by Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
When I was first married, I told myself that although I might not be rich, I could still be clean. In my exuberance as a new bride, I felt like that was something I had control over. Later, as children multiplied and the demands on this mother’s time began to pile up, I changed my tune a little to this familiar adage:
Cleaning and scrubbing can wait for tomorrow
While this poem has some truth to it, and we should definitely treasure the time we have with our children, I do not think it means we need to neglect our homes. And I have found that I am not truly happy in a dirty, cluttered home. In fact, I believe that if we do it right, our homes can be a refuge from the world – a happy oasis so to speak. And so, while it may be virtually impossible to keep an absolutely immaculate home, I do my best to help it be clean, orderly, and beautiful. Here are a few tips I have found to help our home be both clean and happy.
1. Everything is not always clean at the same time. What kind of promising list is it that must begin with a disclaimer? Yet, remember that the goal is not only to be clean, but happy – and that means the mother too. This means that I must be realistic. After all, even Betty Crocker has her limits. I have found that if the dishes are done and the downstairs is clean, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the laundry is folded or that the toilets are scrubbed. Time is always a tradeoff. If you see “clean” in one room, you must know that other things are not done. Likewise, if my day has been full of errand running, grocery shopping, or volunteering at the school you can be guaranteed that the house is not entirely tidy.
2. 10 Minute Tasks. My friend Caren taught me to do those unavoidable, yet necessary jobs as quickly as possible. She offered to do my dishes once. I felt it would be okay to procrastinate, but she insisted that it would only take 10 minutes. Soon, I began to follow this line of thinking and I have found great success with it. Seldom do I have big blocks of time. And other times, I feel too tired or overwhelmed with big jobs. So, I try to think small and simple. By setting the timer for 10 minutes, I allow myself success by working furiously to get as much as possible completed. Yes, racing the clock is a mind game for adults as well as children. And the snowball effect it has on me works wonders. And do you know what? The very process of just beginning gives me energy for more!
3. Put your “helpers” to work! Let’s call it teamwork, folks! I figure, if they can help make the mess, they are old enough to help clean it up. Giving them jobs not only prevents more mess in the meantime, but helps their self - esteem and sense of contribution and personal responsibility. What a great gift! True, this may take more time initially, but eventually, as children are trained, this tip actually becomes a time saver. A word of caution: A clean house does not equal happiness if it takes a fight to get it that way, so practice patience and use your creativity to make it fun and rewarding for them.
4. Get out one project at a time. There is definitely wisdom in not running faster than we have strength. We would not think of making our baby run a marathon before they learn to crawl nor would we hand our toddler juggle 50 pound weights, so why would we do it to ourselves? All right, I will admit that I am not always good at this, in fact, it seems that there are often many balls in the air all at the same time. Yes - never a dull moment! But I know that at those times when I have put away the first project before I proceed with the next, things are definitely less chaotic. For example, a few moments in the kitchen after each meal saves a lot of time later.
5. Have a cleaning schedule. Having a certain time of the day or week to do things helps me relax and not feel guilty about undone work. I know when and whose turn it is to help with this or that. Everyone is on the daily schedule to clean their rooms and do a dish job. With a schedule, I know which day I will do the laundry and I never have to scramble to take out the garbage. Chores that only come once a week are scheduled as well. I can calmly go about the tasks at hand and realize that even though there is always something waiting to be done, I can take it easy and tackle today’s load because the rest will be done on the proper day.
6. Be flexible: Now wait a minute. Didn’t I just say to have a schedule? And now I’m saying to be flexible... Well, yes. A schedule is great for some things, but if the baby is crying or your toddler needs a friend to play with for a while, a rigid schedule can become the family enemy. People are always more important than a task to be done. Sometimes other things call for our attention as well, don’t they? Sometimes we need a few moments to ourselves to rejuvenate. So, give yourself a little wiggle room. It’s okay when things don’t always run like clockwork.
