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Clean slate

Want the perfect canvas for your home décor dreams? Here’s a broom.

Having less can mean less cleaning—when you make your driveway a store for a day, it can also mean more money

Deciding to keep a clean home is kind of like that moment you realized wearing deodorant and not using your sleeve to wipe your mouth helped you approach the world with more moxie. When you eat breakfast at a clear table, rather than stand at the kitchen counter as you stare at all the junk you dumped on the table from your purse the night before, you gain a sense of self-respect.

“But Ashley,” you say, “I learned to clean up after myself years ago.” Congratulations, friend. My mom would respect you more than she does me. You can continue to feel smug as you read the rest of this piece from your freshly Febrezed sofa. 

But you, the person who, like me, just can’t keep clean? Do you want my mom’s respect? Mine? Your own? Here are a few concepts on cleanliness guaranteed to make you stand straighter and like yourself more.

Have less. Until recently, I had twelve sets of everyday dishes, including bowls, plates, and smaller plates. My husband Ryan and I would use every last dish, then not have the emotional energy to attack all 36 plates and bowls piled in the sink. Pro tip I took to heart: if you can’t keep 36 dishes clean, you’re not responsible enough to own 36 dishes. We now own only four bowls and four plates. I’m happy to report that we, the Daly family, are adult enough to handle four sets of dishes. They remain clean and useable. Guests think we are normal people who wash their dishes. And now, we are.

Take the extra step. When you wake up and immediately trip on shoes that, had you turned a mere 60 degrees, you could have tossed into your closet and safely out of harm’s way, you may not realize it, but your heart learns a sad lesson. You chose laziness over personal safety, not to mention the safety of your spouse, significant other, or dog. Similar scenario? It takes 30 seconds to fetch the plastic grocery sack that fits your bathroom trashcan. Respect yourself. Decide you’re worth the extra moment that later leads to just lifting and exchanging the sack at trash time rather than tediously pouring who knows what from can to bag. It’s a small thing to think of yourself, but just imagine what life advances to which this little step could lead. Example: I own my own business now!

Get selfish. A straightened or even merely quickly straighten-able home isn’t for other people. It’s for you. When you brush your teeth, the best benefit isn’t the person next to you at work not being disgusted by your breath; it’s personally not feeling the slime sweater that builds up on them. “I’m not one to focus on myself,” you say? Does vacuuming your carpets and consequently saving hundreds of dollars in allergy clinic visits really sound overindulgent?

The above considerations are baseline, folks. Next time, let’s talk about getting your shit together in home décor. Maybe you’re like me and a lot of my friends who were given a bunch of things from family—the chairs you used to poop behind when you were two, the bedding you had in college, your grandpa’s sofa you suspect has come back into style or those three side tables that are super-meaningful to your grandma but are painted pink and decoupaged with roses. These are things we can work with (yes, even the decoupage rose tables), but there’s a trick to it. I’m excited to welcome you into the nuanced business of style for the modern person. #wildrideahead 

Don’t want to clean? Have a garage sale! Having less can mean less cleaning. When you make your driveway a store for a day, it can also mean more money. My husband and I had a garage sale this past weekend to turn those extra plates and bowls (see above) into cash money. Here are some tips fresh from our sale:

1 // Signage, signage, signage. How can they know of the sale of which they have not heard? Location of said signage is key. Think intersections and neighborhood thoroughfares. 

2 // Treat your driveway like it’s a store and you’ll make more money. Price it all. Organize things. Hang clothes. Rearrange as the day goes on to keep things feeling fresh. Say hello and thank you.

3 // You’re in charge here. When someone is rude (sadly, there will be at least one), don’t sell to him or her. Unlike a store, you don’t need Charlie Cheapskate to say nice things about your driveway sale when he leaves. When he dares offer a dime for your couch, just say no. Your dignity is worth ten cents. 

4 // More on dignity and garage sales. Used underwear will sell, did you know that? Not sure whose dignity is the most in question here, buyer or seller.

5 // Appropriate yard-sale pricing is just a little above one quarter of retail pricing. Give yourself room, though, so customers can bargain. 

6 // When it hits noon, my mantra becomes, “You touched it, you’re buying it.” Every yard sale is a balance of wanting to make money and wanting to get rid of things. You’ve reached the tipping point and moving things out is now your primary goal. Stay focused. You didn’t want this stuff so much that you tagged it and carried it to your driveway. Offer crazy deals. Give things to kids. 

7 // Donate what’s left. Dress for Success, Goodwill, Salvation Army, Howe Foundation, your call. You can even sometimes schedule to have one of these organizations or those like them to come pick things up at the end of your sale.

Ashley Heider Daly, while sometimes slipping back into her old, disgusting ways, now maintains a certain standard of cleanliness and order in her home. It’s from this basic foundation that she built a home décor philosophy she now shares at her vintage and modern home store, Retro Den.