How I Learned to Stop Being a Slob and Started Cleaning up After Myself.

My new, less-is-more closet.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: when I took the photos for this post, our apartment was unusually clean. We’d had people over, and had spent several hours cleaning up. I took advantage of having a tidy apartment by taking photos.

We would need several hours to get the place clean for guests, and would hesitate inviting people over if we didn’t have the time to clean. Or would stay inside an entire Saturday in order to clean up for a dinner party in the evening.

Every time we looked around our clean apartment before guests arrived, we’d agree that our apartment was so much more enjoyable when it was tidy. We’d promise to keep it that way, but it rarely lasted three days before the clothes, mail, and dishes piles were back.

When I was doing the Joy Equation, something I noticed I mentioned quite a bit was how much I liked having a clean house and how stressful and distracting I found it when it was messy and cluttered. It seemed like an impossible task – since I just was awful at cleaning up after myself and I’d tried so many times to be disciplined about it. I let things pile up during the week while I was busy, then spend an entire weekend day cleaning up. Not fun, am I right?

In March, however, things changed. I read this book (after seeing it mentioned on one of my favorite blogs) during my spring break. I tore through the book and was absolutely on fire. I spent the week getting rid of things and organizing like a madwoman. I think I may have scared Mike.

Something just clicked, and now our apartment is clean most of the time. Instead of hours or an entire day, it takes us 30 minutes to clean up, an hour if we’re being serious about it. It’s a wonderful change, and I love being in our tidy, sweet little apartment. It’s spread into other areas of my life, too – my email inbox is under control for the first time in years.

Big Ideas:

I am not my stuff.
Having interesting books on my shelf doesn’t make me interesting. Having trinkets from all over the world doesn’t prove that I’m well-traveled. Getting rid of boxes of memorabilia and high school yearbooks doesn’t mean the past never happened. Holding onto sports equipment doesn’t make me athletic. And so on.

Less stuff = less time spent cleaning clean and more space to live in.
Getting rid of things means we have less to put away. Everything has a space to live in – and those spaces aren’t on surfaces that look cluttered.

Think about the purpose of things, rooms, and your living space – help them realize their intended purpose.
The purpose of our apartment is to live in, to sleep in, to use for our hobbies, and to hang out with friends. Thinking about the purpose of the rooms and spaces helped me minimalize and create useful, beautiful spaces. I reorganized my medicine cabinet to be full of things I use daily, instead of a bunch of random crap. I got rid of the random crap. I only kept six t-shirts, because I realized I don’t really like wearing t-shirts. I got rid of cute, but uncomfortable shoes. I arranged my closet to have the things I actually wear most often in the most convenient spot.  

Little Things:

10 minute tidy
I made a playlist of a few songs that is exactly ten minutes. When the house starts to feel messy, I put on the playlist and clean up for ten minutes. It’s simple, but ten minutes of cleaning makes a quite a dent in things.

Clear surfaces.
Horizontal surfaces are magnets for clutter (kitchen counters, coffee table, dining room table, bathroom counter, dressers, desks). And clutter begets clutter. In order to combat this, I keep as little as possible on counters and try to clear things off the table, etc when I’m done using them or before I leave the room. It makes a huge difference.

Three and three.
I forget where I read this, but it suggested to go through each room once a month and throw away three things. Then choose three things to donate. It’s an easy way to start decluttering. And fairly addictive!

Don’t ever leave the kitchen with dirty dishes in the sink. Period.
Difficult, but effective. It taught me how to clean as I go, an elusive concept before. (This is the hardest for me, so I let it slide.)

So many people are great at cleaning up after themselves without a second thought. Me? Not so much. So these rules help keep me in check. And, sure, there are times where I am lazy about it, and I have a lot of room for growth (I really want to be able to only check my email twice a day. Must develop self-control!), but I have the tools to get back on track and not just let it all snowball until I’m living in a cluttered, messy pit again. Mostly? I’m really, really happy that I get to live in a fairly tidy, super functional little apartment.

About Ashley

Ashley is a web designer, mother, and social media addict. She blogs about her attempts to live more simply and pursuing happiness while juggling a job she loves and life with two adorable sons and an academic husband.


  1. I read somewhere that you should aim to spend 5 min a day cleaning out or organizing a drawer, closet, or cabinet. I rotate rooms. For example on Monday I clean the living room and work on the file cabinet that is in there. On Tuesday it’s the bedroom, and I tackle a drawer or under the bed. Sometimes I miss days. I will never be a spotless neat freak. My mother was a spotless neat freak and I never met her standards. I think that effected me. A couple of years ago the health dept told me I have to clean up my place.