7. Less is more. Years ago, I read a marvelous decluttering book by Don Aslett entitled, Clutter’s Last Stand. I fell in love with the ideas from it and would encourage anyone to read it who has a difficult time hanging onto EVERYTHING! The basic idea is that if you do not use it, like it, or need it, no matter who gave it to you, or how much it costs, or how long you’ve hung onto it, toss it or give it away! Just how many neckties, Legos, envelopes, and knick - knacks from Aunt Paddy Whack do you need anyway? While you’re at it, teach your children to go through their school papers and belongings as well. This is a life skill. And I find it incredibly freeing to realize that by simplifying, you have less to wash, polish, scrub, fold up, dust, or trip over and you have more space, money, and time to share with your family and others in meaningful ways.
8. Organize. There are a zillion and one ideas out there to organize every nook and cranny in your home. I had fun with an old book called Confessions of a Happily Organized Wife. (The title alone makes me smile). But to simplify, may I suggest some basic ideas.
9. Dovetail. It is really fun to do two things at once. For example, my mom taught me to put my “maids” to work in the morning (dishwasher, washer/dryer). I can also do this when I talk on the phone while sweeping, catch up on the child’s school day while folding socks together, or letting breakfast cook while I make lunch. Remember again, that relationships are always more important than “getting it all done.” If you neglect your children, for example by tapping away at the computer or scrolling endlessly on your phone while they are begging for attention, you have only fooled yourself.
10. Survival mode. Part of the inevitable with raising a family are those times when it is just less important to have a totally clean home – maybe someone is sick, you have a new baby or a time - consuming church assignment. Forget about cobwebs, dusting, cabinets, closets. At these times, I feel that it is better to settle for some clean for the sake of your sanity rather than to let the whole house fall to pieces. I have decided that the three main things of importance are dishes, laundry, and making my bed (which gives the general appearance that the room is mostly clean). My next favorite strategy is to whisk through the living area with a laundry basket for a little clutter pickup. I let everyone do their part to empty it. Aren’t I thoughtful?
At the end of the day, remember to smile. Don’t worry so much about perfection. A clean and happy home is within your reach, so be your own best friend. Put your feet up for a bit and give yourself a pat on the back for what you have done.
by Esperanza DeLaLuz
Organizing is what you do before you do something,
~~ A. A. Milne
Let’s start with this premise: Organizing things does not make you a better mom. But it does make it easier to find the Band-Aids, and for me, being ADHD, I am able to be a better mom when I have inner peace; and my personal inner peace is disturbed by chaos. But I know lots of wonderful mothers, including my own, who love and care exquisitely well, in a state of frequent disorder.
That said, I am a passionate organizer. People actually pay me to come organize their kitchen or garage. There are some basic principles to organizing that might be useful to most people to one extent or another, that I thought I might share:
1 Simplify – there are lots of wonderful systems to encourage us to simplify, but most of them boil down to only keeping things that you need, or use, or enjoy. Less stuff means less clutter and less maintenance. But there is also something to be said for having useful backup supplies like food storage, meds, or craft supplies, for preparedness purposes also. But remember, those things are only useful to you if you can find them when a crisis makes them necessary.
2 Contain things – using baskets, boxes, bags, bottles, tubs, cupboards, drawers, etc., This is probably the most important element of organizing. My grandmother used to say “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” My father used to line his top drawer with all kinds of tiny boxes with places for each thing he kept there: watch, coins, keys, etc. So I come by it naturally. But when things are where they belong, my environment is neater, I can find things I need, and I am aware of how much I have and if I have things I can do without.
It is also helpful to use similar sized and shaped things. For example, having all your dishes or food storage containers the same size makes them stack more neatly. This doesn't have to be expensive -- I actually cut the tops off plastic bleach bottles and used them to stack all my round containers of that size inside them, which kept them from falling over.
