Keeping our home organized and maintaining a tidy home is something that has always been important to me. It’s not so much that I care what it looks like to other people, it’s about it being a calming space for us to enjoy. For a lot of people, getting organized and establishing a routine that easily maintains a tidy home brings us one step closer to a more peaceful living environment.
Our house is relatively neat pretty much all the time (and yes, we have two children and a huge dog). As semi-douchey as that sounds, I don’t say it to brag; I’m saying it because most people would see my house and think “oh they must love cleaning” but the truth is I hate it. I bet I actually put in less effort than someone whose home may be more in daily disarray! I can’t stand the idea of spending an entire Saturday tidying up the house. “Oh I’m sorry, I can’t come, I have to spend six hours putting random things on shelves and in drawers, thanks for the invite though!”
I would much rather take some small steps in my daily life to make it easier to maintain a tidy home.
The Debate on Maintaining a Tidy Home
I know this topic can be very polarizing, especially with the rise of social media posts and videos addressing the unrealistic expectations of parents, so let’s get this out of the way:
I am not here to say that having a perfectly tidy home is the most important thing, or even that your home needs to be tidy at all! All I’m saying is that if having a neat and organized home brings you more peace than a cluttered or messy home, then this post may be able to give you some steps to take to achieve that. If having clutter and mess doesn’t affect your stress level at all in a negative way, then feel free to “pfff no thanks” this post if it’s not for you!
If it’s important to you, then do it; if it’s not, then don’t!
My thinking when it comes to anything that requires extra effort is, some people do it and some people don’t! Some people have a multi-step skincare regimen and some people don’t. Some people get their nails done every few weeks and some people don’t. Some people meal plan for the week and some people don’t (speaking of, check out our FREE 7-Day Meal Plan if you haven’t already). The list could go on, but the point is that people will do what is important to them and what they feel is worth spending the extra time.
Skincare is important to me, and I do have a multi-step Patrick Bateman-esque routine, but nails…eh…I haven’t painted my nails in literal years and I’m okay with it; it’s simply not important to me. However, I wouldn’t look at someone who gets bi-weekly manicures and be like “oh em gee, what a waste of time, do you even live life?” I simply think that person is willing to put in the extra effort it takes to maintain manicured nails because it makes them feel good and they like the look, etc. I also don’t think that they are looking at my nails thinking “what a scumbag, with her unpainted nails, go sit in the trashcan, trash!”
I believe that’s what’s getting lost in translation in a lot of the debate regarding things like maintaining an organized and tidy home. It’s not about somebody thinking that something should be important to everybody; it’s about a person thinking that something is important to that person. You can’t judge someone’s decisions and actions based on what’s important and what’s not important to you because it has no bearing on what is important to them.
My house is real…even though it’s neat.
Having a neat home does not mean that I devalue family moments in favor of maintaining my house or anything like that…and my home is still “lived in” and “real” even though it’s neat. I make the extra effort to keep my house tidy because it’s important to me due to factors like anxiety and stress related to clutter. Some might say that instead of remedying this potential stress by avoiding clutter and staying tidy, I should instead become okay with the clutter and accepting of it and “give myself grace” and all that. Would they say the same thing to the person with the manicured nails?
“Allow yourself to have bare nails, give yourself some grace.”
“but….but….I like it…?”
As much as I agree that everybody should be afforded some self-directed grace in many situations, I don’t feel like that would serve me as well as making the extra effort to get organized and stay that way…because I like it that way. Again, some people are completely unbothered by clutter (heck, some actually kinda love clutter and embrace the cozy feeling of having a ton of stuff, whether it’s out of place or not!)…but I am not one of those people, and that’s okay too!
Phew…now with that out of the way…
Take These Steps to Get Organized + Stay Tidy!
1. Use Small Bits of Time to Get Bigger Stuff Done
We’ve all let a basket of clean clothes sit in our room for a week…or longer. If you don’t have 20 minutes to fold that entire basket of laundry, but you do have a few minutes to kill at some point during the day, fold 2-3 items. Fold a single shirt.
Even if it takes you a few days to do it with these tiny bits of time, that’s still less than the full week that it’s going to sit there anyway before you have the time and energy to do it all!
2. Have a Place for Everything
You don’t have to have a gigantic house with Mariah Carey walk-in closets in every room (yes, that is an MTV Cribs reference,) and a giant linen closet and kitchen pantry with boujee matching canisters to have a place for everything. Even if that “place” is simply hung up on a hook on the back of a door or tucked in a corner of the kitchen, having a designated spot to put everything is always helpful when it comes to keeping your home neat and making it easier to find things. Half the battle of putting stuff away is figuring out where “away” is going to be. If you already have a spot for everything, putting stuff away becomes an easier more automated task.
