I noticed that you sometimes answer questions on your blog so I thought it might be worth it to take a shot. I'm a 24-year-old college graduate, but my cleaning "education" as a kid consisted of my mom going off on my sister and me every few months for "not pitching in," and going on what we called "cleaning binges" in which things were shoved out of the way into boxes or random drawers and we couldn't find anything later. I suspect this is because as a foster child she grew up without consistent guidance on cleaning.
As a result, I don't know how to clean. Because a mess was my normal environment, I just don't see clutter or things that need to be cleaned until they reach epic, discouraging scale, at which time I procrastinate until some emergency prompts my own cleaning binge. On average, my wardrobe is approximately 75% on my bedroom floor, 15% on my bathroom floor, and 10% still in the hamper from the last time I did laundry. I make bowls out of aluminum foil to get out of doing dishes. I know it's ridiculous but I don't know how to change what I'm doing when it's based in something I don't notice. I don't have a neat-freak roommate or close friend to learn from. I've tried to find books and websites to help me, but tips for getting a stain out of the carpet do me no good when I can't find the carpet.
If I ever have kids I don't want to pass this along to them. How do I fix my complete lack of cleaning habits?
(please don't use my real name online)
Thanks for emailing me. I do apologize that it took longer for me to reply on the blog than I'd first told you, but I wanted to mull over your question for a while, and hopefully provide something constructive, something that would actually really help.
There are likely a lot of people in your shoes - people who grew up without a regular cleaning routine. So you know what? I really want to help you learn some gradual cleaning routines that you can stick to, so you don't feel overwhelmed by it all.
So, first things first - I want you to learn about cleaning bursts. They've really helped me (a recovering slob, but still with a 'happy slob' nature) to keep our place a lot tidier, so I won't freak out if people happen to stop by. Starting tomorrow, do one cleaning burst a day - even if it's for five minutes.
Second, we're going to set up some time for you every day to tackle the closet-out-of-a-closet syndrome that's going on. :) Seriously, you're not the only person whose clutter gets out of control! I don't want you thinking you are, and thinking you're somehow awful because of it. We can gradually decrease that and then learn how to keep it contained.
So, for this week, here are two goals for you:
- One cleaning burst a day. A cleaning burst is basically a timed period of cleaning. Aim for about 5 minutes a day and hit the areas that people (including YOU!) will see the most. My cleaning bursts always include kitchen, living areas, and main bath. Put 5 mins on the timer and then set to work tidying. DON'T WORRY IF YOU DON'T THINK YOU'RE DOING IT ALL PERFECTLY! Seriously, none of us do this perfectly, but over time we develop a few more cleaning skills.
- 5 minutes decluttering in your 'danger zone' - the closet! Once you touch an item that's out of the closet, deal with it. Again, put the timer on for five minutes. If you can work for a few extra minutes, that's a bonus, but if not - five minutes is fantastic. Aim to spend five minutes a day. Make a pile of things to give away, things that need to be thrown away, and things that need to be laundered, repaired, etc.
Next week I'll post again and see how you're doing. E-mail me back, please! I want to know how you progress, and I'm sure all of the blog readers will want to, as well. But, two steps to start is doable, right? And I'm really proud that you emailed me at all. We'll tackle this together! (And next week we'll start to tackle dishes and the kitchen in a more specific way.)
P.S. Anyone who reads this and was as touched by CC's words as I was - please post an encouraging comment for her...Thanks!