Does your house depress you? By that I mean, every time you walk through the door you’re overwhelmed by the clutter; the stack of mail and paperwork has grown so tall, it is now toppling over and papers are layering your floor; clothes, shoes, and book bags are everywhere and you can’t remember the last time you swept or vacuumed; every dish you have has been used but not cleaned, so you are now ordering out for all your meals and using paper plates and plastic cups.
It’s not that you don’t like being clean — quite the opposite in fact. Cleanliness and organization would make you feel as if all was right with your world. But it’s all so overwhelming, you don’t know where to start, so you never do.
Let’s change that, shall we? Taking it step by step, day by day, let’s get your house cleaned and organized. Even better? After it’s gotten its overhaul, we’ll develop a system for keeping it clean and organized on a daily basis.
Ready? Let’s go!
Step one: It all starts with the mind! Get yourself in the mindset that you are going to clean and organize your house. Not that you “would like to” or “you hope to”, but that you are!
Step two: Gather the following supplies:
- Five to ten large cardboard boxes (can usually be gotten at Wal-Mart upon request)
- Five large garbage bags
- Five to ten large storage bins
- Cleaning supplies, placed in an all-in-one carrier. Include dusting spray, dust rag, glass cleaner, air freshener, rags, paper towels, and bleach.
Step three: Tackle one room a day. This keeps it from getting overwhelming. Don’t know which room to tackle first? There are a couple of ways you can do this:
- You can choose the hardest room first and get it done and out of the way. Then you’ll have the energy to tackle the easier rooms.
- You can tackle the room that is the most lived in first.
- You can follow the general rule that we will use for cleaning each room, “Start from the outside and work your way in.” In other words, choose your outer-most rooms, and then work towards the middle of the house.
Step four: Keep in mind that you are only going to work on one room at a time.
If you’re like me, you’re going to start working on the entry way and find an item that belongs in the kitchen, take the item to the kitchen, and then get sidetracked there. At the end of your day, you haven’t cleaned one room, but have instead gotten two rooms only half-way done. It’s better to tackle one room at a time instead of getting sidetracked.
If you find items that belong in other rooms of the house, put them in one of your cardboard boxes designated for those rooms, and take those boxes with you once you get to that room.
Step five: Work from the outside of the room, in towards the middle.
Pick up papers and sort through them. Put them in the designated boxes for the rooms they belong in. If it’s garbage, put it in a trash bag.
Items that belong in other areas of the house, put in designated boxes.
Develop an organization system within the room you’re working on. This may require going out and purchasing things like shelving or organization units. Do whatever it takes to get clutter off the floor and furniture, and stowed away neatly.
If you’re in the entry way, for example, give each child a cubby box for shoes, backpack, umbrella, etc. Line your walls with hooks and give each member of the family one or two hooks each for sweaters and coats. What won’t fit into the cubby box or on the hook needs to be put in a designated box for the room of the person it belongs to.
If you’re in the living room, as another example, put books and magazines where they belong. This may mean getting a basket for magazines to go into or a cheap bookcase for books. Put videos away, with the least watched ones in back of the most watched ones. Anything that doesn’t belong in the living room, like dishes, put in the kitchen box. Give everything that does belong in the living room its designated place.
Step six: Anything in the room that you are currently cleaning that has not been used in a year or more either needs to get thrown away in a trash bag or put into a cardboard box for Goodwill. If you haven’t used it in a year’s time, chances are you won’t any time soon, so get rid of it! Downsizing will make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting organized and staying that way.
If items are things that are only used certain times of the year, like boots and mittens, or Fall decorations, put those in storage containers that are clearly marked. Get into a system of rotating seasonal stuff in and out of storage bins, instead of keeping it all out, all year long, thus adding to the clutter.
Step seven: Whatever room you are in, clean. You can pick things up and organize them, but if you don’t clean the crusty milk stain, wipe down the mirrors, or polish up that sticky door handle, it will give a pervading sense of not being clean. That pervading sense will only help the lack of organization kick in again. A freshly cleaned room gives more motivation to be kept clean!
