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Best keeping your house tidy/uncluttered tips

post #1 of 64
Thread Starter 
What are your best tips? What helps you keep your house uncluttered and clean? What works best for your family? I thought it would be fun to have a thread where everyone posts their faves.

Mine is going to sound like a silly "no duh" tip to those of you who are naturally good housekeepers, but it took me until a month or two ago to figure this one out.

One of my biggest problems is kids (and adults. ahem, dh, I'm looking at you) creating trash that never makes it to the trash can. Things like soda cans and junk mail and the part of the Netflix envelope you tear off before sending the movie back, and crumpled paper or scraps from kid projects that exploded, or packaging from whatever thing dh just brought home. My solution? A million trashcans. Well, not a million, but many more than we had. I used to only have one in the kitchen, one in the office, and one in each bathroom. I realized that a lot of things didn't get thrown away because, if I'm being honest, we're really freaking lazy. No one felt like carrying their trash to the kitchen or bathroom to throw it out. So, I went to IKEA and bouth a bunch of the cheapest small trashcans they had. I added trash cans to the livingroom, the den, the dining room, the playroom, and each bedroom. It's amazing how the trash actually makes it to a can now. The kids are more likely to throw their own stuff away and clean up their messes without being asked, and they are less likely to complain when I ask them to take care of their trash. I'm less likely to step over a mess someone made and think "I'll get to it later" now that there's almost always a trash can in the direction I'm headed.
post #2 of 64
The best tip I can offer is little bits at a time, constantly. Picking up, throwing in a load of laundry, putting toys back, washing a few dishes - these are all easy to do when they are an intrinsic part of your daily routine. It's too overwhelming to look at the big picture, at least for me, so I just focus on accomplishing tiny little bits. Even things like cleaning the bathroom, I rarely have the time (er, motivation) to tackle it from top to bottom (though I am much happier when I do) so one day it's the sink, next day the toilet, then the bath, and so on.

Of course, I think this is only possible to do if you already have some kind of system set up for cleaning/organizing. Everything in it's place, and a specific routine for every cleaning task.
post #3 of 64
I agree, doing a little at a time is the best. But also I do get overwhelmed sometimes and then I do a once over. When the kids were littler I was completely resigned to the messiness, now I'm feeling rather empowered I use storage cubes, storage under the sofa in the playroom, and baskets and bookshelves. And I purge periodically, get rid of lots of stuff, except of course books which is my downfall. Best o' luck!
post #4 of 64
DH and I are minimalists. So, we really appreciate a tidy home. Plus, I have found that having a loose schedule helps me keep the "stuff" in line.

*We limit our amount of actual stuff. For us, this is a fairly obvious way of keeping our home neat and saving time. If we don't have a ton of things (decor, clothing, toys, dishes, etc.) then we don't have to spend a lot of time keeping it in order.

*Everything that we do have has a distinct location for storage. Even our 24 mo DD is aware of where most things are stored...LOL!

*When we do buy things, we try to make sure that it has multiple purposes.

*A donation bag/box is always going and stored in the garage. That way, when it is full, I can grab it on the way to the car and drop it off.

*We do quick clean-ups two or three times a day (before nap, before going out & before bed).

*Mail is picked up and sorted every day (garbage/recycle/file/read).

*Dishes are washed and put away after each snack/meal.

*Laundry is done once a week. Dirty clothes are taken directly to the laundry room and sorted, as needed. That way, when laundry day rolls around...usually Thursday or Friday...I need only toss each load into the washing machine.

*Cleaning is done once a week (of course, little clean-ups are taken care of as needed). I vacuum, sweep, mop, dust & scrub everything on Friday mornings. For me, this is easy because my mind is busy looking forward to the weekend...
post #5 of 64
Music! I'm so much more motivated to get stuff done when I put a good CD on.
post #6 of 64
Id agree on a little at a time.

When you try to get everything done at once your overwhelmed and usually will stop before its finished.

If I am walking by the washer I will throw in a load or throw a washed load in the dryer. I dont think "I need to go do this and this" I just do it as I go. I also clean things in groups say: Pick up toys out of the living room then I go directly into picking up all the toys in every room so they dont get strung back around agian.

Or vacumming, I will vacumm all the floors at once so I dont have to drag it back out agian later because most likely I wont lol

Also I try to wash the dishes after every meal. It makes it much easier doing only a few at a time then a huge pile that will take a while.

I try to keep the rooms were in the most the cleanist because they tend to overflow into other places if they get to cluttered.
post #7 of 64
We are a family of 6 living in 1000sqft. Plus, we homeschool. Even with no excess clutter it gets untidy quickly. I have found having lots of attractive storage containers everywhere makes a big difference. All wooden blocks in one giant basket, excess paper in a nice basket on the shelf. Various bins in every room where things can be placed until they find their proper home. That way things stay off the floor/counter/piano even if they aren't put away.

