Thursday, January 5, 2012


Ask a Clean Person: Tackling a Major Clean-up, Part One

To put it mildly, my bedroom is absolutely atrocious! I'm still using the "I just moved in, so it's okay that my stuff is still in boxes, and I can barely walk through my room" excuse, even though I moved in July. It's really stressing me out, but I'm so overwhelmed with the amount of stuff strewn about that I don't even know where to begin.

The main problem is clothing, but I also have trash, dishes, random knick-knacks, and pretty much anything else you can think of lying around. Obviously, I won't let anyone in my room. This recently became a problem when a guy spent the night. No joke, I put a sleeping bag on the living room floor for the both of us, and wouldn't let him near my bed. He wasn't TOO freaked out, because we've known each other for a while, but, let's get real, that's pretty unacceptable behavior for a lady in her twenties.

I'd like to bring my dates back to a clean, comfy bedroom rather than always going to their houses or banning them from my room. Plus, I'm going a little crazy with all the clutter. Can you give me, a person who's notoriously messy and horrible at organizing, some advice for getting my room into a more live-able state and keeping it that way?  Like, what kinds of organizers do I need, and which could I live without? Do you have some kind of cleaning timeline that would make the whole process a little less painful? If I don't do something soon, I'm afraid I won't even be able to open the door.

Is it okay if I hug you? Because I think you might need a hug, and I love that you have a sleeping bag in your room o’ hoard and that you actually thought to bring it to your living room for sexytimes. That is so completely hilarious to me! Also: I am here to help! Readers, this LW was kind enough to provide me with photos of her room in its current state, and yeah, things are pretty serious in there. But! She piped up and admitted that there’s a problem, which is the best and most important thing she could do. Our LW has also agreed to come back to me in a month or so with an update on how she did, which will be fun for all of us. Maybe she’ll even let me run some before-and-after pictures! For the time being, though, they’re our little secret.

To get going, I’ve created a sample two-weekend clean-up plan that I’ve broken down into chunks of 3-4 hours a day. This can and should be tailored to your needs and schedule, and those of you who might be taking on similar but smaller projects can apply the same techniques to whatever situation needs getting-under-controlling in the new year. Next week we’ll go through a whole host of organization solutions and talk about how to keep things tidy going forward. This is a big commitment, but a really great one to make to yourself! I’m a firm believer that coming home to a place you love lifts up all other aspects of your life, but I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Right, so, let’s get started! First things first: make your bed. I don’t care what’s piled up or strewn over or lurking inside it. Knock everything onto the floor with impunity and make that bed! And every day from the start of this project until your room is the sexy ladyspace you’re envisioning, I want you to make that bed. One, it’s a good habit to get into; two, it will get you into discipline mode without too much work; three, this room isn’t going to get whipped into shape overnight, and coming home each day to a made bed will give you a sense of order that will motivate you to keep on keepin’ on. Lastly, the made bed is going to serve as an important place from which you’ll do much of your organizing work.

The second thing to is to consider what you’re wearing. How fun, a fashion show element! In all seriousness, this is a physical task and you’re going to be on your feet for a few hours so you may want to throw on gym-esque clothes, tie your hair back, and consider wearing sneakers.

The last thing — and this is so hugely important, seriously — is music. I have music on all the time in my house — for cooking, for cleaning, for, um, other things — because it gets my butt moving and makes otherwise mundane tasks kind of fun because who doesn’t love an excuse to bop along to “Two of Hearts”? Anyway. Music!

Execution the Prequel: Planning

Next I want you to get a pen and a few pieces of paper, and then I want you to sit on your bed. From the vantage point of the bed, you’re going to survey the landscape, with an eye toward tackling things in groups. That's going to be your mantra, contending with one group of things at a time. On your piece of paper you'll write down the different groupings of things you're seeing, so something like this:

Dishes & Glassware
Clothes – Drawers
Clothes – Closet
Shoes & Accessories
Make-up & Beauty Supplies
Bedding & Towels
Bills & Paperwork

Okay now, on a fresh sheet of paper, I want you to put the groups in the order that you'll take them on. Since this is a sample plan, here you may have to use some judgment based on what things you'll need to acquire from the outside in order to make order out of chaos, i.e. a shoe rack, a bigger dresser, bookcases or wall-mounted shelves. Save those things for the middle of the process, so you can build in time to find, let's say, the dresser that's going to be right for you in terms of size and design. However, the first thing on the list should be trash and dishes, immediately followed by any other items/groups on the list that don't belong in the bedroom. The second thing should be clothes, so that you can put things away and then figure out what additional types of storage you’ll need for your beautiful things.

Once you've made your list, which will serve as your gameplan, the blueprint, if you will, for the re-architecting of your bedroom, it's time to head out of doors for some supplies. You will need the following: a box of trashbags, a kitchen timer, a measuring tape, a bottle of wine. Or vodka, or Diet Coke, or whatever your poison may be. This pre-planning process, including the errand running, shouldn't have taken you more than an hour.

A note: you’re going to be tempted to skip this part of the process. You’ll think, “Oh I can just make a mental list and dive right in!” Do not do that. The 30 minutes you’ll spend writing things down and making a plan for yourself will save you hours down the line. You can — and should! — check things off as they’re completed, and isn’t that so satisfying?! Yes! Please trust me on this one thing, if nothing else.

Execution Phase One: Trash and Kitchenware

Once you’re back home, first things first: the trash and dishes get dealt with. Well, wait. First I want you to set that kitchen timer for 1 hour, then grab a trashbag and go through your entire room throwing away any garbage that doesn’t belong, or items that you already know you can/want to part with. Don’t (don’t don’t don’t, you can’t see me but I’m wagging my finger at you, don’t) spend any time at all agonizing over whether or not to keep something. If it’s at all a question just keep moving. Also set any dishes, glasses, food, etc. on the floor right outside your room.

As you’re going, you’ll probably need to move things out of the way. This is a good opportunity to begin moving items you’ll get to later into their groupings. So let’s say, all the clothes will get tossed over into the far left corner of the room, and all the books will get piled up in the far right corner. Again, I don’t want you to spend any time at all thinking about these things, you’re to focus entirely on getting the trash up and out. Just shuffle them into new places and leave them be.

If you’re still working on the trash when the timer hits an hour, it’s time to stop. You probably will be done before that, in which case you should get all the dishes etc. you’ve stashed into the kitchen sink. Then you'll take a break and be psyched that you got through a big chunk of clutter-clearing! Building in time for a break is really important, because the task at hand is both physically and mentally tiring. So sit down for 30 minutes, turn the TV on, or read a magazine and have a glass of wine or a Diet Coke or a cup of tea. But set that timer so after 30 minutes you get back up and finish the first part of the project.

The last step of phase one is to wash, dry, and put away all kitchen items. And from here on out, dishes and foodstuffs don’t get left in your room for more than 8 hours. Which means that the water glass you brought to bed the night before gets put in the sink first thing in the morning. The box of cookies you snacked on while watching your late-night episode of Designing Women goes back in the pantry before you leave for work. The empty soda bottle gets tossed in the trash. And so on.

Execution Phase Two: Clothing

In order to begin sorting your clothes, it’s best to start with a totally clean slate. Which means taking everything out — which in your case won’t be hard, since all your clothes are on the floor — and using our theory of groups to get things in order. So! Pile everything up on the floor in the following categories:

Underthings (underwear, bras, lingerie, camis, slips, socks, hosiery, etc.)
Bum-around clothes (yoga pants, sweats, sweatshirts, grungy tees, sports bras, housepants, etc.)
Sleepwear (PJ pants, nightgowns, nightshirts, robes, etc.)
Casual tops (tees, long sleeves, golf shirts, hoodies, etc.)
Dressy tops (blouses, blazers, slinky silky things, etc.)
Casual pants (jeans, leggings, cords, etc.)
Dressy pants

Then, starting at the top of this list, take on each pile one by one. You’re going to fold everything and make piles on your bed. Once an entire category of clothes is folded into piles, you can put them away. Then you’ll start in on the next group of clothes. Underthings, bum-around clothes, sleepwear, casual tops and casual pants can go in your dresser. If you don’t have enough room in the dresser, put your bum-around clothes, which tend to be bulky, in a long flat under-bed box. That way, they’re easily accessible but well contained. We'll talk about sweater storage in great detail next week, because ugh sweaters. Such a darn hassle.

Once you’ve gotten through the items that belong in your dresser, it’s time to turn your attention to clothes that need to be hung in the closet. Take the same approach and put things away by type. Start with dresses — grab your pile of dresses, get a stack of hangers from your closet, bring them to your bed and hang everything, stacking them flat on the bed as you go. Once that’s done, bring them to the closet and put them away, moving on to skirts, then slacks, the tops, and ending with coats.

Set aside about an hour and a half for each half of this process — go ahead and use that timer you got yourself, building in a 30 minute break to take a load off, have a cold drink, a bite to eat, smoke, whatever. Then take 30 minutes at the end to assess what items didn’t fit in the dresser- and closet-space you have, making a list (sorry, I know already with the lists, but they really work!) of what’s left. Do you need more hangers? You probably need more hangers. Count what’s left so you can be sure to buy the right amount. Do you have a lot of folded clothes that can go in underbed storage boxes? Measure the clearance of your bedframe so you can be sure to buy boxes that will fit under there.

By now things should look much more under control, and it’s time to stop for now. Give yourself a big pat on the back, have a cold drink, start thinking about what little things you can pick off during the week — like stopping after work to grab more hangers and taking 30-45 minutes on a random weeknight to hang the last of the closet items — but give yourself a chance to do other stuff too, like going out with your dude. That was a ton of work you just did!

Execution Phase Three: Shoes, Accessories, Jewelry, Make-up, Bedding & Towels

Week two sees us working through smaller groupings of things, with the focus being on cataloguing what it is you have and then thinking about sensible storage solutions for them. Next week’s column will offer ideas on how to contain your collections, but first you’ve got to figure out what you have! I bet you don’t even know that you’re a scarf hoarder!

Start with your shoes, again grouping things into types (sneakers, sandals, boots, heels, flats, etc.) and lining them up on the closet floor — for the time being! Again, there are a whole bunch of ways to consider organizing shoes, but, to start, let’s get them put away. Give yourself 45 minutes for this, whipping out your friend the kitchen timer to keep you honest. Once the hour is up go wash your hands because eww you were just handling your footwear, then have a 15 minute break.

Now you’re going to dive back in for a two hour marathon of sorting through all your pretty lady things! Much like with your shoes, my guess is that a lack of proper organizers is a sticking point for you, so starting with accessories (belts, scarves, hats, etc.) and then moving on to your jewelry, sort through things, making notes of what you’ve got, and setting things aside (maybe on the top of your dresser?), ending with your make-up and other beauty products. This is also a good time to take stock of your extra towels and bedding, if those are things you need to store in your bedroom. If you have a linen closet I don’t want to hear about it because I will die of jealousy. And speaking of towels, a tip on using your bed to organize things like jewelry, make-up, hair things, etc.: lay a bath towel down over your made bed so that your bedspread doesn’t get dirty.

