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How to Do an Evening Tidy Up

Updated on January 28, 2020
Susan Caplan McCarthy profile image

After growing up in a home with parents who hoarded, Susan cleared her own clutter and then became a decluttering coach to help others.

Tidying Up Isn’t the Same as Decluttering or Cleaning

While ‘tidying’ is synonymous with decluttering and organizing, I consider the act of tidying as a simpler form of organizing. Although you might do a bit of cleaning, tidying isn’t cleaning; and, while you may declutter a few things as part of the process of tidying, it isn’t the focus of the action.

Ideally, it should take just 10-to-20-minutes to tidy your entire house. While that might not seem to be enough time to accomplish anything (particularly if you have kids or a large house), when it’s done consistently (yes, every day), you’ll start to see a big difference.

Tidying involved moving a coffee cup to the kitchen sink, tossing the junk mail, hanging up a coat, picking up toys, putting the toothpaste back in the medicine cabinet; small actions that add up to an orderly home.

Tidy at Night to Create a Clutter-Free Morning

Plan for a calmer morning the night before.
Plan for a calmer morning the night before. | Source

Set a Timer for 10 (or 20) Minutes

This will save you from getting caught up in a small task and help keep the task manageable so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

If Your House Is a Mess

Maybe you never learned how to declutter, clean, or organize because your parents did most of that stuff out of your view when you were a kid. Or, maybe your parents were super organized, and it was easier for them to do tasks the way they wanted them done.

Or, maybe, life got busy for a while and now you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed because you aren’t certain where to start trying to get things back in control.

While an evening tidy-up is easiest with a house that’s been decluttered, it isn’t impossible if things at home are currently chaotic. If you can give 10-to-20-minutes a day for six or seven days a week, within a month you’ll see a huge change to your home. That might seem like a big commitment, but it’s just a few minutes a day – which is easier to accomplish than trying to set aside an entire day to wrangling your house into order.

Focus on the Stuff That’s Out in the Open

Tidying can tackle the obvious stuff that makes your home look orderly or messy.

You Might Need to Start with a Trash Bag

If you think there’s a lot of stuff in your home that can just get tossed (junk mail, old newspapers and magazines, snack wrappers, broken items), focus your first few tidying sessions on walking around your home with a trash bag.

Move quickly and focus on what’s out in the open (don’t open cabinets or drawers). Try to get to as many rooms as you can. Repeat this action as many days it takes to clear the stuff that can get thrown out. Keep this step to 10-to-20-minutes a day.

A Quick, Daily Sweep Through Your House Keeps Things Neater

Tidying doesn't mean that you won't have to clean or declutter, but it can make those steps easier.
Tidying doesn't mean that you won't have to clean or declutter, but it can make those steps easier. | Source

A Few Definitions to Keep Things Clear

Eliminate unnecessary items
Decide where things belong
Remove dust, dirt, and grime
Put away things

Should You Declutter Before You Tidy?

After clearing off the trash, you may still have spaces in your home with a lot of stuff. You might need to plan time to declutter and organize these spaces. However, those actions take a lot of time and aren’t a part of tidying.

If you find yourself standing in one spot for more than a minute, you’re probably trying to declutter, clean, or organize. Tidying is putting away things that are in the wrong space. (What’s the right space? The place you’ll go looking for the item when you need it.)

If you still need to declutter an area (or two or several), focus on putting away the items that were used during the day – fold up the afghan that was covering your lap while watching television, put the magazine you finished reading in the recycling bin, put the cutting board and knife where they belong.

These small, consistent steps will help to create space until you have more time to declutter.

Tidying Prepares You for the Next Day's Tasks

A few moments of organizing creates a fresh slate the next day.
A few moments of organizing creates a fresh slate the next day. | Source

A 10-Minute Evening Tidy-up

Tidying is done quickly. If you find yourself focused on one area for longer than a minute, you’re trying to do too much. Focus on putting away things that were used during the day. This prevents more clutter from forming.

You’ll do these actions in whatever order makes sense for your home.

Mail and Receipts – Toss any junk mail into recycling. Put mail you need to act on later in an action folder or bin. Toss or shred receipts that you don’t need and file those you need for a reason.

House-wide – Pick up things that belong in another room and take it with you as you move around your home.

Entryway – Deal with mail. Hang up coats and put away shoes. See what’s coming into the house and what’s in a pile to head out the next day.

Kitchen – Clean the kitchen counter of anything that doesn’t belong out on the counter. Move dishes from the sink to the dishwasher. (Washing dishes or emptying the dishwasher are their own tasks and aren’t part of tidying.

Bathroom – Clear the area around the bathroom sink of things that belong in a drawer or in the medicine cabinet.

Bedroom – Pick up any clothing on the floor and either put it in the hamper or hang it. Put shoes where they belong.

Home Office – Clear the surface of your desk. File papers. Put office supplies where they belong.

Living Room or Family Room – Put remote controls where they belong. Fluff the couch pillows. Fold up afghans. Put magazines, books, newspapers where they belong.

Kids’ Rooms – Put on a two-to-four-minute long song or get an hourglass-style three-minute timer. Have kids put away their toys, put clothing where it belongs, clear their desk, etc. Help younger kids so they stay on task and so you can show them what you want done (and how to do it.)

Notice that you are skipping storage rooms or spaces and instead focusing on things that have been used during the day.

Show Kids How to Tidy Their Rooms

Show kids how to put away their stuff. Take a photo and post it so kids have it as a reference.
Show kids how to put away their stuff. Take a photo and post it so kids have it as a reference. | Source

Practice Keeping Things in Order Every Day

While it can be difficult to start a new habit, set a time when you'll tidy or pair the action with another task (after everything goes into the dishwasher, I'll set the timer for 10 minutes of tidying).

Knowing when you'll tidy and what actions you want to accomplish in this time will help to keep you focused.

Each time you put things away, you'll create a bit more order for your home.


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