How to Clean a Really Messy Room

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Imagine Your Messy Room All Cleaned Up for the Holidays
Imagine Your Messy Room All Cleaned Up for the Holidays

We've all had one--the room behind closed doors, where no one, not even our best friend, is allowed to look. It's an embarrassment, a point of contention in the family, a black hole, where things go in but nothing comes out.

How can you mount an attack on this never-ending nightmare that will bring you the ultimate victory--a room you can be proud of?

Things You'll Need

  • Yourself
  • A timer
  • Lots of large plastic trash bags
  • Two or three large boxes
  • A Sharpie pen
  • A quiet day alone

You need inner motivation. I speak from experience here. Outside motivations, such as an upcoming holiday or a visit from your mother-in-law, have not worked. This can only come from somewhere inside--you won't clean up this mess unless you are doing it for YOU. Think it through a few minutes (not too long, you don't want to procrastinate any more!) What will you reward yourself with when the job is complete? A venti mocha frappuccino? A trip to the bookstore? A new DVD? Something inexpensive, but GOOD.

Get your supplies ready. You probably need a LOT of trash bags--don't be stingy with them. Label two boxes "Give Away" and "Put Away."

Shoo everyone out of the door, and put on some happy music--oldies, R&B, marches--whatever gets you humming. Now, before you really begin the job, just breeze past the room and pick up three items that don't belong in there. Take them where they should go (or throw them out). Now, go back and get three more items, leave the room (It's too depressing to stay in there for long) and go do something else. Remember, you haven't really started the cleanup yet ... although it's looking just a tiny bit better in there, isn't it?

When you're ready, set your timer for 5 minutes. Now, ATTACK! Grab any trash you can see and stuff it in a garbage bag. Stop working when the timer goes off. Even if it's not full, go outside and throw the bag in the dumpster.

As you walk back through the house, pick up three more items from the room, and put them away. Go fix yourself a glass of ice water or a cup of coffee. Put some dishes in the dishwasher, or throw a load of clothes in the dryer. Now, it's time to get back to the "Dirty Job"....

Look! The room is starting to "feel" a little better, a little lighter, straighter, more organized! How did this happen? You've only been "officially" working on it for five minutes?

Set the timer for 5 more minutes, or 10 if you feel you're up to it. This time pick up anything that doesn't belong in there and put it in the "Put Away" box. When the timer goes off, go put everything away that was in the box. Now, sit down, enjoy a sip of coffee or water, and read the paper.

See? It's not so bad, is it? And the room is starting to really look better. In fact, it looks so much better, you feel like doing another 5 or 10 minutes, right? Then maybe you could break for lunch. After all, you've got all day!

Tips & Warnings

  • You can trick yourself into doing a lot of dreaded jobs by starting slowly, just a baby-step at a time.
  • Don't burn yourself out by trying to do too much at once. The secret to maintaining an orderly room is just doing a little at a time.
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