Help! My room is always a mess, no matter how hard I try. What can I do?

(Reader Question)

I recently had a reader write in with this question:

I can have a peace of mind at home, I pray a lot, I even have a prayer desk beside my bed, but my bedroom is a total mess. Is this normal? I am trying to fix it … Can you give me any tips or advice? 

Here was my response:

If you’ve found a way to manage most of your spaces, but you’ve got one room that is always a mess, you’ve got to figure out why it is, despite your attempts to fix it.

Here are 7 common reasons that might help you figure out why your room is always a mess, no matter how hard you try to keep it clean. 

||ONE|| There’s actually too much stuff to put away (neatly and easily) 

A friend’s husband was telling us that one day he decided to do a big tidy-up of the house. He collected all the tea mugs sitting out, washed all the dishes, and started to put things away. Except, not all the mugs would fit in the cupboard. That’s when he realized that his wife was actually leaving used mugs around on purpose. It was her strategy for dealing with the fact that they just had too many!

If all your clothes, books, papers, shoes, and anything else that is supposed to live in your room can’t actually be put away neatly and easily, you have too much stuff. It’s time to decide what to keep.

||TWO|| Everything doesn’t have a designated space, and/or it’s not set up as an “easy” place to clean

Things tend to look messy when they are left lying around rather than placed neatly in a designated area. If things don’t belong somewhere, a room is always going to look messy, and be a giant effort to clean, because every time you tidy up, you have to decide all over again where things belong. Save yourself the headache by deciding, once and for all, where everything goes.

If you’ve cleared out extra stuff, and your drawers still require lots of rearranging or shoving/stuffing to get everything in, it’s no wonder your room stays a mess. If putting things away requires a careful game of tetris each time, it’s too much effort to keep clean! If you can’t straighten it up in 5 minutes or less, it’s hard to be motivated.

You don’t need to invest in an expensive closet system, but it may be time to get creative about where and how you store things so that that it’s an easy task to tidy it all up.

||THREE|| It doesn’t bring you enough joy/peace when it’s clean

This is another motivational issue. If it’s not a nice space to be in when it’s clean (nice space meaning: you feel calm and happy there, it’s peaceful space where you can think clearly, rest, be creative, use the room to its full purpose, etc.), then why clean it? If it feels the same level of “blah” to you whether it’s clean or dirty, then why bother?

Dedicate some time to cleaning the room well and then ask yourself if it needs an overhaul: could it benefit from a new coat of paint? Fresh curtains? Different lighting or art? Simple furniture re-arrangement? (If you don’t know where to start, begin by getting clarity on the purpose of the room.)

||FOUR|| You haven’t come to terms with what level of clean works for you, so you’re stressed out by someone else’s expectations 

Sometimes the stress comes from external pressures. Maybe you feel like your room should look like a hotel room. But if, for example, having shoes lying around generally doesn’t bother you (or actually make you feel happy because they give it a “lived-in” feeling, as one former housemate once expressed to me), then you have to make peace with the fact that a room clean enough for you doesn’t include shoes neatly put away, despite what the magazines show.

Take some time to reflect on what you are happy for the room to look like on a regular basis, and set that as your goal.

||FIVE|| You don’t have an “allowed” messy space or dumping ground

If you don’t have something like a junk drawer, or box or bin where you know you can just throw stuff when you don’t have time, then you’ll end up with a pile of stuff that is out of place and as a result, the room will look messy. If you don’t have a designated “deal with it later” space, then the whole room becomes a “deal with it later” area. Very few people always have time to put everything away or find a new home for something right away. Sometimes you need to leave it for now. But give yourself a limited, enclosed space for this!

||SIX|| You don’t have a system for getting organized or your system for being organized isn’t one that works for you

Your brain doesn’t always work the way the “expert’s” brain works. You don’t have to follow their methods for getting organized if it doesn’t actually work for you. Figure out if you prefer your t-shirts folded into squares and stood up in drawers, rolled into tubes tucked horizontally, hung on hangers, or simply tossed into a box. There is no morally superior way to deal with t-shirts in this case. Figure out what you like, and what’s realistic for you to maintain, and then go with it!

||SEVEN|| You haven’t figured out your main method for staying organized

Once you’ve found a system of organization that works for you, you need to decide if you will be dealing with things as they come up (like hanging up your clothes every night), or dealing with them all at once (like putting your clothes in a designated pile that you sort every Saturday.) Staying organized costs time: decide if you want to pay for it now or later, and be committed. As soon as the laundry is done, put it away; or, pile it up to be put away all at the same time later – both have pros and cons. (And don’t forget your ‘allowed’ messy space for those times when you just can’t spend time on it right away.)

If you’re still not sure about how to apply these principles to your own space (or you just prefer some encouragement and accountability), I’d love to help! Get in touch about a consult today – in person or over skype, we can get your space tidied and organized in a way that works for you.