As a child I was ”the neat one”; I remember carefully hanging my
outfits on hangers labeled with the days of the week. I alternated between organized and messy for years, finally to be overcome by chaos when I had my first child. I just couldn’t see the point of picking up toys ten times a day, only to have them strewn about again. I think part of this was perfectionism, and I just gave up, feeling overwhelmed with life.
Over the last eight years, I’ve asked many wise (and clean) moms for their advice on managing a home, and found what works for them and for my family. Our family still has busy times where chaos takes over, but things are much better. We are trending upward.
For me, part of getting ready to go “back to school” is getting the house in order. This summer has been a whirlwind of trips and houseguests, so this past Friday afternoon, when the kids went over to their grandparents’ house for the day, I knew I wanted to use that time to clean. Here are some tricks that help me, a reformed Messie:
1. Have a Plan – I took ten minutes to think through my list and prioritize what I needed to do. I tend to get distracted, so working from a list really keeps me on track. My top four items on the list were: 1) Put away all clutter from trips 2) clean living and dining room 3) clean laundry room and 4) clean out my disgusting SUV.
2. Make it fun – I listened to a DVD while I sorted books in the living room and picked up living and dining rooms. I often listen to Dave Ramsey or a homeschooling CD, but then, I’m a nerd. Music would work well too. It just makes the whole thing kind of fun instead of tedious.
3. One room at a time- This makes the whole process much faster because I’m not running all over the house. It keeps me focused on the task. Also, it gives such a sense of accomplishment. I can see all my hard work has paid off in that one lovely space, even if the rest of the house is a pit of despair. Seeing that beauty and calm inspires me to keep going.
4. Treat clutter as a separate thing- When I was cleaning the living room, I put anything that didn’t belong in that room in the Clutter Basket. I dealt with it at the end. That way I didn’t have to stop to make decisions. I just scooped things into the basket.
4b. When I get to putting away the clutter, I work biggest to smallest. Backpacks (big) were put away first. LEGOs (tiny) waited until the end. Getting rid of the big things meant the room was cleaner faster, and I didn’t get bogged down in sorting tiny junk.
5. Make the kids help – I put away some of the clutter, but saved some for them. This is because a) it’s only fair b) teaches them to have responsibility for their own stuff and c) they keep the room cleaner when they know they’ll have to help clean it up.
I think that promise of an iced latte was the only thing that kept me going.
- 7. Enjoy it.
That evening, I sat in the clean living room and watched a movie (very rare). I try to always take a deep breath and enjoy the peace. When the kids help me, I have them look around and take a deep breath and exclaim over how nice it is. It helps us all recognize that the effort is worth it and we really do feel calmer and happier in a clean room.
The biggest single factor that helps my rooms stay clean is decluttering. But that’s another topic for another day. Let me just say that as I’ve given away (or thrown away) vast quantities of stuff this summer during my Organizing Extravaganza, it has gotten easier to keep things neat. The kids’ rooms stay MUCH cleaner when they have less junk. It really inspires me to keep it up.
What cleaning tips do you use to motivate yourself? Do share!