Okay, by now maybe you’re feeling pretty psyched about things and want to reward yourself with a little shopping spree! Since your pretty lady items are on the brain, this might be a good time to hit up places like TJ Maxx, Marshall’s, Home Goods, Christmas Tree Shop, etc. etc. etc. for storage solutions. I find those type of stores to be invaluable resources for bins, baskets, jewelry organizers, and all manner of inexpensive receptacles for your things. Plus! Discounts! Just remember to measure your spaces, so you don’t, for instance, buy storage bins that are a half inch taller than the shelf in your closet.

Execution Phase Four: Books, Knick-knacks, Electronics, Bills & Paperwork, Boxes

You’re almost there! Aren’t you so excited?? The last thing to take on are your books, knick-knacks, electronics (i.e. laptop, TV, stereo/speakers/dock, etc.); for this part you should have a microfiber cloth on hand to wipe things down before putting them away on shelves, since they are dust magnets. I would also like you to take a moment to compliment me on my restraint thus far because NOT A SINGLE TIME have I told you to “take this opportunity to wipe things down!” and I really, really wanted to. But this is not the time or the place. Those things, though ... if they’re dirty, it will show, and your room won’t feel like the sexylady space we’re going for if there’s visible dust. Let’s give you an hour or so for this task.

Once you’ve gotten your books and knick-knacks and electronics dusted and put away on shelves to the extent you can do that, grab all your papers and bills and receipts and sit down to sort through them. Maybe head out to the couch and turn the tube on while you sort. (This is your 30-minute break. A working break!) Throw away or shred anything you don’t need to keep. Stack everything else in a neat pile and put it somewhere safe. The last thing to do is to remove any moving boxes that are left in your room — by now, I hope they’ve been emptied of their contents as you went through the process of sorting your clothes and accessories and books and etc. etc. etc.

Okay so that’s it! Well, not entirely it, but with only a few hours of work a day in just two weekends you can get your room cleaned up such that you won’t be at all embarrassed to bring a dude home! And then! We’re going to do a whole bunch of awesome things to it turn it into a pretty ladyspace that’s easy to keep tidy.


In terms of a real timeline, it should look something like this:

Week 1 – Saturday:

Hour 1 – make bed, write blueprint, buy supplies.
Hour 2 – remove trash and dishes/glasses/food from room.
Hour 3 – 30 minute wine/Diet Coke break; move dishes to sink, wash, dry and put them away; take out trash.

Week 1 – Sunday:

Hour 1 – sort clothing into piles by type, begin folding and putting away items in dresser.
Hour 2 – finish putting clothes in dresser; take 15-30 minute break.
Hour 3 – sort and hang all clothes that belong in the closet.
Hour 4 – finish putting clothes in closet; take 30 minutes to make a list of what additional storage items you need (underbed boxes, hangers, a second dresser, etc.).

Week 2 – Saturday:

Hour 1 – organize shoes, take a 15 minute break.
Hour 2-3 – sort through accessories, jewelry, make-up and beauty products, bedding and towels.
Afternoon shopping spree!

Week 2 – Sunday:

Hour 1 – dust and put away books, knick-knacks, electronics.
Hour 2 – sort through bills and paperwork, dispose of moving boxes.

You hang in there! This is absolutely doable, you just need someone to hold your hand and help you get over the feeling of panic you're having. That's really the hardest part of all. One thing to know about projects like this is that oftentimes things get messier before they get cleaner; this is one of the reasons why it's so important to work on things in group formation, because you'll be able to see tangible results during each stage, which will help to combat the feeling of being overwhelmed. Also it’s really, really important to know that trying to tackle it all at once is overwhelming and unrealistic, and you will have to dedicate some time to this — more than just a day’s work. You can, obviously, speed up or slow down the timeline as long as you promise yourself that you’ll stick with it. Just like a diet. Except not nearly as excruciating.

But I can promise that if you commit to it, you'll be A-OK and back to having bed-based encounters in no time at all.

Jolie Kerr is not paid to endorse any of the products mentioned in this column, but she sure would be very happy to accept any free samples the manufacturers care to send her way! Are you curious to know if she's answered a question you have? Do check out the archives, listed by topic. More importantly: is anything you own dirty?

Photo by Charles F McCarthy, via Shutterstock

295 Comments / Post A Comment

The Lady of Shalott

Jolie, I love you, and now I am motivated to clean up and arrange my house from my recent three-week trip. (There is stuff everywhere.)

Also, point: I make my bed EVERY SINGLE DAY, no matter how late I get up. It makes me feel like I accomplished something, it makes my bedroom automatically look so much nicer and neater, it provides me a space to pile up clothes when I am doing laundry, and (horrifyingly) it prevents spiders from getting into my bed and surprising me at night.

I mean, I also grew up with an ex-Army dad where the rule was MAKE YOUR BED EVERY MORNING OR ELSE, but you know. It's nice.


@The Lady of Shalott I make my bed every day because of the spiders (and all bugs for that matter). I don't care how it looks but this way the bugs don't have an open invitation.


@scrawler The spiders and bugs can crawl in anyway. Just saying.


@catfoodandhairnets I realize that but I want to make it as difficult as possible for them.


@The Lady of Shalott AGREED. It does sooo much for the WHOLE HOUSE just to see even a peek of a well-made bed from around a corner.

I mean, we buy nice bedding for a reason! Show it off. Unless you design photoshoots for Anthropologie, you will NOT be able to pull off the tousled-and-laid-in-but-still-bohemian-and-feminine-and-gorgeous look.


@The Lady of Shalott I've started making my bed every day to keep the cats off my pillow. Who has way less cat hair on her face in the mornings? This lady. This lady right here.


@wharrgarbl GROYCSTAR


@The Lady of Shalott GROYT-A-L-I-B-S-B-A-F-A-GBSTAR


@scrawler i don't think i actually want to know, but whaaaat? i have never had a bug in my bedding, but now it is my worst fear. how often does this happen?? what kind of bugs? i never make my bed because i'm a slob. have they been secretly eating me all this time???


@wharrgarbl That, and I live in a 200 sqft studio. If my bed is unmade, my whole house looks a mess.


If you have dust mite allergies, or suspect bed bugs, you shouldn't make your bed. When you get up and immediately make your bed, it just traps moisture in your bed from your body, and both bugs need them; that's why its good to air it out.

The Lady of Shalott

@cliuless Don't panic! I on occasion find bugs in my bedding because I live in a Spider Cave (i.e., basement apartment with many spiders). You are probably OK.


@breccia There is one way to do this, and that way is all white bedding. You need a down comforter, white duvet cover, and white sheets and pillows. An unmade bed in this manner looks inviting, forever. Also have a four poster bed in dark wood.


@The Lady of Shalott Where do you live that spiders crawling into your bed are a real fear because I am very afraid of these things and ever since I saw Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan I have had a really big problem with worrying about a bug crawling into my ear and taking over my brain. I hope your bed is safe!


@scrawler I was just trying to freak you out, because I'm awful. I recently took an exotic vacation to where there were scary spiders. I shook out all my clothes before packing but am secretly convinced all the scary spiders are hiding under my nightstand to bite my nose at night.


@FoxyRoxy I live in the woods in Michigan and there are so many spiders that I have come to accept the likelihood of sleeping with spiders. I just tell myself that the spiders are eating the other bugs. Rural life = not the idyll that you might imagine and yet still pretty great. I do have a linen closet!


@AniaGosia Ahh yes. I used to live in the UP so, yes, rural MIchigan explains a lot. Fortunately, we did not get many spiders. Or, my boyfriend killed them before I could have to consider them.

The Lady of Shalott

@FoxyRoxy I live in rural Atlantic Canada, and I'm pretty sure every single spider lives with me.


@The Lady of Shalott That can't be true. All the spiders are on my porch, down here in Florida.

@travelmugs I give up and must request the answer-key.


@FoxyRoxy ack! same fear! same fear for forever! and you know what? this morning i made my bed and was finishing up - you know the part when you flip over the top part of the duvet to reveal the pillow (no cats for this girl) and there was a spider. a medium-sized, FURRY spider. not on the pillow but on the flipped-over part of the duvet, meaning that mofo had been in the bed with me. [whimper]


@fishiefishfish I have a really tiny apartment too (183 sq. ft). I have a loft bed though, so no one can see when I don't make it.


@anotherkate Thank you all for this list of places I will never live. I make my bed in the morning (straighten the covers, no tucking) then do it again at night to check for spiders before getting in.


@fishiefishfish Mine too, super tiny (190 square feet?). I went to Goodwill and found some pretty (and dirt cheap) king-sized sheets, washed them, and then tacked them to the ceiling to make curtains about a foot out from my bed. That way, if I have a bunch of books, maybe some dirty clothes and cups and maybe also a plate from like a week ago (cough, it's winter break what do you want), they can all stay behind the curtain-sheets and contained. It's so much neater. Plus they're ivory with antique-looking flowers, and they let a lot of light through, and they just are nice. /blather

christina tesoro

@anotherkate Me too! Tiny studios with loft beds FTW!


@cliuless Once, I had a dream that there were cockroaches everywhere, and I was desperately trying to stamp on them all. I woke up to pee, and was horrified to find a cockroach clinging to my pajama pant leg!! There was only one though.*

*The others had already crawled into my ears/nostrils/mouth and down my throat?

christina tesoro

@dragoness This is so incredibly horrifying to me. I moved into my apt in April and I've only had 2 cockroaches since then (one that died when I sprayed every single surfaces of my apartment with Raid and then fled, and the other that I killed and asked/begged/pleaded with a friend who was over for drinks to remove from premises) and both times I woke up several times a night to check if there was anything crawling on me.

christina tesoro

@pastina And my friend obliged me but only after pointing at something behind me just to watch me scream and nearly bust my ass slipping on my Raid coated floor. Bad friend.

apples and oranges

This is amazing. Thank you, Jolie, because I need to embark on a similar cleaning of my room. It has just been staring at me for two weeks, mocking me.

On a related-ish note, I have a LOT (LOOOOOOT) of books and have finally come to terms with the fact that I need to probably get rid of some. I can obviously bring some to my library or Goodwill but are there any really great reading/literacy groups that take book donations? I'm in the DC area and can drive to bring my massive stock of reading material to someplace nearby. Or (not that I need reasons for more books but old habits die hard) book swapping programs/websites that yall recommend?


@kangerine I felt this way about my books (getting rid of them was like cutting off my limbs) until I got into ebooks and now I have maybe 100 actual paper books, and hundreds of ebooks.


@kangerine Books to Prisoners is one local organization you might check out, though their list of desired books is fairly narrow.

(Ugh, html is failing me today! http://dcbookstoprisoners.org/donate-books is the link.)


@kangerine The Washington Peace Center sponsors Books To Prisoners:


Make that guy on a six month segregation stay's day.

