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Unf*%& Your Habitat: An Introduction

Some of you may be familiar with the other blog I devote most of my life to. For those of you who aren’t, however, let me introduce you to the joy of unfucking your habitat.

What is Unfuck Your Habitat? And why should you do it?

Well, our tagline is: “Terrifying motivation for lazy people with messy homes.” It’s about motivation, and support, and accountability. There’s a weird sort of void in all of the “taking care of your physical surroundings” stuff, in the archaic “how to keep a home” and “how to be domestic” arenas. It tends to ignore single people, or students, or people without kids, or people with pets, or people with roommates, or people with full-time jobs, or classes, or other shit going on. It assumes everyone is married with kids and one partner is around a lot of the time, and has a lot of time to devote to “housekeeping.”

Well, we don’t all live that life. Very few of us do. Our lives are complicated and sometimes messy, and we’re often distracted and overwhelmed and lazy. Yeah, I said it. We’re lazy. There’s no real shame in that, but it’s something to overcome, at least temporarily. Because no matter what our situations are, we deserve better than to live in filth. We deserve to live somewhere with nice things we love, and to have a clean, calm place to be, when we’re not at work or school or any of the fifty zillion other places we go.

And our homes aren’t the only things that need to be unfucked. Our finances, our jobs, our relationships; there’s no end to the things we can fuck up. The important thing to remember is that there is nothing that can’t be unfucked. You just have to do it. You just have to overcome the compulsion to sit on the couch, on the computer, watching TV, and get up and do SOMETHING. Anything. So, Unfuck Your Habitat is about lighting a fire under all of our asses. Because when we accomplish something, especially something that seemed impossible, it feels awesome.

If you’re not into it, or not ready to do it, that’s cool. We’ve all been there, where inertia has us almost unable to make changes in our lives. But the whole point of this is that it isn’t hard. It’s almost never hard, and it’s almost never as big of a job as it seems. It’s just a matter of getting started.

Don’t worry about catching up. This is about doing what you can, when you can. 5, 10, 20 minutes at a time. And then back to your normal life.

Unfuck Your Habitat Fundamentals

  1. 20 minutes is not a long time. Marathon cleaning sessions, while satisfying, are exhausting and make you never want to clean ever again. 20 minutes at a time, once or a few times a day, is a sustainable way of keeping your habitat unfucked.
  2. PUT IT AWAY. Probably 75% of our mess is made up of things we didn’t put away. Whether it belongs in a drawer, in the closet, in the trash, or in the cabinet, make sure it finds its way home. This is critically important in two areas, especially: laundry and the dishes. Doing laundry and doing the dishes are not difficult tasks, but most of us give up before the “putting it away” step. Don’t. As soon as it’s done, everything goes back to its home.
  3. Most of the rest of our mess is because we have too much stuff and not enough places to put it. There are two solutions: less stuff, or more storage. Less stuff is, in the long run, almost always the better solution.
  4. GET OFF YOUR ASS. Look, housework is a pain in the ass, and it’s rarely fun. No one is disputing that, but it isn’t hard. What is hard is overcoming your own lack of motivation to just get up and do something. Anything.
  5. When your flat surfaces are clear, you feel like you’re making serious progress. Counters, tables, dressers, nightstands, etc. Try it.
  6. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO UNFUCK EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE. In fact, you shouldn’t. That’s how burnout happens. One thing at a time.
  7. TAKE BREAKS. It’s important for your state of mind. You can integrate cleaning into everything else you do. It doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing.
  8. You can only change your own habits. If you’re dealing with roommates or spouses or kids or parents who aren’t on board, the best you can do is tell them what you’re doing (trying to keep ahead of the mess), and ask them to help to not make it worse. Getting passive-aggressive or resentful because other people aren’t playing along only hurts you, and it’s not good for your brain.
  9. A little effort now saves you a lot of work in the long run. That’s why I advocate getting your stuff together at night for the next morning. That’s why I like dumping some cleaner in the toilet or tub or sink and letting it start to work while I do something else. That’s why taking the extra five seconds to wash your fork or put it in the dishwasher will always be a good idea, because it’ll stop Dish Mountain before it starts.
  10. STOP MAKING EXCUSES. Yes, yes, you have a million valid reasons why your mess has taken over. But I refuse to believe that you can’t spare 20 minutes, once a day, toward improving where you live. If you’re still making excuses, you don’t really want to do it. If you realize that 20 minutes is really no big deal, I can pretty much promise that things will get drastically better pretty quickly.

