Assignment #8: The Power of the Surface Sweep

I do a surface sweep one to two times a week, but usually it’s at the point where I’m already starting to feel bothered by the clutter that’s accumulating: four or five days’ worth of mail, a couple of glasses that were filled right after the dishwasher got loaded, stray pens or a pair of scissors, and, since we’re in the winter months, a scarf (or three) draped hither or thither. I’d like to get in the habit of doing it every day or at least every other day, to avoid that build-up of daily detritus that tends to fester into a Mess (and all-too-often ends up a Total Disaster). I’ve seen three strategies to do this quickly:

  1. Make a series of passes through the whole apartment, dealing with one type of item on each pass. This is my usual method, and I find it’s really helpful for getting all of the wayward dishes and stray socks end up in their respective loads for cleaning. It does mean retracing your steps a lot, though.
  2. Grab a basket, put everything that’s out of place in it, and then make a stop in each room to put things back. I’ve never actually done this, but I know some people love it. It saves walking back and forth through the whole house ten times, but I worry that I’d end up with so much stuff in the basket that I’d have to spend time sorting everything out in each room. A side benefit of this approach is that if you get interrupted mid-tidy, you can just shove the basket out of sight. (Of course, the drawback to that is that it’s easy to get in the habit of just shoving things into a closet rather than finding a permanent home for them. See: my office closet right now.)
  3. Grab things from the room you’re in now, take them to the room they belong in, and pick up fresh things when you get there. I do this from time to time, usually when there are just a few stray things, and usually when I’m cleaning up between larger tasks like waiting for water to boil. Although not terribly efficient, it can be oddly motivating, since each time you’re in a different room you’re challenged to find something to put away. And if you’re like us, there’s always something.

Do you use just one of these methods, or some combination of the three? Do you have a tidying strategy you swear by?

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