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Messy Moms help thread (dads and others too!)

post #1 of 122
Thread Starter 
Maybe I'm too full of myself right now, but I've turned a corner I think/hope and I wanted to start a support thread for those of us without a neat gene. I hope people want to join and participate!

A little history: I've ALWAYS been a slob, in college, after college, always. My idea of cleaning was shoving everything into a closet and out of sight. Once it was in the closet things looked clean, I was good at faking that, but I could never, never open the door again, let alone find things that need to be found and actually use them again.

The reality: This is a HUGE waste of time, energy, emotional energy, and money. Money because I would re-buy things I already have because I couldn't find them. I've moved a bunch, and getting myself out of places was always so much harder than it looked because my closets were packed to the gills with junk, trash, whatever.

Thankfully, thankfully I have a neat DH. I confess to almost breaking him, but instead I've learned from him, and one of my major breakthroughs was when our house was on the market for 2 months. I HAD to keep it neat, and I think I realized a lot about what it takes to keep something neat. I also realized that it feels good.

One of the "funny" things that happened to me was realizing that I had two copies of the book "It's All Too Much", yup, two copies of a de-cluttering book because I had too much clutter to find or remember that I already had one!

OK, this is already long, so the next post will be the starting tips that I have.
post #2 of 122

i'm all over this thread. i'm trying really hard, but likewise, i'm either lacking a neatness gene or i just never learned the habits of daily tidying up . . . i don't know what my problem is. however, things got super out of control living with someone way worse than me (for the past 8.5 years) and that was gross enough that i'm doing much better at cleaning up now that i'm on my own, than i ever did living with him or probably even before that.

i've always been messy, but i really don't want my kids to grow up in a messy house *and* i want to help them develop good habits that i am now trying to learn!
post #3 of 122
Thread Starter 
OK, how do we get out of this endless cycle? There are soooo many systems, books, whatever out there, but for the naturally messy they just become part of the mess. Have you ever bought an organizational system and then realized that it was hard to put together, put it to the side, lost pieces, never went back to it, and then it became clutter? I have. More than once. This is why all these things don't work. I do agree that everything should have a place, but honestly this is way more than am ever accomplishing.

Step one: You NEED to get rid of stuff. You need to. Pick one room a day, no matter how tired you are and no matter what else you have to do. One room a day. If you give yourself more time you won't get it done. Start with an easy room like a bathroom. Go in with a garbage bag and a donation bag, and open all the drawers and any closets. Throw out everything not being used all the time. Tubes of mascara, old make-up even with some left, cleansers, broken jewlery, whatever is in there. In other rooms get rid of clothes, shoes, bags, stained items, school papers, kids art work, ALL BOOKS, and most little knick knacks. Seriously go crazy.

Your new mantra:

You can not save things for a garage sale if you are a messy person and need the house cleaned. You will never have that garage sale, and even if you do it won't be worth the clutter.

You can not save all of your kids art work or any of their school assignments if you are naturally messy and want to be neat.

You can not save old cards, notes, or other people's sentimental stuff. Case in point, my MIL passed away and we inherited her old stuff like her high school yearbook. I tried to find family takers but couldn't, so it got tossed. In a perfect world I would donate it to her school preserve it, but I am far from perfect, and my MIL wants my kids to grow up in an organized home more than saving her HS yearbook.

More to follow...
post #4 of 122
Thread Starter 
On photos:

Hurray for the digital age. Never, never print out a photo. You will get a few naturally from sports teams, school, or other older people like your mom who still develop film. Immediately and right out of the envelope toss away anything not amazing. Have one book to stuff the keepers. And no, you know you don't have time for organizing by year, person, event, you are not Martha Stewart. Chuck it in, and save the book. This however should be for a very few small number of photos, just a handful a YEAR at most. For old photos, dump them in a HUGE tupperware bin and slide it to the back of your garage or somewhere similar. When you are cleaning up and come across photos stuffed in a drawer throw out anything you can and toss the others in the tupperware bin. This is clutter for organized people, but for us messy people, this is acceptable because otherwise we will shove them in a million different spots. Take all photos to your huge box. Someday your kids will have fun going through this huge bin. The more you are willing to throw away the better, but at least you have one spot that can handle pictures you just can't part with. Never, ever leave or keep photos in any other spot besides your huge bin or your one book. Ever. If you find some shoved in the drawer immediately take it to your bin or toss it.
post #5 of 122
Thread Starter 
On Mail:

