My Most-Asked Question: How to Keep Your House Tidy
Since it's officially the new year (and closet cleanout season!) I figured I'd finally dive right in and answer one of my most-asked questions, both on the blog and IRL: how do you keep your house so clean?
For those of you who don't know me in real life or who haven't been to my apartment, I'll fill you in on a little secret: I'm a clean freak. And, to be honest, I've always been this way. But, I believe that cleanliness and good organization can be taught, so here are my best tips if you're looking to streamline and minimize the junk in 2018:
one // understand the difference between "need", "want", and everything else
I think this is the best lesson you can learn if you're someone who often finds they have too many things in their home. I have two kinds of things in my house: things I need (the definition of "need" can differ from person to person, but mine include things like a bed, lights, a couch, etc.) and things I want that bring me joy—like a TV, speakers, books, and decorations.
Everything else—gifts you've been given, extra paperwork, clothes stuffed in the back of your closet, and shoes you haven't worn in years—fall in the third category of things you have, but don't really need or want. This is where the danger happens: in keeping all of these extra things around.
two // clean out what you currently have, regularly
One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to clean out your house, and clean it out very regularly. I do a massive purge a few times a year, but every month or so I constantly evaluate whether or not I need certain items in my life.
My best tips for scheduling regular cleanouts are as follows:
- Give yourself plenty of time. Set aside a weekend day, or afternoon at least.
- Take everything out from where it lives. To really purge, you need to start with a clean slate.
- Don't keep things just to keep things. As you're going through each item, ask yourself the hard questions: "when was the last time I actually wore this?", "does this even look good on me?", and "am I just keeping this because _____ gave it to me?" are questions I ask myself when cleaning out my closet, for example. I know it's hard, but this is where you have to be cutthroat!
- Organize things into two piles: trash (things that are damaged, expired, etc.) and donate. Anything that's not placed in one of those two piles can go back on the shelf, or in the closet!
three // don't bring new junk home
If you're going to pay attention to one tip, this is it. STOP BRINGING NEW JUNK HOME! We accumulate so much stuff throughout our day—free stuff from conferences or events, things people give us at work, children's school projects—whatever it is, you don't need it. I repeat: you don't need it!
The way I prevent myself from clogging up my home with all of these unnecessary bits is by going through them before I get home. Literally, before I open my door, I've already gone through my mail and recycled it in the mail room. If I get a blogger package of product I know I'll never use, I immediately box it up to ship it to my mom or a friend who will get much more use out of it, or pop it in a bag to donate. Establishing a plan for these unwanted items upfront—and never even allowing them the chance to find a home on your shelves—is key.
four // learn to put things back where they go
This is another hardly radical idea, but it really helps in maintaining your cleanliness. Instead of plopping your clothes on the floor as you undress, or throwing your mail on the desk (unopened) before sitting on the couch, spend the extra five seconds it takes to actually put it where it belongs. And, if it doesn't have a home, maybe you should take that as a sign that you don't need it in your life!
When I get home from work, I hang my bag on a hook in my entry way, put the mail (that I've already opened and sorted) in our mail slot in the entryway, and walk immediately into my bedroom where I take my clothes off, put them in the closet or hampers where they belong, and get out loungewear from my dresser. Literally not one thing is set somewhere it shouldn't be—and it took me absolutely no extra energy.
Pro Tip: invest in organizational solutions that make these moments easier, like hooks you can easily hang things on, trays placed in smart locations around your home to corral loose ends, etc.
five // de-clutter your virtual life, too
Last tip: don't stop at your house! Continue the momentum into your digital life, too. Cleaning things out and keeping your life in great working order includes getting rid of distractions, unused apps, and clutter on your devices. Every month or so, I clean out my contacts, who I'm following on social media, and re-evaluate the apps I have downloaded. It's like a breath of fresh air opening your phone or laptop to a clear desktop, and no unnecessary frills.