Anecdote: a really good student of mine mentioned once that he learned to read, like, really really read, in solitary confinement. Because what else will you do all day? Like, at first he could sort of manage fifteen minutes at a time, and by the end of that long stay, he was able to read for hours at a stretch.

Then he finished his GED and AA degrees. Now he is released and because he has a post-secondary degree he is statistically drastically unlikely to go back to prison.

Books to Prisoners. Do it!

Jolie Kerr

@kangerine Take a look at an outfit called Operation Paperback if sending books to our troops is of interest. Books to Prisoners is a great suggestion too, and one that's near and dear to my heart, so I'd be thrilled to know that more people are getting involved.

I'm so glad you asked this question; I'm going to include a section in next week's column about where to donate items you've decided you can part with. If you all have favorite organizations you want included please mention them in the comments or email me. Thanks!


@kangerine If you have books in good condition try selling some of them at Capitol Hill Books (Eastern Market), but call/email ahead to make sure the appraiser/buyer guy is there. He is only there on certain days. If you have YA stuff try Boys and Girls Club and for adult lit see if a soldier is requesting it: http://booksforsoldiers.com/


@kangerine Books for America is in Dupont and they donate books to public schools, nursing homes and prisons throughout the region. http://www.booksforamerica.org/


@kangerine Contack a local school maybe too! DCPS is exactly drowning in excess cash, so if they're appropriate, donate them to the school library, or a teacher you know :)

apples and oranges

THANK YOU for all these suggestions! I will definitely check out the programs that give books to prisons and soldiers, and Books for America, since that seems like it covers a wide range of groups and people in the DC area. Thankyouthankyouthankyou


@kangerine The donation ideas everyone else had are great. In terms of swapping, there's Paperback Swap and BookMooch. I prefer Paperback Swap, as it's a little more straightforward and the interface is easier to use.


@Jolie Kerr Hey Jolie...you've just killed the afternoon I was going to spend reading, because now I'm going to clean. ARE YOU HAPPY. I'm even breaking out the carpet cleaner.

Anyway, it's a good time to shout out that if you're looking at all the towels/sheets/rugs you had in college and experiencing the urge to upgrade, your local animal shelter is generally super happy to take your old stuff. They go through linens like crazy, and just about anything helps.

And! AND. If you're looking at all the beauty products that you bought, but never really used (not expired, of course...those are gross) check out MakeupAlley. You'll find tons of people who are up for swapping. If you play it right, you'll likely be able to whittle down your huge stash to a smaller, more selective, higher quality stash of things you'll actually use. Or you can find people who really want what you have, and sending it to them as a random act of kindness makes you all warm fuzzies inside.


@kangerine you could also try selling to half.com. I am also in DC, and there is a donation bin (like the yellow/green clothing donation bin) for books outside my Safeway--the UnSafeway. I think I've seen them elsewhere around town too. If you're just looking for a path of least resistance "get these out of here now" type solution.


@kangerine If you are on the Maryland side of the DC area, the Book Thing of Baltimore is a really cool community project. It's like a take-a-penny/leave-a-penny situation, but for reading material! It is fab! http://www.bookthing.org/


@kangerine I think most DC libraries take donations--the one in my neighborhood (Chevy Chase) certainly does. You could also potentially offload some stuff at a store such as Second Story Books, and the Stone Ridge School in MD takes donations for their annual book sale year-round.

Veronica Mars is smarter than me

@churlishgreen Upper NW reprazent! Also Deal Junior High and Wilson HS are just down the road and, if they have the shelf space, could definitely use donations. Their libraries are... lacking. Generally the elementary school libraries in these areas are already in good shape (thanks rich white parents!).

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@Jolie Kerr The probably-too-obvious suggestions: churches (someone will know a family who needs... whatever, or they'll send it to a mission in a poorer country, or they'll sell it) and hospitals (think of the parents whose kids are in hospitals - they could probably use some new books).

also, Jolie, thank you a million times for this post. I try to do all of the cleanings, but I don't always know how.

Pound of Salt

I humbly submit wine AND coke as an alternative to wine/coke. It's like a Red Bull Vodka for classy ladies and also the Spanish!

Also THANK YOU I really needed this.

apples and oranges

@Pound of Salt I didn't know this was a thing until reading about it on the Hairpin, and ever since I've felt bad for externally mocking and silently judging the Spanish boy I went on a few dates with who did this.


@Pound of Salt Calimocho! Don't you also live in Baltimore? Did I meet you at the Ottobar? Why aren't we currently hanging out, drinking calimocho?

Pound of Salt

@mustelid I didn't know that's what it was called! Ahh I didn't go in the end because I'm a shy calimocho-er. Let's hang out and drink some!

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@Pound of Salt yessss this! so good! especially if you add a dash of blackberry liqueur or cassis.


Letter writer - I have totally been in that spot - with tons of clutter and an overwhelming sense of dread that seriously followed me no matter where I was. Good luck! And, you can do this :)

Natalie Stone@facebook

@accountessa Me, too! I've been in my place since April, and I have had to do this massive cleaning overhaul thing twice in my bedroom. I just did round two this weekend, and it is always, ALWAYS worth it.

It's absurd how much happier I am when my room is clean.


@accountessa I have been in my current place for about 1.5 years and FINALLY last month sorted and crushed my last two cardboard boxes. Feels so, so good.


I'm going to continue preaching the joys of Unfuck Your Habitat as a great way to stay clean once you get there!

Valley Girl

@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Thanks so much for the earlier link there. I unfucked my bathroom counter the other day, using tried and true Clean Person techniques. <3 u, baking sodie and vinegarie!


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Unfuck Your Habitat is so awesome. My house has been so much more manageable since I started doing their challenges.



@Hooplehead @Valley Girl I KNOW, RIGHT? Between UfYH and A Clean Person, my place is much less of a disaster zone than it was six months ago. Of course, I have a couple tupperware containers in my sink right now, but I feel guilty about it and will clean them ASAP when I get home.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher OMG yes-- thank you for this!!! After this link the other day, I washed my bedding all the way down to the mattress for the first time since the Bush administration and also unfucked ALL of my "secret corners", thus finding a poster I'd been missing for over two years, which I hung up in the kitchen in place of the bad-vibes artwork from my ex, thus unfucking the spirit of my apartment!! Now I'm happy just walking around my house. AH, I can breathe again!


@fishiefishfish Yes! This is the beauty of UfYH. You find ALL SORTS OF BONUS SHIT. And you feel great. Pretty fantastic all around. Hooray for cleaning!


Podcasts are also great when you have a huge cleaning project. You also feel way more productive than when you listen to them while online shopping.


@ieatcats Yes! Whenever I need to clean something, I put on a huge list of Wiretap podcasts and it really helps.


@ieatcats Podcasts all the way. You kinda get lost in it, and before you know it you've actually gotten something done. (This also works really well on the treadmill.)


@ieatcats BBC Witness all the way, baby!


@AnthroK8 From Our Own Correspondent! LOVE


Haaaay Letter Writer. Can I come over and help? Can I? Can I? One of my great Child of the US Military Skills is Unpacking Crap After A Move And Finding A Place For It. And I love doing it. Love it love it. (Lifting moving boxes is another story...)

Okay. That was internet-creepy (no really- if you are in Minnesota, I will totally come help).

But what I am getting at, in a roundabout way, is this. If you are like me, having company for tedious/hard tasks helps a lot. If that's you, and you have a friend you can trust to understand and not be judgey about your bedroom-nest, invite them over. Offer them wine/tea/diet coke.

Even if they just sit on your made bed and read the paper, having someone there can make a big difference. But if you know someone like me, they might be enthused about helping you out.

Good luck. You'll feel so good when you have it done!


@AnthroK8 I want to move back to MN in the next 2-5 years. Will you come help me when I do? I'll even let you help with the books (the most satisfying of all unpacking tasks, imo).


@highjump If I am still in state, I totally will. Yay! Fun!


@AnthroK8 Oh hey! Moving from Minneapolis to Roseville over the weekend. I will definitely be telling my buddies that there's a random person on the internet who is a better friend that they will ever be. I'll be lucky if those drunk squibs break only a third of my goodies. (J/K LOVE YOU GUYS, KIND OF!)


@Anne In defense of your friends, I don't do box lifting if I can help it. I have a cosmic deficit of helping people lift the heavy things, and I am not helping people lift the heavy things again because that is why God invented movers.

Putting down contact paper in your kitchen and putting away all your dry goods? Organizing your shoe collection in the rack, and rolling your scarves up in a cute display in a basket? I AM THERE! OH YES, I AM THERE!


@AnthroK8 Oh god yes THIS, I also volunteer (well, maybe not VOLUNTEER, but I will do a 'Pinner discount) my time as an clean-up buddy... I at one point in my life wanted to be a professional organizer.


@Alli525 We should form a babysitter's club sort of organization. Except not The Babysitter's Club, obvs. We'd have to meet somewhere for an hour a couple of times a week, and drink... red wine... and wait for people to call us to make appointments.


@Alli525 I should mention that I live in NYC and this offer extends to anyone in Manhattan/Brooklyn/parts of Queens and I am absolutely not kidding, I need a second job anyway :)


@AnthroK8 We are like secret sisters. We have precisely the same feelings about moving/unpacking.



I need you, but I'm 25 minutes from Penn Station. (Closer than parts of BK!)


@atipofthehat In Jersey? I could be persuaded...


It kind of scares me that Jolie considers yoga pants, housepants, PJ pants, and (to a slightly lesser degree) leggings to all be separate things? Jolie, I adore you but my messyperson brain cannot cope with that many levels of pants.


@MollyculeTheory sadly I have all of these pants. I've recently found myself changing from washing the dishes pants to eating dinner pants. Thankfully the dinner pants double as pjs :)

Tragically Ludicrous

@MollyculeTheory I am the opposite of A Clean Person but I can totally understand those deliberations. For me yoga pants = actually going out to a Yoga Place and doing yoga in, therefore they can't be PJ pants, because you can only wear pyjamas in the house. Housepants are things that I'd be willing to do chores/etc in, because I don't really want to be attempting to clean my bike chain or the toilet in my PJ pants, either. And typing this all out makes me sound really weird.


@MollyculeTheory Haha. Meanwhile, I was relieved that I'm not the only person with those things. I also have bum around leggings and casual, outside-the-house(fleece-lined!) leggings.


@Tragically Ludicrous Hmm, I just have a lot of black stretchy pants and when I put them on they become whatever I'm about to do in them. So I guess I have all of those pants but they only exist in the moment and do not possess the intrinsic quality of yoga pantsiness etc. But I get you.

fondue with cheddar

@MollyculeTheory I was thinking the same thing. I own 3 types of pants: house pants, dressy pants, jeans.


@MollyculeTheory Precisely. Right now I am wearing black housepants, but tomorrow they might be yoga pants. These specific ones aren't pajamas, but that's due more to fabric than philosophy.


@cc Who wears pants to do the dishes??

