Quick, Not Dirty: Tips on How to Disinfect, Declutter, and Redefine Your Space

Taking care of your shoes, demolishing dust — and more!

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Welcome to Quick, Not Dirty, monthly cleaning and organizing projects from cleaning expert and advice columnist Jolie Kerr. These discrete jobs are easy to pick off and will earn you the satisfaction of seeing a task to completion without an enormous amount of effort.

Think about all the innocuous things that take up 30 minutes of your day: watching an episode of House Hunters International. Making Shake 'N Bake chicken. Painting your fingernails.

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Thirty minutes isn't a whole lot of time — just half an hour, and we've got 24 of those babies in a day! But a lot can get done in those minutes, and I'm here to help you maximize that time by suggesting five cleaning and organizing projects you can get done during a sitcom.

Shoe Management

Maybe it's summer and you want to perform winter-shoe purge. Or you're finally admitting to yourself that your flip-flop stash is unreasonably large. (Guilty as charged.) Perhaps your work-shoe collection has gotten out of control and you want to pare it down to the best of the best. Here's how.

First, Gather All the Shoes

All of them! Well, at least the ones that fall within the parameters you've set for this project. Gather shoes off the porch, out of the car, from under your desk, etcetera. Don't forget removing the shoes from your closet. You'll want to skip this step, but don't — it's the most important one.

Then, Sort

The reason I'm a monster who's making you take all your shoes out of their hiding places is that doing so will let you assess them with a critical eye. Were you aware that you own five pairs of camel-colored knee-high boots? Well, now you are.

Once the shoes are out in the open, sort them in a way that makes sense to you; whatever your system is, it will help you make choices about what to keep and what can go. (I mean, maybe you need all five of those pairs of camel-colored knee-high boots! But also, maybe you don't.)

Next, Make Purging and Repair Decisions

This is the easiest to say and the hardest to do: Decide which, if any, pairs have served their time and can be released from duty. Make note of any repairs, from cleaning to polishing to resoling, that need to be made. Do you need help figuring out how best to care for shoes that require a little TLC? Here is some archival footage that may help:

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How to Keep the Winter from Ruining Your Footwear

Here's How to Shine Your Shoes Like a Pro

How to Keep Shoes From Smelling

Caring for Suede Shoes

How to Keep Your Cute White Sneakers Cute and White

What to Do About Your Grimy, Smelly Uggs

Lastly, Clean the Closet Floor and Put the Shoes Away

Oh, right! Closet floors get super-dirty, so take a minute to vacuum or sweep before you put everything back! Do you need new shoe storage or organizers? The time to address that is after you've performed this whole routine — always wait to buy new storage systems until you know exactly what style and size you need to fit your stuff.

Polish and Dust Framed Items

The challenge is to not become distracted from this highly focused task. Arm yourself with glass cleaner, paper towels, and a rag, and stroll from room to room dusting and polishing all your framed items, from photos in frames on stands to prints hanging on the wall. Use the cleaner and paper towels on the glass encasement and the rag to wipe the frames themselves, paying special attention to the top of the frame. You will be surprised and, if you're anything like me, somewhat delighted by the amount of gross buildup there is on the tops of those frames.

So! It's an easy task, like I said, but the problem is that once you start noticing the dust on top of your framed items, you'll start looking for other weird pockets of grime. RESIST THIS URGE. When you find yourself drifting off to dust a baseboard, you must exercise control of your mind and refocus on only the task at hand.

I know you can do it.

Clean and Organize Your Desk

Even if you're a person who prefers to work at a messy desk, you can (and should!) still take a half-hour from time to time to contend with your workspace. Here are four steps to a tidy desk:

Step 1: Start with the trash.

It's easy for trash to accumulate on a desk, but it's also easy to get rid of it, so grab your wastepaper basket and pitch the garbage.

Step 2: Get your filing done.

Look, filing is kind of a drag. But you'll be glad once it's done. I find it helpful to make stacks of papers organized by project or subject, survey my categories, and then put them into folders or binders. Don't forget the labels!

Step 3: Organize your desk accessories and supplies.

I hope this will make up for the fact that filing is such dull work: now it's time to gather all your fun desk accessories and office supplies — the stapler, the pen-and-pencil holder, the tape dispenser, all that good stuff — and put them in an easy-to-reach cluster on the desktop. Stash supplies and less frequently used items in a drawer.

Step 4: Wipe everything off.

The final step is to give all the surfaces a quick cleaning using an all-purpose spray or disinfecting wipe. You may also want to wipe off places that you frequently touch, like the arms of your desk chair or the telephone receiver.

Weed Out Old Socks, Tights, and Leggings

It's mindless and oddly relaxing to sort through old socks, tights (including hosiery), and leggings. We tend to have an easier time getting rid of things like socks, which aren't likely to hold sentimental value.

It's a pretty self-explanatory task, but here are a few thoughts and guidelines that may be helpful for you: Anything with holes should either go or be mended within a week. If you let darning projects linger, you're unlikely to complete them, so be honest with yourself about your intentions. Tights, leggings, and socks that have lost their elastic are goners, because they're beyond repair. Tights, leggings, and socks that pinch or fit oddly are also goners, because life is too short for that sort of discomfort.

Disinfect High-touch Areas

I'm not particularly a germaphobe, much to people's surprise, but this one — doing a full walk-through of your home to clean and disinfect high-touch areas like doorknobs, switch plates, refrigerator and faucet handles, remotes, cell phones, etcetera — can make me a little obsessive, I'll admit.

The idea here is so simple, and it's fairly similar to the frame-cleaning project: grab an all-purpose spray and paper towels or rags, go room to room identifying all the high-touch items you can, and just wipe 'em down. This is a good time to practice your calming-breath techniques while quietly repeating this mantra: "I will not freak out about germs, I will not freak out about germs."

Jolie Kerr is a cleaning expert and advice columnist. Her weekly column "Ask a Clean Person" appears on esquire.com

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