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You Asked: I Am a Slob — Please Help!

Dear Sugar,
I have this problem. I have had it all my life but it seems to be getting worse with age. I am ridiculously sloppy, unorganized, messy, whatever you want to call it. My car looks like I live in it and my house would look just as bad if my boyfriend didn't clean most of it or nag me to clean myself. I understand people can be unorganized but this is ridiculous. It's getting to the point where it's hard to get by everyday. I worry about losing my job because of my organization skills. I want to be neat, I just don't know what my problem is. My boyfriend says I am lazy and if I just got up and made myself do stuff I would change my tune, but I try and nothing! I constantly find myself drowning in clutter. Could I have a real problem? Is there anything to help? I was considering hypnosis but people tell me it's bogus. I feel stupid for having this be such a problem that seems like it could easily be solved. Hopefully you have some advice or someone else may. — Messy Melissa

To see Dear Sugar's answer

Dear Messy Melissa,

It sounds like you are in so far over your head that you just can't get the ball rolling. The only way you're going to fix this problem is by jumping in head first and cleaning up! Start small, with your car for instance. One afternoon take everything out and throw away anything that you don't need. Buy yourself a CD holder and car storage bags in order for everything to have a place. Don't use your trunk as a dumping ground either. It's easy for things to get lost in there and for clutter to accumulate so try to keep your car as sparse as possible.

The same things go when cleaning your home. Sort out what you need to keep and what is simply there because you're afraid to throw it out — don't be a pack rat and be realistic. There is really no need to keep your seventh grade textbook. Buy some plastic storage bins to file papers, off season clothing, shoes, etc. Once everything has a place, it will be easier to keep up with the order — when everything is already messy, it's easier to feed that mess than to clean it.

The trick is making it as pain free of a job as possible. Ask your best friend or sister for some help, get the music going, even pop open a bottle of wine if you want. Another good tip is to reward yourself when the job is done. Treat yourself to a massage, or have your boyfriend take you out to dinner.

It's no wonder you feel as though your job is in jeopardy. Clutter can cause distraction and if your living and working space is a mess, your whole world is sure to follow. I am sure once you see how much better you feel with a clean car or office space, your house will be spotless in no time. I hope these tips help and Good luck!