Tragically Ludicrous

@MollyculeTheory Yeah. My pyjamas have all been purchased with that purpose in mind, usually in Target with my mom, and they tend to have like, patterns and stuff on them that would look silly in a working out/yoga setting. And the "housepants" are a pair of jeans that are slightly too big to wear in actual life now, so they've transitioned into what I wear when I need to do chores, especially if they're gross chores. Also I've got some sweatpants that I don't normally wear to bed because I get warm when I sleep but cold when I'm bumming around. (This does not mean that I don't wear pyjama pants for this purpose as well.) It's way less planned or organized than Jolie has them, I'm sure!


I have a "house sweater." It's a big, drapey cardigan/wrap number with sporadic holes from my apparently sharp elbows and my cat's nails. There are also fancy "apartment pants"... which are just Levi's that I deliberately bought two sizes too large so as to be comfortable lounging at home while convincing myself that I made an effort to actually get dressed and that they most certainly are too classier than pajamas!

@Tragically Ludicrous I typed this before I realized you mentioned the oversized jeans too! Yay for "housepants"!

Nicole Cliffe

This is a public service. Also, SO TRUE about the made bed as a place to start from, psychologically.


@Nicole Cliffe

A good husband will unmake the bed at night so he can make the bed OVER his wife, and she need not climb in.


@Nicole Cliffe Making my bed just makes my whole room look instantly better. It's the best thing. (It's also quite hard to do without upsetting at least one cat, but I persevere.)


"You don't have to clean your room all the time, just make your bed so it at least looks like you have your shit together." - One of the smartest things my mother ever told me.


@annev6: One of the fundamental tenets of rehab is the daily making of the bed. It is a concrete reminder of having committed to getting your shit together, as well as being the first task of the day to demonstrate that commitment.

I love Jolie's answer so, so much, and it is generally applicable to so many other things. When shit starts piling up and you find yourself avoiding it, the key is not to try to fix and solve everything at once. Babystep that shit like Dr. Leo Marvin and build some momentum. Honestly, momentum and progress is everything.


@karion 'baby step that shit like Dr. Leo Marvin' = my new mantra for 2k12


@karion I find that when my depression gets really, really bad, the cue for me is that I haven't made my bed/changed my sheets in a week. That and I sleep ten hours a day and eat handfuls of peanut butter filled pretzels instead of meals. But it's the unmade bed that really rings the alarm bell of my consciousness.

Atheist Watermelon

@AnthroK8 waaaaiiittt... peanut butter filled pretzels? those exist? where do those exist???? I WANT SOME RIGHT NOW


@LittleBookofCalm These also exist: http://www.snydersofhanover.com/Products/Cid/5/Prid/283/

Atheist Watermelon



@LittleBookofCalm Right?!? I found them at a rest stop in Connecticut on the way up to Thanksgiving, and my life has not been the same since.


@LittleBookofCalm The ones that are my Peanutbutter Pretzels of Sadness come from Trader Joe's. They have plain, and chocolate covered.


@karion Totally. Coming home to a made bed just makes me feel like such a god damn grown up. And it also deters me from immediately crawling into bed and flipping on the TV the second I get home. Also, as my mom was pointing out, even if your room isn't super clean, a made bed tells people "Hey, I generally am ok as a person."


What about more of a Hoarders version of this post? I have to move back to my room in my parents house(after living with my boyfriend for a year), and I am dreading it, and have more shit than ever, all piled up, in one relatively small room, and no storage space. There aren't even corners to pile stuff in anymore!


@taxine Yeah, I will second that. This seems super useful, Jolie, but I am afraid I will still be paralyzed with fear when I go home to help my parents (terrible hoarders, oh god) clean out the house in a few months. There are definitely no corners any more, or carpet spaces, etc. I have tried to do this before, but by the time I have one room outfitted I am exhausted and the rest of the house is worse, etc. They are not like, revolting cat shit everywhere hoarders, but they are definitely not super clean, keep-everything-ever-ever people, and they have lived in that house for almost 33 years...wait, this is turning into a confessional of some kind, and I am not prepared for that. But this is why I appreciate your ACPs so much, you know? I have to fight this shit pretty hard in my own life, too.

Valley Girl

@ellbeejay @taxine It's not really full of concrete cleanup advice (unless you have 70+ junked cars to get rid of) but Tetanus Burger is a blog about a women cleaning up her incapacitated dad's hoard, and it really delves into the emotional/familial stuff, with a good dose of the snark that 'Pinners 'preciate: http://tetanusburger.blogspot.com/

Carrie Ann

@taxine I can't tell if you're asking about pre- or post-move, but one piece of advice that flows nicely with Jolie's plan above is to put everything on the floor into boxes first. Doesn't matter whether the items go together, yet. Just fill boxes, and stack them or put them in the hall/other room/garage (if possible). When you have clear space, begin sorting one box at a time by groups in areas as Jolie outlines above. You need moving boxes anyway, right? Just get them now and use them for this, then again when you move out.

I'm assuming that you own a lot of things that you will not need while you live with your parents? Like kitchen stuff, furniture, knick-knacks, etc.? In a tight space, you want as little as possible, so as you pack, ask yourself whether you will need the item regularly. If not, pack it in a clearly labelled box and store it away from your room, so that in two months you aren't looking at a spatula next to your pillow and wondering if this is really your life.


I actually *do* know I'm a scarf hoarder. Hmm. That's a start, right? Admitting the problem?

I'm in a similar, perhaps slightly less drastic boat (except, er, with my whole flat and not just the bedroom), so much sympathy from me to the LW and thanks to Jolie for your excellent advice that I shall probably fail to take.


@sparklepants Samesies! They no longer fit on my "scarf hanger". They are slowly taking over the closet, and soon after the house. BUT I know about it, and knowledge is power.


Also, for somewhat smaller jobs I find it fun to start at one end of a room/my apartment and just work my way to the other side. It's nicely motivating to be able to see your progress as you go.


As the daughter-in-law, wife, and mother to people with ADHD, I want to suggest that although this is a fantastic plan, it might not work for someone who isn't neurotypical, especially the "pick a category of things and work on it" part. That seems to be really, really hard for a certain kind of brain to do.

Things that do work are having people around for motivation, like AnthroK8 said; music, like Jolie said; and picking a physical area, instead of a type of thing, to break up the job. Around here we use a hula hoop to delineate the area, no joke! Then once it's clear, it has to stay that way.

Not that I have any idea of the LW's brain state, but this situation is really common for ADHD people, so I thought I'd throw it out there, in case it might help anyone.


This plan may also not work for those who no longer possess a corporeal body capable of affecting matter, just as an FYI.


This plan may also not work for those who do not choose to live "inside" of structures, just as an FYI.

sceps yarx

@katherinerine Oh my gosh, you have just describe my adult ADHD brain perfectly. I just can't focus on sorting things into categories for long enough to actually do something about them! If you don't have this problem, it's easy to say 'just try harder' but I find that the ONLY thing that works for me is having someone else around, not even helping, but just sitting on a chair in the same room and keeping me honest. I want to work hard, and I am a hard worker, but the part of my brain that stays on task in a chaotic environment is totally broken!

Valley Girl

@katherinerine I love the hula hoop idea!


@katherinerine OMG. I love this! I wasn't diagnosed until 24, so I had some time to come up with a few semi-effective room cleaning plans that were able to at least help me achieve a moderately functioning living space on the 364 days of the year where I was NOT motivated to clean and organize for 12 hours, down to the last dust bunny and detail.

I can't clean in those kind of categories, either. I tackle my bedroom floor beginning in the farthest back corner that I can access without falling on my face from tripping on shit. I unearth the floor go layer by layer, throwing clean clothes on the bed and dirty clothes and towels out the door. I weed out the obvious trash. Then, all the miscellaneous shit gets thrown as close as my aim lands it from the depths of the back corner to its approximate goal location... one step closer to its final resting grounds.

Then I work region by region, throwing shit into increasingly specific piles/locations. In theory, this would continue everything made it to the proper nook of the proper drawer/shelf. Sometimes, I'll even stop to do an extra thorough job in a small and insignificant area. In reality, this lasts until I go, FUCK I WAS SUPPOSED TO BE DONE WITH THIS AN HOUR AGO! I HAVE TO SHOWER, GET READY, AND LEAVE IN 20 MINUTES.

So then I throw out as much garbage as I can immediately see, shove any wads of unfolded clean clothing into the drawers they're patiently awaiting, and fluff/straighten my comforter. Finally, as I'm cursing my way out the door, hair still half damp, I give myself on the back for foraging a totally usable path from my door to my desk to my closet.

My very frustrated type-A mom did not like this method.


I have embarrassingly been in the situation she mentions above -- bringing someone home for a hookup and not wanting them to see my bedroom. We made out uncomfortably on the living room floor. When he needed to go to the bathroom (which is attached to my bedroom) I actually made him close his eyes! I didn't hear from him again and I can't say I blame him.

Now my current boyfriend on the other hand is perfect for me. Not only did he not freak out about my cluttered room, he cleaned out my spare room for me, mercilessly throwing out everything I didn't need or want. Then he took it all to the salvation army. Four huge trash bags worth. He followed this up by reorganizing my room from scratch, even all my jewelry. There is something so romantic about a guy carefully hanging up necklaces! And the best part is: this is all fun to him!


@peacheater I won't ever tell him this, but I secretly really enjoy dealing with how crazy my boyfriend's room gets sometimes. (He's not too bad about it, but sometimes it gets all sorts of crazy laundry-explosion in there.) We spent four straight hours a few weeks ago reorganizing his comics. Things like this appeal to my inner OCD.

Porn Peddler

@peacheater My man used to do things like this when he took too much dexedrine (not like, took a whole bunch for fun- as in, took his regular in-college dosage and realized he had nothing to do that day) or had unexpected time off.


@peacheater I had an ex who was itching to go through my room and sort shit out (when I was still A Messy Person. Also she was a speed freak and didn't sleep). However she wouldn't tell me, so I'd wake up and find her folding my underwear and organising my books and I found it a horrifying invasion of My Shit. ARGH. I am shuddering just thinking about it.


Letter Writer, are you me? Thank you for sending this in!

Crow T. Robot

@MeghanElizabeth I'm de-lurking to say the same thingggg.


@Crow T. Robot Good user name!


I might be lying in bed next to a pizza box right now. Thank GOD for this post.


Is there a shirtless man outside the window during Diet Coke break time? Because if there is, someone should get him a shirt. It's really, really cold outside.


@parallel-lines It's 11:30!


Wow, I love this so much. Thank you!!

dj pomegranate

An option for those of us who hoard books: When I moved up to NYC I had SO MANY BOOKS in such a small space, it was just ridic. I listed a bunch on paperbackswap.com, which is a free internet book swapping site. For every book you list you get a credit. I've gotten rid of about half of the books I listed, most of which were perfectly good books that I just didn't read any more (including some textbooks!) and used that credit to get new books from other members. Many of these new books turned into Christmas/birthday presents. Christmas presents + de-cluttering of bookshelf + new books for me to read + new books for other people to read! Win all around!