What say you, Persephoneers? Who’s ready to commit to a little tiny bit, every day, in order to restore some order to the chaos of our physical surroundings? Are you already on Team UfYH? What have you accomplished so far?

(This post originally appeared, in bits and pieces, on Unfuck Your Habitat.)

49 replies on “Unf*%& Your Habitat: An Introduction”

I have been unfucking for out of town guests for weeks upon weeks now.  It’s amazing what living alone can do for fucking (heh) up a habitat.  Now that my habitat is 80% cleaner I keep wondering why I don’t always live in this cool apartment.  20 minutes a day – I can do it.  Thanks for this!

The floordrobe is my downfall. My closet is small and packed tight so it’s annoying to hang things back up and they end up in piles instead. Le sigh.

I’ve also got a dress that’s black with white lace trim and when I washed it the colors bled and made the lace look like a murky blue, so I need to figure out how to fix that. Regular old stain spray didn’t work, Again, le sigh.

I am unfucking my room as we speak for a marathon gaming session over the weekend. Unfucking clears the mind and sharpens the senses – it is the blunt stone to the sharp blade.

It also helps you write pretentiously at length, which may not actually be something I need help with.

Aside from an overcrowded closet and some paper clutter on my dresser, I’m pretty content with the un-fucked-ness of my home.  I really like things clean, and I handle anger, anxiety, and stress by cleaning (and running – either or both works, just so long as I’m sweating my ass off) so it works out.

However, if you can offer advice on how to un-fuck my finances and my overwhelming finals load, I could really, really use that kind of un-fucking.

Finals work can be dealt with using 45/15s (45 minutes of work; 15 minute break). Taking your breaks is important, because the “overwhelming” part of it takes over otherwise. The hardest part can be avoiding distractions, so a browser add-on like Self Control or Strict Pomodoro can do wonders for keeping you off the Internet when you’re supposed to be studying.

As for finances, there are a number of things you can do, depending on what the issue is. What about your finances is fucked (beyond too many bills and not enough money, because if I could solve that, I’d be on my private island with a daiquiri right now)? Is it not getting stuff paid on time? Losing bills? Going into overdraft? Credit debt? Let me know, and I can help you come up with a plan.

I think I’ll make it through finals.  It’s just that my brain and emotions have decided that the semester is over, when in fact I have two weeks and four assignments still to go.  Ooops.

Finances, aside from the obvious too many bills and not enough money, mostly has to do with college/credit debt, and a hard time balancing “I need to do some fun things and spend some money on myself” with “I need to live like a monk/broke college student/hermit so I can save money.”  I tend to go from one extreme to the other, which means I either am enjoying myself and broke or saving money and cranky.

Sunday has become my Unfuck day- 20/10s and itunes till its done.  And freakin’ I love it! My living room has been clean for like 2 months! This has never happened before. I also have been preaching the word of unfucking far and wide even to my irl /non-tumblr associated friends, who have also begun to adopt the 20/10s. So thanks motivating/nagging it works.

I am slowly unfucking things.  I am looking to move eventually, so this past weekend I packed up all of the DVDs I don’t watch a lot anymore and my CDs.  I have two boxes of books that I need to take to the Salvation Army.  But now that things are back to normal, I have a lot of housecleaning and other unfucking to do!  Say you’ll be there for me, UFYH!

I am kind of really sincerely hoping that I have to move into a very small space soon (it’s a distinct possibility – not downsizing, just moving from suburb into city), because it will make me have to really, really evaluate my stuff, and will make me really, really, really have to get rid of a lot of stuff. I’ve already started some purging in anticipation, but… it’s good to not have way too much stuff!

I unfucked my desk the other day, and it felt fabulous. Bonus: I found important paperwork! I really need to get into the habit of twenty minutes of cleaning a day, and I could probably clean most of our apartment in that time if I were to stay on top of things!

PoM, you probably already know that I absolutely love UfYH, but I need to say it again.

I haven’t made the kind of progress I’ve hoped for (because life is busy, because I can’t get my husband to commit to even little things like putting trash into the bin instead of leaving it on the counter, which I do get resentful about because it is gross). I thought maybe I’d have it all together by now, but it hasn’t quite worked that way. I have started to do dishes twice a day every day. It doesn’t quite keep dish mountain from reforming, but it’s better than it was. I have tackled some of the little things that needed doing but which had been put off, like rolling my pennies and taking them to the bank and cleaning off the kitchen table. I’ve gotten on top of the laundry situation.

