When guests ask to use your bathroom, do you point the way but cringe when they open the door to your toothpaste-spattered vanity and mildew-covered tile? If so, you’ve got plenty of messy company.
Few people can maintain magazine-photo living spaces, says Rachel Hoffman, author of Unf*ck your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess and the recently released follow up Cleaning Sucks: An Unf*ck Your Habitat Guided Journal for Less Mess, Less Stress, and a Home You Don’t Hate.
Work demands, physical limitations, kids and roommates — or even just never having learned how to clean — can all be obstacles to a picture-perfect home.
There’s good news, though. If keeping your house clean and organized is overwhelming, you don’t have to give up and settle for messy living. In her books, Hoffman offers advice for keeping your home spic and span with steady, consistent effort — even as little as five or ten minutes — each day. It works, too.
“The most common feedback I get is from people who tell me they had no idea that other people were out there living this way, too,” Hoffman told Sparefoot. “They thought they were all alone with their depression, mess, dirty dishes and an entire home they’d never dream of showing on Instagram.”
Now that you know you can be better than your mess, here are 7 tips from author Rachel Hoffman on how to change your habits and help keep your home clean and uncluttered.
1. Accept that Cleaning House Sucks
“For the most part, cleaning your house kind of sucks,” writes Hoffman. “Getting and keeping your house clean and organized is rarely fun, and we all have other things we’d rather be doing. But there’s no reason tidying up your home has to take up all your precious spare time. It can be accomplished just a little bit at a time.”
2. Marathon Cleaning is an Endless Cycle
By cleaning and picking up a little each day, you can avoid marathon cleaning sessions when expecting guests or hitting a point where you just can’t stand it anymore.
“Marathon cleaning doesn’t work. For a few days, you work your ass off and have a completely clean home,” Hoffman writes. “But then you do absolutely nothing for days or weeks or months. In the meantime, your home is getting progressively worse and worse until it hits the lowest point before you decide to do something about it again.”
3. Break Tasks into Manageable Chunks
Hoffman makes a case for what she calls 20/10s: 20 minutes of cleaning followed by a ten-minute break.
“Sometimes you’ll find that something you’ve been dreading or avoiding can be completed in just one or two 20/10s,” Hoffman writes.
The 20/10 payoff: Noticeable results with a limited amount of effort.
4. Start with Stinky Stuff First
When first tackling your messy home, start with “stuff that smells bad or has the potential to smell bad,” Hoffman writes.
In other words, garbage, dishes and laundry. Start a load of laundry first, then collect trash and recycling and take it outside.
5. Put Stuff Away
Consistent, small actions eliminate clutter, so toss grocery store circulars into the recycling bin before they pile up. Hang your jacket and other clothing after wearing.
“Don’t put things down. Put them away,” Hoffman told Sparefoot. “Taking an extra few seconds to return things to their proper homes will keep the clutter under control, and serve as a foundation to build other, long-lasting habits.
6. You Can Learn How to Clean
“Those who grew up in homes where they never learned to clean start out at a disadvantage without those fundamental housekeeping skills,” writes Hoffman. “Learning how to clean as an adult is like learning how to drive a stick shift or communicate in another language. It takes lots of practice, lots of trial and error and a desire to learn.”
7. Stay Ahead of the Mess
“Find 20 minutes in your day, every day, to pick up what you can and keep ahead of the mess a bit,” says Hoffman. “Some days that’ll be all you can do, but even the smallest amount of effort will help.”