Keeping It Neat: 5 Tips for a Tidy Home
Posted by Devin
My need to keep things neat comes from my OCD nature and strong dislike of clutter. I wish I had the same compulsion over dust, but if I did I may never sit down again since I live in a dust bowl desert! But really, if things start to get pretty messy I feel like I am going to crawl out of my skin! So how does a mother of 4 boys suffering from this "tidy freak condition" manage to keep her sanity without smothering her children? Here are my rules I follow:
1. A Place for Everything. I know, I know... Duh, like we haven't heard that before?! But making sure that everything has a place it belongs is absolutely key to organization. When my husband and I were first married, he would come home everyday with notes and business cards and tons of little papers that he needed to keep for one reason or another. He would toss them wherever and didn't like it when I messed with them (for good reason, because I usually chucked them in the trash). Uh-oh, here was our first run-in with my OCD-side. I finally told him I just could not live with tiny papers everywhere, I might die. I gave him a basket, kindly asked him to put everything in the basket, and promised I wouldn't touch any of it as long as it was in said basket. Problem solved and our little apartment went back to being my tidy sanctuary (and our happy love nest)!
Since then, this motto has continued to serve us well. As our family's grown and we've accumulated more "stuff" I have always tried to make sure that things have a place they belong. Baskets, toy containers, hooks, drawer organizers, and adequate closet systems all come in handy when working on finding homes for everything. Figure out where things belong and make sure when you buy new things to find a designated place for them too!
2. Everything in It's Place: The Stuff Shuffle. So the other half of rule #1. Having a place to put everything doesn't really help if nothing is ever where it belongs, right? Here's how the "stuff shuffle" works. When you are going from one room to another, look around and see what "stuff" is lying about that belongs in the room you are heading to. Then pick it up, take it with you, and put it away. Sounds simple, right? It is! But it makes a really big difference! If Cash needs a diaper change, I scan the living room to see what needs to be taken back to his room on our way. Then after I'm done changing his diaper, I scan his bedroom to see what needs to go back to the living room, and so on and so forth. Never go from one room to another without taking some things with you that need to be put away. (Thank you, Olga, for telling me this trick when I was a new mom. It has since become a habit and a very valuable one in my pursuit of tidiness!)
3. One Mess at a Time. My very favorite rule for my boys. I'm sure everyone has seen those signs that read "Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories." Of course, being who I am, that sign makes my skin start crawling, then I have visions of a home that looks like a landfill fell on top of it with crazy monkey children in rags swinging from vines through the living room, and THEN it makes me feel guilty about my need for neat and I start to fear that I am stifling my kids. My solution: one mess at a time. If the kids are playing in their room they can play with and get out whatever they like, the room can get as messy as their hearts desire. But before they can move on to the living room toy baskets or the office for craft time or the garage to play with their bikes and scooters, they have to clean up their rooms. This is the rule for whatever area they are playing in and whatever mess they are currently making. You can't start a new mess until the last one is cleaned up!
I know that kids need to be kids and they need to play. Of course. But it's also good to teach them to clean up after themselves and have some responsibility over the state of our home. Kids need playtime, but I also think they thrive in a "house of order."
Here's Cash making, let's be honest, not a very big mess. You just can't get a kid to make a decent mess when you're ready to take a picture for a blog post!
4. Do Not Go To Bed With a Messy Kitchen. I am a very strict follower of this rule. My husband told me he can count on one hand how many times I have gone to bed with a messy kitchen since we've been married. Again, visions of bugs and ants invading the kitchen because I left dirty dishes or food on the counter haunt me and I can't sleep until it's clean. I know, I have a bit of a problem. ;) BUT... the 15-20 minutes I spend loading the dishwasher, washing the pots/pans, putting leftovers away, wiping the counters, and sweeping the floor REALLY REALLY pay off the next day when everything starts all over again. I hate waking up and knowing I am already behind in the day's tasks. Clean your kitchen before you go to bed and start the next day right!
5. End of the Day Sweep. Last but not least, my end of the day sweep. When it is time to put the kids to bed, I make sure that they have followed rule #3 and that all messes are put away before we have prayers. Then we follow Rule #2 and "shuffle" any left over items to their rooms as we go to kiss and tuck them in. Once they are in bed, I quickly scan the house and make sure that everything is back in order with nothing left lying about. If we've done a good job following the other rules throughout the day, this is usually just a 5 minute or less task of putting a few odds and ends away.
And that, my friends, is how this OCD mother keeps her sanity and her home in working order. It may not be for everyone, but I hope atleast one of these rules make it a bit easier for you to keep some order amidst the chaos of kiddos. We mommies have to band together. After all, the kids are usually faster and more effective at destroying than we are at trying to keep up! Good luck ladies!
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