Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The 96-Step Method to Cleaning Your Apartment

Yeah, my apartment and home office is spotless, just like yours.

This article serves only to demonstrate the power of writing-it-down and the power of goals-and-objectives.

I’m using a hypothetical 3-bedroom home-office apartment as an example.


And it is an easy ninety-six step method.

We start with a few simple definitions:

“Cleaning”: by this we mean

(1) Clear everything off every flat-topped surface

(2) Mop/dust/wipe every flat-topped surface

(3) Clear everything off every floor

(4) Mop/dust/wipe every floor

“Clear”: by this we mean “dispose of”; there are three methods of disposition.

(1) Send to the storage locker in the basement

(2) Huge garbage bag destined for the dumpster

(3) Return to rightful owner

“Every”: by this we mean “each major room or area in the apartment”:

(1) Third bedroom

(2) Bathroom

(3) First bedroom (a.k.a. “Office”)

(4) Washroom

(5) Second bedroom

(6) Lounge area

(7) Dining Area

(8) Kitchen

If you count these you will think I have a 15-step procedure.

Think again:

Each of 8 well-defined areas suffers from each of 4 well-defined actions, making for 8x4=32 separate action-areas.

Multiply those 32 by the 3 disposal methods and you have 96.

This technique of defining terms and breaking a large job into discrete, measurable components is the solution to all problems like this.

It doesn’t matter whether the problem is “Clean the apartment” or “Write my 5-year business plan”.

The method to be applied is the same: identify discrete components (that is, parts that have well-defined quantifiable boundaries. In my example I have used geographic/spatial quantifiers to break my apartment into rooms) and identify discrete actions to be applied to each component

So what brought this on? In the case of the apartment, perhaps a friend has loaned you her new vacuum cleaner and you want to check it out with a view to purchasing a similar model. In the case of your downtown office perhaps a member of The Deep Pockets Club is coming to discuss a contract.

You won’t use this technique to clean up your hard drive, because a new hard drive is cheaper than spending time deleting files from the old, but you can use it to bring the 1,206 word-processing documents or the 81 ZIP compressed files in your T:\Greaves\Training subfolders into a standard format.

Note that some parts of the fictitious plan outlined above go without saying (after which we usually say it anyway, as in …) for example, it is assumed that in clearing off surfaces, you will be placing papers in their correct folders, folders in their correct hanging files, and hanging files in their correct cabinets.

Note too that I have given myself no time-limit on the job ahead. I may spend all of Saturday getting the apartment ship-shape – but if so I should set the oven-timer for 50 minutes to force myself to sit still every hour . I may set a limit of noon, and go for a bike-ride in the afternoon.

Estimating the time taken to “do” each area and then comparing actual with estimated time is always a good exercise for the measuring manager.

P.S. If you DO end up one Saturday wanting to clean up your home-office apartment, I’ve added some hints from a recent experience of mine here .

P.P.S. If working from a table such as the one shown above works for you, consider using a table as a permanent method of maintaining your project in immaculate condition:



Third bedroom








Second bedroom


Lounge-Dining area




Talk to Me !

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