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How to Clean Your Room in 10 Minutes

Emergency protocol for even the most serious of slobs.

Illustration by Hattie

Oh no, no, no, no, no! Your room is a HUGE disaster: clothes all over the floor, books in your bed, hair ties and necklaces and chargers and cords snaking around the room, empty Peach Snapple bottles, hairspray-sticky surfaces, snot-hardened tissues, and a dresser buried under a mountain of crap.

You were supposed to clean your room all week but you DIDN’T, and now the very cool person you like-like/want to impress is coming over in 10 minutes to study/hang out for the first time and you just got home from school and OMG YOUR ROOM IS SO GROSS THEY WILL NEVER LIKE YOU AND YOU’LL DIE ALONE IN A PILE OF JUNK AND GET EATEN BY THE CAT.

OK. Deep breaths. Do. Not. Panic.

I’ve been a secret slob all my life, and no one but my family and close friends knows. At one point during college, I was picking my way, barefoot, along the tiny path to my dorm room door in the middle of the night, and I tripped. A huge pile came tumbling down. My roommate, Cayla, woke up to the sounds of my low groans. When she flipped on the light we found: the paper I had printed out and then lost and then had to frantically re-print and turn in late, the extra set of dorm keys we’d been charged $50 for losing, the scissors Cayla had accused me of moving and we’d proceeded to have an epic fight about, a half-eaten block of cheddar, 14 soda bottles, live ants, an open container of pink glitter (you can’t get rid of glitter), and my passport, which I had been tearing the room apart looking for because the study-abroad office needed it, like, now.

I know about messes. And I am here to help you. Let’s get to speed-cleaning. Ready?

Go!

Here’s what you need to do immediately:

1. Prioritize.

Take a step back and reaaaaally look at your room. What is the biggest offender? Shoe piles? No visible floor space? Crusty old dishes? Crusty old dishes and half-empty glasses of curdled milk under the bed that are creating a sour odor? Crusty UNDERWEAR? Try to see your room for the first time, treating a shared room as if it were completely yours. What’s most immediately shocking? What’s the first thing that might snag someone’s gaze? (Hint: it’s the underwear.) Time spent: 10 seconds.

2. Get rid of the major offender(s).
Refer to the Priority Messes identified in step one and TAKE CARE OF THEM. If it’s clothes and shoes all over the floor, run and get the laundry basket, pile everything into it (shoes at the bottom), and set it against a wall. Oh, ha ha, you were just about to do a load of laundry! Alternately, you can grab a garbage bag, stuff everything into that, and throw it in your closet. It’s just a bag of stuff you’re donating and, no, they cannot look through it. Time spent: two minutes.

If it’s books and papers, fly around your room, picking up every single book and sheet of paper, regardless of what they are, and put them all in two tidy piles on your desk or on the floor by your bed, with the smartest/trendiest books and magazines on display. The Hunger Games and On the Road can go on top of the latest issue of Highlights (still a really good magazine). Look how much you read! You’re so cultured! Time spent: one minute.

3. Hide anything super-personal.

We all have crap we don’t want other people to see, especially the first time they come over. Scan the room for potentially embarrassing items, such as dental headgear, wart-removing cream, the Justin Bieber singing toothbrush (gag gift, right?!), prescription bottles, the notebook in which you’ve practiced writing your crush’s name linked with yours, Vagisil, Monostat, foot fungus spray, the neti pot, Preparation H, used Q-tips, and anything aiding digestion. None of these things are shameful, OBVS, but they’re not exactly things you need your new friends to be intimately acquainted with. Time spent: 30 seconds.

4. Open all the windows.
Seriously, even if it’s freezing. Air the cave out! Now spray one (ONLY ONE) squirt of your perfume right in front of your door, close to the ceiling, and fan it around with your hands. Perfect! Now anyone walking in will have a first impression of a good-smelling room. And your crush will get a waft of your scent, which is always good. Time spent: 30 seconds.

5. Quickly make the bed.

The bed is the biggest thing in your room; making it will give the impression that the room is a lot more tidy. Don’t spend too long on this, just pull the sheets up and drag the coverlet over the top. Tip: if you want it to look like you definitely did not just make the bed, lie down and then get up again to leave an I’ve-been-sitting-on-this-bed body imprint. Place the one item you were obviously just engaged with (e.g., laptop, book of poetry, collage) on your now-neatened bed next to your pillows. You were totally just lying here a minute ago, doing something awesome! You are always doing cool shit. Time spent: one minute.

