Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your Mess

by Rachel Hoffman


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"The perfect housekeeping guide for somebody who is overwhelmed with their mess and can’t figure out how to start." –Lifehacker

“An accessible guide on how to clean for normal people." –Livestrong

"It actually changed my life and my home; I’m serious." –Book Riot

Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who'd describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we're desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems. The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world!

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, this philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250102959
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/03/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 94,340
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Rachel Hoffman launched Unf*ck Your Habitat in 2011 to motivate regular people to get up, start cleaning, and get their lives in order. Her advice has appeared in publications and websites such as Glamour, Elle, Real Simple, NBC News, Apartment Therapy, Livestrong, House Beautiful, and the Times (London).

Emily Woo Zeller's multilingual, multicultural framework led to a natural fit as an audiobook narrator. While she specializes in Asian American narratives, Emily's work spans a broad spectrum, including young adult fiction. She won an AudioFile Earphones Award for her narration of Gulp by Mary Roach.

Read an Excerpt

Unfuck Your Habitat

You're Better Than Your Mess

By Rachel Hoffman

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2017 Rachel Hoffman
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-10296-6



Nice Ass, Now Get Off It
Who Needs Unfuck Your Habitat?
The Case for 20/10s
Mental Health and Your Mess
The Perfectionist's Paradox


Tell me if this sounds familiar: You're flipping through home-organization magazines or browsing on home-improvement and decorating websites, thinking, "This is it. I'm finally doing it. I'm going to get my house under control." You look at picture after glossy picture of perfectly organized spaces, with no visible clutter, clearly labeled storage solutions, and gleaming fresh paint, rooms with sunlight streaming in through the windows, and you think to yourself, "Are you fucking kidding me?"

Those pictures seem impossible. Hell, they are impossible if you own enough possessions to function in modern life. You don't live in the world that's being shown in those pictures. You live in the real world. A messy world that's full of dirty dishes, clothes languishing in laundry baskets, and a dining room table you haven't seen the surface of in months. You're not a slob. You just don't have the time, the money, the energy, or even the inclination to achieve what those pictures are showing you. You just want to get your home to the point where a drop-in guest doesn't send you into a tailspin of panic, and where you can live your everyday life without being disgusted or depressed by your surroundings. You know, somewhere deep down, that your home will never look anything like those pictures, and it's depressing, discouraging, and ultimately pretty damn frustrating.

You may be looking at those magazines or websites and thinking that there's no hope for you, and no hope for your home. Your house is never going to look like that. You may be thinking that a clean, organized home is completely out of reach, and there's just no way for it to get better than whatever state of mess it's in right now. You feel trapped by the state of your home, and powerless to do anything about it. Well, good news! You're wrong.

There's a universe of difference between a picture-perfect home that can be featured in magazines and a perfectly functional and livable home that you aren't ashamed of or stressed out by. And Unfuck Your Habitat can teach you how to have a home you love and feel comfortable in, while helping you realize that your home doesn't need to look like the ones in those pictures in order for you to love living in it.

You deserve better than to live in filth, and with just a little bit of effort and practice, you can easily master the skills and habits you need in order to get and keep your home livable. It's going to take some time, and nothing gets better overnight, but it will get better.

Other housekeeping and organizing systems have a specific kind of person in mind. They assume that everyone is married with kids, with one spouse at home with a lot of time to devote to housekeeping. They tend to ignore single people, or people without kids, or students, or people with pets, or people with roommates, or people with full-time jobs or classes or other shit going on. They ignore people with physical or mental illnesses or other limitations that don't allow for complicated, involved housekeeping on an inflexible schedule. They forget about people who live in apartments, or rented rooms, or a small space in someone else's home. They forget that people live at home with their parents, or in dorm rooms with total strangers. They forget that not everyone fits into a narrow mold of circumstance and ability, and they forget that sometimes ... you just don't feel like it. Basically, they ignore a whole lot of people who live in the real world.

Since so few of us fit the mold of these traditional housekeeping systems, it doesn't make sense to try to follow those methods and expect them to lead us to success. A picture-perfect showroom home is admirable, but, let's be honest, that's not going to be a reality for most of us. And that's okay! So the first step in turning our messes into something we can happily live with is realizing that it's time to rethink the way we approach housekeeping and organizing and how they fit into the lives we actually live.

In this book, you'll learn how to incorporate cleaning and organizing into a busy life, and how to work with all of the various fun things life throws at you that have kept you from doing this up to now. You'll learn that rather than be intimidated by what you think other people's homes look like, you can get to a point where you're happy and comfortable with what your own home can be. You'll realize that the real world rarely, if ever, lines up with what aspirational magazines and websites are showing you. It's not as intimidating as it seems, but I'm willing to bet no one's ever broken it down into a system that works in your world, and so it's easier just to write it off as completely impossible ... and then never even get started. And that's why you are where you are right now: overwhelmed, discouraged, feeling like a failure, and hating your home.