3 Put like things together – it continually surprises me when I go to help someone clean or organize, how often I find similar things in several different places. Now, it makes sense to have things in different places when you use them in multiple places. I have scissors in every room, for example, and of course, toothpaste in most every bathroom. But keeping things together that are the same, or that are used together makes sense. And subdividing those grouped things, so that each kind of thing has its own place can be very useful. You will notice if it is missing, for one thing, or if you have more than you need.
4 Label your stuff – I am probably too focused on labels, because I am absent-minded, and my labeler is one of my favorite tools. But labeling things helps us remember where they belong. Labels can help you identify what goes where and if it is missing. Most of the time you can do this subtly; you can have specific colors of towels for each bathroom, for example, or other visual cues that identify where things belong without actual labels. But you can also do them in cute ways, with fancy labels that are part of the décor.
My sister pointed out that using pretty baskets to organize my craft supplies was more appealing, more “Feng Shui” than using my labeled assortment of plastic boxes. She was right! So, over the years I picked up lots of fancy baskets at second hand stores. But then I found that they didn’t look good with labels on them. (But it gave me another fun crafting project to make a lot of cute little wooden plaques to attach to the fronts of the baskets.)
When keeping multiples for utility purposes, labeling which set goes where is very useful. For example, I write on those scissors with a permanent marker which room they belong in, so they don’t end up all in one room when I have used them.
5 Store things where they are used – we keep the dishes in the kitchen naturally, but sometimes don’t apply that same idea to other places in our home. Closets, cupboards or drawers are less likely to become catch-alls, if you limit them to containing only things that are useful in that place. Of course, there are things that get used in multiple places. Some people keep multiples like I do with the scissors, others make a specific cabinet or dresser drawer for all those things. I have a “utility dresser” with drawers for simple household tools, tape, batteries, lightbulbs, and other things that everyone needs to get to often. Some people keep a “junk drawer” for things that have no specific place, but this is a poor idea since it gets crammed full of stuff that does not ever get assigned to its own place.
6 List stuff – Keeping a list, in a notebook, on the back of a cupboard, or on a computer, can be very useful, especially with stored supplies. It also helps keep supplies current. If there is a list on the back of the medicine cabinet mirror of what you plan to keep in that cabinet, you might be more likely to notice you are out of Band-Aids. A list of what goes in each cupboard on the back of the door, or a master list of desired food storage items, or a list of where important documents are stored can be very useful. Just make sure you have a specific place to keep the lists!
7 Put things back! – This is probably the hardest part for most people. We are naturally lazy, and we don’t want to get up and put things away all the time. But a basket on the stairs for things that need to go upstairs, or a defined place in each room to set things that don’t belong in that room, can make it easier to go around and put things back. You can also make a game of it for little children. Some younger children actually think it is fun to go put Daddy’s tie in the bedroom for a few raisins! But you can also set up a pattern of going around gathering and putting things back once a day, if you cannot make yourself put things back right away.
8 A few clever helps – everyone has stuff in their house that other people left there. Setting up a basket by the door for these things not only contains them, but also makes it easier to remember to give them back or return them. A box by the garage door for things that need to go out of your home on errands makes it easier to get those errands done and get those things out of your house. Having a specific shelf for your purse, or for school books and back packs, makes finding them much easier.
Drawer dividers, hook racks, extra shelves inside cabinets, and tote bags can be very useful tools. Having a tote specifically to hold smaller things for organizing (tiny boxes, plastic packets, bags, and such) makes it easier to find something to use to contain and organize things. A place to set things when you first come home, such as a table, bench, or shelf keeps things from getting piled up on the floor.
Setting up a specific rack in which to put outgoing and incoming mail, a key rack, a mirror, the family calendar, and a place to leave notes, all by the front door can be very useful. A hook rack for hat, coats, sunglasses, flashlight, umbrellas, tote bags, sunscreen or other things that are often needed as leaving the house is useful, too, especially if it can be near the door.
I hope that these general principles can make your life a little bit easier!
Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing.
~~ Doctrine and Covenants 88:119
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