6. Get rid of anything perishable that has already perished.

Grab all crusty dishes/water glasses/Tupperware from old lunches and run them to the kitchen sink. Then take the overflowing trash out. Remember: there’s a HUGE difference between “messy” and “gross.” Clutter = messy. Anything that mice and roaches might like to make a nest in = gross. Time spent: three minutes.

7. Put a clean gym sock on each of your hands.
Get one wet. Now you have a scrubber and a duster. Use the wet one on anything sticky, like rings from juice glasses. Run the dry one over all surfaces at eye level and anything truly, horribly dusty. Time spent: two minutes.

Great! Your room is now passably neat (ish)! If Cool Person hasn’t shown up yet, it’s time to make your room look like someone mysterious and fascinating lives in it (which is true!). Got a lamp? Got more than one lamp? Throw a red or pink sheer scarf over the tops of them, like they do in Almost Famous. A sheer T-shirt or tank top will work as well. When you flip the lamps on, the room will be bathed in a rosy, cozy glow. (Don’t forget to take the scarves off after your visitor leaves—this is a potential fire hazard!)

Attack the top of your dresser, grouping and clustering items together until it looks like you planned for them to be with one another: makeup/scented items lined up in a row, photos in a cluster, and all figurines/toy models grouped together like a mini-shrine to teenagehood.

Finally, add carefully edited “mess” back into the room for realism. For example, hang a pendant necklace off the edge of your dresser, held in place by a trophy or figurine. “Accidentally” drape your favorite concert T-shirt on the closet doorknob. Do a last lightning check. Did you: (1) put all garbage bags full of clothes or trash out of eyesight? (2) Hide your journal? (3) Erase any blinking computer chats that say something like “OMG!!! I JUST LOVE HIM/HER SO MUCH I CAN’T BELIEVE HE/SHE’S COMING OVER”?

Excellent. Your room looks like it belongs to a casually neat person, a person who never has to worry about someone coming over unexpectedly, because everything is always this way! Now put on your favorite album, starting it smack in the middle, because you’ve been listening to it this whole time, alone in your awesome room. ♦

61 Comments

  • DymondMag April 4th, 2012 3:10 PM

    haha love this. I share a room with my sister so it’s not like I have to impress her or anything just to try and stop her screaming bloody murder at me :L

  • eggzonable April 4th, 2012 3:13 PM

    The Hunger Games and On the Road in one sentence? NOT COOL.

    • Krista April 4th, 2012 3:25 PM

      Ha but I love both!!!

      • eggzonable April 4th, 2012 5:36 PM

        it hurts me because On the Road is my favourite book ever. It hurts me really badly.

    • katie April 4th, 2012 5:29 PM

      they’re both good books!

      • unefillecommetoi April 5th, 2012 5:33 PM

        i haven’t read the hunger games but i love on the road… and if you did too you should read dharma bums

      • katie April 6th, 2012 1:28 PM

        yess i love Dharma Bums! my favorite Kerouac book is Visions of Gerard though

    • mwong1025 April 4th, 2012 7:03 PM

      But it’s The Hunger Games!

  • mayaautumn April 4th, 2012 3:25 PM

    such good advice….though it probs wouldn’t work for me! you see, my room is not too good for ’10 minute tidies’ because i ALWAYS get side-tracked by finding old notebooks/diaries/magazines etc.. i have so much side-track-y stuff:o
    i just love this post though:)

    http://cottonmixblog.blogspot.co.uk

  • TinaBallerina April 4th, 2012 3:28 PM

    Ha ha, this was so helpful. I do that thing with putting cool magazines/books on top of my dresser (French Vogue, Lula etc.) It’s good for looking cool and stuff.

  • Laurette April 4th, 2012 3:30 PM

    Krista, you have no idea how many people this article spares from hearing the “Oh, yeah, don’t worry about that green, mouldy gunk spewing over the side of that discoloured mug – it’s just my new health regimen of leafy green juice” excuse. Cue cockroach climbing over the side of mug and up friend’s leg.

  • Susann April 4th, 2012 3:32 PM

    This is what I do anytime someone comes over, just perfected! I usually have a foreign issue of Vogue on display ;)

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • Abby April 4th, 2012 3:33 PM

    So… I started reading this article at about 2:30. I’m writing this comment at 3:30. Do you want to know WHY it took me an hour to get through the article? Because two words into it, I clicked on the link. And subsequently spent about 47 minutes watching videos of kittens making noises they shouldn’t. Thanks. It’s a good thing no awesome people are coming over, because my room is still a mess because I spend forever watching kitten videos instead of reading this article and cleaning it.

