As an organizational enthusiast, I derive great joy from having a place for everything and everything in said place. Knowing where things are saves time. Well thought-out, attractive spaces are nice to look at (Hello, Pinterest and Houzz?) And for me, clear space helps clear my mind. Admittedly, I can take neatness to the extreme, where I prioritize being clutter-free over creative, but admitting the problem is the first step to recovery, right?
Keeping a neat home with little ones around is a HUGE challenge. As my first baby grows into my first toddler, I’m witnessing first-hand the added layer of stress this brings. But I’m determined to keep on top of it as much as I possible without sacrificing too much sanity or time. Here are a few of my go-to tricks– they’re not groundbreaking by any means. But they work, and with a little patience and some practice you too may find some peace in the madness.
Tackle a little at a time. This may seem like a dumb suggestion, but in practice it works wonders. When we envision a spring-cleaning project in its entirety, we’re more likely to feel hopeless. Instead devise a master plan and divide into smaller projects to complete over time. Keeping lists (on paper or phone) allows me to get it out of my head and refer back to it when I have a moment to work. Be okay with doing a little at a time and you might find that things are falling into place, slowly but surely. For example
- Organize kitchen drawers while warming up dinner and asking your spouse about their day.
- Purge and rearrange the linen closet during the kiddo’s bath time (with them in eye sight, of course).
- Create labels or organizational systems while helping with homework.
Use storage containers and solutions. I can’t stress enough how much this one habit has helped us stay organized over the years. What’s more, it’s a choose-your-own-investment kind of deal: your local big box store carries a variety of options and sizes in many materials: plastic$, wicker$$, metal$$$, and even canvas$$$. Look for them in housewares, lawn care, seasonal, and “dollar” departments.
Group similar items together (e.g., swim toys, costumes, art supplies), and stow boxes in the order in which you use them – i.e., boxes with seldom-used items go to the back/top/attic while heavy rotation boxes sit within arms’ reach. But before you slam the door and forget it forever, don’t forget…
Use labels. Plain white address labels. Washi tape and scrap paper. A bona fide label maker. It doesn’t matter what you use, just make sure you can tell what’s inside without having to move the box or open it. Get in the habit of placing the label in the same spot on every box, preferably so they stack as designed.
If you’re like me, you may go a step further and devise a labeling system. For example, I like to color-code so that at quick glance I know I’m looking in the right place. Using the same color across gadgets reinforces the idea: in my physical filing cabinet, “home matters” are in orange files. Digitally, in Gmail and Google Keep home-related emails and notes are also labeled orange.
Always keep a donation box. Not sure whether you’re ready to part with a precious heirloom? Put it in the donation box and forget it. Notate your calendar to think about it on a future date. If in six months you haven’t missed it, it may be time to say goodbye. Or at least find a reusable box and a nice label for it.
Put items back where they belong. Toys will be toys. We can’t spend all day cleaning up after our kids or we would never get anything else done. But taking a few extra moments to put things away now can save hours later. Throw dirty clothing in the hamper. Hang up coats and bags. Run the dishwasher at night and put away in the morning. Encourage children to do their part. Then bask in the warm glow of freedom as a family when you’re not spending your entire Saturday cleaning the house.
Keeping life in order is part art, part science. And it’s not easy. So give yourself some time and if you need it, a stiff glass of wine. Some old guy once said it takes at least 21 days to get used to a new habit. So start small and sooner than later, you may find things falling into place.
What are your favorite tools and tricks for keeping life in order? Share in the comments!