Submitted Date 08/01/2019

For a large majority of us out there, dealing with chores and responsibilities can tend to be the last thing on our to-do list. And oftentimes, when we do finish, it is more likely to be us that is done and not the chores.

So, what exactly is 'done' and when do we know when we have gotten there? By telling ourselves specifically what 'done' means to us. This can be as simple as asking yourself, "are you really?" but that may get tedious after a while. Setting up what 'done' looks like in your head can help you make it there more easily.

The two easiest examples from the big book of chores would be doing dishes and laundry: two jobs where it is too easy to see yourself as finished before the work actually is. Both are steps-based actions, laundry more so, and that is understandably the reason why stopping seems so natural. But for me, the dishes and laundry aren't done until they are put away, until the pots and plates and pants are where they belong.

There are, of course, duties that are not so simple: non-steps-based chores that some people don't even tend to see at all. The number one contender being tidying – putting things where they go or finding places for things without homes. With the everyday daily life of busyness, items tend to find their own homes without it being intentional. For instance, the chair that is dedicated to clothes and not sitting.

The biggest obstacle to achieving a clean house is the way we perceive things with our minds: what we consider to be done and what we consider to be clean. It is important to take a look around and to decide what 'clean' should look like.

Ever since I was a kid, I have used a short and simple step-by-step list to help me clean and keep tidy. And now, transferring that list from one bedroom to an entire apartment, I have found the one thing that still can get in my way is my mindset. The small messes here and there that my brain slowly makes disappear. With the worst part being, the smallest of messes become very apparent once some company comes over.

In trying to switch your mindset from one thing to another, what to consider to be "all done" and not, try pretending that company is always coming over. Try to make non-steps-based chores, into ones with quick and easy step to follow. And try to add steps to the jobs that need them: doing the dishes means to collect, wash, dry, and put away. Doing the laundry means to collect, wash, dry, and put away.

The steps that I have created for myself a long time ago to clean a bedroom work perfectly to clean entire houses and apartments, but of course each home is different. Organizing lists and steps to get work done can make doing tasks a lot easier because of the positive feelings that can come from crossing items off of them.

Here are my tried and true steps to cleaning. Every day is a little different but formulating a blanket system that works for everything can be applied to anything.

1. Put on jamming music
2. Clear out trash
3. Bring dishes to the kitchen
4. Put clothes in baskets
5. Put away projects that aren't being touched
6. Tidy items (couch pillows and such)
7. Find homes for things that need one

Or, in simplest terms:

1. Music: Turn on jams
2. Homes: Put things where they are supposed to be

Every tangible item in a home has a home. "Is this trash?" If yes, you know where it's new home is – the garbage. "Am I still drinking this?" or "Am I still wearing this?" or "Am I still using this?" By looking at each item closely, it can be easy to see where things ought to go. It is necessary to nearly examine your own house to get to that photoshoot look, but looking with an outside eye always helps.

An outside eye, to me, can mean one of two things: pretending you are a stranger or pretending you are your loved one (or roommate). Whichever pushes you to work harder. When telling my boyfriend that I finished all of the dishes, I want to be able to show him a clean kitchen that includes an empty drying rack. This is never as a burn on him but more as positive reinforcement for myself. As a proud "look what I did, baby!" rather than a dreary "ugh, I did so much." This helps me immensely because his appreciation fills me with joy, making it all the easier to do.

Finishing the laundry can be more difficult than finishing the dishes, especially when you towel-dry and never actually leave the kitchen. As someone who air-dries their dishes, know that just because things are not done now does not mean that you are not done or are giving up. It just means that you have it there to finish later. Get sidetracked after the clothes finished drying? And now there is a basket full of clean clothes. That does not mean that that is their new home, it just means you aren't finished quite yet.

The most peaceful time that I like to work on my chores is when I am at my sleepiest: when I first wake up, get home from school, or just before bed. Everyone has different times that work for them but I enjoy this because everything becomes routine and natural. I generally dump all of my dry clothes on my bed anyhow, so folding them has just become the way to get them off the bed. I should add: not keeping them warm and tightly packed in a basket can keep clothes less wrinkly.

Having the final step of "Put things where they are supposed to be," in regards to dishes and laundry, can benefit the cycle of them significantly because then you are never starting on the last step. I have found that when I start on the last step of these two chores, I seldom feel the impulse to continue. I believe this is because of how they are the organic last step of each, so to start with it seems unnatural.

To a large degree, your home will only ever be as clean as what you perceive as being clean. This is how teenagers are so comfortable with their messes because to them it is clean. Changing your mindset of what the words 'done' and 'clean' mean is the first step to becoming a neat and organized person.

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