You may have heard of the “snowball method” as it relates to debt reduction—prioritizing your payback strategy based on paying off your smallest balance first, then moving on to your next one, and so on up the chain. The snowball method is popular because it offers the chance to revel in that feeling of accomplishment of dispensing with a bill that you now never have to think about again.
Turns out that approach can be successfully applied to other parts of your life—including spring cleaning. The premise is that you start cleaning with a task that entails the lowest investment of time or money, which will help you get the (snow) ball rolling.
So while it seems unseasonal to talk about snowballs as all that snow around us finally melts, we think it’s just the thing to help you swing into spring cleaning mode. Check out these four ways the snowball method can help you get your house ready in no time, using small wins to build momentum and keep you motivated.
Start with a Small Time Frame
You can do anything for 15 minutes…even clean out clutter. “Set aside time each day to work on an easy-to-organize spot in your home, such as a sock drawer or spice rack. Once you’ve strengthened your organizing muscles, take a half hour, then an hour or more to work on more challenging areas of your home,” suggests Stacey Murray, owner of Organized Artistry, LLC.
Another strategy is to set a timer and handle one task all throughout the house—thus bringing a little order everywhere. For example, maybe you could collect all the wayward shoes that have migrated to every corner, or empty all the trash cans—one completely doable task that will give you that jolt of satisfaction that will spur you to do more.
Start with A Small Room
If you’re stuck on which room to attack first, head straight for your bedroom, recommends Christina Hidek, professional organizer and de-cluttering coach with Streamlined Living. “It’s the room where you spend the most time, and it’ll feel great to begin and end the day in a clean space,” she says. “Once you’ve gotten a taste for that sense of accomplishment, you’ll be more likely to have the mental energy to tackle other areas of your home that also need attention.”
Alternately, start with an enclosed space, such as your office, the laundry room or the kids’ playroom. We all know that feeling that things are getting worse before they get better, which can be discouraging. As you work through a big job, being able to close the door at the end of the day on your work in progress can be freeing as you get into your groove.
Start with A Small Job
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time! As you know, your house didn’t become cluttered overnight, and consequently that mess is not going to disappear overnight. So the important thing is just to dig in. If you’re someone who likes the feeling of crossing an item off a to-do list (and really, who doesn’t?!), then starting with one small job can make you feel absolutely heroic.
So if you’re in the kitchen, deal with just the junk drawer—sort, toss and re-organize to your heart’s content. If you’re not quite sure where to begin, Hidek suggests you start with cleaning flat surfaces like counters or tables. “Clear them off and wipe them down, which will not only be pleasant to look at but will literally give you workspace to work in to get the rest of the room in order.”
If you’re confronted with a room that is overflowing with clutter, Murray has an ingenious trick to keep your focus small. “Use the cardboard insert of a paper towel or toilet paper roll as a ‘telescope.’ Look through the cardboard roll at one specific area and start organizing in that small spot.” Or, she recommends starting at the doorway and sorting/purging the room in a clockwise formation. “When it’s time to stop for the day, throw down a colored pillow or scarf in that spot so you’ll know where to continue organizing: The ‘small wins’ around the room will build momentum to keep going and finish organizing the space.”
Start with A Small Habit
The challenge after cleaning clutter is making sure that it doesn’t return. That’s why another strategy that goes hand-in-hand with the snowball cleaning method is to make a habit of handling any task that takes two minutes or less right then and there, advises Hidek. For example, spend a minute going through the mail as soon as you collect it from the mailbox—recycle catalogs, send RSVPs and put event dates in the calendar immediately to keep the paper from accumulating. “Done right away, these tasks take almost no time,” she says.
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