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!