This probably feels anticlimactic, but the first Year of the Clean Person assignment, in which you will survey the lay of your land and enumerate the goals you have for improving your space in 2014, is absolutely the secret to success. It's my hope that everyone will join in the January project, though I know that you're going to be tempted to skip this part.

Don't skip this part.

There are four components to making your list, go ahead and give yourself a deadline of January 31 to complete them.

Step One: Make That List!

That's sort of a "Yuh duh, Jolie" thing but I've got some meat and potatoes for you to go along with the yuh duh.

The media you use to make your list is up to you—some people like good old pen and paper, some people prefer to use a note-taking app on their phone, some will go in for a Word doc, others will scribble their list on the walls using crayon. I'd prefer you not choose that last option but if you do, WD-40 will take that crayon off the walls when the time comes for that. But you should set the list down somewhere that's not your head.

One thing that will be helpful when you're creating your list is to walk around your home and check things out. What areas have you not paid attention to? What things are totally out of control? What would you like your home to look and feel like? Write all those things down.

The next part of making the list is to sit down and think of a few things that cause you continuous stress. Examples of this are not being able to find your keys in the morning dash out of the house; that pile of sweaters that doesn't have a good home and sits in a heap; the trunk of your car that is so stuffed with junk that you can barely get it closed. Whatever those stressors are, add them to your list.

Next you'll review the rest of the YoCP calendar and pick out some of the monthly projects you'd like to take on. On the list they go. Oh and this is important: Don't feel beholden to the projects I've identified.

The final act in compiling your list is to create order and priorities out of the notes you've made for yourself and create a clean list documenting your goals for the year.

Step 2: Calendar Your Goals

Make entries in your calendar—paper or electronic, it doesn't matter!—to indicate for yourself when you intend to perform these tasks. Make another entry for a due date; much like making the list itself you're going to be tempted to skip this part but don't. Using your calendar will help to keep you on track and will serve as a reminder of what you set out to accomplish.

Step 3: Set Up Email Alerts

If you're using an electronic calendar, add in an email alert to ping you. Paper calendars won't offer this function, obviously, but you can put the calendar in a place where you'll see it frequently enough that it will serve as a constant reminder.

Step 4: Tell Me Your Goals

Seriously, I wanna hear them! Plus then you've told someone else, which will make the whole thing seem much more real for you.

To give you something concrete to work off of, here's my list.

  • Dispose of old laptops
  • Clean out storage "shed"
  • Take curtains to the dry cleaner
  • Scrub windowsill under AC unit
  • Steam clean upholstery
  • Deep clean behind fridge and stove
  • February Reclaim My Bookshelf
  • May Winter Clothes Purge
  • September Summer Clothes Purge
  • October Kitchen Organization*
  • November Clean Out The Fridge & Pantry*

*If needed

The ones that I left behind are bedmaking (I do that already); the bathroom project (we're likely moving in July, so it's not a great use of time and money); car wash (I don't have a car); and desk cleaning (my desk is my kitchen table).

The first set of tasks on my list, which are mostly things that fall outside the YoCP calendar, I'll tackle in January. So onto my Google Calendar they go!

And finally, there needs to be a reward in here somewhere. My reward is easy: you guys are my reward. For you, though, maybe treat yourself to a bottle of something bubbly to toast to the commitment you've made to yourself? If you're not of age, or not a drinker, think of something that you were hoping to get as a holiday gift in 2013 that never materialized and treat yourself to that.