For this post, I’m sharing a compilation of tricks that work for me and ones that are borrowed from Tiktoker’s such as @domesticblisters (Kc Davis) and @annrussell03 (Ann Russell) who I have personally found extremely helpful. Kc Davis also has a book called ‘How to keep house while you’re drowning’, which I have but haven’t read yet but I’m looking forward to reading.
Until 2020, my room had been a permanent bomb site, I would through piles of clothes to my bed, add things from my bed to the pile and so and so on until it was overwhelming. I currently live with my parents but when I have lived outside the home and in a larger space occupied by others also making mess, it was constant source of stress. I have always found keeping my space and my life organised overwhelming. However, once I’d figured out how to stay organised in a professional setting (at great pains, by the way) I began to make concerted effort to translate that into my home. Lucky for me, I was literally trapped in my 6X4 room for nearly two years now thanks to the Pandammit, where I had to work, socialise, exercise and do my hobbies in the same space for the majority of the time.
*disclaimer, I am single individual without kids, so these may need to be adapted to people in different circumstances. Although, the tips borrowed from the Tiktoker’s were created by people with multiple children etc. I just wanted to recognise that I obviously have it easier. *
Although, recently, I have taken over the larger portion of the house cleaning, to help other family members with more going on. So although I still live with my parents as a single adult, I am helping to keep on top of keeping a busy family home clean. This is something I also did through most of my teens and early twenties. Only daughter problems aha…
So without any more waffling, here is my top ten:
Read the headlines and the one line explainer if the paragraphs are too long and boring, I understand so I’ve abbreviated for those who don’t want to read it all so you’ll still get the message!
- Cleaning and organisation is morally neutral
– There is so much shame attached to having a messy space and there is so much shame around not being able to keep things clean, keep on top of your washing etc etc.
BUT you are not a bad person. You have not failed. You are not somehow lesser than someone who can keep their home and life clean and tidy.
- Having a functional space is the most important thing
-let the mess get on top of you? Or let that washing pile get too high? Got so many things on your to do list that it’s hard to know where to start?
Ask, what can I do to make this functional?
So, if in morning you going to need enough clean dishes and cups for breakfast, just to do that. If you just need your gym clothing clean, then just ensure that part is done. Just tick off the items that are needed for your to get through the next day, or the next morning until you have the energy to do it in the afternoon or to last you until the weekend.
If you need a clean eating space and counter to prep and eat food safely, then just do that, you don’t have to clean the whole kitchen just get the bits needed to function clean. You can have piles of clutter and mess everywhere but if you keep the bits you need to function, as healthily as possible when you’re struggling, keep those spaces clean and leave the rest. It’s so much easier to just keep the hob, pan and cutting board you need clean than an entire kitchen.
- Don’t set it down, put it away.
– this is essential ‘clean as you go’ but in a practical mantra.
Cooking? Don’t set those spices you’re done using down next to the oven, put them away
Used the milk? Don’t set it down by the kettle, put it away.
Finished with that piece of clothing? Don’t set it down, put it away.
Finished with that towel, don’t set it down on your bed or chair, put it away.
- Bodies in motion stay in motion
-lacking that essential umph of energy to get you going? Overwhelmed by the prospect of starting the thing? Approach it sideways. Do a small thing that gets you moving.
You’re not getting up to clean the living room, you are getting up to take your cup out and while you are in the kitchen, you can grab the hoover and so on and so on.
You are not tidying the entire bathroom, you are just going to pee and then wash your hands and BAM you’re in the bathroom stood next to the sponges and cleaning stuff, so why not just do the sink? Well, you’re holding the spray now, why not spray the tub? Well, you’ve sprayed the tub now, seems silly not to wipe it. BOOM, clean bathroom.
The point is, if you only manage step one, or two, it doesn’t matter, it’s just easier to start doing once you’re already in motion.
(this is a good tip for work tasks too, start small, check emails, reply to one email etc. I really struggling with getting going during the lockdowns working from home because like… I was sat one foot from my bed… it doesn’t feel like I’m at work.)
- Set timers! Give yourself 15 minutes to clean a space
-‘wait I’m not five, I don’t need a timer for how to clean!’ But trust me, it works. If you hate cleaning, this creates an end, a finish line.
Saying I’m going to spend ten minutes cleaning the kitchen is so much less big sounding than saying ‘I’m going to clean the entire kitchen’. Chances are, if this is just daily maintenance, it would have only taken ten minutes to do anyway but it’s this small rephrasing and a definite end that’s makes it manageable. Cleaning the entire kitchen sounds endless, cleaning for fifteen minutes or similar doesn’t.
(timers also work for any task you might struggle with, for example, if I have a thing to do for work I don’t enjoy, I set a timer during which I can focus on it and the point isn’t to finish the task, it’s just to direct all my energy into that thing for that time period, which is more than I’d do whilst procrastinating.)
- Clean in a routine, or a rota
– Make Sunday washing day, any laundry that appears either side of that day does not exist. Make seven pm your final kitchen clean down time, any mess that appears after that is tomorrow’s problem.
As mundane as it sounds, humans like routine and you be surprised what can be committed to muscle memory. Do the same task, at the same time, or day, every week and it becomes automatic.