You go get the mail. Stop before entering and get rid of any catalogs (these are not needed in this day and age because of online shopping) if you must flip through a catalog do it outside and throw it away before coming in. Same with mailers, coupons, credit card requests, solicitations, and any junk. The only thing that should come inside is a bill and the rare personal letter, but if you do get a personal letter read it outside as well and then toss it. Toss cards sent to your kids as well after they look at them. Right in the garbage or recycle bin. Same with gift cards, birthday cards, holiday cards, mother's day cards etc. First tell your dp not to give you one, and as for the kids, if they made something half hearted with just something small, enjoy, maybe snap a photo on your phone of the card, and toss it right away. If it is a very special poem or something put it in your photo bin. VERY special only.

On kids school stuff:

Throw away the homework and papers that come home before they hit a single surface in your house. I don't care what it is, neither should you. Er on the side of missing something important. Toss everything. I did once throw away an assignment left at home accidentally and was proud to tell the teacher I recycled it, sorry! Art work is hard, it really is. Make a goal of maybe two or three things a year saved. When you have that goal you will toss the small stuff, the stuff just glued without a lot of personal work, and stuff like that. You will keep the cute self portraits and a few things like that. Put in your huge photo bin. Just a few a year. Throw away right away so as not to develop an attachment. Your kids would rather live in a neat house than one crammed with their stuff in all the drawers.
post #6 of 122
Thread Starter 
More on cleaning:

Trash around:

This is basic and easy and the start of all of your work. Just fill up bags with trash and call someone to haul it away if you have to, or be outside when the garbage truck comes and throw them a $20. They will take your extra stuff. Feel guilty over your waste and the environment and then move on because it isn't helping sitting in your place. As you do your house room by room you should notice the trash gone.


Get rid of all of your books unless you are an English major, poet, or something similar and this is your thing. Get a digital reader and never buy another book on paper for yourself again. You will save $ on digital books to make up for the cost of the e-reader. Messy people can not have books. Period. Get rid of all of your beach novels and quick reads. Get rid of cookbooks not used ALL the time. If you have a cookbook you want to save for special dinner parties and what not do you really thing you can't find what you need with a google search? Goodbye. Everything. Put books in small boxes and take to your car. No big boxes because they get heavy fast! Donate. If you can't get someone to take them then toss. No garage sale. Seriously NO GARAGE SALE. Get rid of books you haven't read yet if you aren't going to read them soon. They are not worth the trouble.

Develop a tough luck attitude towards stuff other people leave around. You leave it around, I get rid of it. That will become fun.

Next up TOYS
post #7 of 122
post #8 of 122
Originally Posted by GearGirl View Post
More on cleaning:


Get rid of all of your books unless you are an English major, poet, or something similar and this is your thing. Get a digital reader and never buy another book on paper for yourself again. You will save $ on digital books to make up for the cost of the e-reader. Messy people can not have books. Period. Get rid of all of your beach novels and quick reads. Get rid of cookbooks not used ALL the time. If you have a cookbook you want to save for special dinner parties and what not do you really thing you can't find what you need with a google search? Goodbye. Everything. Put books in small boxes and take to your car. No big boxes because they get heavy fast! Donate. If you can't get someone to take them then toss. No garage sale. Seriously NO GARAGE SALE. Get rid of books you haven't read yet if you aren't going to read them soon. They are not worth the trouble.