We should probably start by accepting the fact that, for the most part, cleaning your house kind of sucks. Sorry, but it does. Getting and keeping your house clean and organized isn't necessarily difficult, but it's rarely fun, and we all have other things we'd rather be doing. If given a choice, very few people would choose to spend their time cleaning or organizing their home. It seems like a giant time investment, during which your life is totally devoid of fun and sunshine and anything else you like. But there's no reason tidying up your home has to take up all of your precious spare time. It can be accomplished just a little bit at a time, in between the far more enjoyable and important things that happen in your life. It's critical to realize that you aren't beyond hope. You can always improve your living situation, but you need to do some work to get there.

We're often busy, and sometimes we're lazy. No need to sugarcoat that. But wouldn't it be nice to walk into your house at the end of a busy day and not feel depressed or disgusted or dejected? There are very few people who enjoy cleaning on a regular basis (and frankly, I'm a little suspicious of those people anyway). So let's just accept that it's not necessarily going to be the most interesting or fulfilling part of your day and move on to actually getting it done so that you can finally do the things you want to do in a home that you don't hate spending time in.

Once you've acquired the tools you need to keep your house from devolving into a total shithole while still managing to do the things you enjoy, you'll develop a habit of keeping your living space nice without it taking over your life. You'll find that you can maintain a home that doesn't stress you out or embarrass you, and you can accomplish that in only a few minutes a day. You'll be able to have people over if you want to. You won't panic over unannounced guests.

The important thing to remember is that there is nothing that can't be unfucked with a little bit of effort and motivation. You just have to do it. You have to overcome the compulsion to sit on the couch and mess around on the computer or watch TV, and get up and do something. Anything. If you have the motivation but lack the ability, you have to figure out how to work with or around any limitations that have prevented you from doing this in the past. Unfuck Your Habitat (or UfYH) is all about helping you do just that. It's about lighting a gentle fire under our asses and reminding ourselves that we deserve a home we can be comfortable in and proud of. It's about acquiring the skills we lack and applying those skills in our everyday lives in a way that results in improvement without burnout. It's about celebrating every success, no matter how small it might seem at the time. Because when we accomplish something, especially something that seemed impossible, it feels pretty awesome.


So many different kinds of people have been failed by traditional housekeeping and organizational systems. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that close to an entire generation has entered adulthood without the skills needed to keep a clean and organized home — skills that previous generations took for granted. Whereas in the stereotypical nuclear family of the past, one of the parents (usually the mother) would teach housekeeping skills to the next generation (usually the daughters), the realities of life today don't make this a feasible, realistic, or desirable scenario. The definition of "family" is evolving all the time, but that archaic mindset regarding housekeeping roles hasn't changed much at all. As a result, many domestic skills have fallen by the wayside due to lack of time, shifting priorities, or inadequate tools. As we move past traditional roles within the home into structures that better fit how we actually live our lives, we also need to adapt our methods for keeping our homes running smoothly. As a society, we haven't yet caught up to that reality, so we've lost a whole lot of our ability to get the job done while we've been looking around wondering whose job it is.

Traditional housekeeping systems attempt to make people's lives fit into a rigid structure of routines and schedules for cleaning and maintaining the house, and that doesn't make any sense at all for a lot of people. Doesn't it make more sense to fit your cleaning routines around your life instead? Today, it's critical to incorporate flexible routines that work with your life instead of against it; otherwise nothing will ever get done. Trying to use a housekeeping system that was developed for someone with a very different lifestyle is a little like wearing shoes that are two sizes too small: It's uncomfortable, it's awkward, and pretty soon, you're going to get frustrated and give up entirely, left feeling much worse than when you started. So maybe it's time to try something completely different — something that was designed to work for people who are failed by other systems and that recognizes that you have a whole lot of other shit going on.

So, who needs Unfuck Your Habitat?


With all the different living situations that we enjoy today, assigning housekeeping tasks based on archaic and outdated gender roles just doesn't make sense. Traditional standards of who "should" be doing the cleaning don't apply to how people live their lives nowadays, and haven't for quite some time. Households are made up of every combination of gender, age, and relationship. If you live somewhere, you deserve for that place to be nice and clean and livable, and you should be the one who makes it that way. If several people are responsible for making the mess, each of those people is responsible for getting it clean and under control. It doesn't matter who you are or what box or boxes you check. Gender roles as they relate to cleaning are bullshit,* and just offer a handy excuse for half the population to be lazy and the other half to feel guilty.


