You're caught. We've discovered your biggest, deepest, darkest secret-your apartment is a smelly, cluttered, dirty, disorganized mess! Laundry is piled to your ceiling. Unidentifiable shoes and socks are holding a rave under your bed. Books and magazines from November 1996 are wallpapering what used to look like a coffee table, and the dust on your carpet has turned it a mysterious shade of gray. And to think, you actually pay rent for this place!

You might protest that you really like it this way, that you can find things just fine, that you have your own "system." Yeah… and James Van Der Beek is a really good actor. (That's sarcasm.) Face the facts: You've arrived at such a low point that it's going to take more than a Dustbuster to get things in order. You'll need to do some honest-to-goodness, get-down-on-your-hand-and-knees, scrub 'til you scream cleaning. And we're here to help you do just that.

We warn you, a lot of this information will be incredibly basic. But you're such a slob, that you've obviously forgotten about the basics anyway. So cope.


Look, we know that there are a zillion other things that you'd prefer to be doing that are a lot more fun and interesting than cleaning-they're the things you've been doing for months while the dust was accumulating. But enough excuses already: You need to psyche yourself up.

Pick a day that you will perform the cleaning deed and keep telling yourself that this will be "cleaning day." To help yourself stick to that day:

  • Write that date on your calendar, fridge, hand, whatever.

  • Visualize yourself in cut-off jean shorts and an old T-shirt, fighting grime to the tune of Bon Jovi, Bocelli, or perhaps something a bit more obscure.

  • Tell your friends that you're going to be cleaning your apartment that day. In fact, if you can, enlist a friend to help you so that you can encourage each other and so that you cannot back out.

After you've picked out your red-letter day and committed yourself to it, you have to decide whether you are going to clean, organize or both.



Cleaning is the process of actually freeing your apartment of filth. Each room in your pad requires a different cleaning tactic, so you must approach each one independently in order to properly plan your strategy. Bedrooms and living rooms are relatively easy to tackle-they generally involve vacuuming the carpet (or washing the floor), dusting the tops of dressers and night tables, and throwing away piled up papers and other unnecessary junk. Kitchens require scouring the countertops, sink and refrigerator, cleaning the stove, sweeping up crumbs and mopping the floor. Bathrooms require getting rid of mildew in the shower and bath area, scrubbing the sink, disinfecting the toilet and washing the floors. Now that's some rip-roaring fun.


Organizing is different from cleaning in that it involves creating a system for storing and finding things. This means that you'll have to take an inventory of the clothes in your closet and drawers, reorganize where everything goes and pick out old things that you never wear anymore (to either give away or throw out). You can also organize personal papers (bills, receipts, cancelled checks, tax returns, insurance information and personal letters) neatly into clearly labeled file folders. You can even get crazy and organize your kitchen, placing spices and canned goods in one cabinet, dishes and glasses in another cabinet, utensils in one drawer, and tin foil, plastic wrap and plastic sandwich bags in another. Organizing is a great "finishing touch" way to tie everything together after your apartment is clean.

Although you may want to clean and organize, you've got to keep your priorities in check. Doing both can take an entire weekend - which means no time to veg out on the couch and watch Real World marathons. And that would be a tragedy.