My Dad’s “Circle Rule” Is the Only Way I Clean My House (I’ve Been Doing It for Years!)

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My dad, like many dads, has a lot of “sayings,” cute little quips, or metaphors that he throws out whenever applicable. Some of his most oft-repeated advice has helped me live a better life. One such saying is, “Move in ever-widening circles.”

It was his method for finding parking or a location, and whenever he got lost or our family got frustrated in a busy parking lot, he’d calmly say, “I’m just going to move in ever-widening circles and I’ll find it.” When you zoom out on this advice, it might mean that you should broaden your scope when trying to solve a problem. Don’t focus so much on the small stuff, but methodically and in an orderly fashion, work through your problem from the smallest detail to the most general. 

I apply this idea whenever I tidy my home. I start in the living room, and as I find things that belong in the bedrooms or office, I don’t ping-pong between the locations. I make piles while still in the living room and then put things away starting with the closest location. As I widen, I may notice other areas that need tidying, but I keep my epicenter static until the entire living room is dealt with. 

Then I move to another room. For instance, I could move into my son’s room and start at the bed. Moving in ever-widening circles, I’ll toss Legos into bins and gather lone dirty socks for the hamper. Then I’ll go to the next space. This method helps me not get overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and focus on one area of the house at a time. 

I can also apply “move in ever-widening circles” to finding lost objects. As an individual, I’m great at remembering where I put my things like keys or phone. But living in a home with two busy kids means objects move. If I can’t find something, I don’t look around chaotically, running from room to room. I start where the object is meant to be and look there (it’s amazing how often the obvious is overlooked).

From there, I move in ever-widening circles, looking around furniture, the floors, shelves, etc. If it’s not in that room, I move on to the next space and widen my search. This way, there’s no stone unturned and I start with the most logical place first, maintaining efficiency. 

If I or someone else has lost an object and they have no idea where it should be, I start in the place we noticed it was missing and move in ever-widening circles from there. Sometimes, on a busy day, moving out in this spiral motion helps me remember that, yes, I did go from the laundry room to the living room. By reversing the spiral, I hit the location where the object resides. 

I have noticed that by repeating this phrase to myself as I go, I find things much faster and stay focused on tidying. If I get to the edge of where the object might be, I spiral back to the center and then start over, making sure I make a thorough sweep. While it may seem more efficient to go directly to the various locations where an object might be or, when tidying, where it might go, this method means I thoroughly hit all the possibilities and don’t end up looking in the same place twice.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: I Follow My Dad’s “Circle” Method to Keep My Home Clean (It Always Works!)