Most of us have been there: No matter how much you clean, your home never feels truly clean for long. And that might be because you need to think about your space a little differently.

Over the last year, I have spent more time in my house than ever before. You probably have, too — and it has probably made you realize exactly how much of a slob you are. Sometime around the six-month mark of the pandemic, I began to feel like my house was closing in on me — the closets were shoved full of crap, the pantry was piled with random odds and ends, and there seemed to be a never-ending procession of mess everywhere.

It turned into a cycle for me; I would put off cleaning all week, all the while making lists of the big cleaning projects I planned to tackle on Saturday and Sunday. Then, when the weekend rolled around, I would try to clean the kitchen and barely make a dent in the mess. I was cleaning up after dinner, or putting away laundry, but nothing ever really felt clean to me. What I came to realize was this: There are really a few elements at play when trying to achieve that sparkling-clean feeling in your house. Those elements are disorganization, dirt, and clutter.

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In the many months of spending so much time at home, I had accumulated all three, but clutter and disorganization were stopping me from actually dealing with the dirt. Which meant that no matter what I did, my house always felt unclean to me. It was causing me anxiety and stopping me from enjoying my evenings and weekends, so I knew I had to do something. I had to start creating systems to control the clutter and disorganization.

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There are an endless number of recommendations out there about how to deal with these things: Marie Kondo is all about the decluttering, The Home Edit is all about the organizing, the list goes on. The reality is that everyone needs different levels of organization, decluttering and cleanliness to feel comfortable in their house — thinking about it this way allowed me to more specifically name what was bothering me and create a baseline that I could actually maintain. Instead of randomly doing an endless number of tasks, I created systems that helped me deal with each problem.

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For me, it's as simple as walking through the house at the end of every day with a basket, filling that basket with my stuff and returning those things to their correct spot. This only takes a few minutes, but it deals with the disorganization. I dealt with clutter in a similar way: Once a week, I walk through the house with a trash bag and throw away the things that are cluttering my spaces like mail, magazines, the random water bottle on my desk, broken or unused cords. It only takes a few minutes, but it prevents the build-up. Once the disorganization and clutter are handled, it means I'm free to actually clean the things that are dirty, plus those projects feel less overwhelming. I still have to clean my baseboards, but at least once I do it, the house actually feels clean.

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