One of the great laws of productivity is that a project expands to fill the time allotted to it. Thankfully, it works the other way too, and with a bit of concentration and a plan, you can tackle a seemingly huge project like “simplify the house” and make great strides in a short amount of time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with clutter and “messy house syndrome,” here are three steps to help you whip your home into shape fast.

Get rid of stuff. Seriously.

The easiest and fastest way to get your home looking clean and pretty is to get rid of all the clutter. Don’t hide the clutter. Get rid of it. Decluttering actually works faster and is less painful if you’re in a bit of a hurry because you’ve got a goal in mind and not much time to fret about it. Take it one room at a time, grab some boxes and just plow into it.

Make decisions quickly, and don’t second-guess yourself. Do you really need it? Do you even want it? If not, just let it go, and get those full boxes of discards out of the house as soon as possible.

Making the commitment to get rid of the excess stuff and not look back has huge benefits, both for the “right now” (my house looks much cleaner!) and long-term (this space won’t take nearly as long to clean up now that half the junk is gone!) Even more important, the psychological lift of less stuff is pure freedom. If you don’t need it or adore it, let it go. Now.

Work quickly and deliberately, and don’t let yourself get bogged down in “what if’s” and nostalgia.

Don’t shuffle stuff. Deal with it.

A lot of people, when they frantically “company clean,” really just move stuff around so it “looks” better. Have you ever grabbed a pile of laundry and shoved it under the bed? Filled a laundry basket with clutter and stuffed it in the closet? Swept a counter full of crap into a junk drawer?

Instead of moving it all around, take just a moment for each item, and deal with it properly. Is it a paper that needs to be filed? File it. Do clothes need to be put away? Take them to the closet, now. Is it trash? Throw it away. If it’s something you don’t know what to do with, think really hard about whether it even warrants space in your home. If not, let it go.

Once all the “stuff” is out, clean up.

Work top to bottom: dust surfaces while tidying up the {hopefully fewer} beloved items you’ve chosen to keep, brush off upholstery, straighten artwork. Wipe down mirrors and shiny surfaces from fingerprints, plus clean kitchen counters, bathroom fixtures, etc. Fluff the pillows on the bed, run the vacuum around, sweep up the floors. Take out the trash and recycling. Open up the curtains so the sun shines in. Grab an iced tea and enjoy.

Visit Sandy at ModernSimplicity.org.