Also, lots of shelving!! Having "a place for everything" really does allow "everything in its place". For the places that just cannot stay tidy (like our paper shelf, lots of drawing around here) it is easier to just hide or disguise the area. I can't spend my days tidying the stacks of half finished product after all

Of course these are just my ideals. In reality there are often little messes and the carefully chosen storage bins become cars and boats in some imaginary adventure. That is just life with 4 small kids I suppose
post #8 of 64
We had a major flood on May 1, 2009... ankle-deep water throughout our entire main level (roughly 700 square feet). I am sooooo very thankful my house was neat and orderly!!!! I was able to scream for help and get on the phone, etc and people were tramping through our house within minutes rescuing our furniture, etc. We had very little personal property damage (items in the home) as a result. Our structural damage was nearly $30K, so that gives you an idea of how bad it COULD have been for personal property. We only lost one piece of furniture and it didn't mean anything to any of us, but was useful.

So, my tip is to think about what is truly important to you and your family in the event of an emergency and get busy taking action. From all the conversations I have had with various folks in the insurance/flood/home repair businesses since the flood, it is a matter of *when*, not *if*... 70% of claims are from water damage, according to our field claims adjuster for a major insurance company.
post #9 of 64
My mantra lately has been "do it now, not later". Even if you don't feel like it, do it now so you don't have to do it later! It's easier said than done sometimes, but I'm slowly taking care of things more in the moment than putting them off and them not getting done at all.

For some reason, labelling helps me too. My label maker has been my new best friend...and a roll of masking tape and scissors when the label tape ran out)....and it helps communicate to others where things should go or what things should be in a specific place.

Accepting that it never ends. I used to complain that I had already done the dishes today, or I just finished all of the laundry and there's already more, or I just cleaned the bathroom, you can't shave today!, etc. It's taken upwards of 5 years, but I have just recently come to terms with the fact that it's never done, and that's just life.
post #10 of 64
Starting fresh! We moved in December and it has been amazing how much neater I can keep the house, I know we elimanated some things but I don't think that is all but not having the clutter around, having things in a better spot...

I moved all the kids games and puzzels to the living room and don't have them with "the toys" That has helped because I can monitor better that things get put away before something else comes out.

Routine, especially when it comes to play clothes/nice clothes. I seperated school from play in different closets for the boys so they are not out playing in the mud in their good shirts. When they come home, school clothes are taken off, put in a seperate laundry basket (located in the laundry room) and play clothes are immediately put on, when play clothes come off they are put in another hamper in the laundry room. It is so much easier on me not having to help them pick out their clothes everyday. I still sometimes need to pick up a stray shirt or pair of pants that has been taken off, but for the most part now that they have a place to put their dirty laundry and find their clean clothes they do it themselves.
post #11 of 64
don't put it DOWN, put it AWAY.

i repeat that 10572987 times a day, it seems like, but it really makes a difference.

post #12 of 64
Deal with paper only once.

If a bill comes to the house, don't set it down with the intention of putting it on your desk later, then move it to your desk with the intention of paying it next week, then pay it with the intention of filing the stub in a week or two. Just deal with it once. Take it from the mailbox, and pay it right then and there, then file whatever needs filing. Same with junk mail-- don't stick it somewhere to be sorted later. Do it right then and there. It's a habit that saves a lot of pile-up.

Same with tidying. Put something away the first time you pick it up, in the place where it belongs. Don't just shuffle it from place to place. Don't pile stuff on the stairs meaning to bring it upstairs, then leave it there a day, then bring it upstairs and leave it in the hallway three days, then finally get around to putting it away. Clutter breeds clutter, and if there are piles, people will inevitably feel free to start adding to the piles, and then the job gets harder and harder.

And finally-- mental health is so important to all this. If you are constantly cleaning up after other people, cleaning up after yourself, doing small jobs in your spare moments, it's easy to start feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. It's nice to set aside a small period each day when you just don't do any housework. Treat that time of day as sacred, a time when you can sit and relax, or read, or meditate, or pray, or just enjoy looking out the window, and IGNORE the mess. Give yourself permission to not feel guilty about that time. It's a lot easier to keep chipping away at the work day after day if you have a chance to feel refreshed and energized. To that end, I have found it's necessary to designate an area of my house that's NOT for children. For me, it's my craft desk in my own bedroom. They can't touch it, no toys are allowed there, only I can sit in that chair, and therefore it stays just exactly the way I left it, so when I feel like I can't stand the toys and mess anymore, I can go sit there and breathe and feel at peace.
post #13 of 64
Be a minimalist when it comes to furniture -- especially furniture that is large or that has flat clutter-collecting surfaces.
post #14 of 64
Originally Posted by Ksenia View Post
Be a minimalist when it comes to furniture -- especially furniture that is large or that has flat clutter-collecting surfaces.
totally! i've completely banned coffee tables from our house. can't stand 'em!

post #15 of 64
Eclipse -- I did the exact same thing, for the exact same reason! I have a trash can in every room. I have a recycling can in every bathroom, as well as in the kitchen. (The only problem with the extra recycling cans is, no matter how prominently I label it as recycling, guests *always* throw trash in them. Geez, people! The trash is under the sink, away from doggie-noses!)

