Productivity and GTD
Do Not Clean the House, Keep It Clean
“A place for everything, and everything in its place.” ~ Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.
If you are like most people, surely you like keeping the house clean but you don’t enjoy cleaning. On top of this, you are probably less willing to clean when the house is dirtier. As dust accumulates, the amount of dirty clothes keeps increasing and clutter becomes generalized, the idea of starting the cleaning becomes more and more scary. Hence, everything is getting dirtier and your willingness to clean, smaller and smaller.
However, if you think about it properly, what is it that makes cleaning so horrible? Getting a dirty shirt and taking it to the bucket of dirty clothes takes 10 seconds. Washing the dishes after eating, 3 or 4 minutes (1 minute if you have a dishwasher). Wiping the glass-ceramic kitchen after cooking, 30 seconds.
The necessary actions to clean, when looked individually, are not so horrible. As Chip and Dan Heath say in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, the problem arises when we propose the task of “cleaning the house”, which will only conclude when the house is completely clean. When we picture the steps we have to go through in order to achieve the final outcome (bedrooms, bathrooms, dining room, kitchen, cupboards, floors, etc.) we find it overwhelming.
This vicious circle doesn’t only affect the cleaning of your house, but also many other things related to your effectiveness and personal productivity. As The Broken Windows Theory says, when a slight deterioration occurs in any organization and we do not fix it soon, the feeling of abandonment is imposed and the system tends to continue deteriorating ad infinitum.
You won’t have to clean the house if you keep it clean. In the gym where I usually go there are signs saying “leave things as you found them". If every time someone uses a machine, dumbbells, weights, etc., leaves them in the same place at the end of the exercise (which not everyone does, of course), the gym would be perfectly organized the whole day, with no additional help.
Being well organized is very easy actually: You capture every thing that comes to your mind, you clarify frequently what all those things that you have captured mean in your world, and you put each one in the right place. The problem comes when you let the dirt build up.