    • Maddy April 4th, 2012 4:02 PM

      haha me. too. mostly nyan cat. reading about memes=watching meme gifs and videos.

    • starcollector April 4th, 2012 4:13 PM

      Who needs cleanliness when there are CUTE KITTENS TO BE WATCHED? Pfft. This might also explain why my room constantly looks like a war zone. Oh.

      http://china-lily.blogspot.com/

    • Naomi April 5th, 2012 5:22 AM

      oh man this is the truest comment ever

  • violetlilies April 4th, 2012 3:38 PM

    I sooooo needed this!!!! thanks so much Krista!

  • purplebabaushka April 4th, 2012 3:56 PM

    I need this- badly. Though I’m not sure it would be quite that quick- especially in my room. I might try to institute this- hope it works!

  • haleybe April 4th, 2012 4:11 PM

    oh my goodness, so i’m not the only one with crusty dishes and my entire wardrobe scattered about?

  • Juniper April 4th, 2012 4:13 PM

    Krista! You’re the best!

  • koolkat April 4th, 2012 4:14 PM

    the sock thing is genius

    • Tasya April 8th, 2012 2:23 AM

      i know right?! i’m definitely going to do that from now on

  • oriGINAlity95 April 4th, 2012 4:16 PM

    Everyone needs to LIVE BY this article, I am personally a neat freak, but once I get “ready” in the morning clothes are everywhere, make-up and books and other random stuff is strewn everywhere so things get messy fast even when you like it clean 24/7. 10 minute clean ups like this are genius. <3

  • brynntheredonethat April 4th, 2012 4:16 PM

    This perfect. I so wish this had been written a couple weeks ago! I took my friends to The Hunger Games premiere, and I didn’t clean my room (which is BAD) until like two hours before they came (and it didn’t even work that well).

  • awez April 4th, 2012 4:17 PM

    I am technically an adult and I need this advice. Thank you.

  • thumbelina April 4th, 2012 4:44 PM

    Omg you just saved my life!!!! I love this article, the sock thing is just genus. Thank you.

  • emilyowls April 4th, 2012 4:47 PM

    SO USEFUL. though i’d think the removing of perished items would be like… number 2.

    NEVER WOULD HAVE THOUGHT to clean with socks… BUT IT ACTUALLY MAKES SENSE. THANK YOU.

  • missblack April 4th, 2012 4:48 PM

    YESSS Highlights is still soooo good. Finally someone that knows this Other Than Me.

    Also, number 5 is totally hilarious and something that I definitely Will Be Doing.

    Little&Trivial

    • Kathryn April 4th, 2012 5:41 PM

      I love your use of capitalization. <3

  • Adrienne April 4th, 2012 5:17 PM

    Thanks I just needed this hahaha! I leave my clothes on the floor, and when people are over, I just throw them in the closet, which is not a pretty sight!

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • Aislinn April 4th, 2012 5:49 PM

    hahaha, this is so awesome. I especially love the ‘Carefully edited “Mess”‘.

  • tinklebot5000 April 4th, 2012 5:50 PM

    this. is. awesome. I can tell you’re wicked pro at tidying up! <3 Rookieee

  • Sphinx April 4th, 2012 6:15 PM

    I actually enjoy cleaning my room (like once a year, but whatever), you end up finding lots of cool/nostalgic stuff thought was lost!
    The lamp thing? I almost started a small fire when I was 8 so I wouldn’t really recommend it.

  • VanyaTheDinosaur April 4th, 2012 6:17 PM

    OHGOD.

    THAT KITTEN.

    THAT KITTEN. <3

    THERE ARE NO WORDS.

  • Saraleebread April 4th, 2012 6:24 PM

    really helpful! I need to clean my room…

  • katieeleanor April 4th, 2012 6:38 PM

    rookie reads my mind, i moved out of my room and into the empty one about a month ago because it’s so messy. yeah definitely going to try this tomorrow….<3

  • Kathryn April 4th, 2012 6:46 PM

    I’ve secretly always wanted a singing Justin Bieber toothbrush, ever since I saw it once on Hello Giggles.

  • Kristinini April 4th, 2012 6:54 PM

    So going to do this when my mom asks me to clean my room before she gets back, and when she calls that she’s close I’ll start my 10 minute cleaning.

    THANKS!

