I was a neat freak during my teen and university years. My bed was always perfectly made, my dresser and desk neatly organized, my books alphabetically organized on my shelf. When I started office jobs, I got teased by my co-workers about how bare my desk was—it lacked the piles of paper found on everyone else’s desk. As a mom, I’ve found it harder to keep an organized house.
The girls seem to follow me around, pulling out toys and clothes and shoes as soon as I’ve put them away. Even my own corners of the house pile up with papers and other things that need to get put away, because I’m too busy doing laundry or cooking supper to stay on top of the filing and organizing.
I know I’m not alone in trying to keep the clutter contained, for many of my friends share the same woes. When I posted pictures of our new house on Facebook, one friend commented on how organized it all looked only two weeks after we moved. (I’ll admit that I got one room looking perfect, took pictures, and then went on to the next room, while the girls followed me like tornadoes… so if you’d showed up five minutes after I took pictures, it would not have looked like the photos!)
As I thought about my various attempts at keeping an organized house, I realized there are a few things that help me.
1. Tackle one small area at a time.
One dresser drawer, or one shelf in one cupboard of the kitchen, or the top of your desk. Often I find that once I’ve finished that, I’m motivated to keep going onto the next drawer or shelf, but other times all I have time to do is that small area. Then I can enjoy the one organized area until I can come back to do the next.
2. Keep it organized.
Once you have an area organized and a system set up, maintain it. Make sure that you put things back on the hooks you added or in the order you established. Show your family members what you did and encourage them to help out too. I’m still waiting for my girls to inherit my neat freak genes, so I end up going on a monthly purge-and-organize in their toy bins and closets, but I encourage them to find order.
3. Set clean-up times.
I’ve found it helps a lot to work cleaning up into our daily routine—for both myself and the girls. When we stop for lunch, we take about ten minutes to put things away quickly. While I’m making supper, I ask them to clean up their toys and craft projects. (This also means that I pop into their rooms and point out specific things they need to put away, which they’ve overlooked.) After supper, I do a quick tidy in the kitchen and then sweep the floors in the house. That keeps dishes from piling up in an overwhelming fashion, and somehow clean floors make the entire house look better.
4. Have a file drawer.
When my dad and I built my desk, I insisted that it have a file drawer, and that drawer probably gets the most use out of any in my desk. I have files for our bills, taxes, important receipts, university stuff, the girls’ activities, etc. This helps reduce the piles of paper elsewhere; once a bill is paid, it goes into the drawer. Once a notice from school or dance class is dealt with, it gets recycled or filed.
5. Everything in its place for an organized house.
Part of organizing is finding a system that works—a place for everything to belong. Sometimes getting another shelf or some hooks can help; I’ve used cardboard boxes to create dividers in the girls’ drawers and baskets to organize my hair things. For a while, I had my lotions and beauty supplies on my dresser, but I’d often knock one over when reaching for another. Then I put them all in a hat box, with the ones I use most on the outside. Now I can spin the box to find what I need and easily get lotion without taking the bottle from the box. Browse Pinterest or home stores for ideas, but make sure to implement them.
6. Let it go.
I’ve learned to accept that my house isn’t going to look like Martha Stewart’s (or like my room did when I was a teenager). That’s okay. If the girls rooms are messy, it means they were playing and happy. If we don’t get time to clean up toys or the kitchen one day, we do it first thing the next day. Finally, I try to control the chaos in the areas that I can—the kitchen, my room, my desk—and to let it go it in the areas where it is harder to control.
What helps you with keeping an organized house?