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Help! My House Is a Disaster!

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Need Home Organization Help

I don't have loads of time to spare, but the time that I do have I tend to fritter away. Consequently, my house is a wreck. Any time I get motivated, I soon lose that motivation as I face a seemingly insurmountable task. Even small projects get started only to be abandoned halfway through. I just can't seem to get organized or keep a place clean for long. I have tried so many tricks that are a temporary solution but nothing seems to overcome my perpetual messiness. Is there anything that can help me? The worst part is that I am single so I can't even blame the household disasters on a spouse.

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Set Aside Cleaning Time

Here's what works for me. I set a definite time for housework each week. I do laundry at the same time, since I have to be home anyway. As soon as I get up, I strip the bed, gather the towels and other laundry, start soaking whatever needs it in a small plastic pan of bleach, and start my first load of laundry. While it is washing, I make the bed, put out fresh towels and clean the toilet, sink and tub of the bathroom. I put the first load in the dryer and start the vacuuming.

I put things away as I go, so there's never a big mess to pick up first, but I take a few minutes the night before to straighten up whatever needs it. By the time the vacuuming is done, the first load of wash is ready to fold, the third load is in the washer, and the second is in the dryer. I put things away immediately.

The bottom line is that you must set up a regular time and method for doing the housework. Keep everything simple, such pre-sorting laundry in two baskets so it's not a big job at laundry time. Once everything is done, you can keep it nice without too much effort by taking a few minutes to straighten up every day. You'll save far more time than you spend because you'll be able to find whatever you need without difficulty and you'll seldom have a large job to tackle.

Don't be too hard on yourself. It will take time to get your new system working just right. But it will be worth it.

Simplify Your Life

First of all, take ownership of your life and make the most of your time. Turn off your television and use that time to work around your house. It sounds like you might have too much stuff, so simplify your life. Get rid of items that you haven't worn or used, which includes magazines, cooking items, storage containers, etc. Pick one room at a time and spend all your extra time cleaning it. So if you take one hour a day, that's seven hours a week, or 28 hours a month.

Related: The Voluntary Simplicity Movement

Play 15 Minute Clean-Up

Years ago, we started playing 15 minute clean-up to get the house clean quickly. Set a timer for 15 minutes and work on the most pressing issue. Typically, things that are out of place need your attention first. Also make sure you have a place for everything. Don't let drawers become junk magnets, and if they are now, as you watch TV, clean out one drawer at a time and put stuff away during commercials. Lastly, decrease clutter and don't buy anything you don't absolutely need!

Tools for Success

I've walked miles in those shoes! I've managed to organize a family of four with two tools in particular.

  1. Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. She breaks organizing down into "chewable bites" that are really easy to understand and apply. The thing that I liked most about this book, though, is that it helps you to understand and work through the mental block that keeps you from staying organized. I can't say enough about this book. Of course, check the library for a copy first, but if you have to end up buying it yourself, it's money well spent.
  2. There is a website that has a few step-by-step lists and some wonderful printout lists to help you organize things like groceries and spring/fall cleaning. There's also a wonderful article on creating a "launch pad," which is essentially a specific place that you put everything that must go out the door with you tomorrow. Their forum is really helpful, too. You still need these things when you're single. Really eases the "overwhelmed" feeling. The address is OrganizedHome.com.
  3. One thing I can't stress enough is this. Don't purchase any sort of organizing container or gadget until you've made a complete sort through of what you already have. Having said that, you may want to take a look at Ikea's website. They have some permanent items that don't cost an arm and a leg. For example, in the last catalog, there was a liquid handsoap dispenser that hangs on the wall for around $5 and a hanging Q-tip dispenser for around the same price. These two things being off the bathroom counter top and out of the way can be a real relief. And remember, even if you don't have the money for the items you need to complete this task, you can save up and buy them one at a time. Make a plan, write it down, and then work towards the goal.