This is especially helpful if you’re someone who doesn’t ‘notice a mess’, or forgets about a thing that need cleaning about once a week or month because you don’t know when you last did it. This would be a great tip for anyone with a partner who nags about a cleaning task you struggle to be aware of- like if you always forget to empty the bin, then just do it every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or whatever. Then you know to check it and don’t rely on randomly remembering when you walk past. The people you live will learn these patterns too and there’ll be no need to nag if they know you’ll be doing it that evening because you always do- it takes the pressure of them being the list holder.
- Realist to do lists- next three things
-Struggling to start? Just do three things.
If you are really overwhelmed this can include things like
1- open window because I get hot changing the bed
2- go to cupboard where sheets are kept
3- get sheets
This is the same principal as a body in motion stays in motion. Just break it down to the next three things. Three things are so much less to think about than the whole thing of it.
Here’s how it works with washing up:
1. go to room 1, get cups etc
2. Check room 2
3. put by sink
… you could stop here or:
1. get bin
2. Clear food off plates
3. pour away drinks dregs in sink
and so on and so on. You can stop at any point but those three things are more progress than doing nothing at all.
(three things is great for work tasks fyi, or for your exercise routine and so on)
- Embrace your mess piles
– do you always put things in a certain place, even though that’s ‘not the place it goes’? Then why isn’t that the place it goes?
Have a place you throw clothes that are too clean for washing but too dirty or used to frequently for the cupboard? Put a cute little basket in that corner, or put a hook on that door.
Have a place you naturally put your shoes that’s not where the shoe rack/ shoe box is? Why? Rearrange. Or create space for a particular pair of shoes you need a lot in that spot and put the rest away.
Always throw loo roles in that one corner? Put a bin there.
For example, I used to have a little tin with a lid for my bobby pins but putting them away there just never happened. I’d make little piles of them everywhere over my desk because they were easier to grab and easier to put away like that. So I got a little soapstone dish thing that’s pretty and put it where my bobby pin piles used to be. Now they are not scattered all over my desk because I can literally throw the pins into the dish from anywhere in my room. Such a petty thing but now there’s no messy bobby pins to clear off my desk a thousand times a day.
Or another examples is, my mum would always leave the laundry soap shoved in random places around our kettle because that was above the washing machine (British kitchen, the washing machine is in the kitchen). They were always in the way of the kettle but to quote her ‘well I have to get them out the cupboard several times a day so it’s just easier’, fair enough, so I cleared a little space by the kettle for it to live in. Now I’m not knocking over the fabric softener twenty times a day.
- Adapt your space to your brain
-along the same lines as above but here I’m referring to things like, if hanging things up in a cupboard, or folding things and separating them out feels like doom… change the system.
There’s isn’t a ‘right’ way to store things and put them away. Adapt the system to you. The example below is about cupboard space but the same can be applied to the kitchen and the bathroom.
I’ve seen people on TikTok who literally have a bunch of plastic bins or baskets, ones for trousers, ones for tops , ones for pants etc etc, no folding, no hanging but easy to find in a hurry and still organised.
I use a mixture, I have some hanging bits and I have some plastic tubs with stuff I chuck in. When I’m putting washing away, I get them out next to me on the floor and literally drop the clothes in them. Then, because I don’t like hanging but don’t have the space to box everything, I have a system- if I wear something, I leave the hanger out somewhere annoying so I remember, then I pop that item back on the hanger when I undress and hang that item on hooks on the back of my door. If I need to put away my washing but can’t face putting it away-away, then this is the middle ground my brain accepts, I put it on the hooks. This means it’s off the floor and my bed, it’s hung properly but it works with my brain.
- Find ways of doing lists, planning and calendars that works for you
-There is no one right way to do these things. Try different things. Whiteboards on the wall, calendars, date books, apps, your phone calendar etc etc, try different things until you find your thing. Don’t just use what your boomer mum tells you to do, or what some person on Pinterest shows you.
I would love, love to use a gorgeous planner but I literally always forget to use it, or if I write it in there, I forget to check it. I use my phone calendar for events to remember, right down to plant watering, a text I need to send or reply to, to bills payment days (remember before and on the day), to bigger things like an occasion with friends. I have a list on my wall of things that generally need doing and then a weekly planner or my wall where I divvy up those tasks throughout the week and I cross them off as I go.
Essentially embrace the way you’re built, rather than fight it. I tried different things until I found a way to keep my space clean consistently, over a long period, for the first time in my life.
A lot of these tips can be applied to personal self care too, which is another thing you probably struggle with if you’ve read the blog this far.
Whatever reason you struggle to keep organised, tidy or clean, I promise adapting to the way you’re wired isn’t a bad thing, nor is finding a way to do your best during a more difficult period.
Remember, doing a little bit of thing badly, is better than not doing it at all.
Finally, although I’m sure there is probably a diagnoses hiding among all this tips I choose to use, I would like to add the disclaimer that I do not have any diagnosed mental health disorders, or learning difficulties, nor am I a mental health professional or anything remotely useful. As always, I urge you to seek professional help if you are truly struggling.