purpose cleanser, shop vac, windex, cheap paper towels and a dishevelled duster at my disposal, as well as candles in my favourite scents and essential oils to kill the smells. I suppose if there’s a miracle product I'm missing out there, I can buy it, as long as it's not $50 a bottle and only available in Mississippi. Also, what sort of cleaning rag/sponge/cloth should I use?

The good news is that I’m not completely hopeless. I can and do clean my room, it’s just that the dust never goes away and the clutter is back in a day. So, tips, tricks, help?!
posted by Phalene to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Don't let things pile up. When you're done using something, put it back immediately. Do your laundry before it overflows out of the basket and spills onto the floor. Dust and vacuum every week. Wash your sheets weekly. Buy little Rubbermaid plastic containers to store things. Get rid of everything you haven't needed in 6 months to a year. Be brutal. Don't save stuff if you rarely use it.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:10 PM on March 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

If you have a lot of stuff (e.g., papers, photos, keepsakes), you can scan it or take digital photos of it and save them on your computer. Get rid of those piles and files. Got a music box that granny gave to you that you don't really want anymore but feel guilty about getting rid of it? Take a picture of it and toss it.
posted by HotPatatta at 11:12 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

You know the saying "a place for everything, and everything in its place"?

People completely ignore the first part of the saying.

If you know, without thinking, where everything you own or are likely to acquire should go, and if those places are easily accessible, and if it's very easy to put items into and get them out of those places (avoid cramming, stacking, and layering), then it will be very easy to keep things clutter free.

If things are clutter free, it's the work of a moment to dust or vacuum -- no need to move things around to dust under them.

One further trick I use: I keep a sheet on top of all the bed covers and wash it weekly or twice weekly; this keeps clean the surface that my face is next while I sleep.
posted by amtho at 11:13 PM on March 23, 2008

Best answer: Personally I have learned alot from the FlyLady.
It sound like you have a couple of challenges:
1. Declutter your room. It is much easier to keep things clean when there is less stuff. Especially getting the flat surfaces clear help make the room look much better. The best way to do this is a trash can, a bag for donations/give away and a box or laundry basket for things that need to get put away. Set a timer for 15 minutes and pick one small space or one drawer to work on. When the timer rings, put things away and take a break. Rinse and repeat as you have time.
2. Once you get a surface clean, try to put stuff back on it - just put them away. If you notice something out of place, take 30 seconds and put it away. Before you go to bed, do a quick check to see what needs to be put away.
3. Decide how often you need to clean to keep the dust down. (Maybe a dusting once a week, vacumm or mop the floor twice a week). Decide when you are going to do it (Big clean every Saturday, quick vacumm on Wednesday evenings)
posted by metahawk at 11:24 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get rid of everything you haven't needed in 6 months to a year. Be brutal. Don't save stuff if you rarely use it.

Quoted for truth. Really, the less stuff you have, the fewer inaccessible places you have for dust to accumulate. Clothes, trinkets, books, gadgets, whatever. Pare 'em down and send the stuff you don't use anymore to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, recycling, garbage... I'd say garage sale, but that would just slow you down. If you tend towards the acquisitive, well, try to start reconsidering before you acquire. Come to think of it, I believe mathowie mentioned getting rid of a thing-a-day, and being surprised at how easy it was. This was in a podcast, but not the most recent.
posted by mumkin at 11:24 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

A lot of people are going to suggest you visit flylady and follow her program.
posted by bigmusic at 11:26 PM on March 23, 2008

Ah. It was Podcast #18 at around 64:30, but it's not that important. It was, however, in reference to the Help, I'm a stuffaholic AskMe, which is worth directing you to for advice on decluttering.
posted by mumkin at 11:40 PM on March 23, 2008

Response by poster: I'm not a stuff-a-holic and frequently purge stuff (my family on the other hand, love their stuff). My clutter tends to be things like the heap on the left side of my desk: keys, tangle of cords, ipod, hairspray, three hair elastics, contact lense case and dental floss, sunglasses, creditcard, piggy bank, toothbrush, unused sanitary napkin, lone hair pin, cinnamon leaf essential oil, birth control pills, stand off the bottom of my webcam, desk lamp, dust.

