It's true that I keep a rather tidy home, always have. And while I believe that my upbringing and unique childhood are factors in my desire for an orderly house it is certainly not something I naturally come by.
Let's be real... who WANTS to tidy instead of watching t.v. or reading a book? And the tips I have to give you aren't what you want. You want something easy, a quick fix. Ha! Do you truly believe that if that existed we wouldn't ALL know about it?
Sadly, it's not that easy. It's work, it's habit, it's personal growth, and it's relearning what our culture has told us about our homes, organizing, and "stuff".
In no particular order...
- Don't fret the mess.
Often the mess is simply temporary and based on your current project, activity, or function. When those things end the mess will end, as well. So in the meantime, don't fret. If there is nothing to be done or if you are simply going to be constantly fretting about the mess, leave it alone. Do NOT nag. Messes happen and there isn't a single thing that needs to be done about it. Just breathe.
- If it can't be put away easily, get rid of stuff.
Rather than looking for more storage or a bigger house look to your stuff first. This is absolutely contrary to everything we have been taught, especially Americans, but should be the main lesson in keeping a tidy house. Rather than fussing about how you don't have room to put your stuff away... get rid of stuff. Really. It IS the solution. If you can't find a home for it, think about if the item should be kept.
- Pick-up daily.
Don't leave until tomorrow something that should be picked up today. Or something like that. Get in the habit of putting your shoes away, hanging your coat up, taking care of ALL the dishes you use that day, and cleaning up from your daily life EVERY. DAY. This will also help you realize that your daily activities should be contained to only what you can handle.
If you don't have time to pick up after yourself each day figure out why and fix it. Maybe you are just too busy and need to slow down. Okay, you are probably too busy. Yep, aren't we all? This is a personal habit that you need to develop. As simple and as hard as that. There isn't an easy fix, sadly. Make an effort, even a little at a time to pick up each day and not allow the mess and clutter to build.
- Eliminate your drop pile FIRST.
If you have a drop pile, that should be the first thing you tackle each day. That drop pile will mess with your mind by creating clutter and a feeling of chaos that isn't necessary. Clear the drop pile and you will feel infinitely better! And stop dropping it in the first place. Give your items clear homes and discipline yourself to put them in the homes.
- Enlist help, always.
The help you enlist is a personal decision. Some can afford a housekeeper, lawn boy, pool boy, and more. Others need to take care of their family needs within house (that's me!). Do NOT whine and complain if you can't afford help. Simply reduce what you need to care for so you can handle it yourself. Sure, it's not what our culture tells us the solution should be. But it IS the solution.
On the same token, make sure EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. in your home is contributing. Regardless of if you have a housekeeper or not... every person living in the space should be aware of what it takes to manage a home. You do your kids absolutely no favors not giving them responsibilities. Even if you can afford to have all the chores taken care of... don't. As adults, your children will need to understand the in's and out's, the finances, and the nitty-gritty of caring for homes and lives.
In order to use the help that is given graciously, you need to stop micro-managing. Let those who help you handle the tasks that you have asked of them as independently as possible. Refrain from stepping in, hovering, or going back over what they have already done. Again, often this isn't a them problem rather a you problem.
- Get rid of stuff.
Did I already touch on this? Yes, I did. And I'll do it again because it's that important to keeping a tidy home. Keep your things well-edited. Stuff just gets in your way, keeps your thoughts distracted, and makes it difficult for you to feel peaceful in your space. When I say get rid of stuff it isn't in the gentle, half-hearted bring a few bags to Goodwill kind of way. That's rubbish. Most of our homes can easily get rid of a few bags on a weekly basis.
You know when you have too much stuff... it doesn't fit into the reasonable amount of space you own. The space you have is reasonable. Don't tell me it isn't. It's the stuff that isn't reasonable. Sorry, that's simply the way it is. You have too much stuff. One way I have done this in my own life is through my use of a capsule/purposeful wardrobe. You can read more about that in my purposeful/capsule wardrobe series.
- Upgrade your materials.
Rethink your furniture, materials, and spaces. Some of the pieces you have may be difficult to keep clean regardless of how hard you try. And it isn't your fault... it's the piece. Perhaps the top is a chippy paint that holds dirt and grime? Or the dresser doesn't close easily. Or gosh those cabinets have NO helpers and are one big giant dark hole.
Many of these problems can make it difficult to tidy and organize your home easily and efficiently. Resolve these problems, as you can. And be mindful in the future to choose materials for your home that make tidying easier and last longer. Pretty is only pretty if it stays that way long-term. If your lifestyle will degrade your things over time, something needs to change so you can take care of the items in you life in a responsible manner.
- Rethink your space.
Similar to upgrading your materials is rethinking your space. Why do we spend so much time thinking about more room, about how things look, about organizing and little to no time about how the space functions for us. Understanding how you use a space and organizing your space to best utilize it for that purpose will be hugely helpful in tidying.
Baking supplies all in the same area of the kitchen.
A small drawer and wall for paying bills and organizing calendars.
A small tote by the couch to hold remotes, crossword puzzles, and other "couch" related stuff.
ALL the bedding for the whole home in one spot to eliminate the time it takes to search.
ALL the books for the home housed in the same shelf. Preferably near a reading chair. Or, if you have a child that loves to read then give them a great reading area with all their things in one spot.
Set up your home to function the way YOU function, not in the way you think is prettiest, or the way magazines tell you. Not thinking about function at all is also a terrible error. Take the time to think through your family's lifestyle and how your home can best help maintain and add to it. Give your home the best set up you can, the best furniture you can, and the best layout you can to grant a good use of space for you.
Lastly, and the largest change you can make is to completely downsize and change your lifestyle. Sure, this speaks more to just having a tidy home but if you find yourself constantly frustrating with your inability keep a tidy home regardless at how much you think you've tried the above options it may be time for a major change. In our case, we moved from a 2400 square foot house on 20 acres to a 900 square foot home on a small city lot. Huge change! And I would do it again in a heartbeat. Downsizing ultimately was the answer I needed to remove my home as a major energy drainer from my life. Perhaps it is something for you to think about too. But maybe in a smaller scale.