You’ve made a terrible mistake and invited someone to your home. Now you’re worried they’ll see how you really live and be obligated to report you. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes to master the Life-Changing Magic of Appearing Like You Tidied Up.
Read this guide and turn your chaotic quagmire into a human home.
Chapter One: Why can’t I keep my house in order?
Many people have the misconception that being tidy is an innate skill. But tidying does not come naturally to anyone — especially you. It is not a skill; it is a mindset. Therefore, a messy home does not come from ineptitude. It comes from a weak mind.
“Tidying a little each day” sounds productive but only suspends you in your own filth — constantly approaching clean, but never arriving. Effective tidying must be a significant and special event. Which is why you’ve waited until your guest is already on their way. This creates the impending shame you need to finally, drastically change your life for a few hours.
Chapter Two: Finish discarding first
Pace your home in panicked, concentric circles with a garbage bag. Throw away all obvious trash. If you’re not sure an item should be thrown away, hold it to your face and ask yourself, “Does this spark disgust?” If so, bag it.
Tip: Sticking to the kitchen isn’t effective if you’ve made a seasonal depression nest in every room. There are empty wine bottles and take out containers throughout your home — not just the places where it’s acceptable to eat.
Chapter Three: Tidying by category works like magic
Once garbage is cleared, reduce your possessions. Many make the mistake of cleansing possessions room by room. That simply isn’t embarrassing enough. You must combine everything you own into one pile so that its vastness can look down upon you. Then, tidy by category:
Books and magazines
Your effort to “read more and scroll less” was valiant. But its resulting collection of dusty reading material turned your nightstand into a pedestal upon which your depression and pre-sleep anxieties twirl in an endless pas de deux.
Simply slip books, magazines, unpaid bills and your bedside table out the window and let them fall.
You have way more clothes than a person with just one body needs.
From the shame pile, gather all the robes, well-loved socks, and largest undergarments. These are your greatest treasures and will be with you until the end. Hide them first and best.
All remaining clothing can be thought of as “optionals.” Eliminate with abandon.
Having a past keeps you from realizing a tidy person’s future. Do you want to be dirty forever? Defile your mementos and discard them.
Chapter Four: Storing your things to make your life shine
Next, put away the items you’ve kept. Storing possessions gracefully honors them but, frankly, you don’t have time for that right now. To fit enough under your bed and in the oven — you’ve gotta cram. Clothing of thicker fabric must be balled, while lighter materials can be scrunched and then stuffed.
Braid your defunct Apple cords and chargers into an escape rope. Anchor it and lower outside your bedroom window in case you need to quickly flee your pathetic façade.
Put all of your totes into the largest tote. Now everyone will think you only have one tote.
Stuff the last items into the laundry bin until you are unsure what is clean and what is dirty, what is useful to you, and what was panic-purchased online after reading World News. If these last possessions weren’t around — you wouldn’t have clutter at all. Remind them of that by muttering “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” as you stuff.
Chapter Five: The magic of tidying dramatically transforms your life
Open your arms in the middle of your new, apparently tidy home. Spin slowly. Wear yellow. Living a lie can be just as rewarding as living authentically, as long as you’re willing to lie about that too. Use the final minutes before your guest arrives to add finishing touches.
Divide your 20+ bags of trash among your neighbors’ trash cans.
Practice key phrases in the mirror: “I didn’t know you were coming!”/ “I just haven’t had time to clean!”/ “Don’t open that drawer — I’ll shoot!” When your guest nods and says your place “looks clean” they’re entering a verbal agreement to tell others that your place looks clean.
Have a contract lawyer draw up an NDA detailing which rooms your guest can and can’t talk about. Preload the document on an iPad affixed to the back of your front door.
Open the windows to let some fresh air in.
Remember that the filth of your space lingers behind your eyes. It weighs down your shoulders, weakens your speech, and waifs off you like rotten summer yeast. People can tell your home is messy simply by looking at you, but they won’t be able to tell that by looking at your home —which is good enough for now.
Light a soy candle.
You can follow Joe on Twitter here.
Illustration by Apic via Getty Images.