Portrait of a Terrible Housekeeper

Portrait of a Terrible Housekeeper

Warning: This ideabook may include graphic content not suitable for some (Naturally Organized) audiences. Reader discretion is advised.

If you have read the ideabook about my friend Billy, you may have guessed he is Not Naturally Organized. Billy struggles with taking care of matters in his house as he does with all out it. It’s difficult to explain just how disorganized Billy is, but I will tell you this: Once, during an especially chaotic movement, he packed up a box of dirty dishes. Do I want to say anything else?

Molly Brandenburg

Billy and I spoke about decluttering and organizing for years back when I was looking and trying to receive my house in order, until I had an epiphany and started to receive my act together. I have noticed that when a individual is really ready to change, he or she stops speaking about it and has active doing what needs to be carried out.

So that you may understand why I was a tiny bit suspicious when Billy called me the other day and declared he’d finally figured out a way to keep his living room perpetually clean.

“How?” I inquired.

“Well,” he said, “I noticed the mess in my living room is largely three categories: mail, Diet Coke cans and plates. I have determined I want to nip things in the bud”

I definitely agreed. “What are you thinking?”

“For your mail I simply need to sort through the crap right at the front door, so I will set a bin for recycling in closet — that way it will not even make it into the house.”

“That’s a fantastic idea!” I mentioned.

“And now I will place another recycling bin right next to it for the cans.”

Molly Brandenburg

“Oh,” I said, and paused. Billy’s house isn’t big. The living area opens to the dining area, and only around the corner is his kitchen, with a hallway leading to the door. This seemed the logical, and of course hygienic, spot for real recyclables, but that I didn’t say anything.

If I have heard anything about decluttering and creating arrangement, it is that you have to start where you are and establish small routines to build a foundation.

Traditional wisdom is that the very first step in solving a problem is knowing you’ve got one, but so many people who aren’t Naturally Organized realize we have a problem and then get hung up trying to attain the best solution. When we inevitably fail, we give up and settle for squalor or some approximation of it.

Twenty measures to Billy’s kitchen has been too much for him to walk to pick up his headset — as anyone who has stopped by his house could attest — so why should I try to force it upon him? Three smalls measures to the entrance was going to be a giant leap for Billy.

“And for my plates…” Billy had not noticed my silence and was forging ahead with his three-pronged assault.

(Here I want to reassert that if you’re Naturally Organized and have ignored the preceding warning, then you may choose to sit down before you carry on.)

Molly Brandenburg

“What is your strategy?” I inquired.

“I’m going to get a Rubbermaid tub and store it under the sofa.”


“Yup.” Billy was happy as punch. “And just so you understand, Chuck always licks the plates, so it is not like they have anything on them.” His tone was reassuring. Chuck is Billy’s dog, rescued from the Humane Society as a puppy.

There have been a couple of instances in my entire life where I’ve been at a complete loss for words, and this was one of them. I didn’t know what to say. On the 1 hand, this was one of the silliest things I had ever heard, and on the flip side, there wasn’t any place to go but up.

Billy came over the next day, and I had him discuss his strategy with my husband, Paul. I knew we had to get a civilian — i.e., Naturally Organized person’s — perspective.

“What is your strategy for getting the tub to the kitchen?” Paul asked. Yes! I knew I could rely on him to come through with the logical query.

“Right before a lesson [Billy is a musician and teaches out of his house], I will take it out to the kitchen” He was determined. Paul looked at me, but I didn’t say a word.

Yes, there are a few obvious potential flaws to this strategy. I think a lot of you are wondering, as we all had been, if Billy will empty the tub to the dishwasher. Some of you may suspect he is going to be purchasing a few more Rubbermaids.

However, you know what, who cares? It may be a ridiculous strategy, but I am hoping it works. And if it doesn’t, it is just feedback he wants to try something else. Just like with any other part of life, with cleaning and decluttering you simply need to keep asking, What is the next step? And then be eager to carry it.

More: Three magic words to get a clean house

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