Join The Conversation
onesong onesong 9 years
You just have to practice. I used to be the same way, and slowly but surely, working at it, I can keep things reasonably clean and neat. The key is to remember you have to do something every day. You can't let 5 days go by without picking up a mess or vacuuming or dusting or wiping the counters or running the dishwasher, because then you get back to stage 5 mess and it feels impossible to clean it (so then you let it go longer, and it just gets worse). what works for me is the moment i walk in, i let the dog out and pick up as much as i can, as fast as i can. what i've realized is that although a room can look extremely messy, often it's just folding the blankets and straightening the cushions and putting a glass or two in the dishwasher--you just can't let yourself get overwhelmed to the point where you give up without even trying. i try to stay on top of the housework (vacuuming, laundry, dusting, etc) during the week, but i find that i get it done quickly if i do it all on saturday or sunday. just figure out a system you can live with, and practice it really hard, and let it evolve, and then all of a sudden you'll be in your house one day and be like "wow! it's been clean in here for like 2 weeks!" and it's a great feeling :) good luck!
JessNess JessNess 9 years
Im super messy but now that I live in a small studio I have to face the fact that I have to clean. Seriously if you just put things away from the start then you wont have as much to clean
sparklestar sparklestar 9 years
ReverendZelda ReverendZelda 9 years
Did I write into DearSugar and not remember it? Oh no... you're boyfriend wants you to clean, while my husband helps me make the mess :)
Lovaajn Lovaajn 9 years
I am a messy person by nature. My mom was a messy person, so I was just used to it. I was never a dirty person - I always had things clean, just "organized" clutter....everywhere. Them I moved in with my boyfriend, who comes from the most clean family I have ever met in my life. Almost to the point of creeping me out. So, when I moved in with him, I had to...resolve my issues so he didn't leave! Although, I still have clutter issues, something I have learned (that I never practiced before) is "Put It Back When You're Done." It helps me a lot and takes 2 seconds for me to immediately put something away after I am done using it. That has helped me immensely. Everything has a "home" and when I'm done, it goes home. It's pretty simple, and actually saves me a bunch of time in the long run. I still leave things out, obviously, but I've LEARNED how to combat my messiness.
beram1220 beram1220 9 years
wow this is me for sure! Except my messiness at work actually causes me to be more productive. Everyone at work says I have the "piles" technique down perfectly!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
Maybe you could enlist one of your not so messy friends to help you out. It might make it a little easier. Trust me I still have my messy moment.
The-Grizz The-Grizz 9 years
I am so glad people can relate. And it seems like it should be so easy to just snap out of it and change. BUT ITS NOT. I have gone through spells. And I can keep things in order for a little while. But eventually its back to the way it was. It's hard for people to realize that its just not that easy. To change the way you have been your entire life. Some people are neat some people are not. I just want to switch over.
blondewithbangs blondewithbangs 9 years
haha i have the oppisite problem. If i have even a slight mess around me im ready to lose my mind. I cant handle clutter, knick knacks, full trah cans, clothing on the floors or mail lying around. I physicaly feel ill. I start feeling out of control and really stressed. I obviously have some major anxiety issues. Still, i HATE to clean so i few times a day i take 10 min and as fast as i can i rush around and straighten, scrub, fold and de-clutter. My advice would be just start with short spurts of time. If you devote an entire weekend and say "im not stopping till ts clean" you will wear yourself out and never want to clean again!
cubadog cubadog 9 years
I also agree that you need to look for what the underlying problem is there is usually a bigger reason for your chaos.
cubadog cubadog 9 years
One thing that has worked for me since I couldn't afford a professional orgainizer is every Saturday I picked a room to organize. I would start with the bathroom or hall closet it is usually small so you won't feel too overwhelmed and just start going through everything. 3 piles: keep, garbage, donate. Keep a pad of paper handy and write down anything you need to get at Target to organize under the sink, your drawers, and maybe even extra towel rack to hang on the door (a great place to hide jammies or hang things that need to line dry). Make sure you think of a toliet brush and other cleaning supplies you might need. Go to the store that day and pick-up everything you will need for that room and on the way make your first drop off to Goodwill (do not wait otherwise you will have a whole other mess to deal with). Once you have everything organized you can clean make sure you keep a little clean bathroom caddy under the sink that way it is always in there. All it needs to be is a sponge and whatever cleaner you like. It will take time but eventually you will get there. As you are working your way up to other rooms make a conscience effort to put things away when you are done with them. Dirty clothes in the basket, dishes in the dishwasher, etc.
JessBear JessBear 9 years
