No sweat if you’ve got the stamina for a marathon pick-up, but for the rest of us, there’s Unf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess, a refreshingly realistic guide to cleaning that’s simple, flexible, and adaptable to pretty much any lifestyle.
“I really strive to provide a practical framework for people to follow,” says author Rachel Hoffman, a self-professed “reformed messy person” whose candid, unfussy approach to tidying up will actually make you want to grab a broom.
While she originally set out to design a method for people like herself who didn’t have the time (or desire) to embark on an intensive purge, Hoffman’s approach also applies to anyone who doesn’t fit the typical profile: busy students, cleaning newbies, people with disabilities or chronic or mental illnesses, or those who just can’t summon the motivation to start. (So, pretty much everyone.)
“Some people find that other methods can be overwhelming, asking you to devote lots of time and energy and thought into cleaning up. I want to help people find ways to keep their homes [in order] without it taking over their lives or creating more stress than it relieves.”
Hoffman’s key to tackling clutter? The 20/10 rule: 20 minutes of work followed by a 10-minute break. She’s a firm believer that doing something is always better than doing nothing; adopters of her method are often surprised at how much headway they can make in a half hour.
“By taking a seemingly enormous task and breaking it up into chunks of time with a definite end, it helps you refocus on accomplishing what you can instead of getting lost in what you can’t.” Even just one 20/10 cycle deserves a pat on the back, Hoffman says, but if your space requires a more thorough overhaul, consider treating your new clean-up routine like a circuit-training sesh.
Want to try out a 20/10 for yourself? Keep scrolling for a few of Hoffman’s super-easy de-cluttering hacks.
Make your bed
“It’s a really quick, small task that sets the tone for the rest of your day,” Hoffman says. “Even just straightening up the covers and pillows immediately makes your bedroom look cleaner.”
Don’t put things down—put them away
“Take an extra few seconds to return things to their rightful homes instead of just setting them down, and save yourself a lot of picking up later on.”
Don’t let laundry and dishes linger
“Laundry and dishes have three steps: wash, dry, and put it away. When you leave your clean dishes or clothes lingering, you just create more work for yourself down the road.”
Use your waiting time
“While the coffee pot is percolating, the bathtub is filling, or dinner is simmering—use that time to do a few dishes, wipe down a countertop, or put a couple of things away. Every little bit can make a big difference.”
Originally published on April 21, 2017; updated July 22, 2018.
To practice your speed-cleaning skills, here’s the one item in every room to get rid of right now, as well as the five things to toss from your medicine cabinet.
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