The next time I have a day off I’m planning on getting rid of the old unwearable clothes that take up most of our closet space. I’m going to vacuum soon, because my allergies require it but I’ve let it slide anyways. The ‘little bit at a time’ approach works for me – I used to do marathon sessions if company was coming over. I had unexpected guests once and was completely embarrassed by the mess–dirty dishes were everywhere and I had to wash cups to serve drinks. Slowly but surely I’ll get to the point where I won’t have to worry about that again.

I’m okay with clutter, but filth is a different story. It stresses me out. Once it’s under control, I think I will feel a heck of a lot better about my living space. UfYH is the kind of encouragement that works for me–seeing other people succeed, knowing I’m not the only one who let things get this bad, and having a clear and reasonable plan motivated by online reminders all help so much.

I am worried about traveling this summer. I have several conferences to attend, and I have a feeling I’m going to come back to garbage everywhere and no clean dishes each time. I’m trying not to let that get me depressed before it even happens.

Oh, I so understand the messy husband thing. I am always afraid when I have to go away without him. It is rarely as bad as I feared when I get back, though. And, just so you don’t feel alone, I named my kitchen sink (and countertop) Mt. Nastydish this weekend. It took me and my teenagers working in shifts to get it tamed, but we did do it :)

Glad to hear I’m not the only one. Sometimes it seems like we’re in some ridiculous gender-based sitcom, and I think feeling cast as the ‘nagging wife’ to his ‘messy manchild’ annoys me almost as much as the actual mess.

I need to get the dishes under control before the weather warms up enough for ants. Right now the “at least we don’t have bugs” is what keeps me from giving up entirely.

I think everyone has a system that works better/worse for them, but these are great tips to start with if it’s overwhelming to begin. For me, I like to do bathrooms in short, commercial-break sized chunks once a week while watching TV (wipe off counter w/premoistened cloths, rinse out sink. Back to show! Wipe off toilet and take trash out. Back to show! Sprinkle cleaner in toilet & quick-mop floor. Back to show!), then it only takes 5-10 minutes for the deeper cleaning. I also try and clean some of the shower while in it to multitask, so long as I’m not wasting all of the water. I also really need music to be motivated for the longer organization/cleaning tasks.

I am slowly but surely unfucking my work room. I posted pictures of the progress so far in last weekend’s open thread. I am a creative and crafty person (I have a BFA to prove it) but I have done very little artwork as of late and part of the reason is that my workroom is fucked and no fun to be in. So I am developing a battle plan to unfuck it. First was getting the computer desk clean. Then I replaced the folding table I had been using for sewing with a proper desk with drawers and cubby holes for storing projects that I am working on and notions and whatnot. This weekend I plan to cull the unused craft supplies. I have a lot of odds and ends that people have given me that I don’t actually plan to use, but felt like I couldn’t just throw away, because they are perfectly good craft supplies. I have a friend who teaches grade school art and said that she would be happy to take this stuff of my hands for her students, so I now have the perfect outlet for the excess craft crap. I’ve also told people to quit giving me craft stuff, as I have more than enough.

But even though it’s still pretty messy in there, just having my work surfaces clear has made a huge difference. I now have spent a few hours in the evenings this past week working on creative stuff. It feels good.

It also keeps me from procrastinating about being creative because I need to clean up the mess the last project made before I can start the next. And honestly it feels like the longer a mess sits there the more effort it feels like you need to remove it. This isn’t actually true, it just feels like the pile of papers that has been sitting there for a month will take longer to clean than a pile of equal size that has only been there five minutes.

I’ve gotten so much better about keeping my habitat unfucked (the desk/office is the latest accomplishment), and I’m slowly ingraining it into future mister… except for the bedroom.
Oh floordrobe…  At least all the piles are somewhat organized?

I’m in the middle of some major redecorating/overhauling in my apartment and I love unfuckening things (though right now it is all fucked up – I’m going to put in a 20 before I go get coffee!). I put all my art supplies in (soon-to-be-labeled) boxes sorted by media/project type (I have an origami box!) and all the little boxes now have HOMES. So when I do a project I can put it back in its little home instead of finding some corner to tuck it in. I think it’s going to revolutionize my life.

I *am* going to maintain a level of organization and cleanliness after I get through the major painting/staining/IKEAing of my apartment. For some reason the hardest thing for me is making my bed. Everything else I will do but bed? No. I got a new duvet and sheets and I want to make this happen. I WILL MAKE IT HAPPEN.

You rock, PoM! Keep the motivation coming!

ETA: I made my bed.

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