I've been diagnosed with OCD and depression, and that plays a part in my messiness. I know it seems odd, because when you think OCD, you usually think obsessively CLEAN, but for me, it's the opposite. If I started cleaning, I know it would turn into this humongous ordeal, because I'd have to keep going until everything was just PERFECT, until every spec was cleaned, and then, the next night, I wouldn't be able to go to sleep for hours because I'd keep having to get up to straighten the curtains, or move the fan an inch to the left. I mention that just in case it sounds familiar for the poster, but I admit that's not bound to be a common cause. Depression, though, is a common player in messiness. Everyday tasks can become too overwhelming, and there's a sick comfort in the mess around you- it reflects how you feel inside. So, yes, she could very easily have a problem that went beyond laziness or not knowing how to get organized, and I just thought I'd throw my experiences into the mix.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 9 years
Hypnosis? Maybe I'm not 'new age' enough, but it seems like that's such a copout to just addressing the issue head on. It's like no one wants to do work to get anything done anymore - they want an easy fix like someone putting them under a spell. Crazy. But the fact is, this is going to take work. You say you "try" but "nothing" happens. I'm not sure what that even means. This is sort of a tangible problem where actual trying would mean that things got cleaner. That makes me believe that you are just paying lip service to trying and not actually doing anything. I personally don't see the poster solving the problem by cleaning up everything all at once, because she doesn't have any good habits built up. I think the best thing to do is to start very small, and to just choose one little thing to change. For example, just decide to hang up your clothes after you take them off, every single time. The idea behind this is to change "effort" into "habit", which really requires no willpower because it's ingrained. Just change one thing a month. During that month, you should also fix the existing problem that was caused by the bad habit you're working on. Like, fold and pick up all the clothes off your floor, and ignore everything else for the time being. That way, after month one, you'll have actually solved the clothes issue (hopefully). Then you can extend this to washing dishes, filing papers etc. I dunno, this problem kind of seems like losing weight. Maybe the messy problem is like being 50 pounds over weight and it seems too big to tackle so you just get overwhelmed and don't do anything about it at all. But if you were 50 pounds overweight and someone told you that you could solve the entire problem by giving up butter in month one, giving up soda in month two, etc. maybe it would become more managable. Who knows? There are also countless self-help books out there that would help. Hopefully you'll be able to make the change!
hottpink hottpink 9 years
Thank you! I'm not the only one. I have been messy all of my life and now it's gotten to the point where it's out of control. These tips will help! :)
DaddysDarlin DaddysDarlin 9 years
I too am an admitted slob, I have been all my life. I have a lot of stuff. I collect things, I am also the mother of seven and have school papers from each of them. I have an ungodly amount of clothing that no longer fits anyone, but now I have grand-kids they may fit. It wont get better, you must put a stop to it now. The way you keep your house is a clear reflection of how your life is going. If you are messy and unorganized, chances are your life is also not going how you want it to. Chaos, that's my house, I worry that someone might drop by and I will be embarrassed. The process of cleaning is overwhelming to me now. I am now disabled, so my problem is even worse, I am unable to do most things normal people can do to keep their houses clean and have no help. I could still do a little at a time, but I don't. What I am saying is get a hold of it now, it wont just go away. Force yourself to do what you don't want to do. Force yourself. I know it seems like you will never get through it, but you will. One thing each day, force yourself. From one admitted slob to another, I wish you the best. Peace and Love, DaddysDarlin
princess_eab princess_eab 9 years
My SO and I are both slobby, but him more than me I think. Yes, we do clean thoroughly, but that's not the problem here. The problem is the upkeep! It's hard to pick up stuff and clean after work every day. You just HAVE to think as you set down that piece of clothing, bag, or cup. And you have to spend 30 mins. everyday just brushing up the place. It is much harder to do 8 hours of cleaning every so often like we do.
The-Grizz The-Grizz 9 years
OK couple things. I was taking stratera for ad/hd. It did help a little but I stopped taking it because I hated all of the side effects. And they were bad. My boyfriend is a neat freak but he is very patient with me and does do most of the cleaning. We fuss some but mainly I feel guilty for it. I feel like I am not a good woman. And the advice is great. I am going to try ALL of them out. I do think I have a huge problem with willpower and making myself do stuff. I get pretty upset over this issue too. The clutter does make me feel suffocated and like my world is gradually caving in on me. I feel sometimes like I can it's too much mess that I will never get rid of. Sorry if that's too deep.
nicachica nicachica 9 years