We're all busy. Very busy, in fact. Almost all of us have stuff going on that takes up a vast majority of our time, whether it's work, school, family obligations, or anything else. It doesn't make sense for us to follow a bunch of steps that were developed for people who have hours each day to devote to cleaning and organizing their home. Who actually has that? No one I know. Even the people I know who are home all day, whether they work at home or are stay-at-home parents, don't have time for the type of strict structure outlined by traditional systems because they're busy doing the million little things necessary for keeping the rest of their lives running smoothly. To be honest, cleaning and organizing the house falls so far down on the list of things to do that it often falls off that list entirely. We haven't adapted how we look at housekeeping to reflect how we really live our lives, and that's why so many of us feel like we're failing at it. With UfYH, you'll learn how to change the way cleaning and other home-related tasks fit into your life, and be able to adapt and adjust to whatever life throws at you at any given time.


One of the other things that most organizational and cleaning systems have in common is that they tend to require a significant investment, either of money or of time. And if you're like most other people these days, you don't exactly have a surplus of either one. Any free time or extra money is almost immediately earmarked for something else, something that's more important or possibly more fun. So you may find yourself wondering if it's even possible to get your shit under control if you can't spend a ton of money or every waking moment dealing with your mess, because everything you're seeing and reading sure makes it seem like it's not. It is possible, and UfYH will show you how. There's no reason that getting your home in order should drain your bank account or your energy reserves.


Many people come to UfYH because they can't find a place for themselves in the expectations of other systems. For example, people with mental or physical illnesses or limitations often find that massive cleaning sessions or inflexible schedules involving intense bursts of work just aren't physically possible. It's not about being lazy; it's about not being able to accomplish what ends up being a bunch of impossible tasks because of factors that are entirely beyond your control. The underlying assumption about people's ability to do housework seems to be that everyone is able-bodied with plenty of energy to spare. That assumption can be pretty damaging, because everyone who doesn't fit into that tiny little box simply gets left behind. UfYH realizes that not everyone fits this mold, and will help show you how to work within or around whatever your limitations may be.


Young adults in their first living situation away from their parents — whether that's a dorm, apartment, or shared housing of any kind — often find themselves at a loss as far as what to do, how to do it, and when it should be done when it comes to housework. And if you grew up in an environment where you didn't learn these skills, either because your parents weren't good at keeping a house or because they did it all for you and never made you learn, being out on your own can be a bit of a startling wake-up call. There's nothing inherently wrong with not knowing what to do around the house, but the skills needed have to be learned at some point, and the longer you wait, the more difficult it can be.


Then there are some of us who actually are lazy. And that's totally fine! We all have a lot going on in our lives, and when faced with a little bit of down time, it's totally understandable that the last thing you feel like doing is housework. I mean, doing the dishes takes a lot of energy, and it's not fun at all, so it's really no wonder that so many people choose to just succumb to the inclination to sit down and do nothing. The problem with this is that, well, house stuff needs to happen at some point. If you let it go forever because you just don't feel like it, your house is quickly going to become (and stay) a messy disaster. So while laziness is a completely understandable reason not to work on getting your home in order, you need to get past it for even just a short amount of time. And then you can go back to doing whatever it is you'd prefer to be doing, even if that happens to be nothing at all.


It seems counterintuitive, but some people who identify as perfectionists tend to have trouble keeping their home in order. Because it's so difficult to clean and organize everything thoroughly and perfectly all at once, perfectionists can get discouraged by what seems like a lack of results, and just give up. Learning that progress is incremental and not necessarily flawless can be a huge step toward getting a messy house under control, a little bit at a time.

* * *

THERE'S NO END to the reasons that people don't or can't clean their home, and there's no one type or category of person who needs help with housekeeping. Lots of people in lots of situations find themselves not up to the task of keeping their home in order. Whether that's due to a shortage of time, a lack of skills, physical limitations, or a loss of motivation, there is hope. With practice, focus, and, most important, a solid but flexible game plan, everyone can get their mess under control, and transform their home from something they're embarrassed and stressed out by into something that's comfortable and calm.


Excerpted from Unfuck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman. Copyright © 2017 Rachel Hoffman. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Nice Ass, Now Get Off It,
Who Needs Unfuck Your Habitat?,
The Case for 20/10s,
Mental Health and Your Mess,
The Perfectionist's Paradox,
Building Habits,
More Stuff Than Storage,
Cleaning Basics,
Small Spaces,
Roommates, Spouses, and Significant Others,
Asking for Help or Helping Someone Else,
Emergency Unfucking,
Unfucking Your Digital Life,
Schoolwork and Work Work,
Now What?,
UfYH Fundamentals,

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