Getting your home in order (and KEEPING it that way!)

Organization was never one of my strong suits.  And if I’m being honest, I could say that cleanliness in general was never something that came naturally to me.  Just ask my best friend from high school who was forced to climb over stacks of books and clear away mounds of clothes if she wanted a ride in my car.  Or my college roommate who, on more than one occasion, cleaned my side of the room for me when the clutter just got to be too much.  (I’m sorry Sara!!)  Believe me, I take no pride in admitting to the world wide web I was something of a slob.  I do it now only to illustrate my point that cleanliness and organization is not something at which I am inherently good.  It has been a skill I have had to work hard to develop.  In my continual efforts to evolve into a more “clean me”, I have learned several tricks to not only help me get my home in order, but to KEEP it that way.   Here are my top 10, fool proof ways to help you do just that.

1. Take Command – The best and most effective thing I have done to keep my home in order and running smoothly was to create a Kitchen Command Center.

Labeled file folders provide an organized place to keep all my mail, grocery ads, pre-school papers for my son, receipts and bills in one convenient location.  The binder holds everything from school schedules and budget worksheets to car maintenance logs and the take-out menu for our favorite Chinese restaurant.  Nearly any piece of paper that comes through my door can find a home here, which keeps it from piling up somewhere else.

2. Flat is Where its At – Take a look around, and I’m sure you will see that the majority of clutter is accumulating on flat surfaces.  The kitchen table, small counter tops, and bookshelves are all prime “dumping ground” areas.  The best way to avoid accumulating clutter is to keep flat surfaces clear and clean.  Wipe down counters in the kitchen and bathroom everyday, and you will be much less likely to pile “junk” on top of them.

3. Clutter is Magnetic – It’s hard to keep surfaces clear and clean, but you MUST DO IT! Its essential because clutter is magnetic!  The minute you place a rogue sock from the laundry on a counter, or a dirty plate in an empty sink (instead of the dishwasher) it will immediately begin attracting company.  Instead, take an extra 30 seconds and put it away in its proper place.  This is much easier (and much quicker) than organizing counters full of “stuff”.  Which leads me to #4…

4. Don’t be Homeless – You won’t be able to put items in their proper place if they don’t have one!  Take the time to find a “home” for anything that is accumulating.  If you have a designated place to put an item you are much less likely to toss it into a pile. I have found a lot of time, the “proper home” is in the trash bin!  Sort out junk mail, wrappers, and anything else that comes through your door immediately, and throw away what you don’t need.

5. Take 10 – For me, half the battle is just getting started.  There are many days when I am certain Bruno Mars wrote his “Lazy Day” song just for me.  (Sing it with me now…”Today I don’t feel like doing anything…”)  When this happens,  just “Take 10.”   Set a timer for 10 minutes and get as much done in that amount of time as possible.  I guarantee 1 of 2 things will happen.  1. You will actually be able to finish your chore in ten minutes, or 2. Now that you are up off your keister, you will realize you can  get a LOT accomplished in that short amount of time.  The progress you’ve made will motivate you to keep going.

6. Start Small – After you set your 10 minute timer, start in the smallest area of your home.  When my family moved to Michigan two years ago, we rented a 3 bedroom, 900 square foot home.  It was tiny, and the bedrooms were practically non-existent.   Whenever I was feeling lazy unmotivated, I would start by cleaning the smallest room in the house, the master bedroom.  Cleaning my room (which generally consisted of simply making the bed) took less than 5 minutes, but totally transformed the small space.  Seeing my teeny room all spic and span was all the encouragement I needed to begin tackling the larger areas.

7. Don’t Get Caught Empty Handed – When you are leaving a room, take a quick look around.  Is there anything out of place you can take with you?  If you are heading to your child’s room, look around for any stray toys that may need to be relocated.   On your way to the office?  Why not take any papers that need to be filed with you!  Picking up as you go helps keep the chaos under control and saves you time by eliminating extra trips you might have to make around the house.

8. Develop a Routine – get in the habit of “taking 10” every morning and every night.  Make it a part of your daily routine, and your home will stay in tip-top shape.

9. Adopt a “Do It Now” Mentality – I am the QUEEN of procrastination, which inevitably, is the beginning of the end as far as home organization is concerned.  I know, it is so tempting to set your mail on the counter and think “I’ll get to it later.”  But remember rule #3?  Pretty soon that small pile of mail will turn into a large pile of mail, school art projects, picture frames that need to be returned to Ikea, shopping bags, leftover Christmas gift tags, and the screwdriver set you still haven’t returned to the garage.  (True story)  Procrastination and magnetic clutter is a deadly combination, and the only way to combat it is to STOP PROCRASTINATING!  Adopt a “Do It Now” mentality, and the piles will practically take care of themselves.