Develop a tough luck attitude towards stuff other people leave around. You leave it around, I get rid of it. That will become fun.
Yes. I totally need to ditch my cookbooks. I almost never use them (except a few), and the rest I just keep around because they are so purty
But... how do I get rid of them? any suggestions? Putting books in the garbage just seems wrong.
post #9 of 122
Thread Starter 
On getting rid of books: If they actually look pretty where you have them and there are just a few, you are doing it right and keep them. If they are pretty to you and in a drawer keeping up space and cluttering then say goodbye. Drop them at a goodwill truck, drop off space, humane society store, salvation army, or used bookstore if you have one. If no one can take them then they go in the trash. It does feel bad, but so does clutter. You need to be selfish, selfish, selfish. Own it, be selfish and think of yourself and what you want and what you need. Use the easiest possible route. It isn't hard to donate stuff, so if you can chuck it in the car and drop it off before school pick up great. If it is any harder than that you might not follow through so just toss it. When our houses are in order we will start a new be kind to the earth phase of our lives so all the throwing away now will be made up for later. One thing you will start to notice after having things thrown away in excess is that you are much kinder to the earth because you don't want any more trash. No you don't need a bag, especially with tissue paper. You don't need to take that flyer or business card, you don't need to grab menu ideas from Whole Foods, you will collect and allow much less. My kids love to pick up flyers and cards but I won't let them anymore. My kids will grow up being much better to the environment if they don't think shoving stuff in closets and drawers is normal. So, if your only option is the trash then do it. Is it wrong? Yes, but your house is not a better place to store trash, at least for you and this is all about us.
post #10 of 122
Originally Posted by GearGirl View Post
No garage sale. Seriously NO GARAGE SALE.

you are making this sound really fun!

actually, i just filled a dumpster. a 20 yard dumpster. i'm normally all about donating, and i do regularly fill bags and drop them off at the goodwill, but this just really needed to happen. the garage, the basement . . . it was awful.

i really love your attitude that certain things (like saving stuff for a garage sale, keeping sentimental crap, or buying an organizational system) are okay for neat people, but not messy people. i haven't come across a "stop being messy" concept that made so much sense to me in a long time!
post #11 of 122
Originally Posted by Juvysen View Post
Yes. I totally need to ditch my cookbooks. I almost never use them (except a few), and the rest I just keep around because they are so purty
But... how do I get rid of them? any suggestions? Putting books in the garbage just seems wrong.
You can try the buyback program at Abebooks.com. They won't take all, but they'll take some. They'll pay you a buck or two a book, which isn't much. But when you consider that they're paying for shipping and getting the books OUT OF YOUR HOUSE it's totally worth it!

(I'm an English teacher, by the way, and do save some books, but I just bought a Kindle this summer to try and streamline.)

The garage sale thing is such a good point. I tend to not Freecycle things, thinking that I could sell them at a garage sale. We just had one this spring. In our 15 years together, do you know how many garage sales DH and I have had? ONE. Yep, we're not due for another one for another 15 years, I guess, so I definitely will be Freecycling them instead!
post #12 of 122
Thread Starter 
Thanks , you are making me feel so good! My husband snickered when I told him I was trying to help people (I had a few choice words for him ) but seriously someone who has never had a weight problem probably doesn't understand compulsive eating, someone who has never taken a sip of alcohol probably doesn't understand the mind of an alcoholic, sure they can educate themselves, but there is no walking a mile in someone's footsteps. I love neat people, I have two friends who are very, very neat and I am fascinated by them but is it realistic for me? No. I'll just stop before I scan a neat pile of my child's art work into the computer and make copies of all of my DVDs so if one gets scratched I can make a new copy !

I promise to get to toys, but first here are some more random thoughts and tips:

Things messy people should never own, buy, waste $ on:

DVDs. Get your movies OnDemand, Netflix, or go to the movies. A DVD collection creates clutter, mess for the kids, they get damaged, you waste $.

CDs. Yup, same reason. Ipod all the way. On the same note, unless you have a record collection that means the world to you and perfect storage containers for it don't have records either.

