Let’s talk about something slightly unsexy, which is, keeping your living and working environment tidy. I always find my focus blurring and overwhelm settling in in proportion to the messiness of my surroundings, and lately, with the uncertainty over my impending move, I had let things tip over to what I would consider full-on chaos. So yesterday, with the aid of some extra energy a sunny day provided, I pulled myself together and cleaned the place. It might have seemed a bit pointless seeing that we are currently living among boxes, but let me tell you it made a HUGE difference to the order inside my head.
If, like me, you find that the level of disorder around you affects your productivity and creativity, you are most likely a tidy person at heart. Unfortunately this doesn’t necessarily mean that you are also a cleaner at heart… Because I struggle with this contradiction daily, I wanted to put together some of my favourite tips for people like us, who thrive in a tidy place, but who are not the best at making the time for cleaning. I hope some of these might make it a bit easier for you to keep the levels of untidiness below the threshold of affecting your business and frame of mind.
Change your attitude.
There’s so much baggage that comes with homework and cleaning, like flashbacks to your mum yelling at you to clean your room, or your spouse accusing you of always nagging about dirty socks everywhere (or you being the one being nagged at! :D), that it’s no wonder the whole idea of keeping things clean fills most of us with dread and exhaustion before we’ve even started. If you try to view housework as something else than ‘work’, but rather think of it as self-care, just like you would meditation or eating healthy, you will start feeling differently towards it.
Think of housework as a good workout.
Running the vacuum cleaner around the house will yield similar results to a brisk walk in the park, and if you combine that with squats when picking up messes from floors, and stretches when dusting your pictures, you can feel smug in the knowledge that you just tidied the house and got your daily exercise in, too.
Find a place for all your stuff.
When everything you own has its own place, cleaning becomes almost a pleasure, as you don’t have to frustrate yourself with moving random piles from one place to another (guilty as charged!). You can also chop your cleaning into clear areas, it doesn’t take long to sort out one drawer or area at a time, rather than waiting to have enough time to clean the whole office or house.
If you get into the habit of having a place for all your items, you might notice that it’s not the actual arranging of stuff that’s the problem, but rather the amount of stuff without a place. Try to only keep items that either get regular use, or give you genuine joy. Everything else is surplus.
Have a blast!
Play music loud and have a sign along while you blast through your cleaning. You won’t be able to feel crummy when belting out your favourite tune at the top of your lungs.
There’s joy in being present in the moment, and mechanical tasks such as hoovering are perfect for slowing down and doing a bit of meditation at the same time. Feel the different materials, such as the wood on the counter you’re cleaning, or the softness of the rug you’ve hoovered, and luxuriate in the touch of clean surfaces.
Time your regular tasks.
It might feel like some tasks take longer than you think, which makes you put them off. If you know that emptying the dishwasher takes you exactly 2 minutes, you’ll be more likely to do it now rather than push it into the future and let the undone task steal space at the back of your mind.
Snap a before photo on your phone.
It’s easy to forget where you started from, but it’s hugely rewarding to able to see how much you’ve gotten done when you have evidence of the starting point.
Buy flowers, but don’t put them out until you’ve cleaned.
Then as a reward for making your space worthy of beauty, enjoy putting out your flowers and taking full pleasure in them.
Keep it up.
Get into the habit of up-keeping little bit at a time and you’ll never need to do a major cleanout. There’s a Finnish saying which translates roughly into ‘take it out as you go, bring it in as you come’, which I always try to keep in mind. Basically it means that when you move from one space to another, take the item that’s out of place, or rubbish that needs binning, and take it with you to its rightful place. If you have a habit of always returning an item as you move from room to room, you will avoid huge piles of misplaced stuff, rubbish or dirty laundry gathering all over the place.
It’s ok to get help.
If you really can’t find the time to clean, and your time is worth more working than what hiring a housekeeper to come pop round once a fortnight would cost, go for it. Anything that will make you more productive is a good investment, and the kind of outsourcing I’m all for!
I hope these tips might have helped you see something very unsexy in a new light. So often we consider things not directly related to our business or well-being inconsequential, and push them off because we have more important things to be doing. But if you imagine all these little things as an invisible network, supporting your mental health and making you feel more focused and inspired, you might start feeling differently about putting the effort in, too.
I also created this Cleaning Checklist, with timed tasks for each room to help you stay on top of keeping your environment tidy with the minimal amount of effort. Enjoy!
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