Outsmart Your Messy Zones (Help for Frustrated House Cleaners)

Do you tense up when you spot chronically messy areas around your house? Do they sometimes make you feel like a house-cleaning failure?

Me too.

I think it’s time we outsmarted our messy zones, don’t you?

How To Outsmart Your Mess with a Tidy First Impression

Through her book The House That Cleans Itself: 8 Steps to Keep Your Home Twice as Neat in Half the Time, author Mindy Starns Clark has taught me the value of first impressions when it comes to how tidy my house looks, both to myself and to outsiders.

Here’s what Mindy has to say about our messy zones:

“Imagine that you walk into a room where the first thing you see is a table covered with mess. You think, This room is messy. Even as you come the rest of the way into the room, take a further look, and see that the only really messy thing is that table, your initial reaction still holds. To your mind, whether consciously or unconsciously, the room is ‘messy’ with ‘areas of clean.’ If it’s a room you’re responsible for, that thought leaves you feeling demoralized, depressed, and defeated.

“Imagine, however, walking into a room where the first thing you see is a neat floor and a perfectly made bed. You think, This room is clean. Even as you come the rest of the way into the room, take a further look, and see a messy table over in the corner, your initial reaction still holds. To your mind, whether consciously or unconsciously, the room is ‘clean’ with an ‘area of mess.’ If it’s a room you’re responsible for, that thought leaves you feeling pleased, relaxed, and energized. You’re also more likely to attack the mess on that table so that the whole room will be as clean as you thought it was when you first looked inside.”

Credit: The House That Cleans Itself, Mindy Starns Clark, p. 57-58, Copyright © 2007,2013, Published by Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, Oregon 97408, http://www.harvesthousepublishers.com

Mindy’s right: If we can see our homes the way they really are – often tidy with some areas of mess – we’ll be less frustrated house cleaners.

Outsmart Your Messy Zones - Help for the Frustrated House Cleaner

If you’ve read my previous blog post, then you already know how I came across Mindy’s book and how it immediately began to change my thinking. I’ve learned that half the battle of outsmarting our messes is outsmarting our thinking, so…

Yank Up Your Tidy-Pants and Pull Your Thinking Cap On

One year ago, when I began putting Mindy’s tricks to work in my own home, one of the first things I did was scour the house – room by room – taking note of and outsmarting my messy sight zones. I started by…

Liquidating Unsightliness from the Living Room

I immediately determined there were two pieces of furniture that, if not straightened-up regularly, made the whole room look disheveled:

  1. The bookshelf was an imposing piece, full of color and busyness. When it was messed, I felt stressed.
  2. The TV stand had become a public library book storage space. Since these books were mostly used by my children, they were rarely reshelved in an orderly fashion, which meant they were always out of sorts.
before picture of living room - outsmart your messy zones

Adhering to Mindy’s advice, I knew that if I wanted to improve the living room without extreme reorganizing (remember that my previous reorganizing projects never kept the house clean for long, anyway), I would have to change the living room’s first impression:

First, I moved the bookshelf sideways so that if the shelves were messy, they wouldn’t be as visible when I entered the room.

Second, I moved the borrowed library books from the TV stand to a yellow craft shelf, out of the main sightline. This way, if the kids didn’t put their books away nicely, the mess was mostly hidden around the corner.

Third, I took a few items from the tall grey bookshelf and moved them to the TV stand where the library books had been. Why was this move helpful? Since these were items that I rarely used, they would stay tidy for longer. And since they were my own personal things, it would be up to me, not my children, to put them away in a tidy manner in the future.

After making these changes, I stepped back and looked at the room.

In all honesty, I wasn’t sure the room looked less messy than before. In fact, there was an extra mess on the couch and the coffee table because my kids were playing in the living room while I rearranged.

There was one huge difference, however: the room felt less messy, which meant I felt less stressed walking into it. And that’s a big deal!

Feeling excited about how two small changes could make such a difference, I jumped into the next main living space by…

Discharging Clutter from the Dining Room

I identified two corners of my dining room that contributed to an overall messy feeling:

The first corner held a grey, metal desk on which my husband’s 3D printer (plus the paraphernalia he required to operate it) sat. Ever since the 3D printer had arrived, my computer printer had been left dangling over a temporary shelf beside the desk.

outsmart your messy house zones - before picture

This eyesore made me crazy! But since our home didn’t only belong to me, I had to find a way to co-exist with my spouse’s things, too.