  2. Found your blog from SoMiSpeaks and can’t stop reading. Very practical and relatable posts! I don’t like to leave the kitchen full of dirty dishes, pots, and pans because that’s how my dad raised me. Made me mad as a child but I appreciate it now. When we moved in Oct, I threw away and donate a lot of things. I love how spacious and tidy (some) rooms are. I need to organize my basement and garage, but like you said, take it in small chunks and it won’t seem so overwhelming.
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  5. This is a page right out of my life.

    Im going to talk to my husband about this.

  6. I really like all the suggestions in here for keeping a house uncluttered. And it’s important to distinguish “clean” from “uncluttered”. I live in a house that is clean, but every room, closet, surface, is just so cluttered with “stuff” that it’s misery (at least for me) to live in it.
    I have a few to ad:
    One in: One Out. If you buy something (an appliance, a piece of furniture, a vase) you throw something out unless you have a defined place for that new thing BEFORE you buy it. (i.e. “Let’s got get a picture for THAT wall”, or “Let’s get a chair for THAT corner”). If you just see something in the store and bring it home on a whim or for fun, something else has to go. No house, no matter how big, has unlimited storage.

    If there is no place for something, out it goes. I don’t care if it’s grandma’s diamond necklace from 100 years ago. If you don’t have an actual place for it (and “over there on the counter” is not an actual place), out it goes. If you want to keep it, you throw something ELSE out, and make a place for grandma’s necklace.

    If you haven’t used it for a year, out it goes. With few exceptions (like seasonal things such as the lawn mower or Christmas decorations), if you haven’t used something for a whole year, you probably don’t even know you own it, especially if you’ve got too much clutter. I love when people stumble across something in the mess and say, “Hey! I’ve been looking for this!”
    Bull. No you haven’t. You had forgotten you even owned it until this very second. Toss it.

    Great, GREAT article. Thanks!

  7. I realize I’m coming across this post really late, but wow! Your description of your “before” state sounded like you were describing our home. Great tips- thanks for sharing!

  8. Absolutely awesome post! Though I am quite lazy at times, my dirty secret is that I also kinda adore cleaning. Thank you for your cleaning ideas!

  9. I’m curious what was the first thing that you cleaned when you decided to stop being a slob? I want to be more organized, but I don’t know from where to start. My home needs a really deep cleaning.

  10. Great rules! I will make a list with them and stick it to t the fridge. This way I couldn`t forget about them :) Thank you for sharing them. Best regards!


  1. […] Now, to sound totally cliche, I’ve discovered the Joy of Less. Actually, I don’t even care how cliche it sounds, because my apartment is finally not cluttered. […]

  2. […] we seem to have a pretty good method for keeping our living areas clean and clutter-free most days, I have a confession: most of my […]

  3. […] — she’s The Best!) and I remembered a post she’d written awhile back called “How I Learned To Stop Being A Slob and Started Cleaning Up After Myself.” Like Ashley, I feel so much better in a clean space. I feel stressed out when I sit among all my […]

  4. […] talked a lot about not being a slob and decluttering, but today I want to share what we use around the house to clean our clothes, our […]

  5. […] the pretty clothes luring me in and all. But I’ve come a long way since I first embarked on this journey 1.5 years ago by reading The Joy of Less. I have many ways I can improve and much more clutter to get rid of, but […]

  6. […] How I Learned to Stop Being a Slob and Start Cleaning up After Myself. During my spring break in 2011, I read a book that would change my life forever. It’s called The Joy of Less (written by Miss Minimalist) and I highly recommend that you don’t read it unless you want to get bitten by the decluttering bug. I wrote about the main things I learned in that post, but still. Read the book.  […]

  7. […] of both working at schools, and while that was sort of nice in some ways (a whole week at home to declutter everything!), I’d also love to be able to use our week off and do something really fun, but still […]

  8. […] years later, the concept of minimalism was brought to my attention again and actually caused me to reform my slob tendencies. After years of holding giant day-long clean up sessions to get our place company-ready, I finally […]

  9. […] 3.5 years ago, my life changed when I started my transformation from slob to…not that messy. It’s become second nature to me now to pick up more often, get rid […]

  10. […] They are both in a similar vein, but so much more useful and actionable. (You can read how The Joy of Less changed my life […]

  11. […] – Your clutter tolerance level. Some people have blinders to clutter and it doesn’t bother them, other people get hives when a pile has been sitting on the dining room table for a week. (You can also lower your clutter tolerance level by continually combatting it. How do I know? Personal experience!) […]

  12. […] This works best with posts that seem to be popular on Pinterest, like how to cold brew iced coffee in a French press, my tutorial birthday guestbooks with blocks, and how I learned to stop being a slob. […]

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