If you’re like me, one of your biggest cleaning hurdles is what you do when you are actually trying to clean. Once you have overcome your procrastination and hoarding tendencies, you still might be sabotaging your efforts to have a clean house.
Does this sound familiar? You have a visitor coming over at short notice, or you’re holding a birthday party for a child. You’re going to have company and you want your house to look its best. Things are looking okay, except for a couple of coats, some magazines, some mail, maybe some toys. Do you pick everything up (maybe in a laundry basket or a dishpan) and stash the bin somewhere until after the event? Here’s the important question: do you have more than one such bin from more than one such cleaning frenzy?
Obviously, the BEST thing to do is to keep the house tidy enough to where you never have to do a “Dash and Stash.” But let’s be honest here. We’re messies. Something is going to come along, maybe after you’ve been sick, or unmotivated, or after you’ve had a crisis that has kept you from being able to do that upkeep. Or maybe you’re still digging out from your clutter problem. Maybe your home is more than just a little messie. Sometimes, Dash and Stash seems to be the only option.
Two things will make a difference. Either get committed to cleaning out the Dash and Stash bin very quickly after such a cleaning frenzy, or figure out how to do an Emergency Clean Sweep without a Dash and Stash.
When you Dash and Stash, one of the most important things you can do is roughly categorize the items. Don’t stash dishes, clothes, books, toys, trash, and papers in the same box!
My advice would be to first dash around and grab all the dishes and trash. It will help to carry a dishpan and have a plastic grocery bag looped around your wrist while you do this step. Once you have all the visible trash and dishes, put the dishpan and trash-bag in an accessible place. You might still need them.
Now, grab a laundry basket (or another bag, if you must) and gather all the clothes. It’s likely there are socks in unlikely places, like in the couch or under the entertainment center. Don’t bother to move any furniture, just grab what you can see. Put the clothes wherever you keep laundry, the closer to the washer, the better.
Now, grab a bin, box, or tote and gather all the toys (if you live with kids.) Plop the bin in the owners’ room(s) and give the owners a deadline to clean it out (unless they’re babies.)
Grab all the books and put them on a shelf as neatly as you can.
NOW you’re ready to stash. Sort of. As you’re grabbing the magazines and papers that are left after the other rounds, cull all the obvious trash (empty envelopes, advertising fliers, magazine subscription cards, etc. Trust me, you’re not missing out on anything… new ads will flow in pretty quickly.) Put the rest of the papers and magazines in your bin.
If you really don’t have time to presort, then it’s extra important that you go through the box every day and don’t let it sit.
You can do Dash and Stash if you make sure the bin doesn’t stay full for very long after the cleaning. Set yourself a time limit. You could vow to clean out the bin within a day, or you could give yourself a full month. Whatever time works for you… the important thing is to work within your own limitations. After the event, you can set the bin in a prominent place so people can pick out their belongings and put them away in the right place. You can pick at it, pulling one thing out every time you go by and putting it in its proper place. Or you can add it to your daily list and devote 15 minutes or so to making sure everything gets put back in the right place.
If you were able to presort, then sorting through the box will be slightly easier. You can go through it with the 5 POP method (5 Pieces of Paper), which will be described in a future article on paperwork. Basically, you grab the top 5 pieces of paper in the bin and sort and file them. That’s it. Do it several times a day and you’ll eventually whittle it down.
A better option for most of us under most circumstances is to avoid doing the Dash and Stash in the first place, if at all possible. ONLY do Dash and Stash for emergencies. Don’t get into the habit of doing them on your regular cleaning schedule. You’ll just set yourself up to be overwhelmed later.