The battle for a “clean enough” apartment

Festoons of random papers and crumpled piles of clothing peppered my apartment. A precarious wasteland of dishes inhabited my sink and a whole nest of wild dust bunnies roamed about in the dark corners of my apartment. Although I was perfectly content to live in utter disorganization, I came to the realization that I could not, for the life of me, keep my apartment clean for more than two days. I cycled through a process of one giant monthly cleaning spree, but inevitably, my apartment would revert to its previous state. Over the course of a month, the place would become an unrecognizable shamble again. 

While it was time consuming to do massive cleaning purges, having a messy apartment also affected my productivity. It is more difficult to study and do homework when I have to fish around a mountain of disarrayed stuff to find a textbook or papers. Finding clothes takes longer, too. In general, I found that a disorganized apartment made me feel cluttered and stressed. It made me feel trapped. My apartment was a living, breathing ecosystem in which my mess and I coexisted. The time between cleanings became feeding periods for my mess. The more I sustained this monster, the more it grew and became harder to tame. However, I always, in the knick of time, reeled it back in before it swallowed me whole. 

I was growing weary of this terrible house pet. I thought about the popular professional organizer Marie Kondo. She implements a simple system to declutter one’s space. Individuals sort all their items into categories, starting with general characteristics such as clothing and books, then breaking those groupings into further subcategories. One by one, they take an item out in each category and see if it ‘sparks joy.’ If it does not, they thank the item for everything it has done and give it away. I decided tackling my clutter issue with her ‘KonMari method’ would not work since it seemed rather time consuming. I begrudgingly acknowledged I would easily fall prey to starting something and leaving it unfinished. I could not just pull out all of my clothes and sort through them in the middle of a semester and give up halfway.  

So instead, I divided my apartment into four main danger zones of disaster: Bathroom, dishes, floor, and clothing. I chose these four zones because they were the areas that got out of hand the quickest and had the most impact on my life when unregulated. I focussed on putting time away each day to keep these areas tidy. I did this by putting things away right after I used them. For the bathroom, I wiped down the sink and tub before I would sleep. I did the dishes at the end of the day if I didn’t have time to wash them right after I used them. I swept my floors at the end of each day, and during the weekend, I vacuumed my carpet. Finally, I resisted the urge to fling my clothing onto ‘that chair’ and instead tossed them into the hamper or folded them. It sounds very simple to take the initiative and clean little by little each day, and once I actually internalized this practice, my apartment has never deteriorated to a super messy state again. 

I can’t say I don’t l have those days when I don’t feel like cleaning, but now I keep my apartment relatively orderly. I round up the dust bunnies and guide them into my dustbin. I no longer allow skyscrapers to be built in my sink. And my papers and clothing are no longer strewn about my apartment, but instead lie in neat stacks in my dresser or desk. Plus, I get along quite well now that my housepet-sized mess is manageable. 

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