@dj pomegranate: Also if you have textbooks to unload, Amazon has a buy-back program that gives you a giftcard for the value of the books.


@dj pomegranate NO I CAN'T GET RID OF MY BOOKS!!!!!!!!!!

I get so sad whenever people suggest that I get rid of my books. I NEED my books. The few times I've gotten rid of books, I've sooner or later realized that I absolutely must look something up in that YA novel I gave away in a fit of benevolence, and then I end up going out and buying a book that I originally got for free, or discovering that the book is OUT OF PRINT and that I am going to spend the REST OF MY LIFE WITHOUT IT because I don't buy things on the internet.

I don't care that I am in threat of dying under a mountain of books. My books are staying. STAYING.

apples and oranges

@Hooplehead THAT is useful, because seriously, fuck my textbooks. And that sounds like a much better buyback program that what my campus bookstore does (give you $17 for 3 books. NO.)


@Teffodee - I am with you on this! When I moved across BK a year ago, I acquired a 2nd bookshelf, and organized the crap out of my books (see previous comments on some of my...idiosyncratic organization methods) but I cannot bear to get rid of them. But then for X-Mas, my mom got me a bunch of books (TWO HITCHENS BOOKS from my women's college working poet mom! You know your ma loves you when she says "Please just try not to be too much like him, other than the smart part. And don't let me knwo if you drink as much as he does") and then we went to Poet's House on the battery (DO YOU GO THERE? ITS SO GREAT!!!) and they were selling poetry books, and I bought a whole bunch - like, honestly, I bought an old 50s schoolhouse reader of Edna St. Vincent Millay AND an edition of "The Wasteland" EVEN THOUGH I HAVE ALL OF THAT ALREADY just because they were cool editions). And now, I have this situation where there are stacks of books on top of my bookcases, and they shelves are starting to buckle, and it turns out my apartment is tiny and I JUST CAN'T FIT another bookcase.

Basically, I'm just here to ask - are there any Hairpin ladies in NYC who want a live-in boyfriend and have space to add to your home for my two current bookshelves and, um, I think we'll need 2 more which will be filled up before the end of 2013 (in 2014 we get rich and have a house upstate where we keep the library, and a minimalist swanky place where we only keep the super-expensive editions and current reading material). We don't have to be in love or anything, just both single and needing a big apartment which is wall to wall books. Plus I cook really well and own a pretty guitar.


@leon.saintjean Oh sad! I am in the wrong country. But Montreal is awesome! I cook well too! I have a pretty viola! And two bookcases, but I totally have space for more! Annnd.... hm. I will have to do something about my manfriend and my 4 female roommates who might not want to fill the apartment with bookshelves and don't want male roommates. WHATEVER. I guarantee the rent here is cheaper.


@dj pomegranate I have divested my shelves of a lot of paper books thanks to my kindle (and before that, my kindle app) and free public domain copies of classics. You can still read them but you don't ever have to dust them. Best of both worlds.


@leon.saintjean If I wasn't married, I'd be totally in. Unless you're up for something unconventional?


@Teffodee I am 100% with you. I'm exactly the same. But you definitely have books you can get rid of.

What I did a few years ago (and what I'm actually inspired to do again right now) is take all your books, put them in piles of "yes, I will definitely read this again", "Eh, maybe" and "ugh, no I hated this, get it away, it burns my eyes!". Oh, and the "hey, I forgot I owned this, I've never actually read it" pile, which you'll also want to divide into "yay! I'll totally read that" and "eh, whatever".

Then take a cold hard look at your "maybe" pile. Don't give away anything you think you might want to re-read at any point in the future. Put the others into the "eye burner" pile.

And then give the last two piles (eye burners and whatevers) to a charity shop or sell online or whatever. Then you'll be only left with books you really want!

It's a really good feeling, actually. I really am going to do it again, starting right this very second.


@Alice Solid advice. I recently did a similar book purge, and found a lot more "eh" books than I thought I would.

For people (like me!) who lose momentum on Adult Projects quickly, the key is to take those books to a thrift store RIGHT AWAY because if you wait, they will sit in your house for another month, taking up your valuable space. Seriously, box up some noncrucial books and then get out the door.


@leon.saintjean oh man, we would not compute. The only books in my house are unread books, and absolutely favorite books. I don't want to end up like my mom who has bookshelves in her bathroom, garage, and basically every room in the house...


Where do I sign up? We can kick out my roommate and use HIS room as The Library (yes, capitalized), lined with shelves and a leather wingback, and sleep in twin beds in my room if the whole romance thing doesn't work out. I now have boxes of books under my bed because I have run out of horizontal surfaces on which to rest them.

Book hoarders unite!


@leon.saintjean done! Although you have to make the bed in the morning. Also i don't have thaaat many books now but only because i routinely take entire suitcases of books to my parent's house in south america. They get English language books and I get storage! So I guess my solution to getting rid of books is to obtain expat parents.

So I guess what I'm saying is if you cook me dinner I will take your books to Uruguay. But I do live in nyc, and I'm single, so really you're getting exactly what you wanted.


@leon.saintjean If I end up moving to New York next month I may take you up on this. It is going to be awful leaving my current housemate and his epic book collection.


@Teffodee I agree! I know I have a ridiculous amount of books, and am constantly obtaining more - seriously, I worry about what will happen when I die and my poor relatives have to go through my massive pile of books - but I love them so much.



The only thing I could maybe get rid of is The Ciderhouse Rules, because there is a description of uterus scraping that made me so nauseated that I had to put it down.


Thank you, Jolie! I really need this. My goal for the week off between Christmas and New Year's was Clean My Room, including all the stuff piled in my closet from previous last-minute room-cleanings where it really just had to get out of the way. I will be tackling this list this weekend.

fondue with cheddar

@phlox Last-minute room-cleaning closet piles are the worst. I tend to put things like that in boxes, which is terrible as I've moved a lot during the past few years so I've got a lot of Boxes of Crap.


1. I don't want to make my bed, because my dog snuggles in it when I'm not home.
2. What do I do with paperwork? I have an inordinate amount. And I'm terrified to throw anything out because what if I need it? But then I can't fine anything when I do need it. I tried to tackle this once by over-filing - I bought these cute plastic file cabinets and set up folders for each of my bills, and i stuck with it! -but then they filled up and I was paralyzed by the decisions of what to get rid of and what to keep. Now I have a pile of "to shred" that will take me 8 hours to get through. Please please help! (I already have as much electronic as possible - but some stuff, like roofers' warranties, tax records, etc. Are in hard copy form and I don't think they can be thrown out.)


@themegnapkin The file box is good, and then at the end of every year, go through and three hole punch everything and put it in a binder--use tabs to divide just like your folders. Buy a fireproof box for the warranties and such maybe? but things like bank statements and and such just get deep filed


@themegnapkin Look for shredding days that local banks or, whaddayoucallems, like, crime-watch groups who might be trying to raise awareness of identity theft, might be having. Take your boxes of paperwork that you already know needs shredding over there and dump 'em. These things are a godsend!


@themegnapkin Guidelines like this also help: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/money/personal-investing/conquer-the-paper-piles/overview/


@themegnapkin I am not a disciple of Dave Ramsey but a coworker lent me his book so I could read the chapter on filing and his system is really simple, practically, and easy to use. Once a month or so, I go through the magazine rack where I throw all my papers and sort out what I need to keep and file it per his system. I added a couple of my own sections, like Pets and Pay Stubs (since I move frequently and need pay stubs for apartment applications). There is a simplified explanation of what you do and don't need to keep here: http://www.daveramsey.com/article/organizing-your-important-documents/lifeandmoney_other/


@themegnapkin I had a household colonic after Christmas. I posted on an internet forum that knows eeeeeeverything about what paperwork to keep, what needed shredding and what could just go in the recycling. I kept everything vaguely tax-related, and all my payslips, letters from work confirming pay and things, shredded everything with bank account numbers, and recycled the rest. One huge binbag of shredding, three of recycling, and four shoe boxes and two box files of crap consolidated into one box file. I do need another photo album - I had a spare one that became a scrap book for the sentimental value stuff like gig tickets, birthday cards etc, and I filled that. I had six years' worth of paperwork! Did the shredding over a few days while I was off work for the holidays, in front of an X-Files marathon.


@themegnapkin Make your bed. Get your dog a fleece blanket or something of that nature. (Or, if your dog is like my cats and is magnetically drawn to clean clothes, some article of your clothing that you don't particularly want anymore.) Once your bed is made, throw your dog's blanket over the made bed. Best of both worlds! And you will probably have less dog hair all over your bed-stuff.


Oh em gee I needed this advice SO BADLY, because I am still looking at boxes of my ex's shit in my house and feeling too overwhelmed to tackle it all! Thank you, Jolie!!!!


Oh heyyyy room clone! My sister-roommate is always complaining that she can't borrow my clothes bc while I can find everything in my strategically placed floor piles, she obviously can't. Now I have no excuse but to shape up, thanks Jolie!!! Also suspect sister somehow secretly submitted this on my behalf....she's sneaky like that.


@deliosaur My parents sent me a self-hiding easter basket about a month before the holiday when I was in college. The directions said "clear space on floor. Place basket in space. Leave. On Easter, move piles of stuff around until you find the basket."

It took me and my roommate 20 minutes to find it.

I've gotten better since then.


That is totally something my parents would pull.

My dad used to threaten that he was going to throw my sister's stuff out the window if she didn't clean up. And then one day he did it.

(we lived way out in the country, and it was summer so the ground was clean and dry-- it wasn't mean. It just made a point.)


@deliosaur Why would you WANT to enable your sister to borrow your clothes? This seems like the perfect arrangement already.


jolie- i get so fucking excited every time you post. just reading about deep-cleaning makes me feel soooooo soothed and happy and anxiety-free, like all is sorted in my soul. last week i was bedridden for two days with an ear infection and--i shit you not--the itch i had to clean shit by the time i was feeling even remotely better was greater than the pain in my ear, and by day three i was scrubbing the bathtub to calm myself. my sweet man does NOT get it-- BUT YOU DOOOOOOOooooooooo. ilu.


@frushka in fact, i think this is my favorite column in the internet.


LW, ARE YOU ME? Because that's kind of, erm, my entire apartment (still!) after I moved in this summer. My grandmother teased that she didn't want to have to wait until winter to come to my housewarming, because of the slippery sidewalks; I said, "Don't worry: it probably won't happen until spring anyway." It's just been SO OVERWHELMING! So, thank you, LW, for speaking up about your problem, and thank you, Jolie Cleanperson, for providing good, solid, understanding advice. Apparently a lot of us needed to hear it!


But where, in this schedule, is the step about doing all the laundry located on my floor?!


@hearththr Start it now! Sort, throw a load in, move to another task, continue dealing with it as needed.


