Maybe you remember my Screw Being a Housewife post a couple years ago, if you've been around since then. I see now that that was a very low point in my life. We were struggling financially, I was in the middle of a very uncomfortable pregnancy and was experiencing some major hormone changes -- I was depressed. Very depressed, but I didn't know it until I had Austen, became even more depressed, and then became normal and happy again. Whoops, I'd forgotten what that felt like. Hormones are fun.
I knew at the time that my house was a disaster, I wanted and expected from myself something very different, but I was apathetic. I didn't have the energy or motivation to change. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically. But that's another post for another time. Moving on. *ahem*
Like I said, I'm really happy and good now. It feels nice. Now that we have actual furniture and storage, it makes it easier to keep things clean and picked up, instead of when, you know, your bed is an air mattress in the middle of the living room. So I decided it was time to set a different standard. I had a few visions: go to bed every night with a clean house (which means waking up every morning to a clean kitchen, which means best feeling ever, which means Sure Mommy can make pancakes, River!), have a place for everything, not misplace my keys ever again, and not have crap piled up on every available surface. And then make all these dreamy things become a reality by making it a habit.
I cheated and began the last few days of January. I started with the living room and kitchen, which were already pretty organized. It took me two days. Here's what I did:Next was the living room. This didn't take a lot of effort.
- Cleaned out the food cupboards and fridge. Tossed old food, recycled food containers, organized things to look nice and pretty, combined half-empty spices, removed empty glass spice jars and made a list of spices we need.
- Went through each cabinet and re-organized pots and pans and dishes. Found matching tops and food containers, recycled anything that didn't have a match. Returned dishes to my mom (sorry Mom).
-Cleaned out from under the sink. Made a nice little stack of cleaning rags. Threw away old cleaning items. Picked up trash that didn't make it in the can. Swept and scrubbed the bottom of the cabinet. Sanitized the trash can.
- Cleared the counters of anything that didn't belong in the kitchen. This included the breakfast bar, which had become stuffed aplenty with odds and ends. Everything that couldn't be quickly placed in its home, or didn't have a home yet, was stuffed into a bag that followed me around the rest of the house. I mean everything. If it didn't belong in the kitchen/living room, it went into the bag. Regardless of what it was. More on this later.
- Reorganized the glasses and coffee mugs for shits and giggles. Already pretty clean and organized.
- Organized our tiny laundry room. Again, removed anything that didn't belong and tossed it in The Bag. Swept the floors, sorted the cabinet above the washer, replaced drifting plastic bags that didn't make it into the mother plastic bag in the lazy toss.
- Removed toys that didn't belong in the train table drawers.River & Austen's room has been the cleanest, most organized room since we moved in, so not a lot had to be done there, either:
- Put up decor that had been waiting patiently for months, and
threwcarefully placed other decor items into The Bag.
- Cleaned out inside of piano bench: threw away old sheet music, neatly stacked loose papers, etc.
- ALL surfaces cleared; if it didn't belong, it went into The Bag.
- I made sure all the toys were in their proper places.
- Went through their clothes in storage and separated next season from old clothing, then in the old clothing pile, separated keep and give away.
- Got rid of any blankets and toys I didn't want to keep around. They are still at the age where, if they don't love it, they won't notice if it's gone.
- Organized the top shelf in the closet: one bin for next season's shoes, one for sheets for R's bed. Creepy doll and two sets of toys with lots of pieces hang out up there too, for special play time and to avoid nightmares (I don't know if River thinks the doll is particularly creepy, but I remember her staring at me as I tried to sleep at night).
- Went through the junk in the top shelf of their play kitchen. That was my spot for River & Austen-themed things that didn't really have a place. Anything that didn't have an immediate, easily-accessible home went into The Bag.
That's it! The living room, kitchen, and the kids' room were officially perfectly clean and organized. The kicker is keeping it that way EVERY DAY. I can say with all honesty that only twice this month have I gone to bed with the kitchen and living room a mess, and only once with River's room in a disarray. This is how I've been doing it:
- The kids are learning they are not allowed to bring their toys in the living room. Only train table toys belong, and they do not go all over the living room floor.
- Several times a day, I go through the living room and hallway and do a quick pick-up. Books placed on the shelf, toys thrown into the kids' room to be put back later, throw pillows fluffed and placed on the couch, piano bench straightened, etc. This is so worth it, not having to do a 45-minute or hours-long pick-up at the end of the day.
- I try to vacuum every day. This also helps keep stuff off the floors.
- If I walk past something on the floor (my god, kids are messy creatures), it gets picked up, not ignored. Maybe this is a common task, but guys, I said I was messy. Ignoring is so easy.
- When I am in the kitchen, I give everything a definite end. If it has a beginning, it has an end! Where does making a PB&J for River end? When I slap the sandwich on the plate and tell him to sit down and eat? No -- it ends when I put the peanut butter away, put the jelly away, close the cabinets, wipe the counter, rinse the dishes, and load the dishwasher. I'm serious, I have to tell myself these things.
- Loading the dishwasher and wiping the counters throughout the day, instead of letting dirty dishes pile up and food stick to surfaces, means I never really have to clean the kitchen. Even when I'm cooking, I take the time to rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher. I'm serious... if I do this, I never have to clean the kitchen. Not really, anyway. Cleaning up after myself and making things spotless every time I leave the kitchen takes five minutes. I've had to clean the kitchen twice this month... and that was when I didn't clean up all day long, as I went. Trust me... it's worth it.
- If something is out of place and it takes more than a little effort to put away, it goes into The Bag.
Things aren't piling up on my counter tops anymore. The kitchen is spotless throughout the day. I am in a much better mood, because I walk into my living room and see a pretty, mind-clearing space, instead of chaos. My kids still play, I still cook, life still happens -- but we are all a little bit more sane. I've been more patient, and I am able to get more done because my home is clean.
The month is half way over and while I have made a lot of progress in the final room (our room... cue ominous music), I still haven't found a rhythm and it is still messy and unorganized on a daily basis. I'll save that and my plan with The Bag for the end of the month, when, hopefully, my ENTIRE home is clean and organized. :)
And just a side note, I know family situations are different for everyone. I only have two kids, and I have a husband to help me out a bit... I know keeping the house tidy throughout the day would be ten times harder if I even had just one more! And I am a stay-at-home mom. When we are out of the house during the day, our house falls apart because I just don't have the time to be picking up here and there. Mad props to all mamas who work outside the home and raise a family... you do it all!