Tiny Tricks For Maintaining A Space

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The last place I moved into, I hadn’t unpacked for three months. In fact, I never really unpacked at all. A few of my friends got so annoyed with me for having put it off for so long that they just did it themselves while I was away on an extended weekend.

I had moved into a decent second-floor, one-bedroom apartment with brand new hardwood floors, a tiny bathroom, and an even tinier kitchen. It was one of three apartments converted from an old house on what is likely one of the most high-crime corners in the most-policed neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was incredibly impressed with what they had done with the place, even having risked about a chunk of their own money for some nice furniture and supplies that they were hoping I’d repay them for (I did without hesitation).

Despite my career in web and print design, at that point I wasn’t particularly good at designing for three dimensional spaces, so by paying attention to the details that Jen, Marcus, and Christr considered, I was able to learn a lot.

When I moved into my current place, I made the effort to get everything unpacked as soon as humanly possible. It was probably aided by the fact that I was waiting for my new job to start, and didn’t have to come home, tired from working all day—and some help from my parents—but almost everything was done in about three days.

I still find it hard to keep everything in order, between folding clothes, doing dishes, and ya know, having fun, but I’ve picked up on a few hacks that help simplify daily life without making everything seem like such a mess.

Don’t Own So Much Stuff

Moving is probably the best way to sort through things you no longer need or want. Everything you own has to be packed and then unpacked, and that's a pain in the ass. If I haven't worn something in a year (or longer), chances are the next time I put it on, it's going to feel (and make me feel) out-of-date, which means I’m going to be even less likely to want to wear it as time goes on.

I don’t read books all that often, mostly articles and comics, so am I going to read that book? Am I going to read that book again? Did I really enjoy that book enough to hold onto it for nostalgia? If the answer includes even a bit of hesitation, it’s probably time to ditch it.

I also broke my collector mentality and gave away a bunch of my old comics. I probably could have taken the time to list them on Craigslist or eBay and maybe make a small profit on an significant time investment. Instead I piled up any series I didn’t explicitly collect (I bought a lot of single issues and had a lot of silly notions about what would be valuable in the future), and gave them to some kids. Not only did I make these kids’ day, I was also so much lighter for it, and I’ve never once missed any of it.

This was never more evident when I went to the house of a friend who had taken a piece of exercise equipment from me, and as I stared at it, I felt relief that it wasn’t taking up my space anymore.

Get It Off The Floor

The floor is for furniture, feet, and dog fur. I have a habit of being lazy at bedtime and often don’t take the time to hang up my shirts and pants and fold up my sweaters. But I don’t just peel them off and throw them on the floor anymore, instead I lay them on my chest or at the edge of my bed. It’s minimal effort on my part, and it actually does look significantly better than a pile of clothes on the floor, and it keeps them away from most of the dog hair, dirt, and dust. I like the piled-on aesthetic, though, so if you don’t like things like coat stands and pot hangers, you probably won’t be thrilled. When I’ve got some spare time, I’ll go through and get everything in order, which is typically about once a week (or at the very least on laundry days).

Fancy Kitchen Gadgets Do Not Make Life Simpler

This could apply to other kinds of gadgets as well, but kitchen gadgets get dirty by definition. Food processors claim to make life easy, but most of the time, you don’t take into account putting the contraptions together and then later disassembling and cleaning them. In the end, it doesn’t save you any time when compared to just slicing a tomato with a knife or blending something in a conventional blender.

This is coming from a guy who, most of the time, prefers foods with simple flavors. I eat fries without any ketchup, so why do I think I’m going to create complex dishes with fancy gizmos? I like the feeling of working with my hands, handling a knife, and slicing up food by myself, and keeping a knife sharp can be a pleasantly ruminative experience.

Some people will find themselves the exception, but I would say the vast majority of people don’t need to dehydrate their own beef jerky or make their own soda and most will inevitably find that they really don’t even want to.

Make Your Bed

I decided to start making my bed in the mornings and it turned out to be a simple thing that makes a big difference. I believe it was my Twitter friend Jenny (repressd) who pointed me to this article, “Make Your Bed”, on The Happiness Project. It resonated with me enough to spur me into the habit. It turns out that since I’m a pretty solid sleeper, it generally takes me fewer than 30 seconds to get everything tidy; it’s mostly a matter of pulling the covers back up. I can think of at least one ex-girlfriend who would barely believe it.

Combine this rule with keeping your stuff off the floor, and you’ll find you won’t even have to close your bedroom door when you have company over.

This is all not to say that I’m perfect, but these simple rules do make me feel better about my space and more satisfied with my life. Now if I could just find a trick for keeping the dishes clean.

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