@The Everpresent Wordsnatcher Or, if you don't have a washing machine, gather it all up into huge bags, and just this once, pay for the ladies at the laundromat to do it for you.


@Ophelia Agreed. Even if you have a washer/dryer, if you're organizing and putting away, it's worth it to start with all clean clothes so you can assess whether or not you need more dresser/closet space or different storage options. Just take it all to the laundrymat and get it all done. My laundrymat day was Monday. I did 16 loads and realized I don't have enough room in my dresser, so I bought a little one from IKEA that fits in my closet and now all the clothes are put away!


@Ophelia Yes. I actually don't have a washer and dryer myself, and have to go across town to deal with it, but if you're doing a big clean day, clothes are a big part of it!

All Mimsy

Before I head to my next class I have question that Must be answered at some point.
How the heck should I organize my rather large collection of head bands? Right now they are just piled on my dresser, and I hate it because it takes ages to find the one I want.
I have to go to class now. Please give me lots of suggestions so I can look over them when I get out of class. Please, please, please!!!


@All Mimsy I bought a jewelry armoire. It's like a mini dresser or giant jewelry box, depending on how you look at it. It has many smallish drawers, which I use for all my un-organizable accessories - belts, scarves, headbands, rarely used lingerie, slips, and obviously jewelry.


@All Mimsy When you get a hold of Blair Waldorf, can you also ask her if Chuck Bass has been receiving my sexts?


@All Mimsy I'm the same way with scarves. I've taken to hanging them on those over-the-door hook racks, on the outside of my closet, and enjoying them as decorations. Here's one cute, easy-sounding organizer idea that would let you enjoy the sight of your collection:


I could also imagine running clothesline or some heavy string along a wall and hanging them over that. Or maybe doing the same over a window, so that you'd end up with a headband-valance. Or clip them over the headboard of your bed, for sort of a rolled-edge effect? I don't know, am I just getting weird?


@All Mimsy maybe put a bunch of penny nails in the wall above your dresser and hang the headbands from the nails? That's how I do my necklaces- in kind of an arty cloud shape, because I am Straight Line Challenged.


@All Mimsy I have the same problem and I'm making one of these this weekend! I plan to put my collection of other silly hair things inside of it.


Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

@All Mimsy In college I hung some headbands (and also necklaces) on pushpins in the wall. Maybe for bigger ones you could get nails, or some other kind of temporary hook/peg?


@All Mimsy Maybe something like this in a drawer of your dresser/shelf in the closet? Depending on if they are stiff or soft headbands, I guess: http://mightygirl.com/2009/02/12/project-pretty-lingerie-drawer/

Nice thing about this time of year, is, CHRISTMAS ORGANIZERS for ornaments and such will be on deep deep discount.


@All Mimsy I have a decorative wooden basket, for lack of a better word, that I store all my ponytail holders, headbands, and random strips of ribbon (seriously, why do I have these?). It's similar in idea (if not execution) to this:



I just stuff everything in there, and leave it on a shelf on a bookcase. I generally put the hard headbands over the handle in the middle, since I don't want them to get too banged up.

All Mimsy

Thank you for all the good suggestions!
I like your idea the most I think. I have a lot of wide headbands, and that would work well for those. The only problem would be that I have so many headbands that I would probably need more than one.


@All Mimsy This! http://www.ikeahackers.net/2011/03/best-jewelry-closet-ever.html

I hope that you meant soft, cloth headbands, not the hard plastic ones, cause those would take a bit more creativity. But I looove this idea, and I'm working up to it (don't know if I have enough things to justify another piece of furniture), but it looks so easy!


@All Mimsy I am startled that no one suggested you buy a fake head.


I'm surprised no one has mentioned Flylady - many of Jolie's EXCELLENT suggestions dovetail perfectly with her system and philosophy. Once the brave LW makes bedroom into a charming, tidy, sexy retreat, may I suggest visiting www.flylady.net to keep it and the rest of her house from slipping back into CHAOS (= Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome). It changed my life. Best of luck to everyone!!!

Mrs. PotatoHead

@Joanie I TOTALLY would subscribe to a Jolie-version of something FlyLady-like! I hated FlyLady when I tried it.... she seemed to always want me to put on shoes that tie so I feel pulled together or something... but if there were a Jolie-esque reminder system I could die happy (and more organized)!

Valley Girl

@Joanie As a Hoarders obsessive and Clean Person aspirant, I love Flylady and other related blogs. Tetanus Burger is my favorite but it's less about cleaning tips and more about dealing with family dysfunction and a real honest-to-God Hoard. Plus kittens!


@Joanie I created a log-in just to comment on that - definitely join Flylady. Yes, she has contributed to insane email clutter that I can absolutely delete but whenever I read the testimonials and detailed instructions, it motivates me so hard. Love that lady.


@Joanie YES FlyLady! She totally changed my life! I do 5-minute-room-rescues and 27-fling-boogies all the time, and my sink is always shiny. And the lace up shoes thing, I know it seems silly and unnecessary, but I actually found it really helpful once I started doing it regularly. It's all about the state of mind - you have to be in "doing stuff" mode instead of "ho hum, I'm at home, I wonder what's on TV" mode, and it's easier to keep doing stuff (like taking out the trash or running out to mail a letter) when you're already dressed and wearing shoes and generally all set. I think this is probably more a problem for SAHMs or other people who don't always have a reason to get dressed and leave the house in the mornings, but I think it can be handy for everyone.


@Mrs. PotatoHead Oh I'm with you in the FlyLady hate. I can see how it's a useful system, but she's SO AWFUL. I really.. I couldn't do it. I couldn't read all that purple puddles crap. It made me want to kill.


I love this column!
What worries me is that I can't tell whether I am a hoarder or if my flat is just too damn small.

fondue with cheddar

@teaandcakeordeath Several years ago, I moved from a large place (where I lived when I was married) to a very small apartment with very little storage space. My last boyfriend thought I was a hoarder, but really it was mostly the apartment's fault. He never believed me when I tried to convince him.

Now I'm in a house and there's SO MUCH SPACE. Part of me wants to invite him over and prove to him that it wasn't my fault.


@teaandcakeordeath I do not get on with the episodes of Hoarders where the problem is clearly a lack of organization rather than "too much stuff." It's like, "Well, of course you can't walk through your bedroom. All your shit is dumped on the floor like a feral fratbro lives here. Buy yourself some bookshelves and a filing cabinet."


Where I was going with that (sorry, I'm a little high on cold medicine) was that tiny and/or poorly organized spaces give the illusion of hoarding or just terminal messiness where that's not really the case. But how often to we work ourselves up to get rid of shit we want and could keep easily if we weren't living in a closet or take all the things and completely reorganize them?


@wharrgarbl CHEAP STORAGE UNITS IN UNSAVORY NEIGHBORHOODS!! That's my current solution. Sorry for the yelling when you're not feeling well.


@Ophelia But then someone else's stuff might wind up in ours without explanation even though we have the only key, and then FedEx will lose their ashes.

Also I am torn between saying that one doesn't need to be sick to get high on cold medicine and saying yell away, I kind of earned it yesterday when I was riding what I had yet to realize was a fever high.


@wharrgarbl Good point. On the plus side, it could always work out in your favor (hmm. I stashed a bunch of camping equipment here, how did I wind up with a bunch of priceless antique furniture?).

Also, feel better!


Storage roulette sounds exciting, but I think I'm going to pledge to throw out 30% of my belongings so that the rest fits in to the shoebox I call home. I might drink some cold medicine after to celebrate (feel better wharrgarbl!)

@jen325 - that sounds satisfying. You could even drop hints that you want to start some large bulky collection habit like antique mugs now that you *finally* have the space.

fondue with cheddar

@teaandcakeordeath Haha. Actually, I hate collections because I have a tendency to clutter as it is.

Speaking of bulky collections, my ex husband's aunt collected teapots. She had them ALL OVER her house. I told her it was a neat collection and complimented her on some of them, and she took that as a sign to start giving me teapots as gifts. Yay. Fortunately, I only got 4. One was a family heirloom that I gave back when we split, two are Christmas-themed so they only come out once a year, and the other is the mayor from The Nightmare Before Christmas which is the best teapot ever.


@ jen325
I don't really like the idea of collecting anything either as I'm too lazy/ambivalent but if I did then a collection of creepy teapots would be the dream.


@everyone Aw, thanks for the good wishes. My personal recommendation for bulky-object collections is mounted butterflies and moths. And if you ever get sick of them or have to clear them out to make room, they make lovely gifts. (Alternate suggestion: Ridiculous cross-stitches.)

fondue with cheddar

@teaandcakeordeath Creepots?


A Creepot! <3

Ooh I do like the idea of crafts. I want to make a fancy patchwork quilt but the project has already derailed as I sew like a child.


@teaandcakeordeath I take no small amount of joy in afflicting my relatives with my cross-stitches. I mostly use kits so that the end results isn't in much doubt. Provided you're not showing it to anyone loose, you can make as much of a hash of the back as you want.

Sunny Schomaker

I have to join the chorus re: the magnificence of this. In August, I did exactly this. The motivation was finally buying curtains after years of saying "I need to buy curtains." It has changed. my. life. Godspeed, LW!

Lily Rowan

Jolie, with this column, you may have replaced Heloise in my personal pantheon. And that's saying a lot! I loooove Heloise. (The original one, not the daughter.)

And as a not-all-that-Clean-Person, I will say that even half-assing making your bed magically turns your room into Much Neater. I just pull up and smooth out the duvet, not worrying about tucking in the sheets and whatnot, and it takes two seconds.


1. I need to see those pictures. 2. I literally woke myself up at 5:30 this morning thinking about what I needed to unpack still. I did one room, and then read magazines and fell asleep again, lol.


Is this where I confess that I love moving into a new place because I get to THROW AWAY so much crap and start over and feel organized for 2 months before everything eventually sinks into chaos? When I move into a new apartment I don't sleep until most of it is unpacked and arranged and I can pretend that I have matured enough to start my new Anthropologie brand life where every goddamn blankie and dish in my house is pretty and attractively arranged.


Where was this during my ENTIRE childhood? I was such a wreck then.

Insecurity Millefeuille

It's like this letter is about my apartment, except that my mess has also taken over the living room and kitchen.... My bed is pretty much the only place to sit, since my couch and chairs (and desk, floor, and counters) are covered in clutter. It is awful. I am so ashamed, but also too overwhelmed to do anything about it.

Thank you, Jolie! I will start cleaning this weekend. Maybe I will even get my desk cleared off so that I won't be doing all my homework in bed when the semester starts!


@NIsForNeville I know Jolie has said this before, but it probably bears repeating. It's really unnecessary to be ashamed of something like a clutterd/messy house. Dude. It's a messy house. Not genocide or running puppies over for fun and profit.

Having a tidy space is primarily to make you feel good for yourself, and make your space one you can live and work in, not anything else whatsoever.

Seriously. To hell with anyone who would want you to be ashamed of your house's state of cleanliness.

