If you’re anything like me, your attempt at momming looks like a bad economic equation: too much demand and not enough supply. We are our family’s most scarce and precious resource. Say it with me! I am a precious resource. No, there is not enough of you to go around making everyone happy all the time. No, 100% of your home will not be organized and clean 100% of the time. Unless of course you’re OCD and single, in which case, one good cleaning should take care of it all. But since you’re reading a blog post written to “the everymom,” I’m assuming those labels don’t apply to you. So hang in there with me- I’m hoping you enjoy a few of my little tricks that make organizing more manageable, if not 100% accomplishable.
Recently, I shared my method for getting started on a solid home-maintenance routine. In my own experience, the first step to getting organized is having a good plan of attack, and that initial breakdown of what to prioritize and when to prioritize it goes a long way in making that organization achievable. Because writing a plan is an amazing thing, but as my absolute favorite boss ever used to say:
A great plan is just a plan until it’s executed. Make it happen.
I love plans and to-do lists. I have a zillion note pads and mini-notebooks, all purchased for the sole purpose of recording ideas and springing them into action. Of course, one look in any of these books and you’ll see I’m about 90% idea and 10% action. High standards, people, try to keep up.
Hopefully now you have a solid goal of what is most important to you as far as cleaning and organizing goes, and are ready to start tackling it. So where do you begin? Whatever room you’re heading for (and I usually start with my own bedroom and bathroom, and within those I start with closets), the first step is an easy one: cut the excess. Just cut it out. Don’t bother organizing stuff that you don’t actually need to keep. Of course, that’s easier said than done. But it is doable.
After 3 inter-state moves in 4 years, I can truly attest to the fact that more is actually less. In our current house, I discovered boxes that we have moved, without opening them, 3 times. This is stuff I haven’t even seen since 2012. Friends, I had to face the fact that if I haven’t worn those sweaters in 4 years, I’m not going to wear them again. (In fact, I’m pretty sure they’ve been out of style since 2009, but we won’t go there.) You get my drift here- the pants that are hanging in the back of your closet under a fine layer of dust? Go ahead and let them go. It will be okay. Better than consistently finding a home for them or allowing them to use valuable real estate in your home.
Here’s my approach to reducing superfluous stuff, wherever it may be:
- How many of this do I have? (In my kitchen, it turns out I had 5 13×9 Pyrex casserole dishes with thermal travel covers. Clearly a necessity.) I also have a serious affinity for long-sleeve white tee shirts. Crew neck, v-neck, boat neck, raglan. Variety is important, right? If you find unnecessary duplicates, let some of them go. Maybe to a good friend or relative who would be happy to have them, and if not, to a local shelter where they’ll be put to good use.
- Do I use/wear this regularly? Again, a major blunder for me. I am humiliated to say that I had shirts, dresses, suit jackets, jeans, (I could continue…) from high school, still lingering in my closet or in totes in my attic. Because I was sure they might come back into style. Never mind that I have no business wearing ultra-low rise jeans or 15-year old Birkenstock sandals in 2016. A lot of those went to clothing recycling.
- Does this serve a purpose, or does it fill a sentimental need that can’t be filled by something else? The high school clothes kind of fit in here. I could just look at pictures of my high-school self for a trip down memory lane, and let go of all my Math Club shirts. The same goes for all those salt and pepper shakers from my first marriage. It’s nice remembering where I’ve come from, but seriously, those memories are not exactly being exalted by condiment dispensers.
With those questions in mind, I go into each room with these supplies:
- 2 mesh pop-up laundry bags or laundry baskets: I use one to hold clothes or items I’ll set aside to assess later (to be 100% sure I’m ready to let them go. I’m talking to you, beige pencil skirts.), and one to hold clothes or items I’ll store in a separate area or container (think clothes that are too little for my older daughter but too big for my younger one)
- 2 big garbage bags: one for actual garbage and one for clothes or supplies that can be donated
- Space bags or ziplock big bags: I love these for storing things in plain sight. Right now all my summer sundresses sit vacuum-packed in my closet in plain view, so I don’t forget about them and buy all new sundresses next summer. Not that I’ve ever done anything like that before.
- A vacuum cleaner: because opening cabinets, moving clothes, and digging under furniture always stirs up dust. Go ahead and get rid of it so you start out clean.
- Clorox wipes: I have no idea why, but somehow in every deep-clean, no matter where it is, I always find some sort of sticky residue on something. And since that is right up near the top of my all-time-yuck list, I like to be prepared to wipe it down fast.
- Optional* whatever storage containers you want to use: In closets, I love the clear sweater boxes from Target to store scarves, belts, and hats. In my kids’ closets, I use cloth storage bins- 1 to hold clothes that become too small and 1 to hold socks without mates. Go as crazy as you want here, just be sure you also have masking tape or labels and a Sharpie, or you’ll be searching through your storage in 6 months for that red sweater that you just know you have somewhere.
My last rule, and the hardest one for me to follow is this one:
Finishing 100% of one thing is ALWAYS better than 50% of a lot of things.
It’s so easy for me to start out organizing my closet, then take a toy to the boys’ room, and get sucked in to organizing their toy bench before tearing into their dresser. Before I know it half the rooms in the house are in some state of re-organization without being anywhere near completion, and the frustration basically keeps me off the project for a week. The struggle is real. So whatever it takes, DO NOT let this happen to you! My favorite ways to stay 100% on a project till completion:
- Netflix marathon. Of course, this should be a show you’ve already seen a zillion times so you’re not tempted to sit still and watch vs. getting your project done.
- Movie series marathon. The only time I ever really get to watch multiple Harry Potters in one day is on a cleaning binge, and on those days I don’t feel bad about neglecting the children in favor of Harry. The same can be said for Star Wars and The Godfather.
- Podcasts. Go ahead and call me boring. I love The British History Podcast, and I can seriously listen to this guy’s storytelling nonstop. Some other faves are StoryCorps and Prairie Home Companion, and of course, my brother has an amazing encouraging series through his church in Prague: Faith Community Church.
Notably absent from that list is music. I get incredibly sucked in to coming up with the perfect playlist, and then inevitably sort through it to play my faves in a completely different order than I originally came up with. I have to just let it go. But maybe music will be the thing for you. Do what you gotta do, friend.
Also absent from this list: snacks. It is totally okay to miss out on munchies for a few hours while you get this stuff done. And then a nice little treat at the end will be a great motivator 🙂 Seriously, cleaning through a bunch of grunge is the last place you want to enjoy a bite to eat anyway, right?
Whew. I think that’s enough for now. Next post, I’ll actually bare my soul and show you my closet organization system (which works for every closet in the house), and I’ll bring it all home with how my pantry stays nice and neat. Should be fun, right? I can’t wait!
Happy new week!