I followed a link from Twitter the other morning entitled “10 Ways to Keep Your House Neat.” Or something like that. It had a bunch of tips ranging from the mundane: “A place for everything and everything in its place” to the ridiculous: “Never stop picking up.” It was tip number 8 that really really made my hair stand on end: “Practice makes perfect.”
That is why I write this blog.
Ladies (and gentlemen), let me just get right up on my cluttered kitchen counter and yell: Stop with the trying to be perfect! Spoiler Alert: It ain’t gonna happen. I have 3 kids, 2 dogs, 1 husband and a life. I don’t need to practice cleaning and straightening my house so I can, or my house can be perfect. Ever. And neither do you.
How about we all just admit that there is unfolded laundry in the dryer, dog fur on the couch and something moldy in the fridge? (I don’t know what – I’m just sure there is!) Let’s be real, okay? If you want to organize your spice drawer alphabetically, have at it – but if you don’t, party on!
Raise your hand if you’ve ever uttered these words: “Please excuse the mess.” Or these: “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry about my house. It’s a disaster.” I have. Never once did I ask myself, why? It’s not that my home has ever been unsanitary or filthy, it’s just shown the visual clues that busy, active people live, eat and sleep here. Crazy, right?
Organization is supposed to make your life easier, not make you feel guilty or overwhelmed. There are some amazing organizing blogs out there (my personal favorite is I Heart Organizing). They are inspirational. Aspirational, maybe. Under no circumstances should they make you feel “less than.”
I stick to a vague routine here at home – and after years of failures with the occasional success thrown in, I can share some pretty foolproof and realistic organization tips with you. My goal is to make it as easy as possible to keep the house moderately clean and find the important stuff when I need it.
10 Real Life Organization Tips
1. Throw in a load of laundry every day, fold it and get that stuff put away immediately. It’s an unexplained phenomenon, but laundry that doesn’t get put away tends to multiply. Alternatively, the kids just unfold it and put it back in the laundry basket in lieu of actually carrying it upstairs, opening a drawer and putting it away themselves.
2. Keep the stuff you have to wash all the time in a basket in the laundry room. Let it live there. I’m looking at you, softball uniform and you, hockey jersey. The amount of time I’ve wasted hunting for softball socks in the hamper (or on the floor, or in the bathroom…) would have allowed me to binge watch entire seasons of Scandal. Whether it’s a sports uniform, or a particular pair of pants you need for work – you’ll life will be easier if you stop chasing it around the house.
3. Put a hook for your keys by the door. Trust me. You’re far less likely to commit a crime in the morning when you’re running late if you can find your damn keys. If you’re like me, if your morning goes poorly – the rest of the day is sure to follow.
4. Menu plan, a little. I don’t mean that you need to publish a weekly, color-coded selection of appetizers and entrees for the family, but a little goes a long way to avoid the 5pm panicked pizza run. My plan consists of a week of meals (which may include pizza) scribbled on the side of my grocery list. I stick with things I can make without a recipe, or things I’ve pinned. (You can check out my collections of pretty easy recipes on Pinterest here.) Very little planning saves time and saves money. That’s a win.
5. Keep the stuff you use to clean each room in the room you clean it with. Yes, this means I have two bottles of toilet cleaner, and a few bottles of Windex. It also means that when I have five minutes, instead of talking myself out of going all the way downstairs to find the toilet brush, I just squirt some blue stuff in there, give it a scrub – and I’m done. I’m not a believer in spending a full day cleaning – I do what I can, when I can. It’s just easier when everything I need is at my fingertips.
6. Make your bed. I’m a late comer to this one, but it works. Your bed is the biggest thing in your bedroom. Spend two minutes making it every morning and your room automatically looks more put together. Plus, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something, even if you just lay back down on top of the blankets with your coffee and the dog.
7. Embrace the basket. I don’t know about you, but my kitchen counter is always home to stack of papers from school, bills and other detritus. No matter how much I try to get that to look neat, it just doesn’t. Finally, I just got a basket – so at the very least, I can pile it all into one spot. When I need to find something, at least I know where to start looking. Once a month, I sit down and get rid of the stuff I no longer need, and pay the bills. Done.
8. Load the dishwasher every night. If you don’t want to, delegate it to someone else – but waking up to an empty sink is one of the simple pleasures in life. If you’re feeling really motivated, clean the sink, too. I’m not always that motivated.
9. Wipe down the kitchen counters. This isn’t unlike making the bed. Low time investment, high reward. Things just look better and neater.
10. Throw things away. I used to save all sorts of stuff for A Project I Might Do Later. Ninety-nine percent of the time, I never got to that project and was instead left wondering why I saved four wine bottles, two spaghetti sauce jars and three egg cartons. Just get rid of it. Worse-case scenario, you just need to drink some wine and make yourself a really big omelette. P.S. You don’t need seven empty Country Crock containers – you have perfectly good Rubbermaid containers for leftovers.
Tell me about your totally practical organizing or cleaning tips in the comments below!