ETA: LIKE, NO REALLY. You are not a better or worse person because your house is messy or not messy. You are just a person with a messy or a not messy house. That's it. That's all it is. You can do this, and your quality of life will be better, and that is all that matters. I promise.

Ashley Alvarez@twitter

A Clean Person, I love you.


I'm a little bit shocked that no one has suggested that she take her mess and Burn It With Fire (tm)

That said, I just came back from several back-to-back trips, and really cannot face the horror that is my apartment right now, so while this was timely, Fire would be quicker.


OH MAN! This could more or less be a letter from myself, last week. I don't have a closet and my room is 8' x 8'. It was getting a little Heart of Darkness in there. But everything changed -- the wading through of clothing piles, the refusing to to turn lights on in the presence of gentleman callers, etc. -- when I bought this free standing closet thing from Target a couple weeks ago.

For all ya'll closetless ladies, I recommend: http://www.target.com/p/Seville-Classics-Expandable-Closet-Room-Organizer-Chrome/-/A-10793704. Sturdy. Not too pricey. Easy to put together. Not toooo ugly. Free delivery.

Reader, I'm excited for you! Your quality of life is 'bout to skyrocket.

Porn Peddler

@kabloom WHOAH that thing rules!


@Third Wave Housewife It really really really does. ALL of my stuff fits on it, and I am not one to skimp on the clothing.



I personally, when decluttering, find it helpful to have an unsentimental (but close, trusted) friend or family member there, saying, "do you really need this? When will you use this? Seriously. Throw it out." Not for everyone, but I am way more likely to get rid of stuff when my mom's there wrinkling her nose at an 8-year-old XXL college jamboree t-shirt.

The 8-hour rule for dishes and kitchen items is genius.


@Megoon I'm that friend for about six people!

Atheist Watermelon

@Megoon This works really well... Unless the person in the room is a hoarder, in which case you will find yourself pulling out your hair in frustration as your mother follows you in a little trail and pulls eraserless pencil stubs, holey socks, filled college notebooks, stretched-out ponytail holders, canadian coins, etc. out of the trash/ recycling and caws, "you can still use this! What?? Why are you throwing this away? It's perfectly good!"

Atheist Watermelon

@LittleBookofCalm well, unless you happen to live in Canada, in which case she might have a point about the coins.


@LittleBookofCalm My method is to watch 4 or 5 episodes of Hoarders, give myself a panic attack, and then CLEAN ALL THE THINGS. Love your name by the way!


Jolie, for reals. My sister texted me this morning and asked, "Okay, seriously, is that you on ask a clean person this week?! If not GO READ IT, it was written for you."

And this is true. Except... it has been this way since May.

But I would like you to know that
a) I make my bed almost every morning
b) I keep all my papers in a grown-up PORTFOLIO. That's right.

So I am basically on my way! I have a deal where it MUST be all better by January 9th.

Porn Peddler

@Teffodee I have a beautiful roll top desk with two built in file drawers on either side that I'm really pumped about. I just bought a big pile of file folders and if me and mister ever had time off together we would definitely have a filing party.






Oh my god, this is me. I mean, this isn't me. But it could be me. (And I moved in, uh, May.) I do have a few questions, though:

- What do you do if you don't have room in your room for a dresser? Where do the clothes go? I have the smallest room in the house, and my closet's OK-sized but not phenomenally. I guess technically a small dresser might fit next to the bookshelf, but...
- Too many books for your bookshelf, but no other bookshelf (see above.) What to do? (Getting rid of them isn't an option. I mean, it is, but hell to the no fucking way I like my books.)

Valley Girl

@katherine I got a "Captain's Bed", with the drawers underneath, to avoid having to make space for a dresser. Just watch out that you measure carefully if you have an existing mattress that you want to use with it.


@Valley Girl I actually have one of those! Problem is, it's already being used (for summer clothes right now, for winter clothes during summer). Which is really helpful but also still leaves a ton of mass in clothes, especially now.

Porn Peddler

@katherine Find yourself a handy person to build you one of these: http://www.instructables.com/id/Cheap-easy-low-waste-platform-bed/

Mister built us one (it does do a little creaking uh...at certain times...so take that into account and make the necessary modifications) and it fits those giant sterilite storage bins under it with room to spare, sooo I bet it would also fit plenty of those stackable sterilite plastic drawers, too. Seriously, we do not need the space because we live in a cheap area, but it's so nice to have it!


@katherine I don't have a dresser, either. (I actually don't really like them). Can you buy stacking cubicles/crates for your closet floor? I keep a baker's rack with baskets on the shelves in my closet for my unmentionables.

And I have big plastic Rubbermaid Totes in my closet under the short hanging stuff for storing sweaters and other bulky stuff. I also have those over-the-door coat hooks facing inside my closet door and the bedroom door for things.

Is there a hallway or other space where an IKEA-type standing cupboard/shelving unit with opaque baskets/bins can go outside your room? Even a bookshelf, maybe?

It seems like such a shame to do, but when my bookshelves get full, I always end up doing the turn-and-stack technique, which makes more room until I have more space.


@AnthroK8 Have any of you tried those "space bags" they sell on TV? I'm in a similar situation (bed w/drawers, creatively boxed closet), but there are some things that still just don't fit. For instance, I have an extra comforter for when people come to stay, but there's nowhere to PUT it, so it just kind of lurks in a corner, which is both messy and a little gross. If I could shrink it down, however...


@Ophelia Those things are the great Anthropology Field Work Prep Item. They sell them at Target. I have found them helpful, actually. Then the comforter can go anywhere you like, such as under your bed, because it is in a clean plastic bag.


@Ophelia I keep my spare sheets and towels in my suitcase, which then goes on a high shelf in my closet. I have to unpack them anytime I travel, yes, but I don't travel that much and it's better than having an empty suitcase sitting around.

I "store" my old (twin) duvet laid out under the fitted sheet on my current (double) bed. It makes it super soft and cozy. And the afghan draped over the back of the couch is for overnight visitors.


@phlox Good call re: on the bed storage!!

re: suitcases, I somehow have enough suitcases/duffel bags that I store the smaller suitcase inside the big one, and then the duffels in the small one? I think I need to throw away some duffel bags...

chunk lite

@katherine Oh man - this is exactly where I'm at. I have a teensy lil "oh-god-how-am-I-almost-30-and-living-here!!" room, and a lot of my room is taken up my my dog's crate. Where do I put my clothes? So I can get to them! And not have to hang them up everyday! (So far, the best answer I've come up with is : all over the floor like an animal.


@chunk lite My solution was to let the dog sleep on the bed, and have a laundry chair, where things get thrown.


I am seriously itching to get home and make a giant Goodwill box. I love to buy shit but I love to get rid of it even more. The satisfaction of getting rid of that stupid expensive chopstick set your parents brought you from china that you will never never use!


@christonacracker I'll take those chopsticks!! I regret having not bought a nice set while I was in China.


THANK YOU! Just. Thank you. I am not (too) ashamed to admit that I am currently in a very similar situation and almost shed a tear last night when I walked into my apartment and saw what a travesty it is.

Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse

Okay, this is unrelated to the post, but it does involve apartments! And beds!

Hairpinners, I love the colorful design of bedding from Anthropologie (like this one, but I'm worried the quality won't match up to the price tag. I don't mind paying $$$ for something really good quality (my bed is my special place and no expense will be spared) but I don't want to spend that much and have it tear/pill immediately. Places like LL Bean don't really have the style I'm looking for. Any advice on where to look?


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse Gosh, that's lovely. I hate how anthropologie seduces me.

Porn Peddler

@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse Kohls! I have gotten awesome bed sets at Kohls and although I wouldn't say they are super high quality, I pay pretty much nothing for stuff from there. I also splurge on separate nice sheets because there is nothing worse than stiff sheets.


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse Since it's cotton, it shouldn't pill, but you might want to look at the fill, to see why something cotton is listed as "dry clean only"? It's gorgeous, but the idea of not being able to wash my bedding kind of squicks me out. That said, all of my bedding is a)kind of boring and b) from Ikea, so I'm probably not much help here.


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse i haven't had great luck with anthro bedding, but the one you linked to looks like it's not super foofy so it might hold up better than the ruffly thing i had.

i've had good experiences with garnet hill bedding, and i got THE BEST colorful soft duvet cover ever from pottery barn a few years ago ... looks like they don't have it anymore though.

apples and oranges

@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse I saved up for several months to buy that exact quilt and MUCH TO MY ANGER, I would say it's not worth the price. It has an unusual smell...not bad just like...very present. It also isn't super warm. And I'm afraid to wash it in the machine. Sigh. That said, I've had it for 2.5 years and use it every night and it's held up well, I still love it, and it makes my room feel so happy and cozy. I don't know if I would buy it again.


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse: http://www.beddingstyle.com/prodcat/city-scene.asp?utm_source=google&utm_medium=ppc&utm_campaign=City_Scene&utm_term=city_scene&gclid=CP-s5fnjua0CFcZM4AodIWXsBA
This is one of my favorite bedding brands, and their prices aren't bad. I also shop the Crate and barrel sales, their duvets are nice quality.


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse Check out Crate and Barrel. They are still expensive, but not AS expensive as anthro, and the quality is nice - bright bold colors in their Marimekko linens line.


@DrFeelGood I got a badass duvet cover from Crate and Barrel's Marimekko line on major sale and have been thrilled with it ever since. I need to wash it more than I do, but that's beside the point. It's held up great and is soft and I love it!


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse overstock.com! I kind of hate 'o.co' because if their damn commerials and aggressive emailing, but my mother, who is a lady (but not A Lady) buys all her fancy sheet sets and duvet covers on there. Dont forget to google search for an extra coupon!


@Four Horsemeals of the Eggporkalypse I got my Anthro duvet on Ebay. 1/2 off, and tax return $, so it was basically free. I still love it to this day. http://thefogline.com/2010/09/bird-bedding/
Put a bird on it.


But now you've made hoarding cute, you see. . .

I mean, my closet is a fucking disaster, but really I'm just like an adorable little chipmunk. In a bird feeder!

Jane Err

This is amazing.

E Monayyyyy@twitter

Is it weird that reading this made me wish my room was dirtier, just so I could clean it?

Porn Peddler

This is too much for me right now, because I would generally be asleep at this hour, and I need to decide right now if I want to
1. Go on an inspired cleaning spree
2. Go to sleep and keep my regular night shift sleep pattern
3. Work on the horribly tedious, infuriating, pants-shitting freelance project (six hundred products to be sorted and entered and SEO'd by the end of January)
DAMMIT JOLIE. I felt so good because I bought more hangers today and hung up the six million monochromatic sweaters my sister gave me recently and it already put me in the cleaning mood and oh god I need to go to sleep so I can dedicate my whole two days off work to this damn project.


AHAHAHA the alt text! I am dead, from laughing.


@nogreeneggs Yes, it surprised me with a huff of laughter and my gum nearly fell out of my mouth?