So, I accepted the presence of the 3D printer (while still praying for wisdom for a better location) and moved on.

The second corner was all my mess surrounding the pantry cupboard.

outsmart your messy house zones - before picture cupboard

First, I put away a few items that didn’t belong there in the first place, such as the cardboard box on the floor and the blanket.

Second, I assessed the top of the pantry cupboard. I loved the blue-green jug and the cactus sitting there. But since the mess of the 3D printer existed along the same wall of the dining room, somehow those items felt like more clutter to me than decoration. By simply them and taking down the bulletin board (which I wasn’t utilizing well anyway), I could breathe easier. Simpler was better for my brain. I decided that one day when the 3D printer was finally relocated, I’d put some décor back on top of the cupboard.

With the dining room done, I forged on by…

Kicking Untidiness Out of the Kitchen

This is the kitchen I walked into that day:

outsmart your messy zones - kitchen mess

Yikes. Once again, I used more of Mindy’s advice to declutter my countertops and streamline my kitchen sight zones. All her brilliant kitchen tips are hiding behind my cupboard doors (and Mindy’s book cover 😊).

I ended up with this:

outsmart your messy house zones - kitchen after

After the dishes were done, all that’s left to see in this picture is our coffee maker. Where did the toaster go, you ask? The answer lies in another of Mindy’s genious tips, which I’ll share next week!

We’re Aiming for Progress, Not Perfection

It’s been a year since I first outsmarted these messy zones. Many of them have remained tidy. Yippee!

I’ll be honest, though: one of them came creeping back. My kids recently saved up to buy a gaming system, which subsequently took over the top shelf of the TV stand. Consoles, controllers, and wires – oh my! And guess what? That corner’s making me tense again when I walk into the room.

Harrumph. Guess I’ll write “Find a solution for the living room sightline” on my To-Do list.

But remember, this is normal. It’s okay. It’s not a failure. Families grow and change, and so do our messes. That’s real life. We’re aiming for less stress and less mess, not for perfection.

Help for Frustrated House Cleaners

God cares about the whole you and every part of your life, even your house cleaning frustrations. That’s why you can cast:

“all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” 

1 Peter 5:7 AMP

Why don’t we quickly pray together before you continue on with your day?

A Frustrated House Cleaner’s Prayer

Dear Jesus, thank you for loving us more than we can ever comprehend. Holy Spirit, help us to love ourselves, to love our families, and to be grateful for these homes you’ve given us. Give us the wisdom to know which messes can be placed out of sight and which messes we need to accept as a part of sharing a household. And while we manage our homes, keep our perspectives healthy. We want to always remember that Jesus is our true Home, our Life, our Everything. We look forward to sharing a home with you for eternity. Amen.

Your Takeaway Challenge

Walk through the main living spaces of your house (or every room, if you feel up to it), and rearrange, relocate, or cover up any sightline messes. Remember, this isn’t an overhaul of the entire room or a deep organization project. You’re simply looking into each room and assessing: Where are the sightline messy zones in this room, and can I change them to reduce my feelings of stress towards my house?

Encouraging Resources

Today’s blog post is the second in an 8-week series written to offer you hope and help for your house cleaning frustrations. It’s an honest account of my journey through Mindy’s book.

Other articles in the “Help for Frustrated House Cleaners” series that may interest you are:

  1. Sweep Away the Lies You Believe About Your Home
  2. Create Handy Stations
  3. 4 Playful Ways to Convert Chores into Family Fun
  4. Take Your House on a Prayer Walk
  5. Embrace Your Cleaning Personality
  6. How I Changed My Entrance, Bathroom, and Laundry Room to Fit My Family (Help for Frustrated House Cleaners)
  7. 21 Practical Home and Family Management Hacks

Stay tuned for more helpful articles as I journey through Mindy’s book – tidying and changing my house to work with who I am and implementing many of Mindy’s amazing tips. I hope that as you read them, you will also find hope and freedom for your own messy frustrations.

With love,

www.saralivingfree.com signature


6 thoughts on “Outsmart Your Messy Zones (Help for Frustrated House Cleaners)

Add yours

  1. I love your home’s aesthetic, with or without the mess. The colors, decor, character, choice of accessories.

    I’m very curious to see what happened with the toaster. 😉

    Thank you, Lord, for our homes. Please help us as we strive to create environments that feel calming and enjoyable for ourselves and our loved ones!

    Liked by 1 person

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