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15 Surprising Things You Can Do While Still Being a Clean Person

A List

Someone once told me that I would be perfect if I could keep things clean. And while that's definitely not true, it is a testament to just how sloppy and messy I have been at many times in my life.

To clarify—I'm a messy person. As in, not tidy. Being dirty is something else entirely, and is only something I'm guilty of when extremely depressed. But messy happens. It's something I've been learning to combat, and actually, one of the most helpful things I've discovered is that my mental image of "a clean person" is all wrong. So, just in case you're suffering from the same misinformation I was, here's a list of 15 things I didn't always realize you can do while still keeping things in good (if not perfect) order:

1. Take breaks.

For a long time, I thought that if I wanted the house to be clean, I had to be busy all the time. Now, between three kids, some health issues, and being—you know—human, that's only possible on a perfect day and with a boatload of caffeine. Turns out, though, that a clean person can take some time for self-care instead of just home-care. In fact, it's very important if you don't want to burn out!

2. Make piles.

I guess I always had this idea that when things are clean, they stay clean. I also think, subconsciously, that I believed that if I were truly a clean person, I'd put everything away immediately after use. I'd wash every dish as soon as it had been used (more on that later) and, I dunno, put away each piece of laundry as it came out of the dryer? But unless you are some kind of glutton for punishment, that's so impractical. Clean people make piles. They do. They just put the piles away. My problem was always making a pile and leaving it there. It's okay to put the pile away more than once, but you also don't have to put each thing away individually. Balance.

3. Have stuff.

For a minute, I thought that if I wanted things to be clean, I would have to get rid of all my stuff and be an intense minimalist. Not so! I just have to be sure that everything I have has its own "home." It's okay to have things; problems just arise if you have heaps of things rather than straightened shelves.

4. Decorate.

I love decorating. For holidays, yes, but also for until-I-want-new-decorations. My two-year-old knows what a decoration is, and that it's not for touching! Now, of course, this is easy to overdo. Too many decorations become clutter. But a few, in my opinion, help make a house a home.

5. Redecorate.

It's possible to redecorate and have some chaos in the in-between times and still keep things clean. It's possible to have a pile of old decorations you're not sure you still want, and keep things clean. Neatness of stacks, places to stash your clutter, and of course not letting things get dirty makes a lot of difference.

6. Put dishes in the sink.

I told you we'd be back to dishes. I long believed that if I wanted my home to be clean, all dishes had to be washed, dry, and put away at all times. Now, to be fair, the house is cleaner when the dishes are put away. But clean people can set an occasional dish in the sink for a few hours and still maintain a clean space. It's not actually going to destroy everything.

7. Get sick.

I don't know about you, but when I'm sick, my house is, too. Sick with mess. But guess what? You recover from illness, and you do the best you can in the midst of it. So don't let a mountain of tissues pile up for a week, ew, but if that trash bag is too heavy to get all the way out of the house for two hours until you've had some rest, it's going to be okay. I promise.

8. Put others first.

As I've been questing to become a cleaner person, I've been briefly annoyed a few times when someone needed me, even for a few hours, when I was in "the zone" cleaning-wise. But you know what? You can be clean and considerate. Take time for your family and friends. The mess can wait another two hours.

9. Learn how to clean.

Much like when I became a mom and was disappointed to learn that there's no manual, I guess I always hoped that a magical elf would one day wave his wand and teach me everything there is to know about cleaning. The truth is, keeping things clean can be a big job, and one of the best ways to improve your "game" is to constantly pay attention to and even seek out new cleaning tips, products, and strategies. Thank goodness for Pinterest, am I right?

10. Have kids.

Here's a biggie. I thought I knew what mess was. Then I had two toddlers at once! Kids definitely bring you to a whole new level of needing to clean. But they also provide you with someone to lavish all of your cleaning knowledge (and other, more important things) on. And yes, you will inevitably trip over toys when you have little kids. But cleanliness isn't always the most important thing, and that is okay.

11. Watch TV.

My mom calls it "puttering:" that low-grade, semi-constant cleaning activity that keeps things more or less in order all the time. And when I putter, a lot of the time I watch. Something I've seen before, often, but not always (it depends on how much attention I can spare, really.) Again, this can help you avoid burnout. TV watching is not a cleaning sin.

12. Do home improvement projects.

One time I walked into my aunt's otherwise very clean house to discover that she was installing a brick facade in her kitchen (she's cool like that.) Naturally, there was brick dust on things, there was a drop cloth on the floor, and her furniture had been moved. But the next time I was there, everything was back in order and the wall looked phenomenal. What I'm saying is this: don't be so afraid to make a mess that you don't dream big about what it will look like when you're finished!

13. Craft

Crafters, such as myself, are notoriously messy people. Most of us either have or aspire to have those sprawling craft rooms filled with the innards of the local Hobby Lobby. And you know what? That is fine. As long as your craft supplies and projects are neat most of the time, it's okay to scrapbook all across the living room floor for a day.

14. Save money.

I think I always pictured, as a kid, a clean home as a lavish home. Maybe it's because I grew up in an affluent area, maybe it's because I'm drawn to nice things (so sue me!) or maybe it's because home magazines don't usually show cramped studio apartments with faded carpet and peeling paint. But the thing is, you can be clean anywhere. In some ways, in fact, it can be easier to be clean in a small space—what gets full of mess quickly also cleans up quickly, with a bonus of not having to unplug and move the vacuum too often!

15. Cook.

I talk about the kitchen a lot because it's a problem area for me—and, I think, many of us. But it's a problem for me because I cook so much. I make meals and snacks and drinks for myself and my family every day. Counters collect spills, dishes collect grime, and let's not look too closely at my kitchen floor. But learning to clean up the kitchen is what defines my cleanliness level. Not how messy it can be at its worst!

I know it's hard to make the mental leap from "I'm a slob" to "I'm a clean person." I'm working on it myself, which is part of why I made this list! But it's okay to cut yourself a little slack and not expect to be perfect at keeping things clean right now... or ever. Cleanliness is really nice, don't get me wrong, but if it's giving you anxiety or self-doubt or any other nasty feeling, it's time to come at it from a new angle. You can do it!

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