  • FashionHauties April 4th, 2012 6:57 PM

    I love this. I promised my mother that I’d clean my room today, and I still haven’t and am in need of my easter dress! Time to do a ten minute clean up and a two hour shopping trip! :)
    Off the point, I just wanted to say that in like september or october there was this article/slideshow with some of the things you’ve gotten submitted by a whole bunch of people. Please tell me you’ll do that again! :)
    fashionhauties.blogspot.com :)

  • Jenn April 4th, 2012 7:00 PM

    This is perfect. It’s like, the epitome of what I’m always needing to do.

  • Abby April 4th, 2012 7:00 PM

    So I came back and read this again, just because, and I totally do a bunch of that I’m-totally-an-awesome-person stuff… like I perpetually have a magazine on my desk (which I never actually sit at to read), and I always have a throw blanket ever-so-slightly on my armchair like I was just using it, and I always have some of that carefully edited mess… and all of this when I a) barely spend time in my room, and b) almost never have people over in it… wow… I’m kind of a loser…

  • Jes April 4th, 2012 8:03 PM

    I believe you are my soulmate, because I have done every single thing in this article except for the sock bit. Please come sit in my mess with meeeeeeee

  • savannah April 4th, 2012 8:14 PM

    This is the greatest. It is actually what i end up doing most of the time when people come over.
    It helps a lot. THis is a Great article!

  • Jamie April 4th, 2012 8:37 PM

    i love fake putting my journal on my bed so when somebody comes over it looks like I WAS JUST WRITING STUFF BY HAND NO BIG

  • chelsead April 4th, 2012 9:12 PM

    no way no way no way. this happened to me last night. but my mom helped me clean and she even let me burn incense.
    also i’m 20… oops.

  • KinuKinu April 4th, 2012 9:17 PM

    UH!!! This is what I’ve needed for forEVER.My room is SOOOO messy and I’m so happy this exists!!! Thank you Krista ♥♥♥♥

  • rhetoric April 4th, 2012 9:36 PM

    I need to get myself a JUSTINBIEBERSINGINGTOOTHBRUSH NOW! Ah…I’m in love.

    Oh, and um, this post is freakin amazing.

    http://www.weareyoung.blogspot.com/

  • bibliovore April 4th, 2012 9:48 PM

    I really enjoy your writing style, but this is definitely recycled from an old blog post of yours.

  • SweetThangVintage April 5th, 2012 12:17 AM

    This is FABULOUS! Thank you!

  • Rodny April 5th, 2012 12:58 AM

    Love this. The sock thing: genius! My sister need’s a translation of this article to Spanish and it will make her life just perfect. :’)

  • Narnie April 5th, 2012 4:25 AM

    hahah “carefully edited ‘mess’”= my life.

  • whodatgal April 5th, 2012 7:00 AM

    THIS ARTICLE IS SO TOTALLY AWESOME I MUST TRY IT! :D But one problem: if no one is coming over I don’t feel the need to clean my room. Even when people come over I don’t feel the need to clean it. I suppose it’s not too messy then. I dunnoe

    http://www.opheliahorton.wordpress.com

  • isabellehungryghost April 5th, 2012 3:27 PM

    great!

  • isabellehungryghost April 5th, 2012 3:28 PM

    great! but seriously 30 sec for remove personal stuff. it would take me… ages.

    http://therestlesswillstay.blogspot.de/

  • Pashupati April 5th, 2012 4:39 PM

    Will come handy :) but I think it’d be too hard to try to clean the papery mess on my desk and… Umm. Gotta try.
    Though, I tried the lamp thing once with a boring t-shirt at 11, and it started smelling, and then I took my t-shirt back and saw it also started burning. :/

  • RockHatesMiriam April 6th, 2012 11:57 AM

    This is so helpful! Not that I have a Justin bieber singing toothbrush or anything… ;)

  • katieshouldsortherlifeout April 8th, 2012 6:43 AM

    You forgot fairy lights!! The epitome of cool, switch ‘em on and your room becomes automatically a pretty fairy princess mess cave. Seriously, they make anything look better.

  • OnlyEmily April 14th, 2012 5:10 PM

    Best advice ever… but not useful because no cool people are coming over. ever.

  • RachelTri April 14th, 2012 8:12 PM

    Oh wow, this is so great. XD I’m a relatively clean person, but I still do stuff like this for the rest of the house whenever we have extended family coming over… Awesome.

  • Sk8chel May 10th, 2012 1:52 AM

    This is seriously on point…but you forgot one thing…
    11) clear your browser history.
    It would TOTALLY kill the mood if your super awesome guest borrows your laptop to look up this cool new band you should listen to and types in one tiny “m” which brings up multiple searches for midget melon baller banana pudding porn. Or maybe they’re into that too…SOULMATES!