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Organization Skills, Part Two: How to Start Fresh

There are a few essential things that you can do regularly to create healthy habits for keeping your home clean and organized. Here is what I try to do: 

1) Clean the house before leaving for the day.
This doesn’t mean that I need to mop the floors, but it means that my dishes are done (or at least there’s just a few in the sink), the counter tops are wiped clean, my bed is made, the towels in the bathroom are straightened, and there aren’t clothes and books and mugs of tea lying around.

2) Clean the shower every time I use it. No, I don’t break out the Mr. Clean and a scrub brush, but I do take a paper towel and wipe off the soap scum and bits of towel fluff that might have settled on the floor of the bathtub. It makes it much easier to clean when I eventually have to do a proper deep-cleaning.

3) Put things in their places when I’m done with them. I like my books in alphabetical order. I have special spots for kitchen appliances. Coats should be hung up in my in-suite storage closet. These little things can become second nature if we remember to consistently do them.

4) Organize on Sundays. Even if I follow the above three rules, things are likely to somehow pile up as the week goes on. I like to begin the week on a good footing, so every Sunday I like to take a couple hours to ensure that if something has fallen behind over the past seven days, it gets tidied up.

Maybe your house is a total disaster right now, however, and the idea of following the above suggestions is laughable. If that is the case, then start by de-cluttering and tackling one area at a time. Here's how you do it:

1) Do one room at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once - it will only give you a headache! Bathrooms are usually a good place to start because they are small and they likely don’t have too much clutter. If you can tackle the bathroom, it will give you more confidence to have a go at the office or your bedroom.

2) Do one area in a room at a time. Start small when you are cleaning especially difficult rooms. In the bedroom, begin by organizing the desk. Take out all of the piles of papers and sort through them. Get a few big filing folders (or a box for files, or a filing cabinet… I have a couple big boxes full of labelled files and it suits my needs perfectly). Sorting through papers takes quite a long time, but it is completely worth it. Once you have all the papers organized, move on to something else: dust the desk. Then organize the little items (pens in one drawer, blank paper on another shelf, etc). Do one thing at a time and you’ll be moving through it all in no time.

3) Focus on the long-term. Ask yourself how you can organize things so that you’ll be inspired to keep it all neat and tidy. If you always forget to water your plant, move it to an area of the house where you will be more likely to notice it and see that the water is getting low. Get a shoe rack for your shoes rather than tossing them in the closet or leaving them in the entrance-way. Re-organize anything you need to as the days go by: if you find that you are constantly climbing up on a stool to get to something, or that you have to dig through a drawer to find what you need, bring it closer to you. I have a drawer for pens in my desk, but I also have a pen by my computer, a pen in the kitchen, and a pen in my bedside table (with a notebook or a pad of paper alongside each pen) in case I want to write something down now. Even if it seems silly to have a pen and paper in so many different spots within a 700-square-foot bachelor suite, do what works for you. Sometimes there is logic in ridiculousness.

4) Enlist help. If you have no idea where to begin, ask someone who does! No one is ever too old to ask their mother for advice, for example. If you live in a gigantic house and have disposable income, consider getting a maid to come in just a couple times to begin with so that you can see how an expert does it. Otherwise, friends and the people you live with are always helpful candidates. Everyone has their own cleaning style and that can make it hard to clean with others if they have a different style from your own, but you can also learn something from another person’s way of doing things.

5) Choose the right cleaning products. There is very little that baking soda and vinegar can’t cure. They are better than any commercial cleaning product and they’re a whole lot cheaper. Mix vinegar with hot water to clean floors; sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda onto stains on a kitchen counter and rub at it with a dishcloth. It’s magic! In many situations, hot water and a clean cloth will also do the trick of cleaning a surface. I’m not a huge fan of a lot of commercial cleaning products because they contain many harmful chemicals, but I do adore using the Lysol for cleaning the toilet. Somehow I just don’t feel that vinegar and baking soda is going to cut it when it comes to cleaning a toilet. I also tend to use Windex for mirrors (living in a condo, I don’t have to worry too much about cleaning windows!). But for all other cleaning supplies, I like to use eco-friendly products: the brand Method is awesome; I use the Multi-Surface and the Tub & Tile to cover all of my needs. That’s it: four commercial cleaning products, plus hot water, vinegar, and baking soda. It’s all you need.

What do you do to maintain a fresh, clean home on a consistent basis?