The dust is my concern, because the rest can be put away, but the dust drifts constantly and as a result nothing is ever properly clean.
posted by Phalene at 11:52 PM on March 23, 2008

Put things in drawers or boxes so they won't collect dust. I like little boxes; they're pretty, but I also use them to collect things like hair elastics, etc. that tend to become clutter. If you have drawers now that are full of stuff, dejunkify them. Then fill them with new junk you theoretically still have a use for. It isn't organized, but it keeps the random stuff you describe from sitting out and getting dusty. Keep your surfaces as bare as possible and dusting gets way easier. If you tend to accumulate stuff that belongs elsewhere (some of your example clutter sounds like it belongs in the bathroom maybe), have a set place in your room where you can put that stuff, kind of a staging area. Then take the stuff to its real home in batches.
posted by MadamM at 12:04 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Get a towel or blanket and roll it up lengthwise. Always keep it at the base of the door, effectively sealing your fresh, clean space off from the all-consuming gihugic dust-bunny of doom.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:25 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

My folks are total hoarders. Drives me nuts every time I visit. Basically once enough stuff accumulates, nobody can tell when something is ' out of place ' because everything looks out of place. Anytime I try to pull something out a pile I find four things are wedged against it and the whole structure collapses, demonstrating yet again the 2nd law of Thermodynamics still applies. It doesn't really bother them, all the stuff just becomes 'invisible', like part of the landscape.

On getting rid of clutter: I feel pretty bad recommending the following but it's based on long personal experience: Just chuck it. Don't check with the owner to see if it's ok. Don't donate it to salvation army. Don't put it out on a messageboard to see if local groups can use it for arts and crafts, don't call your friends with 2 year olds and ask if they want a Billy Bass mounted fish.

I don't suggest this because I like to rape and pillage the planet, because I hate recycling, it's simply that if we don't get rid of it right then, it has a nasty habit of not making it out the door.
This moment, the moment you are actually cleaning the space, is probably going to be the first and last such culling for quite a very long time, and if it doesn't get culled now, it will put down roots.
posted by spatula at 1:22 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have the same problem as you with random little toiletries accumulating everywhere, and the advice to find a place for all of those things is what helped me -- i set up a Hair, Eye, Nail, Face and Body area in my bedroom and keep everything within one of those sections (or boxes). There's usually still stuff lying around, but if i find it i'll just pick it up and stick it in one of those areas so at least it's all together. If you can't define a Place for something, then you know it's pretty chuckable.

To combat the dust, I don't think there's a killer product, just get yourself into a routine of small activities throughout the week that will combat it - a little dusting, a little vaccuming, a little mopping, etc., and if you keep to a routine it won't build up to the levels that you're talking about. If you can get your family to do little things as well (vaccuming their room, dusting, etc.) it should be a lot easier. Speaking as someone who moved from a total slob (no, really) to a reasonably tidy person, it's the <5 minute activities every day that keep things clean rather than any big jobs.
posted by ukdanae at 5:09 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cheap air/dust filter. 20x20 box fan, a couple of bungee cords, a 20x20 furnace filter with a high merv rating. Yeah, its ghetto and no, its not as good as a hepa filter, but it does help.

Unfortunately, if the rest of the house is dusty, you'll be fighting an uphill battle as the dust will keep coming in through the furnace system. Cheese cloth on the vents will help a bit though.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:57 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

For a thing worth buying, I really like the swiffer cloths for dusting. I keep one around for a while, until it gets pretty gross (or after I've used it on a floor somewhere).

I had approximately the opposite of your family, with a mother who almost obsessively cleaned (neat-freak, not obsessive compulsive).

Her method was to make sure everything got put away as soon as possible. This meant that the newspaper was in the recycling bin by 10 am almost every day, including Sunday. The rest of the family's naptime was vacuum time!, and laundry got done every Saturday, without fail. Our garage was weird (70s carpeting), so clothes actually went directly to the floor in front of the washer-dryer, no hamper step in the middle.