Ugh, I need to do this really bad but I have SO much stuff and it's so overwhelming. Every time I start cleaning I just get upset about how bad I let it get between a back injury and school. Help me Hairpinners


@contrary Start with small stuff you can pat yourself on the back over!

Like, if you have stuff you've borrowed from friends and need to give back, do it. Congratulations, aren't you a good friend? (Yes, the answer is yes.) Return your library books. (Good citizenship!)

Gather up all the stuff that's trash and throw it the fuck out! Look at the stuff you just chucked in the dumpster. It's never coming back into your house to junk it up! Isn't that awesome? And there's nothing to feel guilty about, because it's trash!

Take some time to put the clothes you know don't fit or you don't like in a bag and go to a consignment shop (They'll give you cash even though it's not your birthday and they're not your grandmother!) or a thrift shop (You're helping people! You're so generous! You might even get a tax break for being such a good person!).

And if you get a confidence-high off of any of that, ride it wherever it takes you.


@wharrgarbl Dump your sock and lingerie drawers out on your (made) bed. Turn on episodes of QI from Youtube, or a list of fun podcasts, or the new DVD you got for Christmas.

Go through the socks and chuck the holey ones.
Pair up the ones that needs friends.
Solo socks get chucked if they aren't special, or go in a Sock Purgatory if they are nice and you want to give it a bit to see if the friend turns up.

Sort through the knickers and identify B-team undies that need to get chucked. Chuck them.
Fold all your knickers and stack them by color.
Do the same with the bras.
Bundle up the fancy lady unmentionables tidily.

Put all these things back in a pleasing arrangement in your drawers.

How awesome are you? You are now caught up on BBC Witness podcasts, and your chonies are in their rightful places in rainbow order! You are so awesome. And coordinated! Yes!


@contrary I do the 10 things rule (or x number of things - you decide). You cannot stop going through things until you have put 10 things in a "get rid of bag" Then I put the bag away somewhere, and after doing this several times (a few months or so), I go through everything in the bag, and re-evaluate. I rarely but sometimes do keep something that I put in the 'give away' pile. It makes me re-evaluate "what's important" and helps me a lot.

Other tips I've picked up are:

-Set a timer, clean only for that amount of time.
- Work one room at a time. Take a box and put things that do not belong in that room in them while you're cleaning DO NOT LEAVE THE ROOM (big distractor for me).
- In the kitchen, always clean the sink every evening before bed.
- Scan all your old papers/documents and put them on a CD, then throw them away!
- Pick a room a month/week/whatever.
- Good music/books on tape/podcasts are a life saver. Good luck!


@all Thank you ladies/dudes(?). I organized my hanging clothes and dresser today + threw out a bunch of nonsense I don't need so I feel a little accomplished. It's just so frustrating trying to work around my back problems. Things deteriorate so fast, hmmf. But it's okay! Baby Steps! New Year!


I am so grateful for this. Do you have a whole-house plan? I'm about to visit a distressed family member for a week to help with this very problem.


@Elizeh@twitter If you expect to be hauling out a lot of trash/recycling and wind up with a huge load of donations, check into the pick-up policies of the local waste management people and preferred donation organization. That way you won't have to waste any built-up cleaning momentum running out for paper bags, specifically-colored trash bags, etc. And load up on stuff that will make spot-dusting easy, so that you can re-organize as you go without having to then go back and clean everything afterwards.


@Elizeh@twitter "Organizing from the Inside Out" by Julie Morgenstern is an AWESOME book if you're looking for resources.


@Elizeh@twitter Crisis Cleaning the FlyLady Way!!! Seriously, it works hella well.


I get really sad/ashamed on OKCupid when cute boys answer "No" to the question, "Could you date a really messy person?"


@isavedlatin Oh my god. Please, don't be ashamed. I point you to my "messiness is morally neutral" comment above. It's just a thing, like not wanting to date someone who doesn't want kids or whatever. Be sad, because lack of access to cute boys is sad. But shame has no place in your tidy/messy nexus.

You aren't planning to hijack and take hostage a 747 of orphaned puppies on their way to new homes. You're just messy. I am a (usually) tidy person and I have absolutely no opinion on the tidiness of other people. It's not a shame thing.



@AnthroK8 I mean, not like sad or ashamed enough to actually try and be tidier or anything.


@isavedlatin Hah! I love that. I really do. Making yourself tidy for a cute boy is not a good reason to be tidy.


God, I am commenting like a freak today, and need to go do something productive and non-depression enabling like listening to old jazz on Youtube and not thinking about writing.


I am seriously on a BURN THE SHAME WITH FIRE trend here. For real. Shame is so powerful, it should be reserved for actual things that we should be ashamed of, and we all have something, I know I do.

But shame also prevents us from asking for help, or taking action, or talking out our problems. It's insidious how much we let shame of things that deserve no shame at all rule our lives.

My grandmother, for various reasons, lived in fear of What Will The Neighbors Say, and it actually circumscribed and limited her life in some pretty profound ways. (Also, the neighbors, as far as I can tell, didn't give a damn.)

If I could have One Magical Wish, it would be that people not feel unwarranted shame. About how clean their houses are, about needing help to quit drinking, about their weight, about financial messes they are in, about their lack of grown-upness-of-wardrobe, and all the other things that don't deserve our shame-energy.

BURN THE SHAME WITH PURIFYING FIRE (tm) and use the energy to do something nice for yourself or for other people.

And on that note, I gotta go, you know, work and shit.

AnthroK8, who thinks you are fab, out for the afternoon, yo.


@AnthroK8 i needed to read that today. thank you.


@AnthroK8 You are a very, very wise humanoid. I frequently disagree vehemently with Dr. Phil, but on one thing I agree wholeheartedly. He says, "You wouldn't worry so much about what other people think about you ... if you only realized how seldom they *do* think about you." For serious, most people are so caught up in their own lives and crap and issues that they are not devoting one iota of energy into thinking about anybody else.

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@PistolPackinMama Love it. Let's stop feeling the shame. And, if we're guilty of it, stop maybe causing it in others.


This is one of the most comforting things I have ever read. I read it twice because it was so warm and gentle and reassuring. I will use this plan to deal with my coffee table situation which is out of control in an otherwise really clean and organized house. I can't... even let people in right now the coffee table is so crappified.


Because of you Jolie, I WILL make my bed every day of 2012. Because of you Jolie, I WILL make my bed every day of 2012. Because of you Jolie, I WILL make my bed every day of 2012.

Will report back in one week to determine outcome: will most likely be abject failure.


Please let me add to the chorus of: LETTER WRITER, ARE YOU ME? You must be, because there is no other way that this column could fit my situation so perfectly. I am not a Clean Person, but I *am* a List Person. I thrive on lists, so this might be my saving grace. Thank you, Jolie and the Letter Writer.


I moved (back) in LAST YEAR and it's still a mess. I can't throw anything away so there's stuff here from when I was a child. Argh! Thank you Jolie, you're cleaning my room for me.


WOW! This is my plan for this weekend, because my apartment/room is still a mess and I moved in with the BF in August. On the bed making note, what do I do if my adorable bf is still IN the bed when I leave? He works two hours after me/ Cause, he is too cute (read grumpy in the morning) to be moved back to his own bed that early. I'm thinking make it when I get home from work, but that seems dumb cause I'll just be getting back into it in 4-5 hours.


@redheadedtwit Hee I was wondering this too! My bf and I start work at the same time, but he likes to lie in until the very last conceivable second, so he's often still in bed when I leave. I don't think think making it when you come home is dumb - even if it's only for 4-5 hours, those are the most important hours because they're when you are actually around to enjoy your clean ladyspace!


Potential sexy times is the ONLY reason my room is neat. Otherwise it would reflect the slob I am inside.


@FickleMoon Potential sexy times have been the inspiration for many good things throughout human history, including oral hygiene. Whatever works!


I'm really looking forward to the sweater storage advice! UGH SWEATERS!


I LOVE THIS. except that i keep all of my dresses in a drawer becuase I don't have a closet. um. whoops?

Danielle Eberhart@facebook

I. LOVE. THIS. I've been hemming and hawing about "those last 4 boxes" and cleaning my bedroom. This gives me a plan. Now I just need to do it!


Jolie! You've completely inspired me to do this to my bedroom, even though my floor is almost completely clear, just because i want to have some new organisation to my shoes and clothes!
Also - as you're folding up clothes and hanging up clothes etc, have a huge plastic garbage bag next to you for charity shops, so that when you sort through and find an item of clothing you haven't worn for ages you can just chuck it, clearing out space for more future purchases.
I always have a massive clean out of my room when i'm feeling stagnant/bored and I love the feeling i get when everything's tidy and neat, and beautiful. Throwing out my "what was I thinking?!" items of clothing is a good feeling

Iggles McFearson

LW#1- THIS IS MY LIFE ALWAYS. I'm so excited about this question that I just jumped down to comment before even reading the answer. So excited to learn How To Organize a Scary Bedroom!

Alexis Bartz

Oh God this has come at the most perfect time, I almost feel like crying with happiness.

Richard Webb@facebook

I post this to your blog Richard at efficient cleaning services
I Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209 we specialize in hoarding cleanup and rubbish removal and I can assure you, you can’t show us anything we haven’t done before so as you read my comment tell me have you or do you have customers where you come in every so often and keep the home from returning back to the same situation twice a monthor whtat’s the arrangement. Please reply back and let me know

Signing off Richard @ http://www.efficientcleaning.com

riot and extravagance

Soooo I'm in the same situation except my bedroom is in my parents home (and I didn't clean anything/unpack everything because being back home with my parents at the age of 32 made me painfully depressed and I haven't done anything ever for the past 7 months) and I have this ... horrible inexplicable inability (due to embarrassment? shame?) to clean when there are other people in the house which at least one of my parents are due to their work schedules and I almost never actually get a day where the house is empty.

Last month I had a few hours to myself and I got the trash out of my room but that was at far as I got. I really need to clean though because while I have a path through my room to my door it's slowly getting smaller and smaller. What do I do?

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

@riot and extravagance If your parents are anything like mine, anything they would say to embarrass you about cleaning would be overshadowed by the fact that you're getting shit done! You go, riot and extravagance!


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and coming home each day to a made bed will give you a sense of order that will motivate you to keep on keepin’ on. Lastly, the made bed is going to serve as an important place from which you’ll do much of your organizing work. mountain house


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messy people

lol my cat was on my bed

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Great article. Exactly for a messy and lazy person like me.. OMG I love clean and tidy rooms but I cannot discipline myself to always put anything on its spot. My room usually stays clean just for a couple days... until I clean it again, the next month. :( I am about to open a store next couple of months and I cannot imagine how am I going to clean it. Just yesterday I found out that there are cleaning vendors that we can hire to do all those stuffs! This cleaning vendor is recommended by a friend to me. So I am gonna give it a try. There are a lot of vendors out there too! Hopefully this information can help someone in the same situation as I am now.


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