I also agree w/ the minimalist furniture approach, though I do have one coffee table -- it has a shelf which I use for games & puzzles, and 4 drawers which I use for remotes, DS systems, usb dongles, and other stuff I want to keep in the living room. We use the coffee table for playing board games and doing puzzles.
post #16 of 64
I also had to add a trash can because I just wasn't throwing paper away when I should have.

Basically, it comes down to having an organization system that automates your actions. So, having a trash can makes it more likely that I will throw things away.

Similarly, I have a hanging file of folders in my living room (that's where I deal with my mail) and each folder has an action on it: "To Do" - "To File" - "Pending" Etc. I was having a serious problem with mail. I just didn't want to deal with it and having this file of folders has helped me to deal with it right when I get it.

Create household systems that don't allow for clutter.
post #17 of 64
You want to know what helped me? Ruthless, and I mean absolutely ruthless, decluttering.

I have freecycled, sold, or just plain thrown out (some things did get repurposed though) nearly everything possibly could.

Clothing was a big problem for me for a long time, I could never stay on top of laundry because we just have too much. So I went through all of our clothes, kept only what we wear on a regular basis (I tend to stick to the same handful of jeans/capris, skirts, about a week's worth, and the kids tend to want to wear the same things over and over again) and then freecycled the rest. I have a much better time keeping up.

Also, I got rid of many pots, appliances, and extra platewear. I realized that I only used a few cooking pieces (did I really need 3 slotted spoons in the drawer? I only liked one of them), never used most of my appliances with the exception of the toaster, the crockpot, and the blender, so I got rid of those. I couldn't stand the space that my coffee maker took up on the countertop so I ditched that and got a french press that can be easily stored in my cabinets. As for cups and plates etc., There are only 4 of us so why on earth did I enough mismatched settings for 8? I never cook for that many people, maybe once in a blue moon I would have an extra person here. So I kept only 4 settings and stored the rest away and if I have company I can just bring them back out and put away when we're done. That way rather than just using clean stuff until we're out of plates/bowls we only have 4 settings to deal with. Same thing goes for cups, yogurt containers, and tupperwear kind of stuff. It is much easier for me to keep up on dishes now.

I ditched knick knacks. They have no purpose other than to take up space and just would end up lost or broken because of the kids.

Cookbooks: I had about 10 of them, but then I realized that I used the same handful of recipes out of them time and time again, so I photocopied the ones I needed, put them in my home management binder, and got rid of them. Done.

DVDs. I took them out of their cases and put them in a big CD binder. Now instead of taking up 2 shelves in my living room I have them in one big binder. Now my 2 y/o can't strew the DVDs all over the place. I did the same thing with my CDs.

My feeling is that if I have less stuff then there is less for me to clean up. So far it is working great. I have accomplished more in the last few months than I have in the 5 years I've lived here, and I really feel like my house is finally becoming a home.
post #18 of 64
Further to "accept that it (laundry, dishes, etc.) never ends, " accept that the decluttering itself can be ongoing/slow process.

I started truly decluttering probably...five years ago, when I was still living alone. I moved, and started with culling my jeans - I had jeans that hadn't fit since shortly past high school - got rid of a garbage bag full of jeans! Over the years most of the 'easy' clutter - clothes that don't fit, books I'll never use, etc - has gone, and the decisions become harder. But I've also found that going over things every year (or six months, or once a month...) reaps big results - the half-finished craft project that I didn't want to release three months ago, or books, or 'whatever' often move from towards being easier to release. Also, I find Getting Rid of Stuff begets Getting Rid of Stuff. When you get some decluttering momentum going, the free spaces and visually 'quiet' spots that are created are so refreshing, you often *want* to move more stuff out in my experience.

For me, sometimes getting rid of things has involved giving myself permission to replace. For example, I had an over-the-door rack FULL of cardigan sweaters. I had culled them over time, but still had way too many. Releasing many of those (I think I kept one favorite) included giving myself permission to replace them with two (maybe three) good-quality (wool or warm natural fiber) sweaters that I really loved - one brown/earth-toned, one black, and maybe a grey.

I second what others have said about a little at a time - pick a corner, or a shelf, or a task (or part of one!), accomplish what you can, and be content with that. Also, perhaps lower your standards! With a mobile six-month-old, our house is far less well-kept than it was (she says as she has renewed her decluttering mission over the past month... ) but I remind myself that in a year, or a month, or next week, I doubt I'll be saying, "Gee, I really wish I had spent more time doing dishes."

post #19 of 64
My feeling is that if I have less stuff then there is less for me to clean up

I'm a hardcore minimalist.

Also picking up regularly during the day. In the morning, before bed, before we leave for errands...I just walk through the house putting things back where they belong.

If I do this regularly, there never is much to put back. A handful of items each time. That keeps our home in order and makes me feel at peace.
post #20 of 64
I LOVE the "Don't put it down, put it away."

Mine would be that everything needs a place. Otherwise, you're just moving things around and never really putting them away. It makes cleaning so much easier and quicker. Way less stress.
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