Use microbursts of cleaning to keep your condo nice and tidy

Do you fall into the heroic tidier category? Do you launch into frenzied cleanup mode every few months — only to watch your newly sparkling home slide back into messiness? Build these three simple habits and your home will be comfortably organized before you know it.

1. Think small for organizing success

• Empty the dishwasher.
• Clean a toilet.
• Move dirty clothes from floor to laundry hamper.
• Organize one drawer.

It’s surprising how much you can do in a five-minute tidying microburst. Set your smartphone or kitchen timer, then turn into a cleaning dervish until the bell signals your five minutes are up.

You can: Start with a morning and evening microburst cleanup for your first month. Just 10 minutes of dedicated daily attention adds up quickly, rewarding you with a home you’ll feel proud of! Once it’s become an effortless habit, add another microburst at a different point in the day. You could use it to keep your desk free from clutter or your email inbox under control.

2. Think now

The best way to prevent “mess creep” is to stop the pile from getting started. Once it reaches a certain point, it takes too much energy to tackle the mess. Reclaim your home by building a habit that deals with small tasks immediately.

Interrupt your mess cycle. Is coffee, cereal and a newspaper your morning habit? Put the mug and bowl straight into the dishwasher and the newspaper into the recycling bin. Did prepping dinner leave the kitchen floor dirty? Then sweep it immediately (keep a broom or mini-vacuum handy).

At first, it takes effort. But in just a few weeks, tidying as you go will be on its way to becoming an ingrained habit. No more giant mess clusters in your home.

3. Think specific (clean zones)

Does the thought of trying to clean and organize your entire home immobilize you with panic? Relax. Don’t even try. Pick one spot and mentally declare it a clean zone. Maybe it’s just a third of your desk, one closet, or the vegetable section in the fridge.

Once you’ve decided on a location, clean it up (this shouldn’t take more than an hour). Now do whatever it takes to keep it that way, such as throw things out, create storage and use it and wipe down this self-declared clean zone regularly. It will soon become habit and you can declare a new clean zone (while maintaining the old one).

Elena, a busy mother of two teenagers, declared her home’s entry way a clean zone. She explains, “The mess of shoes, purses, keys and scarves drove me crazy. I bought a small chest of drawers for the entry and gave each of us a drawer. Then I laid down the law. Instead of dumping stuff on the floor, everyone has to put it in their own drawer. No more massive clutter!”

She also uses microbursts. “As soon as any mess built up at the door, I gave them five minutes to get it cleaned up and put away in the right spot! Over time, I moved this idea through the house. I let the girls keep their own rooms as messy as they like, but now I come home and relax, instead of feeling like I need to clean up.”

Tip: If you find yourself slipping out of your new, helpful habits, focus on just one of them for a month and then rebuild the rest of them. You’ll find it much easier to get into the clutter-buster habit the second time around.

— Smartmoves, Canada Post.