Colored socks. Go with all white, store in a drawer or bin called the sock drawer (or bin) and require everyone to fish their socks out of it. The exception are some cute girly socks, but buy them in the same style so they can be worn mismatched and cute (see little mismatched socks for ideas).

Area rugs. These are really hard to keep clean so unless you are going to be there with your little spray and constantly cleaning do yourself a favor and limit them to where it is absolutely necessary for a homey feel. Do what you can to avoid wall to wall carpeting.

Books (for reasons stated before), calenders (keep a digital or one wall calender hung up right away).

Cloth diapers. I've tried. Many times. This does not work for the chronically messy and unorganized like me. It becomes environmentally and financially unfriendly. Same for mamma cloth and re-usable rags. When we are very organized we will switch to all cloth for the kitchen, but lets get there first. To help not be so environmentally unfriendly clean up spills and stuff with the shirt your kid already spilled juice down the front of and put in the laundry earlier. A little more juice won't hurt, it's already dirty so it isn't one more thing to wash!

Do not let people hand you random papers and things. Say no I don't take anything for environmental reasons. We as messy people already have a less than stellar environmental footprint so we need to make up for it in any way that we can!
post #13 of 122
Oh, I am in! I want to be tidy so badly. I have so much guilt about it, especially now that I have children. I really don't want my dd to grow up in such a mess. I grew up in a messy house and it just felt too chaotic. I want peace and calm. But, I feel like I spend so much time sorting, purging and cleaning but it just doesn't have a big impact. My DH doesn't share my level of guilt about all off this and he is practically a horder (at least it is limited to his office and library, not the whole house). So it seems like an uphill battle. But I am an eternal optimist and believe that I can change!

For the question of what to do with books.....

I have massively cut down on my books. I've probably let go of 2/3 of my collection, with more to come. We have a couple local used books stores that I have sold to. They will give cash or trade in. Last time I had $100 worth of trade in (but took the cash, only $50, so I wouldn't end up buying more books).

Anything that they didn't buy, I took straight to our library. They have book sales a couple times a year to raise money and are happy to take whatever you have. So that is another good option for letting go of books in a way you can feel good about.
post #14 of 122
I'm in too! I soooooo need this thread. I did get an ereader last year, so that has been helping a lot. I love books and have several hundred, not counting the other several hundred I currently have in the garage. That I was, ummmm, saving for a garage sale. For over a year now.

The "no garage sale!" is what I need to work on now. I have lots of stuff bagged up, either for Goodwill or a garage sale. I need to just take it to Goodwill, but I've been putting it off because I wanted to write down what I was donating so I'd have a good estimate for tax purposes. Well, that never happened, and now I just want it out of my house. Sounds like something for us to do after lunch today.
post #15 of 122
Thread Starter 

This is actually pretty easy, and way easier than it seems. The first step is choosing the right toys and kids stuff. If you are chronically messy you need to think about what comes in the house in a different way. So, if you have a set of blocks that is good, pieces can be missing but it is still fun. You can build, be creative, you don't need to fit them all back into a box (look for a set with a bag). On the other hand if you have a game that requires all the pieces or cards (UNO, Clue, Monopoly......) that is bad. A piece gets lost and that's it. The game becomes clutter. So, for LEGO, a bin with little random pieces = good, a batman car= bad. The bin can be played with all the time, the car will lose the pieces, won't be put back together, and becomes clutter. Lincoln Logs are good, floor puzzles are good (big pieces, easy to store), buy games with few pieces and or just set some really strong rules and keep family games somewhere different from toys.