Vacuuming regularly with a good vacuum will help keep down the dust in your house, especially if you have carpet. Changing your a/c or furnace filter should also help some. Furry critters (including humans) are generally the biggest producers of dust, and it just stays around until you actually pick it up and move it out of the house. To properly dust, you need clear surfaces. Put things in drawers, closets, throw them away.

Why doesn't stuff like contacts/tooth floss/toothbrush go in the bathroom?

Keep the door shut to keep out the cats.

Take off your shoes before going into your room.

Do a little bit at a time.
posted by that girl at 6:05 AM on March 24, 2008

How can I keep my bedroom and bathroom clean and dust/pet hair free?

I've cut down the dust in my house by installing filters in the floor registers. The filters capture the dust moved around by the furnace and reduced our amount of dust by more than half of what it used to be. If you can't find the filters in your area, you can buy a sheet of thin cotton batting and cut it down to size. Just remember to replace the filters every three - six months.
posted by durga at 6:13 AM on March 24, 2008

Definitely get yourself a swiffer duster - not the cloths, but the duster. It's a blue plastic handle that comes in a box with fluffy duster things that you attach to the handle. They actually do capture the dust, just as advertized, and then you chuck them. They make dusting not only successful but fun, too.

(I should be getting paid by swiffer, damnit.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:53 AM on March 24, 2008

About your clothes. Keeping cat hair off of my clothes is one of the greatest challenges of my life. Had I know what an issue it would be I would have never gotten a white haired cat. Since the rest of your house is the domain of the cats, you must get into the following routine. Do not put on the clothes you plan to wear "out" until right before you leave. Then when you get home go directly to your room, take them off and hang them up or put them in a hamper. You need to keep some lounge wear for hanging out around the house, but make sure to wash these clothes separately from your wearing out clothes. Also, you need a good lint roller, and the only kind that I find work reliably are the ones that are sheets of sticky tape that you can peel off as they get dirty.
posted by kimdog at 7:01 AM on March 24, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Stop using candles. They create more dust in the air.

Use a microfiber cloth towel instead of paper towels. It will save you money in the long run, and it cleans better and picks up cat hair! Spray your cleaning solution directly on the towel and wipe surfaces with it. Wring it out under water to clean. I've seen them at Target and Costco.

Vaccuum or sweep every day. Keep the broom and dustpan out in easy reach (or a handsweeper). That makes the biggest difference and it's easy if you do it daily.
posted by hooray at 7:01 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Yes to boxes, baskets, and containers to hold your stuff. I keep a basket on my desk precisely to keep miscellaneous stuff that I can't be bothered to put away properly (bobby pins, chapstick, ipod etc). You literally want to contain your clutter. There is also the added bonus of making cleaning easier - just lift the container to wipe/ dust underneath instead of lifting each individual item.

Same idea applies to clothes: get a big hamper or hooks. Tossing items into a hamper or hanging them up takes no more effort than throwing things on the floor or on chairs.

Nthing the fluffy swiffer duster. The cloths work best on flat surfaces but the duster is better for running over clutter and between items. Keep one near your desk and just run it over any surfaces that are getting dusty. It's done wonders for reducing the dust in my room.

Make your bed every morning and keep things off of it if you can. It's a quick fix for making the entire room seem neater even if you don't do anything else.
posted by kitkatcathy at 7:25 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

As a formerly messy person who has gotten a lot neater one thing that has really helped me is keeping stuff hung up. I have hooks to hang my hairbrush, mp3 player, keys, purses and things like that. I find that the stuff I leave out on surfaces gets cluttery, even if it is stuff in boxes.

If there's stuff you can't hang, try hanging baskets up or attaching small boxes to the wall to hold stuff like hairclips.

