A Working Girl's Guide to Tidying Up
Written by Alexi Strong Gonzalez
Growing up, my parents would both stare at my bedroom in horror, mystified at how one girl could be so messy. There were clothes and homework and junk strewn across the floor at all times. My college roommates were always hunting for their belongings under heaps of my disorganization. To this day, there are frequently dust bunnies in my corners, and I’ve been known to let baskets of laundry go unfolded for weeks on end.
I offer this context to assure you that you’re not about to take tidying tips from some Stepford-esque cleaning robot. But I like to think I’ve improved from my younger years, and I’ve finally warmed up to the sentiment my mother tried to instill in me for years – there’s so much pride to be had in keeping a clean home.
As I get older and my responsibilities grow and my days become more mentally taxing, it gets harder and harder to find the motivation to clean up. But I’ve collected some great tips to help keep things in order. Whether you’re a light clutter type or an “oops, I left my cereal bowl in my bed again” gal, I think any working girl who still wants her house to look nice when visitors stop by can learn from these tricks I’ve put into practice over the years:
Prep work, prep work, prep work.
I don’t know about you, but the two quickest things that can get out of control and make my house feel wrecked are dishes and laundry. Thankfully, being prepared can help curtail both of these problem areas.
Get in the habit of meal-prepping.
There are dozens of breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes you can cook in just a few hours Sunday night that not only create few dirty dishes but also keep you from dirtying up plates, pots and pans later in the week. Why clean a frying pan of scrambled egg residue every morning (or worse – leave the pan in the sink all day while you’re at work) when you can pull a pre-made breakfast sammie from the freezer and pop it in the microwave right before you head out the door?
Do your laundry.
Get yourself in the habit of doing laundry once a week (twice if you’re washing for two or more). It keeps the dirty clothes from overtaking your life, and it’s also easy to mindlessly fold a basket of clothes while your latest Netflix obsession plays in the background.
Plan your outfits for the week.
Ever try on six outfits in one morning before finally deciding on one? I have, plenty of times! And it’s such a bummer to return to your room that night and see your hastily thrown tops and bottoms all over the place. Pick out your clothes ahead of time to cut down on that clothing littler as well as wardrobe changes throughout the day that will just contribute to more dirty laundry.
Practice the Five-Minute Rule.
A pair of roommates in my sorority house in college had the most perfectly tidy room and lived by the 1-minute rule – if there was a chore in their room that would take less than a minute to complete, they had to do it before leaving for class.
Now, I’m not nearly that efficient, but my own version, the 5-minute rule, works pretty well. There are lots of household chores that make a big difference and only take five minutes! Sweeping the kitchen, wiping down your bathroom countertops, emptying the dishwasher – all these can be completed in five minutes. Make it part of your evening routine that the last thing you do before getting ready for bed is a 5-minute chore, and you’ll be shocked at how much tidier your home will feel.
Make organization part of the décor.
I’ve lived in my fair share of cramped places where it felt like the clutter was closing in on me, but it wasn’t just junk I could throw away. So I bought baskets. Lots of ‘em. Suddenly the baby bottle/coupon/pens and pencils/old magazine shelf (yeah, it was a hot mess) became three beige baskets with labels. It made the kitchen look so much cleaner, kept our things way more organized and looked like a cute decoration.
Get a bathroom organizer shelf.
Keep all your toiletries and cosmetics in their rightful bins and add little decorative accent pieces – the nicer it looks, the more motivation to keep it that way. Trust me, it gets way easier to keep things in their rightful place when they have a rightful place to begin with.
Don’t neglect your deep cleaning.
Every once in a while, you’ll need to break out the bleach and rubber gloves. Keeping things just tidy enough is great and really does make a big difference, but grime builds up. Make sure you’re regularly scrubbing the floors and the tile grout, vacuuming under the couch and taking care of any number of heavy-duty cleaning tasks that the 5-minute rule won’t cover. Your little bit of tidying will go a long way if you’re starting off with a squeaky clean base.
And finally, the most important tip I could ever offer…
Hire a maid.
Let’s all work hard, babes. Hard enough that one day we can afford to pay someone else to do the tidying for us.
But seriously, some of us are just not built for the tidying life. We may have kids or pets or multiple jobs or jobs that require constant travel or a busy social life. You may get to a point where you still want to keep your home neat, but you just don’t have the time. So if your budget allows, why not hire a cleaning service? You earned that money, girl! Spend it on what will make your life easier! You may even just decide to hire someone to do that deep cleaning – the bathtub scrubbing, the baseboard dusting – because the little bits of tidying are still manageable.
I guarantee that no matter where you live, there are countless professionals who can do a better job cleaning your house than you ever could (no offense, because same). Your schedule frees up, you’ve empowered your cleaner by paying them to do something they’re great at, and you can still take pride in having that clean house because you worked hard enough to make it that way, whether you were the one doing the heavy lifting or not.
Alexi is a journalism grad from the University of Florida who recently traded years in non-profit communications for a corporate marketing management gig she totally loves. She and her husband are raising the world’s most adorable baby boy while updating their beach house and catching movies when they can leave the kid at Grandma’s. You’ll find her bike-riding and watching football games at kid-friendly breweries on weekends. For alarmingly liberal political opinions and TMI motherhood musings, follow her on Twitter at @alexigonzo.