Neat people actually organize toys by type, and sometimes even by activity within that type. So for instance a neat person might put all of the farm Little People in one bin. That would be nice, but we aren't going to do that. Instead. We are going to put all the toys into neat bins, maybe trying to separate broadly like music in one, dress up in one, cars in one, but we will also understand if they get all mixed up. What we are going to do though and we will be very good about is getting rid of odds and ends and things not played with. If a toy (think playmobil) comes with weird little accessories, throw them out right away. Keep the main pieces, maybe a helmet or two, and get rid of little side play stuff. These are for the kids with neat parents, not for your kids. If you have the space, get a train table (playtable) with 2 big drawers underneath. Fit the toys in the drawers and some on top, and then keep a few extra containers for family games, art, and puzzles. Don't keep more toys than that. Work hard not to allow space sucking stuffed animals into the house. In the child's room (if they have one) keep only a small amount of books and toys. If this is the only space you have for toys then you really need to be brutal about what and how much you keep. It is ok to have a playtable coffee table combo. Drawers underneath, wooden top for the table when company is over. This will solve space issues. Frequently go through the drawers and throw out little pieces and broken stuff as well as crappy toys. Do NOT try to find the other arm, boot, hat, wheel, NO NO NO.

When your child says where is XYZ, you have a few choices:

If they are older: I don't know, but if it is important to you it should be in a place where it is neat and you know where it is. Can I help you make a space like that?

If they are little: I don't know, but how about we play with this....

To older children: You can keep what fits here in this bin, chest, drawer, or it has to go. You can decide or I will by such and such a time.

Younger kids have more fun with three trucks or dolls rather than 10. 10 is overwhelming and they will play less. Same is true for balls, stuffed animals, kitchen play food, etc.

You will need to start the declutter with huge garbage bags and accept that you will have to get rid of some stuff that makes you feel guilty, like a game not taken care of so it doesn't have all the pieces, plasticky stuff that isn't played with, and many, many broken and small random pieces mixed in with some lint, scraps of stuff, a little trash and whatever else. Once you throw away stuff, maybe donate some stuff (although this is unlikely and you can not use this to hold you back), then begin to put the toys back. Make them fit where you need them to fit, they don't have to be well organized, but they can't be all over your house.

Try to buy things that get used up (art!!!!!), or things that can't become clutter like a bike, trampoline, one nice doll instead of 5 crappy ones, stuff like that. Stay away from small pieces, and if you have them get rid of anything extraneous.
post #16 of 122
Thread Starter 
Dealing with reluctant people:

OK, so for some people hoarding is an issue, and that is a totally different thing, and not really for the most part about being messy so I can't offer advice, but boy to I feel for those of you dealing with that.. I think what I would do if I had the space is give them a room, make sure the door operates well, maybe even locks and let them keep it how they want but refuse to allow it in the rest of the house. Chuck their things in and close the door.

Most of us are not hoarders though, and for those of you here trying to deal with a lazy spouse (like me, I'm the bad one), and just dealing with a messy person, you need to get firm. They are disrespecting you, so you need to put your foot down. I know because I'm the bad guy. Start by setting the new rules.

Things are going to have a place

No trash and clutter

Things not in their place will be gotten rid of

As far as a space for everything, again we are not neat people so it isn't like something has to be carefully placed in the right spot, but if it is dirty laundry it needs to be thrown in the laundry closet (I find bins too small, go for the floor of a big closet!). Treat your partner like the child they are being by not cleaning up after themselves and do what you have to do and absolve yourself of guilt. Men don't baby each other and encourage and pat on the back (and most of us slobs are the men!), they have a totally different way of communicating. I want this done. Now. This is what will happen if it isn't done. Period. Then do it. If you get questioned respond with "I told you to take care of it and you didn't so I did." My disclaimer being that this clearly won't work with unstable relationships, abusive relationships, overly sensitive people, etc. When I first met my dp and before kids he would drive me crazy by cleaning up something I was in the middle of eating or drinking, a magazine I was reading, stuff like that. Now I realize he was right. Take care of things ASAP. For those of us who are messy we can't just leave it unto the next day, it has to be taken care of right away. If you are dealing with one of us, make us a list. Brief, to the point. For example.

Today you need to:

Do the laundry I have placed in the white bin and put at your feet.

After the laundry cycle put the laundry in the dryer

When the laundry is dry remove it and put it back into the bin folded.