10. Be Patient  – After I brought my second son home from the hospital, I went into a cleaning frenzy.  I spent two whole days cleaning and scrubbing and laundering.  When it was finished I was so proud.  I took a nap the next afternoon and when I woke up…the house was a disaster.  Again.  I cried and cried and cried.  (Granted…there were probably some post-pregnancy hormones at play.)  But I had to remember, I wasn’t just training myself, I was also attempting to re-train my family.  It takes time to develop new habits!  Be patient and consistent, and your work will pay off.

It may seem like a lot to take on at first, but start slowly.  Pick a couple tips to work on every week.  In no time at all you will have battled the clutter, gotten your home in order, and developed the habit of keeping it that way.  And remember, if I can do it, anyone can!

sarahA Mom Knows Contributor

About Sarah

I'm Sarah. I'm a mom to two little boys, ages 4 and 3 months. I was a Clinical Laboratory Scientist (in my "other life", before kids.) I gave up working long hours, nights, weekends and holidays at the hospital to work long hours, nights, weekends and holidays at home with my family, and I couldn't be happier about it. My husband accuses me of having arts and crafts ADD...because I just can't seem to stick to one hobby. I want to learn to do it all!

46 Responses to Getting your home in order (and KEEPING it that way!)

  1. Vicky says:

    We love our kitchen command center. I like the do it now mentality. So many times I think about doing something and then put it off. So important to tackle things right away. I am a new Twitter follower visiting from Reasons to Skip the Housework. Vicky from Mess For Less

  2. Tabitha says:

    Really great post! It’s almost irritating that the simplest solution is usually the right one. So simple, but it works. Thanks for reminding me.

  3. Ruth says:

    This is brilliant thanks so much for sharing on Tip Junkie.

  4. Kimberly@Colors Mixed Together says:

    Those are all great tips. This seems to be an ongoing issue at our house. Once I think I have it figured out the storm of three children comes running through!

  5. Carrie@My Favorite Finds says:

    Thank you for linking to Wednesday Pinterest Favorites. This is so true! I am such a clutter freak…I can’t stand it!

  6. Bridget McKay says:

    Great tips! Love the blog. With four girls we have been using a lot of these tips. It can get overwhelming, but I hate nothing more than having unexpected company with a cluttered house. There is a big difference between a home being lived in, and a home being neglected.

  7. Anne @ Domesblissity says:

    Sarah, this is timely advice. My kids are back at school this coming Monday after a looooong summer break. Can’t wait to implement some of these tips. I have a weekly linky party called “Thriving on Thursdays” here in Australia where I feature recipes, crafts, make up tips, decluttering and organising advice, anything goes really. I’d love it if you could link this idea up. I know my friends would love it!
    Anne @ Domesblissity xx

  8. Carrie says:

    Awesome tips! Gonna use this to help control my chaos!

  9. Kristy @ Shona Skye Creations says:

    Great tips for creating and maintaining order in the kitchen! Mine is the catch-all for everything and it is definitely the pile-gathering spot in the house!

  10. Sharon says:

    I’m visiting from the Kurtz Korner link party. Great tips! Your command center is very inspiring!


  11. Rachel says:

    This looks great!!! SO much better than mine… 😛

  12. Cori says:

    If you are the Queen of Procrastination, I may be your Lady in Waiting! I drive myself crazy with the clutter! The ideas are great and I am looking to start them (as soon as I get around to it). Just Kidding! I am ready to implement!

  13. Natasha says:

    fantastic tips!! pinning this!

    Natasha xxx

  14. Sarah says:

    Thanks for visiting from Reasons to Skip the Housework, and following us on Twitter! Having a command center really does help keep things in order, doesn’t it? We love ours too! Adopting a “Do It Now” attitude is STILL the hardest thing for me…but I’m slowly working on it. Habits aren’t built overnight, right?! 🙂

  15. Sarah says:

    Thanks Tabitha, and Your Welcome! I also need (constant) reminding to stop overcomplicating things, which is why I think I wrote this post! It’s so true…simple really is better.

  16. Sarah says:

    Thanks Ruth, and thanks for stopping by from Tip Junkie! (And for leaving a comment.) It made my day!

  17. Sarah says:

    Hi Natasha! Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment. And Thanks for pinning this! There’s nothing better than browsing the Pinterest boards and coming across something you created! 🙂

  18. Sarah says:

    Ha! Cori, your comment cracked me up! Procrastination is still something I am trying to master, so let’s both pick a project, buckle down together, and get some organizing done! Things are always more easily accomplished with friends, don’t ya think?

  19. Sarah says:

    Hey Rachel! Thanks for the comment…and I am SURE your command center is FANTASTIC! It’s great that you have one!

  20. Sarah says:

    Hi Sharon…thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment!

  21. Sarah says:

    Hi Kristy! My kitchen was the same way! Piles and piles of stuff everywhere. That’s why the command center is so great. There’s no way I would be able to maintain order without it!

  22. Sarah says:

    Thanks Carrie! I hope they work as well for you as they have for me. Good Luck!