Just the fact that you are aware of your issues will make you a lot easier to live with than most roommates who have no idea that their messy habits are that annoying to other people. I should know, I was a messy roommate and it caused me a lot of problems.
posted by Melsky at 8:06 AM on March 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

To keep your room as allergen-free as possible:
  • dust & vacuum daily
  • never let the cats in your room.
  • wash your bed linens at least weekly
  • wipe the cats down with damp paper towels as often as you can

posted by tastybrains at 8:42 AM on March 24, 2008

You mentioned smells. I would suggest opening the windows in your room every day, regardless of weather. It will make a huge difference having completely fresh air. Make it part of your routine - draw back blinds/curtains, open the windows, then do something specific - make your bed, go make coffee, go brush your teeth, whatever - then come back and close the windows. This is a trick I learned from Home Comforts; it may be overkill for you now, but would serve you well in the future if you're not sure how to keep house. That book changed my life. Seriously.
posted by donnagirl at 8:47 AM on March 24, 2008

Nthing FlyLady.
posted by Jacqueline at 8:52 AM on March 24, 2008

Part of decluttering & "a place for everything" is devloping a taxonomy of stuff. Use the aisles at Walgreens as your guide if you need help figuring out how to categorize your stuff.

hairspray, lone hair pin, three hair elastics - belong in hair accessories basket
keys - on a hook near the door
tangle of cords - I tie off my cords in a figure 8 knot - tidy & easy to undo
stand off the bottom of my webcam - desk drawer, or miscelanneous basket
ipod, contact lense case and dental floss, sunglasses, creditcard - personal accessories/wallet/purse
piggy bank - for daily pocket change? (good idea) - goes on a shelf or bedside table
toothbrush, unused sanitary napkin, cinnamon leaf essential oil, birth control pills - personal accessories basket
desk lamp - desk.

baskets collect dust & cat hair, so small drawers are a good idea, but I do better w/ higher visibility.
posted by theora55 at 9:18 AM on March 24, 2008

Buy a gigantic hamper and one bathrobe. Put the hamper in your room i and a hook for your robe in the bathroom. Put your laundry in the hamper instead of the floor and use the robe daily. Once a week wash your clothes, bedding, and robe. Put the clothes away, hang the hook up, make the bed and start over.

Pick your room up before bed everyday.

Make things accessible. I like the ideas of a couple of baskets on the countertop for items you use daily. Pare things down to basics. Don't bring in a bunch of useless dust collectors. Every item should serve a purpose.

Forget about a top sheet. Buy a high thread-count duvet cover and launder that with your bottom sheet and pillowcases.

Vacuum a lot.

Spray your shower down with a daily shower spray. Clean the toilet while you're waiting for the shower to heat up. I usually dislike disposable wipes, but keep a roll of Clorox wipes in the bathroom and do quick clean ups whenever you can.
posted by LoriFLA at 12:37 PM on March 24, 2008

hang the hook up = hang the robe
posted by LoriFLA at 12:38 PM on March 24, 2008

I agree with donnagirl's reccomendation of Home Comforts. It's an excellent resource on the tools and techniques you'll need to keep your room and your bathroom clean, most of which are very cost-effective.

Two tips--you can use borax or washing soda (20 Mule Team is a popular brand; it's found in the laundry aisles of large grocery stores) to clean bathrooms. Sprinkle on a damp sponge and wipe, then rinse. (Use gloves; it's bad for your skin.)

You can also use a bit of borax in the laundry to remove odors and some stains.

Also I sort my laundry as I take clothes off--darks go in one bag, lights in another, and delicates/hand wash go into a third. Then, when a load accumulates, I just dump it into the washer.

Best of luck with your project!
posted by Lycaste at 6:22 PM on March 24, 2008

Do not tie power cords in tight knots. Knots can cause short circuits and shocks. Loop the cords or use a twist lock plug. This is just what I read from some site about safety
posted by omh44 at 2:00 AM on June 6, 2008

Replace open front plugs with dead front plugs. Dead front plugs are sealed and present less danger of shock or short circuit. This is what I read from some safety site
posted by omh44 at 10:44 PM on June 6, 2008

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