All The Toys Toys Toys TOYS (said in the Grinch voice)
No matter how much we try to limit the amount of toys our kids have to keep them (and us) from being overwhelmed, there’s still an abundance of toys that need a place to go! We’re fortunate enough to have a relatively small extra area downstairs that functions as a playroom so we have some great space for toy storage there, but we also keep a lot of toys upstairs in the living room. I want them to have a good amount of toys accessible to them in our main living space, but I don’t love the idea of having my living room look like an explosion of kids stuff 100% of the time.
We utilize the storage that is already in our living room for their toys. The drawers in the tv stand are full of toys as well as the storage ottoman. We also have their play kitchen set up with toys right in the middle of our main wall, but it doesn’t take away from the adult space in any significant way.
3. Make Tidying Part of Each Task
This tip may be obvious for some and you may even be saying that is what I’ve been trying to say to my teenager for years now but it may be helpful to see it spelled out like this if you’ve never thought of it this way.
Imagine this: You go into the bathroom to get ready in the morning. You take a shower and when you’re done, you toss the towel on the floor and put your robe on. You brush your teeth and leave the toothbrush and toothpaste on the counter when you’re done. You put your skincare and/or makeup products on and they too stay on the counter when you’re done. You take your hair products out and the hairdryer and you do your hair, those items also stay out on the counter. You go in your room and get changed and toss your robe on the bed and put your clothes on.
Now, in order to get things back to being neat and put away like they were before you got ready, you have to:
- hang your robe back up in the bathroom
- put away the hairdryer and hair products
- put all of your makeup and face lotion etc. away
- put the toothbrush and toothpaste back into the cabinet
- hang your towel up to dry.
Although it’s not going to take forever, it’s still going to take several minutes which you may not have before you leave the house, so you may have to let it stay until you get home later. It has now become a task of it’s own to tidy up after your morning routine when it could have just been part of the task of getting ready instead.
“Don’t Put It Down, Put It Away.”
Now imagine this instead: You take a shower and when you’re done, you hang the towel on the towel hook and put your robe on. You open the medicine cabinet to get your toothbrush and toothpaste, put the toothpaste on your toothbrush and immediately set the toothpaste back in the medicine cabinet. When you’re done brushing your teeth, you put the toothbrush back in the cup in the medicine cabinet. You put your skincare and/or makeup products on and after each product is used, it gets set back in the drawer or cabinet. You take your hair products out and after use, you put them back in the closet. You take out the hairdryer, dry your hair, and put the dryer back in the closet. You go in your room and get changed and when you’re done, you bring the robe back into the bathroom and hang it on the hook.
In this second scenario, everything is put away already and it doesn’t take you any longer to get ready; putting the toothbrush in the cabinet takes just as much time as putting it down on the counter (this tip is a close cousin of the classic tip: don’t put it down, put it away).
Making the putting-away part of the task itself makes it so the small things don’t pile up into bigger tasks.
4. Commit a Small Amount of Time to Starting/Doing a Chore
If you need to tackle a large task, committing a small amount of time to starting or doing it can be tremendously productive. If you tell yourself “I’m going to spend five minutes organizing the kitchen drawers,” the minimum outcome is that you will have gotten five minutes closer to the task being completed which is great, or…even better…you get motivated after the five minutes and you go even longer and get more done or even complete the task altogether!
The key to this one is going into the chore with the mindset that you only have to do it for five minutes. Set a timer if you want, put a song on that’s around five minutes and say “when this song is over, I’m done!” Once the time is up, you can either rejoice and stop, or you can continue on. But don’t commit to more time from the beginning, even if you do have it, because that tends to be what makes people not even want to start!
It’s all about small commitments that take away the obligation to tackle everything all at once and make it easier to stay on top of things without getting overwhelmed.
5. Set Up Your Home in a Way to Make It Easy to Stay Tidy
If you have 18 throw pillows that go on your bed, it’s going to take more effort to make it every day. Get rid of your throw pillows and stick with the standard pillows or cut back to only one or two throw pillows to alleviate some of that excess effort so that having your bed neatly made is easier to maintain each day. If you absolutely love the look of a ton of throw pillows, keep them!…with the understanding of course that extra time will be needed to maintain that look if that’s what you’d like to do.
I mentioned earlier in this post that we use the drawers in our tv stand and our storage ottoman as toy storage in our living room. We could use drawer dividers and keep different types of toys separate etc., but each drawer is pretty much a catch-all except for one section of the ottoman that has been designated for trains and tracks. This system makes it easier for us and our boys to clean up after playtime as everything goes right back in the drawers or ottoman with no real thought needed!
Establish different systems and simplify the ways that you’re storing different items in your home to make it easier to maintain a neat living space.
Staying organized and keeping your home in order doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In fact, once you establish a routine and develop the habit of maintaining a tidy home, it actually feels less overwhelming than leaving the mess alone!
Looking for more help staying tidy?
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