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Keeping it Clean

If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?

– Laurence J. Peter

Cleanliness is next to Godliness, as they say.  Religious connotations aside, this article is all about keeping your house, apartment, cottage, room, desk, floor, kitchen counter or whatever other surfaces and areas you inhabit are, clean.

I would imagine that most of us, if not all of us would like a clean home.  I don’t know many people who will swear up and down that the clutter, dust, dirt and dishes in their homes are left there intentionally.  Most of the time the reason there’s any sort of clutter or mess in a house is for one of the following reasons.

- Not enough time to clean up, work and have an actual life

- Laziness

- The place is already a disaster and so cleaning would literally be a five day, non-stop affair

- Lacking the proper tools (Though this one is usually the least likely culprit.)

Or, my personal favourite:

- Cleaning sucks

Yes, cleaning does, indeed, suck.  There’s nothing very fun about it and the unfortunate truth is that, as we all told our parents when we were kids, it is just going to get dirty again.  Most of the time we’re talking a considerable time investment when we’re actually cleaning, and the resulting pay-off is often not enough to get people to take the time to clean in the first place.

I mean, you don’t finish cleaning and receive $50 for your admirable effort at clearing out the dishes before bed.  You don’t vacuum the floor and then have a party,  (Well, maybe you do, as having company over is often the only thing that spurs on a fit of cleaning for many people.) all you get is a nice looking floor.  For a week.

So, for the simple reason that the pay-off isn’t good enough, many of us procrastinate on cleaning until it absolutely must be done, or someone who you would like to not think you’re a slob is coming over.

But, have hope.  Despite the bleak picture I have painted, having a clean home isn’t a myth.  It is indeed possible with the right mind-set and motivation and on top of that, it can be quite easy to maintain too!

Why bother?

Well, there are lots of reasons– which I will endow upon you, dear reader, in this handy list format.

- It keeps everything looking good

- It prevents harmful bacteria from growing

- It keeps some pretty terrible house-hold pests from ever showing their antennae

- It stops you from ever needing to have those massive, 5-day cleanup periods

And, again, my personal favourite:

- It makes you feel good.  Seriously.

There is nothing like getting home to a clean house.  The floors are clean, the counters are clean, there are no dishes in the sink, the garbages are relatively empty, your bed is made and your desk is free from any clutter.  Even your coffee table has no clutter on it!  You come home and there’s no weight on your shoulders about the mess you’re surrounded by.

If you don’t know what I mean, it’s hard to describe without having you actually experience.  But I’m sure there’s been times where– even if you’re traditionally a messy person– you’ve cleaned a part of your home and it’s remained that way for at least a day.  Do you remember what it felt like when you walked into that room and it was already clean?  It’s really nice, right?

Imagine that every day, and in every room in your home.  Trust me when I say that the effort it takes to keep your home clean is more than worth what you get back in terms of your everyday mind-set.  Whether you believe it or not, there is an invisible weight you put on yourself when your home is a mess.  Somewhere in the back of your mind, you’re thinking ‘I really should clean up.’ and it nags at you every moment you’re in a messy room.

Aside from lifting that weight and invisible stress off your back, it frees that part of your mind to now dedicate resources to more important things.

How to keep things clean

I’m sure this is the burning question on everyone’s mind at this point.  How do you actually keep things clean?  Even when you have good reasons to keep your place clean, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to actually get up and clean.

The first step?  Start small.

I give this advice time and time again, with all sorts of different things on this site and that’s because it works. Start with something really easy and seemingly insignificant, but be constant with it.

For instance, let us propose that you have a notoriously cluttered coffee table.  You fear to actually put coffee on the table lest the shivering mass of papers, mail, magazines and junk reach out and suck you in.  Worse, you don’t want to walk too closely because then you might knock some of that mess off, causing what would be considered in Jenga the worst move ever.

Clean that sucker up.  Don’t worry about the rest of your place right now, just focus on the coffee table.  We’ll get to the rest.  If your coffee table is too disastrous to even be considered then go smaller.  Clean up an end table, or a night stand.  Whatever you have that would require the least work to clean up, hit that first.

Now, chances are that if you left things alone, within a day or two of having cleaned up whatever area you picked, it will start accumulating dirt and clutter again.  You want to prevent this from happening and prevent it from returning to the way it was before you cleaned it.  Do the best you can to avoid having any clutter build up, and if you notice any dust or dirt clean it right away.  I  know it sounds like a pain, but if you picked a small section of your home to keep clean it shouldn’t be too difficult.

If you picked your area as an end-table or a coffee table, avoiding clutter at this stage is as simple as just putting down whatever you were going to put down on another surface.  Don’t worry about the clutter building up elsewhere, just focus on keeping that one area clean.

When you’ve been able to keep whatever you picked clean for one month, pick something else.  It can be as big or as small as you want, but try and keep it within what you feel you would be okay to do.  You don’t need to push yourself too much.  Do the same thing with your new area for an entire month, and then pick another one.  Eventually you’ll have your entire home within your zone of cleanliness and you will have achieved what you once thought impossible.

That could take over a year!

Yeah, it could.  Will it?  Probably not.  The truth is that once you get into the habit of keeping things clean, you’ll really, genuinely want to clean up and keep things tidy.  Getting into that mindset may take a few months, but it’s very likely that you’ll be done long before you think you will be.

And even if it did take you over a year, let’s be honest.  If you weren’t making slow, steady progress, would you be cleaning anything at all?  Probably not.  In fact, if you hadn’t taken slow steps, not even your end-table would be clean.  So even if for a month all you do is keep your end-table clean, your home is still cleaner than it would have been had you done nothing.  And since you’re not going to spontaneously become motivated to clean your entire house and keep it clean, slow and steady is a good way to go.

Yes, progress is initially slow, but you’re missing the point.  It’s progress. Lasting progress!  It’s easy, it moves you towards your goal of keeping your home clean, it keeps you in a healthier mind-set and most importantly– as I’ve become so fond of saying at the end of these articles–

It works.

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