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11 Things Everyone Who Hates Tidying Needs To Know

Things I've learned managing my lifelong messiness.

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If you're a naturally messy person like me, you've probably learned to work with your own regular level of untidiness.

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It's definitely true that while other people only see mess, we tend to know exactly where everything we need is on a daily basis.

It's also definitely true that tidying can be overwhelming, time-consuming, and very unfun, so who needs it? You might find that like me, once you START cleaning it's very hard to stop until everything is 100% perfect, and that can stress a person out, so instead you avoid it like the plague.

But even though you do know which dirty T-shirt the remote is tucked under, you've also probably felt it would be nice to be a bit tidier and more organised on a regular basis.

Instagram: @zaapcleaning

Mostly for Instagramming your room purposes, ofc.

Knowing the struggle, I've put together a list of the little initiatives I make to be a bit more ~together~, and hopefully a few of them will work for you too!

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Full disclosure: I do not do these all the time and I am still the worst person at laundry there ever was, so I have no tips for that particular weakness.

1. Devote the first 15 minutes of work and home time to setting up your space.

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Make these readjustment sessions an integral part of your day. I schedule time into my calendar to set up my work desk every morning, which means that MOST mornings I actually do get my rubbish cleared, my water bottle filled, my to-do list scribbled out, and my calendar checked.

Applying the habit at home can be harder, especially since I'm the slump-on-to-the-couch-and-ignore-everything-as-soon-as-I-walk-in-the-door type. This tendency is largely responsible for my untidy room, so I try to take 10–15 minutes when I walk in the door to clean out my work bag, tidy around my bed, and just generally make sure tiny things are done BEFORE I treat myself to a good old sofa slump. Because to be honest, if I say I'll do it later, what I really mean is I won't.

Even though I don't always succeed with taking these little tidy breaks, making the effort to take them means big cleans are less painful and that over time cleaning up before I'm comfortable becomes more or less a regular habit. I don't know how naturally tidy people who don't do this at least semi-regularly function – somehow I never see my deskmates scheduling tidy-time, and yet their spaces are always cleaner than mine. Messiness to some degree is just my lot in life, but it's nice to minimise it, and it is refreshing to see my desk and room fresh and clear before I use them up every day.


2. Focus on simple and truly helpful organisation techniques.

Alright, look. In 26 years of being a fairly messy person, I have learned one thing: It's really, really sexy to imagine that every single thing you own will have its own, special place that it will always be returned to, and that somehow that place will double as really stylish décor for your very tidy home. But this is not real life.

Some things will have their own special little place. I have some very lovely desk coasters that are stacked gorgeously under my monitor stand, and that's where they will always go. Why? Because I don't use them and therefore never have to tidy them.

What I'm saying is this: Let go of the idea of glamourous, Instagrammy organisation and find out what's actually helpful to you. What makes tidying a fast no-brainer? Trust me that puzzling your tweezers and nail clippers and what-have-you into a beautiful arrangement on a hanging corkboard or whatever Pinterest says is on trend at the moment is probably not going to be the most convenient thing for you. Keep them together in a bathroom tool bag inside a drawer with several other bags. It's OK.

Put things where you would most likely put them anyway – organise your tidyness around your untidy habits. If you always throw your laundry in the corner, just put a laundry basket in the corner. See what I'm saying?

3. Reward yourself while you tidy.

Since I was a preteen hiding my dirty clothes in my closet until it burst open, I've had to find ways to make tidying bearable. This is difficult because tidying is unbearable. It's boring. It's futile – won't I just have to clean it again at some point?

So as a kid, before I had a radio in my room, I played this terrible game where for every five things I put away, I could read a page of my book, or stare out the window, or even just stare at the wall, because even that is better than tidying.

These days tidying can actually be fun, if I stick my favourite record on the Bluetooth speaker or pop a film I know and love on my laptop screen, or call up a friend or family member I need to catch up with. These little distractions make all the difference to whether something ever actually gets done.

4. Get a to-do list pad.

I absolutey love this tiered pad from Kikki.k, which has a built in system for prioritising my to-dos. I tend to squeeze about three days worth of "Now"s into one page, and always include little daily tidying tasks like "clear out emails", "empty bin", etc.

As with every tidying task, I sometimes avoid these like the plague and they sit on my list for several days straight, even though I know how much the tiny Type A part of me enjoys crossing things off when they're done. At this point, I get realistic and move "sort out the junk drawer" to "Someday".

I do my best, guys.

5. Have regular throw-out sessions.

New Line Cinema

For me, being naturally messy is practically synonymous with being a packrat to the highest degree. Being a packrat is debilitating, especially if you live in a tiny flat in a big city that is very, very far from your parents' house in another country. Having storage space is not a thing, which means my storage space is in plain view, which means I am even more naturally messy than I was when I had a properly sized closet in the suburbs so I could mostly hide how messy I really was.

So. I must do a hard thing. I must sometimes throw things away. And if you're messy and don't have a massive basement of storage where you can hide your additional hoard of mess, so must you.

I say this as someone who still has three pairs of trousers she bought three years ago before she started working at a desk and keeps them with the firm belief that someday they will fit again. Some things are hard to give up. I get it.

But other things are only hard to give up because it's kind of comforting to have lots of stuff. Even if you trip over it on your way to the toilet every damn night.

