Spring cleaning like a software architect

Chimney sweep on a comically large chimney

That is not me. Yikes.

Everyone knows how to clean. Throw out trash, move dust and dirt around until you can’t see it anymore. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’m developing a system for living with the clutter through my spring cleaning process.

  1. Specify clear goals (Are they feasible?)
  2. Make a plan (Can it be delegated?)
  3. Commit to a timeline (When will you be done?)
  4. Measure your success (Is it maintainable?)


The requirements of my cleaning project are designed to tell me when I can stop. The feasibility is high for work items like organizing my desk, throwing out old documents, and hanging art in my office. But the feasibility is not so high for a goal like painting the walls and trim.


It’s important that I can communicate the scope of the plan and the goals to my housemates. When they ask “Is there anything we can help with?” I want to have a good answer. I also need to know when to ask for help. I want to get this over as efficiently as possible and being blocked from completing my tasks because there is a couch too heavy for me to lift alone will make me cranky.


Hourly scheduling with a Gantt chart is probably unnecessary… right? Yes, I’m sure that’s excessive. I just want to have something to look forward to. I also want to know which days will be designed as cleaning days. Do I need 3 whole days? Can I cram all the work into a single weekend? If I’m going to feel successful I need to write a schedule that I can stick to.


What is success in terms of a cleaning project? When it’s done? I have a hard time defining “done” when there is always more that could be done. Bite-sized tasks like sorting paperwork into “Trash Me” and “File Me” can be completed quickly and my reward is taking the trash out and feeling the weight of that sack leave my shoulders. When my housemates ask “How is it going in there?” I want to know whether to smile or frown. Before I start my chores in the afternoon I make a deal with myself that I will be successful if I complete a short number of tasks. It’s important to me to have something to look forward to, otherwise the project seems daunting.