The secret to faking a clean house

The secret to faking a clean house

I used to clean my house because I didn’t want other people to think I’m a slob. Now I’m past the point of caring whether or not friends think my house is clean when they come over. It’s a gift of the thirties, I think.

However, I’ve learned that I breathe easier in a space that’s clean and uncluttered. I’m kinder to my family; I think more clearly, I do better work.

“Outer order contributes to inner calm,” says Gretchen Rubin. I don’t know if it’s true for everyone; it’s certainly true for me.

Also: I would care very much if a friend slipped on a Lego and broke her leg (which seems like a real possibility, some days). This little tip eliminates the risk.

Our babysitter taught me how to fake a clean house (although she never called it that). Here’s the secret:

the secret to faking a clean house

A roomy, empty laundry basket (or a giant cardboard box, or Rubbermaid tote.


That’s it.

Now pick up all the stuff that isn’t where it belongs and dump it in the basket, then tuck the basket into a corner. (If you want to go all-out, put the basket in the closet.)

the secret to faking a clean house


Next, tidy up the surfaces. (This makes a huge difference in how a room feels. ) If you have too many piles to sort through just now, plop that stuff in the laundry basket.

the secret to faking a clean house


Straighten the pillows and blankets, push the ottoman back in place, put the books back on the shelf.

the secret to faking a clean house

When the basket is tucked away discreetly, you don’t notice the basket: you notice the clean, shiny floors and glorious empty surfaces.

And when the clutter is gone, our living room feels like a much better place to live (and work, and play, and dream, and chat, and anything else you can think of).

Do you remember my #1 Pinterest tip? That empty laundry basket will help you carry it out.

Do you breathe easier in an uncluttered space? What are your best tips for making it happen?

P.S. Highly sensitive people, and when I realized my own house was making me cranky. Also, this book is a wealth of information/inspiration on stopping the clutter before it eats your living room.

the secret to faking a clean house

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  1. Victoriana says:

    After phase one of triage, PHASE 2 carry the basket box whatever around and deposit the stuff you collected in the correct locations. This usually takes less than five minutes.
    Another tip, if you hang up laundry…hang shirts on hangers as they come out of washing machine and hang on clothes line with clothes pin spacers to keep them separate, so they don’t all squish together. When dry have the kids pick out their own shirts and hang in their own closet. Or not and empty line as you need’em, they’ll look ironed.

  2. Lacy says:

    my hubby laughs at me b/c he thought I always had a clean kitchen when we met…little did he know I shoved all of my dirty dishes in the oven when he was coming over! lol Now, that we’ve been married 6 years…he knows the sad truth…I hate doing dishes!

    • Anita says:

      Ha ha, Lacy! I do that too!!! The minute I hear someone is on the way over, those unwashed pots and pans go right in the oven!

      I do also use the “laundry basket” quick pick method. When I have a chance to sort through it, I use my bed (forced to finish by the end of the day) and create a pile for each room where something belongs, or else it goes in the trash can. Usually it’s mostly trash or toys, so the piles are easy to deal with and put away properly.

  3. Viv says:

    I have used this triage method for decades and it totally works for me, especially when we are about to go holiday leaving house sitters in charge. Works for cleaning out a messy car too. My trick which ideally happens the same day but this is the real world, is to bribe myself that I have to empty the basket while doing something else, usually TV. I watch very little, and mostly on demand, so can arrange to overlap the hour of watching And the hour of sorting into piles for each room on the house. Although I can fast forward through ads, I don’t, as that is about the time it takes to move the biggest pile up to its room of origin and put stuff away.

  4. Sara says:

    I use this in our house too and then every other day or so will ask everyone to empty the basket knowing the remainders will be trashed or donated.

    We also use a 15-minute pick up strategy where the 6 of us set a timer for 15 minutes and clean up everything we can find. If there isn’t anymore stuff to tidy, then they can clean, throw clothes in the wash, etc. When the kids whine I remind them we can work together 15 minutes or they can work alone for 50. 😉

  5. Liz says:

    Yes! When I was young my mom had a basket at the bottom of the stairs for my sister and I. Every night we had to bring it up and put all of our stuff away. I use the same strategy for my 12 year old daughter. I put all of her stuff that is out of place in a laundry basket and plop it on her bed and close the door. My husband’s stuff get’s piled on his desk.

    Reading Gretchen Rubin & Marie Kondo have made this an much easier task!

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