I think these organization ideas are great but I have to wonder if it also isn't a sign that she has AD/HD since it has been a lifelong problem. I'm not saying she has it but maybe get it checked out? From a site i found: "Adults with ADD / ADHD struggle daily with self-regulation: regulating their attention, regulating their impulses in talking and action, and regulating their emotions. If you have trouble staying focused, getting organized, starting and completing your work, managing your time and money, and remembering all the little things in your daily life, you may very well be one of these people. The chaos of living with unrecognized and untreated ADD / ADHD can take its toll: never-ending to-do lists, the stress of missed deadlines and forgotten appointments, aggravated friends and family members who just don’t understand why you can’t pull it together and self-recrimination over your lack of accomplishments." ( Maybe go in and get checked out? Even if the doctor tells you that this isn't the case, at least you can rule it out!
workin9to5 workin9to5 9 years
This post couldn't have come at a better time for me. This feels to me like the one area of my life that isn't as it should be. Luckily, I don't have much of a problem at work because my work is for the Web, and I don't get a ton of papers. The ones I do get, I try to throw out as quickly as possible. Still, I have been so frustrated with my lack of organization at home and in my car. Another big problem is that my boyfriend, whom I live with, is pretty much the same way. So neither of us want to be clean and organized. I'm glad that I'm not with someone disgusted by me, but at the same time, it would be nice to have someone who encouraged me to do better! Thanks for all the ideas here. I am going to buy a bunch of organizational stuff--I really think that will help. I have way too many old clothes that I need to donate. The stuff I still want, I don't have enough room for in my tiny closet, so I was thinking of buying those metal shelves that go in the closet that I can fold clothes and place on. I just need to get rolling on all this. And soon--my sister and brother in law are staying with us next weekend! Whenever someone stays with us, it whips me into panic mode and I get it done. Well, except for my own closet, which I hide from them in shame :(. But not this time!
Kelly-O Kelly-O 9 years
You don't have to hire someone either. It's cool if you can afford to do it, but it gets expensive really quickly. Start with something even as small as a drawer, or a coffee table. Even part of your closet. I'm not horribly messy but things have been busy and stuff has piled up, on top of the move. Every morning and every evening I take 15 minutes and do a drawer or a surface or something. It's not that long, and it looks so much nicer when it's done, it's motivation to do more. Sometimes I get on a roll and do tons, others I do the 15 minutes on the run, but it's doing something every day to make it better. One thing FlyLady says that I do like is that it did not get that messy in one day, and it won't get fixed in one day. You just have to keep plugging at it every day. Good luck! There has been some fabulous advice given here. Just do what works for you.
nikodarling nikodarling 9 years
I used to have this problem when I was younger. The best tip I can give you is to not let clutter happen in the first place, because once you've got it its hard to get rid of it. Pick a spot for things to go put them there immediately before you have a chance to be disorganized. Buy lots of organizational storage units, wall hooks, storage totes etc and use them, marking down where things go. I read somewhere that it takes 21 days for something to become a habit and hopefully that will motivate you. For me getting organized happened in baby steps every day I put my purse in the same spot when I got home and eventually it became habit, every day I put dirty clothes in the hamper right away and eventually it became habit etc. Keep doing it - make a list to help you and eventually it will become habit. Also if your honey has a problem with it ask him to help you, mine was a huge help to me. He would politely point out to me when I was getting cluttered or hadn't put things away properly. This is what a relationship is for - to help each other.
sugarbritches sugarbritches 9 years
I think it's a great idea to get someone to help keep you focused and on track while you get organized. You will feel so much better when the stress of the mess is off your shoulders! On a side note, I had a friend who was taking organizational classes and she called me laughing one evening because she had misplaced her organizing binder. Too funny! We had a good laugh over that one!
lovelylei lovelylei 9 years
hey just put on some LOUD FAST PACED MUSIC that you like and that should keep you going! I use video game techno remixes and they're great. just try that and if that doesn't work then I don't know what would.
jaxon jaxon 9 years
This is perfect for me. I wish I had actual advice for you but I'm in the same place you are. My car always looks a mess. I guess part is laziness (for me) cause I clean it out but within days it's the same. My cubicle at work is terrible. It's a good thing I work in a small office cause everyone just jokes about the mess instead of firing me.
amybdk amybdk 9 years
Good advice, everyone! I'd like to suggest and also Flylady gives you small, very attainable goals that help you get clean and organized gradually. You can buy the book Apartment Therapy( join their "Eight Step Cure" with thousands of other people, while communicating with them at their website. Good luck to you!
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