Clean your old mail off the front hallway table

Put dishes from sink into dishwasher

something like this is a reasonable list and can get done. If this can't be managed even by someone working full time, I would suggest some real communication and heart to hearts. It's true that those of us without the neat gene don't notice messes in the same way, so the list helps us to see what you want.
post #17 of 122
GearGirl, you're funny!

I, too, like the "no garage sale". We floated that idea briefly, but I don't think the amount of money we might make from any garage sale would be worth it to organize one and store the stuff so to the thrift store our extras go.

I like books, though, and don't find them to be cluttery. I would like to get another set of bookshelves, but ours are primarily on shelves. I do have one in the reading room (aka bathroom) right now, too.

Magazines are a weak point for me. I hoard them too much. Well, not really hoard, but keep for too long. I do periodically go back through and look at them, though, for various projects. Oh, one magazine I love and find inspirational is Cloth Paper Scissors Studios. When you're an messy person with artistic tendencies it's hard because so many people say, "throw it away" when you're thinking, "but I might use it in an art project someday"! There are pages and pages of beautifully organized studios with all sorts of found objects. Really fabulous.

For kids' artwork (and schoolwork) and a variety of papers I find having a desktop hanging file folder for "active" files really helps me and the kids. I label a file with each kid's name and a start date and then whenever they're done with an art project or school paper that they just have to save they can put it in their folder. When the folder fills up I write the end date on it and then file it in the big file cabinet. Then I start a new one. At the end of the year the one in the big file cabinet moves down to a bankers box full of kids artwork. It still stays in the folder so I know the kid and the time frame. I know I'm keeping too much stuff this way, but at least it's organized by kid and date. Artwork with no name attached and no time frame is pretty much useless, but it's fun to go back and see what B drew when she was 2, y'know? For bigger art projects we have a big under the bed box for each kid. We do try to date and label those items, but I know that most of it will be recycled at some later date so I'm not too much of a stickler on that. Mostly I just want a place to put it so that it's not cluttering up the living room or their bedroom.

The active files (desktop hanging folder) works really well for me, too. I like to have a place that I can see to put stuff like reciepts from doctor's visits that will be needed come tax time and a few paper bills (we do almost all of it online) and bank statements. I transfer the files to the big file folder whenever I get around to it or at the first of the year whichever comes first. I then like to keep some old records in a bankers box. At one time we had a big plastic container just crammed full of all sorts of stuff like this : . It was pretty much useless. You couldn't go back through and find anything. With it organized by date we're much better off. I do also have a "permanent records" file where I keep important things (organized by house, person's name, etc) that I need to hang onto.

I'm pretty ruthless on clothes. Well, not really, but I could be. I don't feel a huge sentimental attachment to too many clothes although I do have too many t-shirts. I'm not much of a clothes horse, though, so I can get rid of those things more easily. I really need to go through the kids' clothes, though. I find that easier to do as the season changes. I can go through the summer clothes as it gets to be fall and get rid of all the items that are too small and maybe a few others as well.

I do save some cards, but they have their own file folder and are filed away. I might get a pretty box for them instead, though.

I do print out photos, but only those I have a specific purpose in mind for. I don't scrapbook. At times I wish I did and I have created a scrapbook as a gift from time to time (for the grands), but otherwise I only print out the photos I want to frame and display or give as gifts.

Oh, loved cloth diapers, but not a fan of Mama cloth for me. I didn't find the diapers much harder to deal with than regular laundry + a disposable. You still gotta wipe that baby butt no matter what!

Papers are my biggest weakness and then "things I might use one day" and "things that are broken, but I might be able to fix". (shakes head)...
post #18 of 122
post #19 of 122
You know what Geargirl...you should seriously write a book on this subject! After reading through all this, it struck me that your style is so readable. I am not much of a reader, and so if I see a long post I often switch off or start to feel drowsy while reading, but with your posts, I found myself reading every word, and wanting to keep reading!

You have a very readable style of writing, and a way of putting things that makes one feel motivated!
post #20 of 122
Thread Starter 
Thanks !!!!!

More tomorrow and maybe an assignment of the day!
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