Is this you #4?

Problem: When you clean, you tend to get lost in the process, which costs you so much time that you aren't able to finish the job. It is a strange phenomenon that most people who consider themselves housekeeping impaired will flip to the opposite side of the spectrum once they get rolling. Before they know it, they're alphabetizing the entire CD collection or are on their hands and knees with a razor blade.

If this is you, check out some suggestions below. They can be found on page 69 of The House That Cleans Itself.

1. Always look at the big picture. Take a quick inventory of a room first and force yourself to begin with the most important areas. For instance, in the kitchen, if there are dirty dishes in the sink and newspapers spread across the table, don't start by washing the windows.

2. Clean with a portable timer. Divide the number of minutes you have to spend by the number of areas you want to clean. The resulting number is how long to set the timer for each room. When the timer goes off, whether you are finished in there or not, move to the next room. This technique will keep you moving throughout the house. Note from Shari: If you've prioritized the messes in the space you're working on as suggested in number 1, then you know you've tackled the biggest issues and can move on.

3. Clean with others. Trade off with a friend. You give her two hours every Tuesday and she gives you two every Thursday. Or you can try Room to Room Sequencing described in part 3 of The House That Cleans Itself. Tune in next week for some handy tips on using this method.


Is this you #3?

Problem: When you organize, do you tend to overdo by creating too many categories? (Too many subdivisions makes sorting complicated and challenging.) Even if you set up a good sorting system by following someone else's simple guidelines, when it comes time to use it you may find youself simply standing there in confusion, item in hand, wondering what category that item is most closely related to. And then, later you can't remember which category you chose, forcing you to dig through all applicable file folders to find the missing paper.

The below solution comes from page 67 of The House That Cleans Itself.

Solution: To best deal with it, think in terms "broader is better." Use boxes or drawers rather than files, and give them more general categories (for example, that air conditioner receipt could go into a box labeled "Papers related to stuff I own"). This sytem may look inefficient to others, but for you this might be the answer to a lifetime of struggling with your tendency to overanalyze.

Whenever you set up any new organizational systems, alway pause and ask youself if you're carrying it too far. Then ask someone else! His or her input will help you see if your organization is too extensive, causing more problems than it will solve.


Is This You #2?

Problem: If you can't see something, you can't remember that it exists--which can lead to all sorts of household messes. (Think about it: Is it harder for you to find something when the house is perfectly neat or when it's kind of messy? If your answer is the latter, you are an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person, for sure!)

If this is you, the solution to this problem can be found on page 67.

Think see-through: clear bins, clear containers, clear drawers. One money-saving tip: Buy clear storage containers at after-Christmas sales.

If it helps, you may even want to set up memory-jogging helps such as bulletin boards, big signs, labels and reminders. (For easy and attractive labeling, I highly recommend the Brother P-Touch line of electronic labelers. I use mine all the time!)

Whatever signs or reminders you use, be sure to integrate them into your decor in such a way that they can easily be camouflaged when you want to tidy up. For example, my family bulletin board is mounted on the inside of a cabinet. I leave the cabinet door open most of the time, but if I want to make things look neater, all I need to do is close the cabinet door and that messy bulletin board disappears.


Is This You #1?

Problem: You have a hard time remembering to pause, think and do when it comes to the actions of daily life.

Solutions to compensate for this type of impairment are found on page 66.

1. Set up your home so that doing the neat thing is as thoughtless a process as doing the messy thing. For example replace the chair you usually dump your jacket on with a standing coat rack.

2. Force yourself to take a five-minute walk through your entire house once a day and focus on what's in front of you. Just do light straightening; if you do it daily it can become a fairly pain-free habit.

3. Use labels everywhere so you don't have to think or remember when putting things away. I lose an enormous amount of time standing in front of a closet trying to bring my brain back into the moment, consciously realizing what I'm holding in my hand and then trying to remember where it goes. Without labels, cleaning is so much trouble that I'm less likely to do it.

Problems with the Hard Wiring

Did you know that many household mess problems have nothing to do with bad habits or laziness but are in fact a direct result of how our brains function? In The House That Cleans Itself, I have dedicated an entire chapter to describing the various challenges that may be contributing to your mess, along with solutions for dealing with those problems. I'll feature excerpts from that chapter in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!