Dawn Rebel


8 Strategies for Jump Starting Your Cleanup Routines

How to handle a mess that's gone too far...


Holidays, illness, visitors, acts of nature, bouts of malaise, Netflix binges: there are endless ways to let your life, goals, and housekeeping get off track.  After the recent holiday with two sick kids, my own list of to-dos got a little loco. Everywhere I looked there were boxes, blocks, barf pails, and baskets of laundry to do battle with. Just surveying the post-holiday carnage was exhausting, and enough to make me want to throw in the (dish) towel.

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So I did what any well-organized, A-Type would do: I let it get even worse. "What's the point in even trying?" I thought. It was a one step forward, two steps back situation. I put away one load of laundry, and my toddler opens a bag of pumpkin seeds all over the living room while simultaneously wiping her nose on every square inch of fabric two feet from the ground.

I realized the correlation between things to do and motivation to do them looks a lot like this:

So, how do we pick up the pieces and get on with it? How do we get back on track when the situation at home has gotten way out of control?

1)   Make a list

It sounds simple. That's because it is simple.

By just taking a moment to transfer the chaos around you onto a manageable sheet of paper you'll have started to regain control of your crumbling surroundings. Scientists like Daniel J. Levitin, author of "The Organized Mind" talk about the important cognitive space created when we write our tasks down. In fact, Levitin even advocates for breaking your list up into these four categories:

The book suggests that one method for further breaking your to-do lists into easily actionable categories is:

1. Do it
2. Delegate it
3. Defer it
4. Drop it

If you're working with your partner, I suggest using the Four Square to-do list, which looks like this:

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2)   Prioritize

Triaging is the second way to handle a mess that has gone too far. I like to look at my list and tackle the first item in one of two ways: by urgency or by simplicity. Urgent items on your list might include doing the dishes (because you can't keep eating all your meals off the "Happy Birthday" paper plates) or cleaning the red wine off the rug before it sets in. Tackling the simple items first is a great way to get started because you'll feel an immediate sense of accomplishment. When facing a serious mess sometimes you need a little positive reinforcement to get you motivated.

3)   Phone a friend

Misery loves non-judgemental company, right? Call in the help of a friend or relative to help take the burden of a huge cleanup off your solo shoulders. Dangling the promise of wine and a soundtrack of their choosing is a helpful hook.

4)   Blast the music

This is my secret weapon cleaning soundtrack. Nothing melancholy should be played when you're handling a mess that has gone too far.

5)   Outsource

Use this mess to get over your hangups on getting help. You don't have time for perfect. This is the time to hire some help, like a cleaning service or even a Professional Organizer. These people know how to handle a mess like it's their job because....you get me. To find a professional organizer near you, hit the Googler.

6)   Rage clean

You lookin' at me, unfolded laundry?! I said...Are you. Lookin'. At. Me?
Rage cleaning is actually about using your pissed-off'edness about something to fuel your desire to scrub the sh*t out of stuff. Jennifer Ball from The Huffington Post puts it like this:

"THE RAGE CLEAN. Cleaning when angry. I'm not a huge fan of housework in general, and most days I just do enough to keep things presentable. But there's something about being mad that gets me all hot and bothered. As my temper flares, messes that need conquering almost glow with a heavenly aura in front of me. The dishwasher gets emptied with loud purposefulness. Dust is sprayed and wiped with forceful intent. Shoes are deposited by the front door with angry aplomb. Baseboards are scrubbed, the Swiffer gets abused and the toilets? Those mother effers GLEAM when I'm done with them."

There is an awesome American Hustle scene featured in Ball's post where Jennifer Lawrence lets out the rage with some gloved-scrubbing.

7) Get physical

There are loads of health-related reasons to give yourself a workout, so here's a reason that will kick-start your cleanup: exercise actually makes you more productive. With blood pumping to your brain, and endorphins flowing, you'll have the focus and energy you need to get your house back in order. Sounds like a pretty excellent way to start a cleanup. In fact, this five-minute workout is a great way to get your heart pumping, and your head ready to do battle with The Mess.

8) Use retail therapy (...with purpose)

We have all shopped in order to avoid something, even if it's just browsing. The things I bought during exam time were absolutely insane; they left me broke, full of guilt, and no further ahead on my to-do list. By buying yourself something to be used in the cleanup you can sidestep those feelings of guilt, and get yourself pumped about the task at hand. Things like great storage containers, Dollar Store stock-ups, cleaning cloths, or your very own Crap Basket will help get the cleanup done with a spoonful of shopping sugar.

Do not even think about mopping - instead, do this. And, bring your clean to the extreme with this all-natural solution.

Image Source: FreeImages.com