I haven’t talked about cleaning and decluttering here on the blog very much – and there’s a reason for that.
Ready? Here it is: my house is a dirty, cluttered mess.
Was. Was a dirty, cluttered mess. See, I don’t like cleaning, it’s just not my thing.
Another reason? It seems like every time I started to get it under control, we move or have a baby, and I get thrown for a loop again.
But over the last few months, I’ve found a way to not just get my house cleaned up, but to keep my house cleaned up, and I think you’ll like it, because it’s not complicated, and it’s not something that just works for me.
It’s very simple. It’s a big push that leads to a daily habit. Not like the whirlwind going through the house and cleaning ALL THE THINGS, and then getting tired and burned out and giving up that I use to do.
Nope. This is sustainable, and it will help you get your clutter under control once and for all.
I won’t pretend this was all my idea. In fact, much of it was instigated by reading Ruth Soukup’s new book Unstuffed – which I highly recommend by the way.
Ready for it? Here it is:
Wait. First tip:
Yeah, that about sums it up. 😉
Okay, here’s the real tip:
Get rid of the extra stuff!
Truthfully, getting rid of stuff you don’t need is one of the best thing you can do. It’s also one of the hardest, but the big thing is to get stuff out of your main living space, because the more things you have out, the more things get out of place, and the more things you have to pick up and clean around.
We had a lot of extra blankets out this winter, because our bedrooms tend to get pretty cold at night. But picking up and folding those blankets every morning was a lot of work, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but it made keeping the kids room cleaned up nearly impossible.
When I put them away a few weeks ago this spring, you can bet I was met with much protest from the kids who “needed all the blankets to build forts and be cozy”. I hesitated, but seriously, I was tired of dumping legos out of blankets three times a day, so in a storage tub they went, and oh my goodness, what a difference!
Their room is almost empty now, just the beds, the rocking chair, and a few baskets of toys. And they play up there for extended periods of time – whereas when they had their beloved blankets, five minutes was about as much as you could ask.
That’s just one example of getting rid of things in one room, but the principle extends to every room in your house.
- In the kitchen: Be vigilant about saying “no” to more household appliances than you need. It’s easy to collect nifty nicknacks, but all all they do is take up extra room and create clutter. When you’re thinking about getting a new gadget ask yourself: Is it multi-purpose? Do I have room for it? Will I use it often enough to justify giving it space in my kitchen? D
- In the living room: Look around and ask yourself what is making it hard to keep things clean? Too many books on the end tables? Too many books on your shelves? Too many throw pillows? I have exactly two pillows on my couch, and yet, I seem to always be picking them up off the floor. I hate them because of that, and refuse to have more than just those two.
- In the bathroom: Do you have too many extra beauty products creating clutter on or in your cabinets? Throw out the ones you don’t use often enough!
- In the bedrooms: Do you need to cull the clothes you don’t wear out of your closets? What about shoes? C’mon ladies, let’s admit that most of us have more shoes than we’ll ever wear. Time for some of them to go!
Getting rid of everything you don’t need can be hard, but there are a few tricks that make it easier. In her book Unstuffed, Ruth Soukup recommends boxing things you’re not sure about, but haven’t used in a while, and putting them in the garage or attic (or whatever storage space you have) for a while. The odds are you won’t miss them, and after a while, you’ll be more than happy to free up your storage space by donating them to your local charity shop.
At first, I felt like getting rid of things was wrong – like somehow, I was betraying my frugal lifestyle by throwing or giving away perfectly good items, but in truth, it’s exactly the opposite. When I have fewer things, and am able to keep them organized, I waste a lot less time trying to find things, and buying replacements for things I’ve lost.
Clean and organize one room at a time and keep it that way.
Don’t try to clean the entire house in one day. Shoot for something more sustainable, like one room a week. Get that room under control, and establish a daily habit for keeping it clean before moving on to the next room.
For instance, I cleaned my kids room, and storage room one day, and got really aggressive about getting the kids used to cleaning up their toys, and keeping them clean. I’m not very good at delegating, so this was a big process for me, but we’re finally at a point where I can tell them to go pick up their toys, and they do it. So now I’ve moved on to the living room, the bathrooms and the kitchen.
Buy storage tubs, and shelves if you need them to get you started
I’ve mentioned before that at one point in our marriage, we were completely dirt poor, with absolutely no extra money. Because of that, I didn’t buy things, and to this day, it hurts me a little to spend good money on a box to store things I’m not using. But. It’s. Worth it.
Follow the one-touch rule
When you pick something up, don’t just move it out of the way – put it away! I do make a small exception for things that need to be put upstairs. If I followed the “one-touch” rule there, I’d be going up and down the stairs all day with one lego, or teddy bear at a time. So I set them on the bottom of the stairs – and then snag one of the kids to take them up when it’s convenient.
Putting things away right away can be a hard habit to get in to, and it can even seem like more work at first, but the trick is to train your mind to be vigilant about keeping thing in their places – to pick up that toy on the way through the living room, or put that coffee mug on the sink as you walk through the kitchen (I don’t drink coffee, but *somebody* in this house has a penchant for leaving mugs in random placed throughout the house).
Have an evening “clean up party”
If you have kids, then cleaning up before bedtime is a must! They will play so much better the next day if they start with their toys put away so they can make a fresh mess (it’s true!). So get your kids involved, and get all the toys, and books cleaned up, get the dishes done, and the main living areas cleaned up, so you can start the day in a calm, peaceful environment.
Get The Family On Board
It’s tough when you’re the only one following the one touch rule, or having solo clean up parties. When your kids are little, sometimes it can’t be helped – at least to an extent – but even little ones can follow simple directions. So start directing them to put things away early on. For a long time, It will feel like you have to tell them every little move, but they will learn to follow through on your directions and save you a LOT of steps in the long run!
Getting your husband on board with clean up parties and the one touch rule can be a huge help, But I have to offer a big caution here: What we feel as enthusiasm for a new idea or routine, can quickly start to feel like nagging to him. So definitely talk to him about it, but then leave it alone.
The truth is, getting – and keeping – your house cleaned up isn’t rocket science. It’s just getting a system in place, and sticking to it – dedication and hard work. But you know what? It is so, so worth it, and these principals will work for anyone!
I wish I could say that my house was clean. Cleaned up, yes, but clean? There’s a layer of dust on the piano.
The honest truth is, I don’t have time to do everything, so I put the emphasis on keeping things cleaned up – as in, clutter-free – and keeping the things that matter, like sinks and toilets, clean. The piano gets my attention when I have a few extra minutes.
But even my decluttered-ness isn’t perfect, and I’m sure it never will be. Right now, I’m sitting here, looking at a basket of legos that got left on the floor. But you know what? It’s just one basket of legos that the kids are playing with. That’s having kids, and it’ll get cleaned up before bed time.
And it’s the only thing on the floor, so that’s progress!
I’m sure I’ll get “thrown for a loop” again eventually, and it will take a while to get back on track, but now when it happens, I know the core principals to follow to get back where I need to be.