Trust me on this: Round up the clothes you hate. Round up the books you've read and don't want to lend out or look upon with pride as you remember reading them. Donate them to Traid and Oxfam, or even to H&M, where you can get vouchers in return for clothing donations. Get rid of some of those eclectic mugs. Recycle all those half-used notepads.

The less stuff you have, the less mess you can have, and the less tidying you have to do, the better.


6. And get rid of the things you don't like and/or really, truly need.

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Now, if you are like me, and at this point I'm assuming you are, you've probably heard of Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and you have probably called bullshit.

BUT. But but but. She kind of has a point, guys. Look, this idea that you should throw out anything that doesn't bring you joy is a little bit too Disney princess for my taste. ("MY BILLS DO NOT BRING MY JOY BUT I SURE AS HELL HAVE TO KEEP A RECORD OF THEM," we have all yelled silently every time anyone brings this book up.) Still, when it comes to stuff like your clothes, your books, your kitchen gadgets, and your sentimental ticket stub collection, there are things that need to go and things that don't.

It's easy to tell yourself you MIGHT need that neon-green tube skirt in case you're invited to an '80s theme party. But do you like it? Do you need it? Does it make a difference for your life, and would it be so bad just to buy another and donate that eventually too? Would the space it takes up be better served as a less-cluttered storage space for the letters your boyfriend sent you while you were abroad? These are the questions we must ask ourselves, and these are the things we have to let go of (here's looking at you, 3-year-old, too-small jeans).

7. Rid yourself of more than just physical clutter.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and trapped by the amount of shit in your life, odds are it's not just the mountain range of clothes and books that have taken over your bedroom. The truth is, there's a lot more stuff to tidy than just whatever thing is in your way at the moment.

If we're speaking literally, there's your tech. Your desktop and phone and tablet screens can become a mess if they're not looked after, just as your floor and wardrobe can. So incorporate tidying those things into your 15-minute set-up time. If you must bring your phone to the loo, ditch the Candy Crush for a quick app cleanse now and then. (Find a handy guide to decluttering your phone storage here.)

If we're speaking figuratively, even small physical messes can feel like overwhelming big ones if your head's a mess, so get your internal life together. Leave some time for self-care (which is nicer in a tidy space, let's be honest), get your daily work done, eat well, sleep well, and work on your relationships. The more together you are in your mind, the easier it is to feel together in the world.

8. Practise mindfulness.

I know this sounds really wanky and you probably hate me for saying it, and honestly I kind of hate me too. But actually, trying to be mindful in all the aspects of your life is one way to make tidiness come more naturally to you and one way to stop dreading it so much. So if you can stomach the bloggeryness of it all, I really recommend it. After all, the idea behind mindfulness is just being present and aware of what's happening around you and fully experiencing your own life.

If you're training your mind to be more aware of good things – how every bit of your dinner tastes, how the sun feels on your shoulders, what your partner's hair smells like – your brain slowly becomes more attuned to the rest of your surroundings too. A naturally messy person taking off her bra will fling it away and find it behind the bed in five months. A mindful person taking off her bra makes the natural connection to putting it in the drawer where it goes, because she's experiencing what she's doing at the time, not trying to skip ahead to the part where she gets to slump on the couch.

Here's a few apps that will help you get started.

9. Know that little messes are fine.

Look, even if you master tidying, being a naturally messy person means you will probably still spill ketchup down your front every few days. Shit happens, man, and some magical unicorn people are immune, and the rest of us just have to deal with being a little bit messy most of the time.

That's OK. I often feel like it's an all-or-nothing kind of deal. Either I'm tidy or I'm untidy. How can a person who cannot eat noodles without sloshing everyone around her also have an organised-AF closet? I wonder.

By choosing her battles, I tell myself in my wiser moments. If you're not blessed with the godlike gift of constant tidiness, if you've ever once felt like you're a gigantic gross mess and you can't handle all of the clutter in your head and in your life, congratulations, you're a naturally messy person: You can't be tidy at all times, and organisation is a challenge that you're sometimes up to and sometimes not. And that's actually fine.

10. But don't let them turn into big ones.

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So you can't be the ketchup police every time you eat a burger or you'll never enjoy a single moment of your life. I mean, how can you be mindful if you're more worried about a potential stain than the holy goodness of the food in your mouth?

But it's letting the little things add up. It's giving up on meeting yourself halfway that equals having a room where, even if the floor was lava, you'd be totally safe. Not cleaning the dishes yesterday does not equal not having to clean them today either. The longer you wait, the bigger the mess, the shittier your situation, and who wants that?

Do what you can. As much as you can. Make it easy for yourself. And when you can't, you just have to get through the hard stuff until it's easy again.

11. Suck it up and hire a fucking cleaner.

Here's the part where I should take my own advice. And I haven't, because I have often thought what you're probably thinking: "That's expensive and a waste of money and I can't afford it."

To the first and last points I say this: It's not actually that expensive if you do it strategically. Use apps like Handy where you get great deals. Only hire a cleaner once a month to take care of the things you really hate, whatever those things are. Pool with your housemates, if you've got them.

To the second I say, it's not a waste of time if it's means you're spending more time on things that make you cringe less. To fix Marie Kando's method, I present my own: Get rid of the things that don't bring you joy when you can. And if you can't (and sometimes you can't), find the easiest way to get them taken care of. You deserve it.