  23. Sarah says:

    Thanks Carrie…I hope they work as well for you as they have for me. Good Luck!

  24. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the compliment…and for stopping by!

  25. Sarah says:

    ha! My mom used to always say “Cleaning the house while children are growing is like shoveling snow while it’s still snowing,” and it’s SO TRUE!!! Thanks for stopping by!

  26. Sarah says:

    Thanks Carrie! I know what you mean about the clutter. Now that I am training myself to be a “clean freak”, it gets harder and harder to live with anything out of place! Thanks for stopping by!

  27. Sarah says:

    Hi Bridget! Four girls, wow! How do you do it? I have a hard enough time with my 2 boys…and one of them isn’t even old enough to make a mess yet! 🙂

  28. Chef in Training says:

    What a great post! Thanks for linking up to the Tuesday Talent Show! I hope to see you again next Tuesday!
    Chef in Training

  29. Sarah says:

    Hi Anne..thanks for the heads up on the linky party! I linked up, and I hope its something your readers will enjoy! Kids going back to school is a perfect time to get everything back in order. (At least that’s what I tell myself every Monday when I drop my son off at preschool!) 🙂

  30. barbara neubeck says:

    Hello Sarah,
    I Just love your post…
    I had 4 children and I was the worst at getting organised. they have been gone for many years now but at one time or another three of them have come home WITH their families to live at home again while building their houses. It has taken me a long time to organise myself and my home but it has been worth it. No more panic attacks at the clutter around me. I still have a couple of clutter magnet spots..but I sort them regularly.
    I like your Mom’s saying about children and snow!!!so true…thanks for sharing
    God Bless
    Barb from Australia

  31. barbara neubeck says:

    Hi Sarah,
    it’s Barbara again, I just wanted to say that I will be 70 this year and it’s only been in the last 12 years that I gave up work and our children’s/ family stopped living with Hubby and me … a long time to be cluttered with people as well as things …theirs and ours!Now only my 95yo Mum lives with us and she is a neat freak so it’s lovely having her here.

  32. Erika says:

    I featured your article in today’s post!


  33. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the feature Erika! I’m glad you liked my tips, and THRILLED you featured me on your cute site. You made my day! 🙂

  34. Home is Where my Heart is says:

    I love this, it’s so clean and simple, I just need to START! You’re right, that’s the hardest part…just get up and DO it! I’ve pinned it to my board “organizing” also as I’m sure it will inspire many people. I really like your blog and I am your new loyal follower! When you have a chance, come by for a visit at my blog and make sure to say hi! Home is Where my Heart is @ Big Hug, Cath

  35. Ginger says:

    I’ll be featuring YOU Thursday morning over on my blog. Thank you so much for sharing at last week’s {wow me} wednesday party. Can’t wait to see what you link up this week. 🙂

    Ginger @

  36. northern cottage says:

    love that basket to keep it all contained…so important to have a spot for this command central zone that we all USE! cute & functionality – a perfect pairing!

  37. Sarah says:

    Thanks for the feature on your great site Ginger! So exciting!!! 🙂

  38. Sarah says:

    It’s amazing what a difference a few folders and a basket can make, isn’t it!? Thanks!

  39. Erin says:

    That was such an awesome article, Sarah! I couldn’t believe how you nailed everything right on the head! I’m looking over at my corner kitchen counter… stuff to take to the garage? yes… Things to return to the store? Yep. a pile of homeless items? i’m afraid so…. I totally agree with your logic and tips. I think my favorite is the ‘take 10’ idea. That is PERFECT for me. Whenever I need to clean up but don’t feel like it, if I just BEGIN then I get right in the mood and get so much accomplished. Thanks for the great ideas!

  40. Jodi Clardy says:

    Okay, you have inspired me! My next project will be to create a command center for our home. Been talking about it for awhile…need to stop talking and just do it! Great post!

    Jodi from

  41. makinglemonadeblog says:

    Please come organize my home! Haha, with these tips I can do it myself, but you make it look so easy. Thanks for linking to Refresh Your Nest Friday and hope to see you back there tomorrow!

  42. Tiffany says:

    I am jealous your cute little 4 year old doesn’t get into the bright pens and clean countertops like mine does! I will blame my disorganization on her. Looks great Sarah!

  43. Darcey says:

    I wish I could get that organized! Nice work!

  44. Deana Elkington says:

    great post thanks!

  45. Judy Nolan says:

    I really can relate to your post this week, since I am cleaning-cleaning-cleaning my paper crafting studio, and I am not enjoying it! Your tips are great, though. I agree that getting started is the hardest thing!

  46. Natalie says:

    I am recently married and just moved into an apartment with my husband. We have both become unhappy because neither of us like living in a messy apartment but haven’t been able to get the hang of keeping everything in order. I just sent him #2 and #3… I think they are REALLY going to help us!!!!!