Clean Your Apartment, Fast!

How to clean an apartment without it taking days.

Stever Robbins,
March 14, 2011
Episode #064

Clean Your Apartment, Fast!

We organized your wardrobe.  We cleaned out your desk (now, don't say I never did anything for you).  Today's topic is quickly cleaning before a party, without stopping to sweeping stuff under the rug. The quick and dirty tip is to keep moving and cleaning, using holding areas and a party cleaning worksheet to deal with those tricky-to-handle situations.

Last weekend was party weekend! It was time for our yearly party, where all our friends, loved ones, and neighbors get together and find every excuse to drink, eat fattening foods, and make merry. Sadly, one party highlight happens the day before: I get to clean the apartment.

I know this sounds easy. But I’m a guy, and I have been for most of my life. If you’ve ever tried to clean a guy’s apartment, you know it is a daunting task. Guys have too much stuff, we don’t really have places to put it, and we have food stuck to the walls. We usually don’t know how to clean.

Cleaning Is All About Decisions

Cleaning up really amounts to making a bunch of decisions. You go through your apartment, bathroom, or garage, and put each item away, complaining bitterly about how much you hate housecleaning. You put each item where it belongs. Sounds simple, until you reach that sculpture of Queen Elizabeth made entirely out of macaroni and glitter. It's obviously worth keeping, but where does it go? The time and energy of making that decision is what makes cleanup a chore.

There are two ways to clean something up. You put it where it actually belongs. That’s "real cleaning." Or, you can get a really big carpet and sweep it under the rug. That’s easy cleaning-- but it’s fake--because you forget where you put things, so you buy replacements, giving you twice the junk to clean for your next party. Plus, you end up with duplicates of your Barry Manilow CDs, and for some things, one is enough.

Let’s clean up together. We’ll do real cleanup, and we’ll do it fast.

Make It Easy by Making It Paper

Start by grabbing a pad of paper and a pen. Where you would have taken action in prior cleaning sessions, this time, you’ll take notes. Taking notes can be much faster than taking action. Who knew? (Actually, I think Congress knew. So if this tip doesn’t work for you, blame them.)

Grab an item. If its home is in this room, put it away. Voila! It’s cleaned up for real. But if you’re in the bedroom and you just grabbed that plate of half-eaten chocolate cake that lives on the floor by your bed, its home is in your sink or dishwasher. At least, I hope so. For now, set it neatly by the door. You’ve just started your pile of “things that belong in other rooms.”

Next time you leave the room, for any reason, grab the items from that pile that belong where you’re going. Take the items with you, and as soon as you arrive, put them where they belong. Once again, you’ve done real cleaning up.

Turn Actionable Items into To-Do Items

What about that invitation to a New Year’s Masquerade? You know you want to go, but you needn’t keep the brochure. On your handy piece of paper, write the heading “possible to-do items.” Jot down the information about the Masquerade and throw away the invite. Do this for any object that generates a future to-do item. Write down the to-dos whether or not you know if you’ll do them. Capture the action, throw away the item. Just keep moving.

Sometimes you find immediate to-dos, like filling up your trash bag and discovering you have no more spares. You can’t delay new trash bags. If you do, the current one grows legs and develops opinions of its own. You really don't want that to happen, so jot down the heading “immediate to-dos” and write, "grab new trash bags." Run out at your next break and do just those to-do items. Nothing goes in that category except buying new trash bags, taking out the existing trash, and bribing the neighborhood kids to walk off with that poster your roommate insists looks great in the living room.

Homeless Things Go Under the Rug -- With a Reminder

I’ve saved the scariest for last: stuff without a home that you don’t know what to do with. Some things don’t have a home and have no action implications, but you still want to keep them. For example, that invitation to your best friend’s latest wedding.

It may have no home, but you still need to clean it up. So just stash it anywhere. But add a new category to your tracking sheet called “Swept under rug.” Note the item and where you stashed it. After the party, go through this list and find real homes for these objects. If several things all need the same kind of home, create a system to deal with them so next time cleanup will be easier. I noticed half of my “under rug swept” category was Alanis Morrisette CDs. One CD-rack purchase later, the problem is fixed for good.

That's all there is to it! You now have a very quick way of dealing with any kind of item you're likely to find while you were cleaning. You can take immediate action without leaving the room, and by using your handy dandy sheet, make sure that every action implication gets properly captured.

Now, your apartment should be clean enough to eat off the floors. And if your parties are anything like mine, you just might find yourself doing that.

You can find a sample party planning and tracking sheet with the transcript of this episode at getitdone.quickanddirtytips.com.

This is Stever Robbins. Email questions to getitdone@quickanddirtytips.com or leave voicemail at 866-WRK-LESS. Conquer your email with my audio program You Are Not Your Inbox: Overcoming Email overload at YouAreNotYourInbox.com.

Work Less, Do More, and have a Great Life!



Pencil and Notebook image from Shutterstock

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