Crystal in NH

Find a Cleaning Buddy

Sounds like focus and size of the job in front of you make things difficult. My sister is like you and here are some ideas for how she works with it.

  1. She picks an area to work on where even a small change will be noticed. This helps her stay motivated and inspired.
  2. Keep your goals as small as you need to achieve them. My sister had a kitchen full of dirty dishes, so instead of trying to do all the dishes, she did a set number, like 20 pieces or one sink full, and then did something more fun. Often she finds that once she starts, she goes further than her goal, but even if she doesn't, she still feels good about completing the goal.
  3. Ask for help. In my sister's case, I love spending time with her, and organization is a strength of mine. So, once a month, we get together and have a cleaning or organizing binge.
  4. Have defined places for things and keep them there.
  5. Recycle, toss, and give away things you don't use. Extra unnecessary stuff just means more to store, insure, and deal with, which adds to your overwhelm.


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Start Each Day Right

For many years, I was a single, working mother and learned this little tip, which saved me time and frustration. Each night after the children went to bed and I was ready for bed, I would go through the house and straighten up, pick up, and arrange things. Then when I got up in the morning, everything was neat and welcoming. I felt encouraged to start the day. I taught this to my children and they agree with me. It is discouraging to get up in the morning with the house a mess, and this method takes just a little time and leaves you facing the morning ready to start a new day.

Make a List and Check It Twice

Have you tried making a list of all the projects you need to complete? Put the list at eye level where you will see it often to remind you what needs to be done. Marking off each completed task will make you feel like you have accomplished something. The best way to get caught up is one project at a time and I would start with the quickest ones.

Talk to Your Doctor

The lady who can't concentrate or finish her household tasks sounds just like me! Is it possible she could have Adult Attention Deficit Disorder? Since I was diagnosed a couple of years ago, I've been on medication that helps me focus. In addition, the support groups have all kinds of tips and tools to help us stay organized, such as making lists, setting timers for completing tasks, and playing games and giving ourselves rewards for staying on task. This lady might consider talking to her doctor to see if her problem has a physical cause.
Jessie in Sioux Falls, SD

Play Creative Cleaning Games

First of all, don't be so hard on yourself. I'll bet one of your strongest traits is creativity or being extra sensitive to the needs of others. People like this tend to be naturally messy.

I find creative cleaning games help me. Play "beat the clock." Tell yourself "I can clean that room in 20 minutes," and then set a timer and go to it. Another trick is to do one small cleaning task in each room of the house. When you have done the last room, start with the first room again and do another small task in each room. It keeps you from getting bored, and before you know it, all the rooms look better.

Ask for Help

Instead of the usual Christmas gifts that end up in the attic or closet, how about asking for a professional organizer/cleaner to tackle the insurmountable? Even if two or three friends or relatives pitch in to pay for it, I'll bet that this would be the gift you'll always remember!

Check Out This Great Website

Check out Maria Gracia's free website at GetOrganizedNow.com for a wealth of tips, motivators and suggestions on organizing everything from your closets to financial records and everything in between.

Two Terrific Tips

Here are a few hints for you. First, don't enter or leave a room empty-handed. The same goes for entering and exiting your house and car. This way, you are always putting things back in their proper places without having to make special trips.

Next, set aside an hour to clean and put on an audio book to listen to while you do it. It's a painless way to accomplish two things at once.

Get This Book!

I, too, was a horrible housekeeper. Luckily for me, I found a book called Sidetracked Home Executives: From Pigpen to Paradise by a pair of sisters in the Seattle, Washington area. With great humor and understanding, they explain how they were two of the biggest slobs in the world since childhood, and how they finally got their acts together. Each had three children and a husband, so there were toys and work schedules with which to deal. I heartily recommend this book. It truly worked for me! I'm not sure if it's still in print, but there are several used book websites that should be able to track it down.

Take the Next Step:

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  • An organized home can save you quite a bit. The Dollar Stretcher's Guide to an Organized Home can help you save both time and money getting organized and staying organized.

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