Step eight: Take the extra step — light a candle or two or spray air freshener. Again, having not only a clean room, but one that has been made to smell great, will help in the whole mindset of keeping it clean in the future.
Go a step further, and if you have the financial means, buy a new wall decoration or piece of small furniture to add to the room once it has been cleaned and organized.
Step nine: As you go from room to room, keep it organized and clean using the system below, while still working on the rest of the house. This is probably one of the biggest keys to the entire process. If you allow everything to slip back in to a disordered, chaotic mess within a matter of days, it will be way too easy to stop the entire house makeover you are attempting to do, and go back to the old ways.
Step ten: Involve the family in step nine! The bigger your house and the bigger your family, the more you will need to enlist everyone’s involvement in keeping the house clean.
For children, you can do this by giving them their spot in certain rooms: their cubby hole in the coat room, their shelf in the living room, their drawer in the kitchen. Having ownership, even for small children, will encourage them to keep their space tidy — which will help you.
Do you have teenagers that aren’t going to do their part? Time to get tough. If they aren’t hanging up their stuff or putting it where it belongs, maybe you’ll want to confiscate it for a period of time. The more beloved the object, the more it will sink in that it has a place and they need to work at keeping it there.
Husbands? Well, that can be an entirely different matter, but in my household I have taken the following steps: My husband has an area (ok, maybe two or three) where he can put his “mess”. In our last house he even had a back room for his mess. In our current house, he has a space. Anything that is his, that doesn’t belong in a certain spot, I simply put into his space. If his space piles up with clutter and disorganization, it may drive me a little batty, but at least it’s one space and not the entire house.
Other things, well, I’ve just had to concede. If clothes are on the floor, I have learned to simply pick them up and put them in the laundry. I have a choice. I can let his stuff lie around, refusing to pick it up because it’s not my mess to pick up, or I can keep my home neat and orderly and just pick it up for him. Frankly, I would rather keep things neat and orderly than refuse to do something that is “his” job.
In addition to all the ideas presented here, there are also websites that give great ideas for getting and staying organized! Make your search engines work for you on this one! Some even send you email reminders weekly to help you keep on track.
OK, so now that you’ve gotten every room in the house cleaned and organized, and the family involved, how in the world do you keep up with it?
Honestly, the only way, for the majority of us, is to put it all into writing on a chart and follow it, until it becomes second nature. I have included the file for a weekly schedule chart below, but let’s start with how to fill it out.
Step one: List everything that needs to be cleaned in a week’s time. This will include every room in your house. Example:
Step two: List monthly cleaning tasks. Example:
- Wipe down cupboards
- Vacuum cobwebs
Step three: List any outdoor tasks that need your attention weekly. Example:
- Weed flower beds
- Weed garden
- Harvest vegetables
Step four: List any food tasks that need doing each week. Example:
- Bake bread
- Grocery shopping
- Prepare a week’s worth of dinners and freeze
- Divide up bulk food items from shopping trip
Step five: List tasks that you hope to do daily. Example:
- Wipe down bathroom sink and counter
- One load of laundry
Step six: List any miscellaneous tasks that need to be done, either weekly or monthly. Example:
- Write letters
- Can garden vegegatables
- Catch up on emails
Step seven: If you workout, add to your list, the types of workouts you hope to get in, each week. Example:
- Yoga/pilates 3x’s a week
- Walk 3x’s a week
- Arms 2x’s a week
Now that you have your lists, plug each of those items into your according to tasks.
The process of getting cleaned and organized may take up to a month, depending on the size of your house and the current level of disorganization. It’s worth it if you can keep at it until every room in the house has been tackled.
Then, while it is difficult to get into daily habits that you aren’t used to, like doing the dishes every day, by the end of the second month it will be second nature to you.
Not only will your house be neat and clutter free, you yourself will feel more settled and organized internally as a result!